Susquehanna water trail.

Does anyone here ever paddle the lower Susquehanna river trail from Harrisburg to the connowingo dam? Thinking about trying it this fall and was wondering how it was, places to camp, ect.

Last weekend
I was visiting paddling friends in the area last weekend for a family event. We are all preparing for the Adirondack 90-Miler (my home territory) coming up next week. We paddled a C4 20 miles from Harrisburg south. There are two dams that are not self-portage-able, but the power company offers a free portage if you call ahead. It worked out quite well. At the first dam there was a call box to announce our arrival, and within a few minutes a truck appeared to carry us around the dam. At the second dam a canoe carrier was waiting before we even got there - the first dam operator called ahead to tell them we were on the way.

I suggest that you visit the Blue Line Outfitters in Marysville, near Harrisburg. They can help with recommendations and a water trail map.

Dam portages
Thank you, I will give BMO a call and talk to them. Would like to do the whole 53 miles from Harrisburg to Broad Creek in Maryland. Did not know about the dams. The only one I knew of was the Connowingo and that is not portagable either. Thank you very much.

the dams below Harrisburg …

– Last Updated: Aug-28-13 11:12 PM EST –

...... not sure if it's called "3 Mile Island dam" or not , but that's what I call it .

"Safe Harbor dam" (at Else Isl.) comes next downstream of 3 Mile Isl. .

"Holtwood dam" comes next below Safe Harbor .

"Conowingo dam" last ... Broad Creek is well above Conowingo dam ... not too far into the creek (maybe a mile) , after the 1st bend to the left is a cove (on left) where the ramp is , from the creek you can easily see it's small peir in the cove .

I suggest you start by taking a look at Google Maps , Birds Eye view , and tour the river stretch you are considering .

Mind the gage at Harrisburg ... 3' is low and slow , 6' is real pushy , 8' is rollin hard . We fish it in the nephew's Jet/Jon .

When the dams sound out and release , the whole river wide becomes a different animal for a considerable ways downstream of the race . You will want to move towards the westerm shore and be close enough to get out if you want to , should you find the water rising too fast and beginning to run too strong .

I believe Holtwood will shutle you over to the PA. public ramp on the western shore below the bridge . Down from that ramp (on the same side) is "Peachbottom" Nuc. power plant (has public ramps also) . Be aware of the discharge at the lower end of Peachbottom , and it's intake pretty much straight out from the ramps .

Between the dams (Safe Harbor-Holtwood-Conowingo) is like a huge lake , flat and slow ... unless they are discharging , which they do regularly . There is construction going on at Holtwood presently and for awhile to come yet .

If the wind comes up (which it will) , you'll be glad you are near the western shore .

What will you be paddling if you go for it ??

Susquehanna water trail
I have just purchased a wilderness systems tarpon 160 and I am picking it up this weekend. Chose this boat because I wanted a sit on top (I am a big guy) that has open water and expedition capabilities. This is my first hard shell and open water kayak. I will mainly be paddling the upper Chesapeake and it’s tributaries. Also hoping to hook up with experienced paddlers to “show me the ropes”. I want to paddle the Susquehanna because of its proximity and kayak camping opportunities.

a low head dam …

– Last Updated: Aug-29-13 10:12 AM EST –

...... south of City Isl. (Harrisburg) , just above where 83 crosses the river .

Otter Creek Campground , right on the river ... it's above Holtwood and below Safe Harbor , on the western shore where Otter Creek empties into the Susquahanna . Will start closing down mid Oct. .

Have no idea how to get around 3 Mile Isl. dam , someone might know , BMO should know what's up there . I've heard the river below 3 Mile can be a real steamer (hot water) and rough when it's releasing .

The discharge at Peachbottom makes the water 75 F. when it's 40 F. in the rest of the big pond .

check out the "Interactive GIS Map" on PA State Parks site ...


There a couple p.netters who know the area Holtwood , Safe Harbor ... they lived there .

Ya know something , I've not heard a report from "anyone" who's made the connection from Harrisburg to the Conowingo . I'm sure it can be done in one way or the other . I've heard bits and pieces of that stretch from day paddlers staying close in general to their launches . I know the river from Conowingo to Holtwood , from Harrisburg up river well past the Juniata personally .

If you get serious , I'd suggest you take a day tour by auto 1st (it will take all day from morning to eve.) , stop along the river at key locations and have an up close and personal look see . That will be of great value to you in making your final decisions .

Maybe try a run from the Juniata (Riverfront camp ground - ramp) down to Conodoguinet Creek (public ramp) .

Maybe go put in at Peachbottom ramps (or PA. public ramps not far above Peachbottom in rock groto) and take out in Broad Creek .

Maybe camp an over nighter at Otter Creek Campground and explore up and down river (between Safe Harbor and Holtwood , for a couple days .

Maybe put in at City Isl. (south ramp) and have a looks see downriver (towards the low head dam , and 3 Mile) and back up for a day .

how about camp at Riverfront …

– Last Updated: Aug-29-13 11:26 AM EST –

...... it's a decent low key campground at the confluence of the Juniata and Susquehanna ... right in Duncannon . Use Riverfront as your base .

He will shuttle you up the Juniata for a day run back to camp . Next day have him pick you up down river at the Conodoguinet ramp . There's a decent little dinner (Ranch House Restaurant) up rt. 11/15 not far from Riverfront camp . Call them if interested ...

He's got good firewood for ya , and fees for anything are more than reasonable . BTW , if you like fishing Smallmouth , this is place to base for a couple few days , and the season , it's about to turn on and get fantastic for Smallmouth . All the waters on those two stretches out of Riverfront I just mentioned are the best it gets anywhere , worldclass Smallmouth fishing "soon" (with occasional Muskie , Walleye , and even 20" river Chub) , will be large and plentiful there from Sept. through Oct. .

Might Be Better Upstream

– Last Updated: Aug-29-13 11:11 AM EST –

Although I've not done the entire route I have paddled most of the Susq Water Trail and have generally found the sections north of Harrisburg to be better suited for kayak camping.

North of Harrisburg tends to have: more non-private islands/camp sites, more put-ins, less and smaller dams, and significantly less power boats.

You can also hire BMO to run a shuttle on the northern section that saves a ton of time and hassle vs the two car/second driver system.

I will confess a bias that I was a 15 year employee of BMO and one of the original island stewards for the upper section of the trail. I'm not saying that there aren't some nice sections on the lower trail, but the power boats and private land were always a turn-off for me.

then there’s always the upper Potomac

– Last Updated: Aug-30-13 12:15 PM EST –

.... Paw Paw to Little Orleans with a night camp at Bonds Landing is a real fine run . This run boarders the C&O canal path and is in the Greenridge State Forest section , mighty fine , not to be missed by a Marylander . And if you got more time , continue from Little Orleans on down to Hancock for a couple more days .

Details needed if interested , email and I can tell ya . Bill's Place in Little Orleans is your key .

Riverfront and Upper Potomac
I am liking both the riverfront and the upper potomac options. The lower Susquehanna trail sounds too complicated at this point. Still hoping to hook up with experienced paddlers for paddling the bay. I pick up my kayak today…YAHOO.