West Branch of the Susquehanna???


I am planning an overnight trip on the West Branch of the Susky this weekend.

I am probably going to start at Deer Creek and go down to around Keating.

I am not familiar with this river. The gauge at Karthaus looks like it is reading about 3 feet right now.

I am trying to decide two things based which are a function of the water level: first is how much current their will be to assist my progress–trying to determine how many miles I can cover per hour with current included (since I know how fast I can paddle independent of the current).

Second I am debating over which boat to take. If the river is predominantly pools and not that boney, I will probably take my kevlar Wenonah Advantage so that I can comfortably cruise at a high speed and knock out some miles.

If the river is bumpier and less suited to such a boat then I will take my Mad River Guide which can easily handle wave trains, rapids, etc, but is a lot slower.

I have read tht the minimum water needed is about 2 foot, so I am assuming 3 foot is a good level where the water will be moving fairly slowly and there will not be large wave trains / rapids etc and that my Advantage would be a suitable boat for this trip and would assume about a 1-2 mph current from the river…but that is just a guess.

thanks for your help!


W Branch

– Last Updated: May-16-12 4:05 PM EST –

I was hoping someone else would respond since it's been about 5 years since I paddled the W Branch. We would usually do two nights starting from Frenchville or three nights starting from Shawville. Not sure where your proposed launch point is.

I think it's flat moving to riffles below Karthus, but with some current. I would take a composite boat at 3'.

Edited to mention there is current.

…download and use Google earth to scope out the section in general…keep in mind , the photo’s could be a few yrs old. then i would try to Google up forums and whatever about the river.

The North Branch is having a weird algae outbreak. Fisherman and other boaters are leaving it alone-water is toogrungy.

Fish commission officers said it wouldbe a few weeks before it cleared up. However this might not affect the West Branch.

Moshannon Falls …
… here’s a link that may help with some info.

click that map pic. beside Karthaus Bridge heading


3.52’ and leveling off right now at Karthaus gage …

How where the Blackflies on the Oswagatchi ?

Eyewitness on the West Branch

– Last Updated: May-17-12 11:32 AM EST –

My sweetie lives right along the West Branch (a couple miles downstream from Shawville so about halfway between Clearfield and Karthaus) and drives past the Keating feeder on the way to work tomorrow (Friday). I'll ask him to spot how it's running. There was lots of rain up there yesterday (I was there until about 3:00 and it was pouring pretty hard for a while). This bodes well for good flow. That stretch can be boney in low water, but at 3' and with all the rain this week I think you should be OK with the deeper drafting boat. We spotted a large flotilla of canoes going past the farm yesterday, which I am guessing was part of this weekend's big paddling gathering that had put in at Clearfield. They were moving nicely with the current. Which had been fairly slow before last weekend.

It's a wonderful stretch of river. I'll be up there Saturday and Sunday myself. Do you have the Water Trail map from the Lumber Heritage folks? Excellent resource for such a trip.

The "rapids" on this section of the river are not particularly hazardous. They are more fast wave trains -- it's a broad slow shallow river for the most part up there with a lot of rocky shelves. What they call "the Falls" are kind of a joke. You can drift on it to an extent but never very fast -- you always have to paddle to get anywhere.

thanks for all the info.

To answer the question above, I never did make it up to the Oswegatchie. Unfortunately something at work came up that would have pushed my trip farther into May than would have allowed me to avoid the black flies. In the end I decided that the black flies could potentially make the trip miserable so I reluctantly decided to can it. This Susky trip is the substitute.

I think it will be a great trip.

I spoke to the outfitter today who is providing my shuttle. He said that at 3 feet the river moves at about 2 - 2.5 mph. I estimate being able to paddle at nearly 5mph in my Mad River Guide with that current.

I kind of think that the Advantage may be TOO fast unless I want to do some epic trip.

I am looking to do Shawville to Keating, which is about 53 miles and want to do about a total of about 12-15 hours of paddling. So I may need to keep it at a slower pace.

Not sure if what he said about 2 - 2.5 mph of current is right. That is moving pretty fast.


section description
Do you have the short summary of that section from the “Paddling Pennsylvania” guide? Here’s the entry for Shawville to Renovo (a bit past Karthaus).


I presume you know there is a major paddling gathering on that section this weekend, starting Sunday morning at Curwensville and covering 85 miles to Renovo. They will be coming in on Saturday – have not heard how many but imagine it will be over 100. If you start at Shawville Saturday you will be well ahead of the crowd.

By the way, at current levels, the Red Moshannon (one of the feeders down around Keating) is a wonderful 3 or so hour trip down to the Susquehanna. We did it in a tandem canoe late last summer at a similar rate of flow and it was a blast – narrower faster stream with fun little Class I and mild Class II short sections.

Black flies.
Matt, I think you made an excellant decision.

this fall I did a trip down Long Lake to the Raquette River. I tried to camp at the top of the Raquette on the first night. I stopped and started to set up camp but the mosquitos were so terrible that I had to pack up and head back to the lake and find a windier campsite. I was not happy.

It was the beginning of October and I did not bring bug spray b/c the outfitter told me the bugs were gone.

The bugs were so thick it would have been miserable that night. I did not want to repeat that experience.

Luckily the next couple of nights rained so hard that the bugs were not out.

Not fun!


River is dropping

– Last Updated: May-18-12 11:02 AM EST –

Bowler 1: If you are still able to see these postings (presuming you have not left for the put in yet), my sweetie reports that the rivers have dropped noticably since Wednesday. He crossed the Susqui thuis morning at Shawville on the way to work and then drove along the Sinnemahoning (the feeder near Keating) and both were showing rocks that had been underwater earlier in the week. The gauge at Renovo has dropped to 2.5 and with no rain in sight it will likely hit 2 feet by Saturday.

I would suggest taking the boat you least mind scraping bottom with. And be prepared to paddle a little harder to get where you are going. The trip is still worth it though, it's a lovely canyon and there has been a lot of wildlife along the shoreline this year. In fact, my sweetie had to shoo a huge black bear off his front porch Wednesday night!

thanks again for the info
Last question…is the water potable with proper treatment?

I only ask b/c I had read that some of the feeder streams were polluted.



I would not drink it
The acid mine drainage is not as bad as it used to be BUT the river flows through a city (Clearfield) and past houses and farms with sewage septic beds as well as farm land, so I imagine the chance for e. coli is fairly high. Some of the tiny feeder stream outflows might be OK if you treated and/or filtered them. There are also beaver in some of the side feeders which means Giardia cysts (though these are readily filtered out). It’s up to you, but I would carry enough water for my drinking needs if it was my trip.

How’d it go?
If you’re back from your trip I would be interested to hear how you fared. We plan to try the North Branch or Bennett feeders to that section of the Susquehanna this coming weekend (provided we get the promised rain).

The trip was both good and bad. Nice destination and enjoyable trip, well planned, but poorly executed, largely as a function of crowds on the river (which was a weakness in my planning). I was able to average about 4mph on the river with the water level at about three feet. I think it would have been a little more fun with a bit higher water level that may have added a little more texture to the water. The “rapids” were not really what I might consider a rapid, but they added some livliness to what was otherwise flat water.

Here is a snip of an email I sent to a friend of mine explaining the trip in detail:

I just got back from my trip and figured I would give you some feedback on it. I paddled from Shawville to Keating which is about 53 miles. I got started at about 1:30PM.

I paddled down to about the Rolling Stone Bridge area which is where I wanted to camp. I got there around 6 or so. The spot I wanted to camp at was taken. There were some other spots below…also taken. So I decided to paddle down to the Mososhannon Falls area where there were supposed to be some good sites. All taken.

I should have known better than to go on a nice weekend in May. Lesson learned.

So I paddled, and paddled, but could find no suitable sites to camp. It started to get late and eventually got dark. I was now starting to wonder what I was going to do. It was hard to see the water to paddle, and hard to see up into the woodline to find a camp site.

Finally around 10PM I found a trail that went into the woods and followed it up to find a campsite. I was pretty smoked at this point and was exhausted to the point of being a little delirious. I paddled about 35 mile without taking a break and it smoked me pretty good. It had gone a little beyond the point where it was no longer all that much fun, but it was an interesting experience never the less.

I camped and slept late and got started late the next morning. By this time I was below Karthaus and this is a very scenic section of river. It is not unlike the Buffalo in many ways.

I stopped and had lunch at Boughers Run which is a really nice spot to camp and where I had planned to camp on night two. I went up into the woods and explored a little and went to go check out a spring when I heard the buzz of a rattle snake….I wanted to see it but was not willing to get any closer so I went back down to the river. I am not sure if you have ever heard one. That was my first, but it was just as my father had described. A buzz that sounded more like an insect than a rattle….but I am sure that was what it was. Had he not described the noise to me in that fashion probably would not have known it was a rattler and may have stepped on it. After I withdrew I tossed a stick into the brush where the noise came from and it rattled again. Definitely a snake.

I knew I was on course to get to my car around 5PM so there was not much point to camping a second night on the river and I was already down below where there were any viable sites to camp. The long first day pretty well messed up my timeline.

In all, I would recommend the Karthaus to Keating stretch. It is about 20 miles and really beautiful. A nice trip. Would be great in the fall.

If you do the stretch I did, then plan to camp a bit below Deer Creek or around the falls I mention below. Perfect spots for about a half day of paddling and really nice places to camp if it is not a busy weekend….don’t go on a busy weekend like I did!

This was my first time doing a warm weather paddle camping trip in a long, long time. All others have been in winter / fall. Now I remember why warm weather trips are not ideal…crowds…bugs…snakes. But it was beautiful, and was nice to swim to cool down; although I do that in cold weather too in the dry suit I guess.

In all it was a disappointing camping trip, but a nice day on the river today at least.

Oh one other thing I should mention is that the water is remotely polluted from mining operations so you may want to bring your water rather than filter it.

Thanks for the report.
Matt, Thanks for sharing Your journey.

I have experianced all of the negative aspects of Your trip. No campsite, Crowds.

The summer camping is great if You NEVER go on magor holidays. Starting on Tueday and finishing on Friday works great. Also hitting the water at dawn and finding site by early afternoon will help. You will be paddling in the coolest part of the day.

Then You can sit at Your camp and watch the others go by.

warned you about the crowds
As I mentioned to you, last week and weekend a special paddling event was going on in that section of the river so it was far more crowded than is typical. I was hoping you would be ahead of the main body of paddlers but it sounds like a lot of them started earlier than planned. Sorry it turned out that way for you. I hope you get a chance to come back when the river is higher and the crowds are gone.