West Branch Susquehanna

I am looking to paddle the West Branch sometime in May. My put on date is somewhat flexible and will somewhat depend on water levels.

I’d like to start at Cherry Tree. Can anyone shed any light as to a minimum level to put on here? If there is enough water to put on at Cherry Tree what will some of the named rapids on the river map be like?

If anyone has actual experience with this section and water levels any incite would be greatly appreciated.

Otherwise I will be going off the info in the river trail maps.

Thanks, Mike

The usual resources - plus

Keystone Canoeing

Call Mary at BMO

Call Dave Buck at Endless Mountains Outfitters

Call Harold. He’s done the West Branch, but I don’t know what sections.

See you at roll session on Sunday.


I have Gerler’s book and the maps, was looking for hands on info.

I’ll check with Harold.

I’ll be orienteering on Sunday, so no pool session.


My beau lives right on the river 2 miles downstream from the Shawville dam so we often paddle sections on either side of that spillway. We keep records on the levels when we go out but they are up at his place. I’ll ask him to bring our trip log down this weekend (we live 130 miles apart) and get back to you.

So far this year levels are looking better than last year (which was horrible, as I’m sure you know.) But who knows what we can expect as this Spring progresses.

The “Paddling Pennsylvania” book has some data on optimal levels of some sections and notes on the rapids if I recall correctly. My copy of the book is also up at his house so I can’t check it right now.

Thanks Willowleaf
look forward to hearing any info you have.


Feedback on West Branch levels
WW: Sorry this took so long. Forgot to ask my co-paddler to bring our river records down to the city with him that weekend. But I was up at his place over the holiday and we actually canoed the West Branch on Saturday, putting in a little north of where you plan to start, just above the dam at Irvin Park – closest gauge to the section we did was Hyde (where 879 crosses) and it was at 1000 cfm and 4.5 feet.

i checked the log and the past dry summer it was running between 3 and 3.75 feet most of our trips in that area. At 3’ it was low and slow (scraped bottom gravel on a few areas). At 4.5 it is nice, with reasonable flow and deep enough tongues to shoot over the small drops ahead of some of the bridges without scraping. We even paddled a little ways up Anderson Creek and it looked like it would have been a fun whitwater run down that (though not in what we were paddling that day, a Mad River Adventure 16).

Water temp was around 45 Saturday so we were in full neoprene. Nice run – had it to ourselves since everybody else was up at the race at Red Moshannon. Just us and some geese and a variety of wild ducks.

Due to the steady rain since Saturday night it is now up to 5.5’ at Hyde. Rich just emailed me that the rain finally stopped about 1:00 pm.

I would advise you to just watch the gauge at Hyde:


I think 4.5’ to 5’ is a good level. Much above that and the low banks will be flooded, making takeout a hassle. Much below 4’ and you start getting shallow spots and slack pools.

for the info.

Seems about right with what is listed in the River Trail guide then. It says Curwinsville gauge should be 4.4’ for section 1 (Cherry Tree) It currently reads 4.8’ Looking at the graph, this gauge is dam controlled, so maybe the Bowers gauge would be better for natural flow. Looks like a good level to put on!

I guess I’ll just pick my dates and start up as far as water allows.

Yeah the Red Mo was pretty crowded, but it was fun race and a great day to be on the river. It was a bit low, but still runnable. I almost drove the rest of the way to Cherry Tree to do some scouting, but after the dinner and awards it got pretty late.


How far are you hoping to go? Are you planning to solo? We might be able to help you with a shuttle back downstream depending on your time frame and take out location.

Thanks for shuttle offer.

The plan is to put on at Cherry Tree (or as far up as water allows) and take out somewhere on the main stem.

Shawville dam portage
The portage around the Shawville dam is a royal pain in the ass. They are supposed to decommission that plant by 2015 (currently listed as the second dirtiest power plant for emissions in the whole US). Once that thing is gone we figure they will take down the dam (which is modular steel that they move periodically for maintenance). Watch yourself along 879 there.

You’ll be going past our place about 40 minutes downstream of Shawville, where the powerlines cross over. On the map it’s the farm at the very end of Egypt Road, along the east bank of the river. When his son does his annual old college buddies reunion campout there every Memorial Day they put in at the farm and float about 3 hours. I’ve forgotten the name of that takeout they use (I will find out) – it’s a Game commission site and the Fish Police there are pretty merciless. Make sure your ducks are in a row if you land there. They gave one of the kids a $75 ticket last year because, though the 12 canoes had 30 PFD’s for 30 paddlers (stashed in the hulls, which for some ungodly reason constitutes “safe paddling” here in PA), somehow in the scramble to get back in the water after they had to pull ashore during a short thunderstorm, one boat had 2 paddlers and 3 vests and another (which the hapless guy was in) had 3 paddlers and 2 vests.

The takeout I mentioned is across the road from Frenchville on the north shore (the Frenchville access proper is a horrible road in). The next takeouts are Rolling Stone Bridge at SR 1011, Karthaus at 879 and then Keating where the Sinnemahoning joins the river, at Rte. 120. Were you planning to go farther than those?

All the way
I’m going all the way - taking out on the main stem Susquehanna, probably at the Fabridam in Sunbury.

I shouldn’t have any problems with the boat police, lol.

I scouted the Shawville dam a bunch of years back when I was planning this trip. It’s just taken a long time to exicute, lol. I remember a steep bank river left, a busy road with a guardrail and no shoulder, sound about right?

Thanks, Mike

you have to take out on the left – besides the steep bank they don’t like people on the power plant property that covers the whole right bank. There is a crappy little picnic area and then you have to squeeze onto the narrow berm of 879 to haul your boat past the dam. You can get back in below the parking lot of the little store/ice cream stand past the bridge and just before where Trout Run comes in from the NE. There is not a lot of traffic on that part of 879 but what does come, comes fast.

Very cool that you plan to do the whole Branch. I have bugged my beau about us doing it but he thinks the section downstream from his place is “boring”. I think he got spoiled for adrenaline in his younger days of whitewater paddling. I think the West Branch is a beautiful stream and hope it gets its well-deserved Wild and Scenic status soon.