State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Area Offers Numerous Summer Paddling Options

by on June 11, 2018 5:00 AM

By David Kurtz

The recent rainy weather we have been having reminds us of the large number of treasures we have for easy paddling in Centre County and surrounding areas. These sources can be described as either flat-water lakes or moving, easy whitewater opportunities. 

If you're seeking flat-water options, consider these:

■ Black Moshannon State Park

Located on top of the Allegheny Ridge on the way to Philipsburg via state Route 322 and alternate Route 220 on one side, or through Milesburg and Unionville on the other, the large lake area at Black Moshannon consists of a lot of inlets and lily pads that give it a secluded feeling.

Be sure your boat is tagged before launching.

■Penn State University's Lake Perez

This lake has features similar to Black Moshannon's. Although relatively small at 72 acres, one can paddle up the source stream quite a ways to discover intimate stream life.

PSU has a large variety of crafts for rent, too, including canoes, paddleboats, kayaks and sailboats.

■Bald Eagle Lake

Northeast of Milesburg, this is a gem for the large area it encompasses. Take alternate Route 220 east, and in a few minutes you'll be wondering where the best paddle spots are. Look around the waters for aquatic life, such as turtles, and look up to observe the bald eagles that nest on the southern ridge.

There are rental kayaks and boats, but be sure to have your own tagged before launching.

■Raystown Lake

This area is huge compared to Bald Eagle Lake. Just south of Huntingdon, its ins and outs offer a great deal of observation over many days of paddling.

■Whipple Dam

There are a large number of state parks that have enticing still waters due to the lack of public interest, and this is one of them. Located on the way to Huntingdon in the Seven Mountains area, the upstream area is a quiet area to be discovered.

■ Kettle Creek

Located northwest of Renovo, this has a small dam area.

■ Poe Valley Dam

This small lake is located off state Route 322 in the Seven Mountains area. Through construction and the winding roads of Seven Mountains Scout Camp, the somewhat tortuous path to get there keeps the public away.

■ Beaver Dam

The most hidden of the lakes is this area, which was created by a real beaver dam. Drive past Pine Grove Mills and up the mountain on state Route 26, past the Mid-State Trail on the top of the first mountain, then, as you descend at the second sharp bend to the right, take the forest road left to the east for a couple of miles. I hope there is water there, as I haven't been there in decades. It is remote.

Easy, moving white water of the Class I variety are found in several locations close to or in Centre County. The two largest streams that offer the most reliable water are:

■ West Branch of the Susquehanna River

This location has many put-ins close to the county. I am most familiar with the stretches starting at Shawville, north of Clearfield. For nearly 15 miles the river flows nicely to the Deer Creek Bridge, where there is a fish and boat access site on Route 1008, off of Route 879. Then, 5.4 miles later, the Rolling Stone Bridge is found for another access off Route 1011.

Continuing down, be careful of Wet Shirt Rapids, otherwise known as Moshannon Falls. It really is not a falls, but years ago when I was paddling in an open canoe with one of my Scouts we hit the rapids in the right level of water. We washed onto a flat rock, the water washed away and there we were, marooned onto a rock right side up, but sitting still.

After Rolling Stone Bridge, you'll meet in 7.7 miles the Miller's Landing at the junction of the Red Moshannon Creek. This was the site of a hotel that serviced the logging industry. The hotel existed as late as 1950. It wasn't very big, but it probably had a pretty brash existence back in the logging days. Next, 3.4 miles later, one meets the fish and boat access at the Route 879 bridge near Karthaus.

One can continue paddling for 21.9 miles to reach Keating and the junction with Sinnemehoning Creek and a bridge there. If you are really ambitious, you can paddle all the way to Lock Haven, some 47 miles away. There are a number of bridges and access points in this section, but be sure to get off the river in front of the Lock Haven Bridge, as there is a killer 6-foot dam below it. It has a recursive wave below the dam that is impossible to get out of and it sneaks up on you.

■ Juniata River

On the southern border of Centre County, the Juniata is similar to the West Branch in having year-around water suitable for paddling. It has a mild drop and many washes that make it interesting. I am not personally knowledgeable about the stretches, but information taken from Edward Gertler's "Keystone Canoeing" shows the access information needed for good paddling.

Starting at Huntingdon off Route 22, it is 11.2 miles to Mount Union, 19.2 miles to McVeytown and 15.7 miles to Lewistown. The river flows nicely all the way down to the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and eventually to Harrisburg, where there are some very interesting islands to explore.

There are three creeks of Class I difficulty that are worth mentioning, but caution exists as to whether there is enough water in each for a good flotation. For the next couple of weeks, there could be enough water in these:

■ Bald Eagle Creek

Here, the best start is Milesburg. Upstream can be paddled from Julian and even Port Matilda, along state Route 3040. However, that upper route is available only in times of much higher water. From Milesburg, it is 3.7 miles to the Curtin Bridge. In that stretch with the current level there could be 2-3 spots of thin riffles with boat scraping. There is a takeout just below the Curtin Bridge on river right.

One could continue on for 1 1/2 miles to the Dowdy Hole takeout. Beyond that, you reach the top end of Bald Eagle Lake, with various access points in Bald Eagle State Park. Reasonable boating exists if the water flow at the USGS Milesburg gauge on Spring Creek reads at least 300 CFS. The gauge was reading just that as this article was written.

■ Lower Beech Creek

This isn't run very frequently by local paddlers, but the stretch from Monument to the town of Beech Creek is 9.4 miles of pleasant woodsy views. Again the USGS gauge at Monument should read 400 CFS or more. As of this writing, it read 290.

The stretch does include a small portion of trashy views and there is one portion of braided pathways that could contain some fallen trees that have to be carried around.

■ Little Juniata River

The most popular portion of this river is from Birmingham to Spruce Creek, a distance of 5.9 miles. This is a really woodsy stretch with good fishing. The gauge at Spruce Creek should read about 300 or better, which is what it was headed toward as this article was being written.

Be mindful of the fact that all good paddlers will wear life preservers for all their paddling. One doesn't know when they might do something stupid, have an upset and be shocked in realizing the water is much colder than they figured and, if moving, pulling them along over rocks or under branches. In moving water, if swimming, put your feet up and swim feet first.



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