In early May we completed a four day through trip of the Clarion River from Ridgway, PA (Love�s Canoe Access) to Parker canoe access on the Allegheny River (~94 miles). I want relate a couple of items worth passing on to others who might contemplate the trip. We made our trip with the Ridgway gauge reading 3� - a minimum level for loaded canoes. We were a party of four paddlers in Wenonah Cascade and Old Town Discovery Royalex canoes.
The Clarion River had some unique aspects to it. It is Class I flat water from Ridgway to the confluence with the Allegheny River, yet it is contained in a relatively small river valley with steep sides. The upper portion (Ridgway to Cooksburg (44miles) had multiple shallow areas where the deepest, strongest current was along the edges, rather than the center of the river.
The upper portion of the Clarion River is designated Wild and Scenic, however it is not remote. It is bracketed by roads and frequently crossed by bridges. There were several fisherman and several outfitter rentals making day trips on the weekend. Most of this traffic occurred between Ridgway and Cooksburg. Despite the regularly of visitors it is a birders paradise. We saw ospreys, immature eagles, diving ducks, orioles, warblers, thrushes and catbirds.
Below Cooksburg the river becomes more remote except for the Piney Reservoir. There wasn�t a ton of motor boat traffic out on the reservoir, thank goodness because it is a narrow body of water and no one slows down for canoeists. I can only imagine what crossing this would be like with the full impact of summer time pleasure boaters.
The Piney Reservoir portage took a more time than we estimated. The canoe access is located well past (200 yards?) the "No Boating Allowed" sign. We never found signage indicating the portage. We made our portage around the substation perimeter fence - not the easiest thing to corner the canoes around. We are fairly certain that no others had used the portage this calendar year - and I would guess there wasn't much (if any) through traffic last year. There were a couple of trees down in the access �road� to the river that 20 minutes with a chain saw would eliminate. I hope to find someone to contact at Reliant Energy with our observations.
We called about a water release schedule and were told there is no release schedule as they have a new permit allowing a constant release equal to the intake. I feel that is good news for the river and canoeists below the dam.
The river below the dam was deeper, more varied and interesting to travel. Due to the lack of road access it is more remote and wild than the upper portions. We enjoyed it immensely. It is a shame the water quality is so impaired. There are several acidic tributaries and we saw no aquatic life (frogs, fish, etc) below the Piney Dam. Unlike the upper portion of the Clarion River there were no diving ducks, ospreys or eagles.
The Clarion County USGS map shows a bridge across the river to/from St Petersburg - just a couple of miles before the Clarion empties into the Allegheny. Obviously that bridge and abutments have been removed (http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Parker,+PA&ll=41.153412,-79.650536&spn=0.045834,0.063343&t=k&hl=en). It caused a little confusion for us as we were relaying primarily on the County map at that point.
We were a party of four paddlers in Wenonah Cascade and Old Town Discovery Royalex canoes.
Internet resources for this trip include:
General information at http://www.paconserve.org/rc/cr.html
The water Trail guide can be found at http://sites.state.pa.us/PA_Exec/Fish_Boat/watertrails/clarion/clarion-trail.htm
We used an outfitter to shuttle our vehicle to the take out point on the Allegheny River http://www.ncentral.com/~dlove/
Water gauge information is at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/pa/nwis/rt and http://www.learningdesign.com/cgi-local/rivergage
Pictures of similar trips on the Clarion can be found at http://www.neohoutdoors.com/trip_log.shtml