The Conodoguinet does not sound like an amazing destination for a day of kayaking. A meandering creek that doubles back on itself, it winds its way behind the suburban sprawl of the Carlisle Pike in Mechanicsburg. Within ten minutes of the creek you can find big box stores of every variety.
But the Conodoguinet, hidden in its valley, feels a world away. Except for the hum of distant traffic, you wouldnt know that the real world is so close.
We put in at Willow Mill Park, just two short turns off of PA-114. Because of the twists and turns of the creek, the trip to the take-out spot and back took only 15 minutes. This is a great plus, especially because we travel with our two children, ages 10 and 4.
The water was a little low, but still easily floatable. For much of our route, the banks were heavily wooded. Its easy paddling, with a wide channel. The water is shallow, which we prefer for paddling with our children.
The wildlife of the trip was remarkable. The bottom of the creek is covered with shells of freshwater clams, some measuring 4-5 inches. We could see large trout darting through the shadows. Each rock that I turned over had mayfly nymphs scuttling along---a sign of good water quality. Because weve had little rain, the water was perfectly clear, letting us see to the bottom.
As we paddled, we saw at least three egrets, two great blue herons, several green herons, an osprey, and a mink. We saw just two fishermen on the entire trip. As we neared our take-out point, Hidden Creek Park (formerly called the Fry Tract), we saw more houses and more people, but it was still very quiet and peaceful. There was a quiet island along the way that gave us a chance to stop and wade for awhile, and I caught some crayfish to show the boys. Lots of interesting plant life as well, including lizards tail, swamp milkweed, silver maples, and sycamores.
Within twenty minutes of Harrisburg, an hour from Gettysburg.
To Willow Mill Park:
From intersection of PA 114 and US-11. North on 114 to left turn on Willow Mill Park Rd. Continue less than a mile and the park will be on your right.
To Hidden Creek Park:
From US-11, heading east. Turn left at Sample Bridge Road. Turn right on Milfording Rd. (New development--Milfording Highlands.) Continue to Hidden Creek Park. Stay on paved road until the last park entrance, on your left.
The guide (7-page pdf file) to the Conodoguinet Creek can be found here: