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Juniata River in Pennsylvania - Weekend Trip Report

Trip Overview

The trip was supposed to be a reenactment of a trip the Landis brothers took in 1888, and written up in a book Down the Juniata in 1888. I had been planning the trip since March. Then it morphed into a get together of some old Coast Guard buddies, a lot of folks seemed interested. I was getting psyched. As it happened only 1 friend, his son and I made the trip. I guess it not as important how you get there is, as long as you get there. I can't tell you how many times passed over the river and saw it from the P.A. turnpike and wanted to paddle it. Now was my chance.

The Juniata runs through central Pennsylvania and through Pennsylvania history, I didn�t realize this until I began planning and researching the trip. For those of you not so enamored with history, the Pennsylvania River Trails guide web sight, is all you need to get in the water.

You have to keep an eye on the water levels, the Juniata only drops a little over a hundred feet to its mouth at the Susquehanna. It is a shallow river that fills up and empties quick. The River Trails web site gives gage datum and links to the web site. We hit the river just right I think at a little over 5 ft datum.

We launched at noon on June 24th 2009 a bright and sunny day. We launched at a little town called McVey town. Park on the right descending bank at the Stone House Nursery. The launch is a stony and primitive one just down the road. It's $5.00 to leave your car the night. Right away we saw a beaver, just up river and even though the fishing wasn�t great due to some recent rain we caught a small brown trout and one other fish. The current was pulling us along at a good pace. The paddling was easy. The first day we covered about 16 miles through some very pretty country spotted with a few Amish farms mostly on the right descending bank and lots of less slightly camps on the left descending bank. I don't understand why people want to get away from it all, then, take it with them but they do. Some of these camps look like tenements fallen over with camps right up next to each other and satellite dishes and lawn mowers and everything else.

The Locus Camp ground has a restored section of the old Pennsylvania canal system that is worth a look. The right descending bank has miles of old canal stone work to view. Me, being of Irish decent, told my friend of the Irish immigrants that built these canals to escape the famine, that they used to say there was a dead Irishman for every mile of canal. To which my friend quipped, "Too bad they didn't keep going."
See. That's what makes a good trip -- the wistful banter that gets someone drowned.

You can also see a few bridge piers from when the railroad came through in the 1850's and put the canals out of business. That afternoon we saw a beautiful Osprey. Lots of Cranes. And turtles, turtles, turtles. We camped on the right descending bank across from Lewistown, site of a French and Indian war Fort Granville, hind sight being 20/20 we should have gone a bit further to the left descending bank for better camping.

The next day had the better scenery; we covered 17 miles, saw two eagles, a couple of nice water falls. Just pass Lewistown the river gets narrower as it passes between Blue Mountain and Shade Mountain. Nice easy paddling, not so many unsightly camps. As we come out of the Lewistown narrows, the land broadens out more into a wider plain into Mifflin and Mifflintown. We took out at Buttonwood Camp ground in Mexico P.A. They Run a canoe Livery service and let us park our car there for $5.00. Juniata River Adventures runs canoe trips and a livery as well, both numbers and links can be found on the Pennsylvania River Trails guide. The Juniata is a nice trip and well worth a weekend. I'm planning a fall foliage tour, maybe I can get some more interest in that trip.


There are campgrounds near Lewistown and Mexico, PA
primitive leave-no-trace camping along shore line.


Two Old Town Discovery 15ft canoes and 1 kayak, camping gear and food


PA launch permit if using state boat ramps


Pennsylvania Rivers trail guide available online and topo maps.

  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip