My 12 year old son and I put in at the northern access point (stone tunnel under railroad, just north of Clark St.) off of N. Market St. in Duncannon, PA at 1;30 pm. Weather was mostly sunny, high 70s, and very calm. We both used open cockpit sit-inside recreational kayaks of about 10' length.
We mostly stayed to the left side of the river as we aren't deeply experienced with fast moving water and information I'd gotten from Blue Mountain Outfitters' Site indicated that to feature fewer shallows and hazards.
Paddling was quite easy and pleasant, and the current moved us along at a noticeable clip all afternoon.
We worked through a few very small Class I rapids around the first bend below Duncannon and then had very peaceful flat water paddling through the small islands between there and Dauphin. We stopped for a while to eat a late lunch on Moores Island (State Game Land No. 319). Turtles, cormorants, Canada geese, and herons were very common. We saw crayfish in the shallows, and lots of fish jumping.
I was pretty surprised to see few other boats, especially at the northern part of our run. Further downriver we saw a total of 10-12 kayaks (almost all anglers) and three or four small power boats.
Entering the bend below Dauphin, my information indicated the safest route is to stay very hard to the left side of the river, near the PA Route 22 highway structure. We took our chances and headed out more to the center, passing close by the left side of the Lady Liberty statue on the old bridge pier near the center of the river. This proved a little exciting as the current around the multiple large rock protrusions is swift and strong, and there are small standing waves present between most of them. I got a (pleasant, refreshing!) lap full of water crashing through one of them, but my much lighter son didn't take on any water through those areas. Some vigorous paddling is prudent to keep the bow pointed downstream, and the eddies often try to spin the boat and it would be easy enough to get cross-ways going over some of the ledges -- leading to an unanticipated swim.
There are a very few spots between the Liberty statue and the right bank which are probably Class II. We didn't go through those, though we did view them from below. BMO's map indicates them as danger points and requires it's rental customers stay away from them completely.
After passing the rocks around Lady Liberty, we were in calm water again and decided to paddle back up stream to get a better look at the more serious rapids. This was surprisingly easy going, upstream, until quite close to the rocks where eddies and swirls make paddling more challenging. As it was we were able to work right up among the rocks and even find a sheltered spot to get out and pull the boats up onto dry rock for a bit of a breather. While the area is marked as dangerous on some charts and there are pretty turbulent areas, we did see several anglers in kayaks able to work right in between the rough spots and stay in calm water.
From there we took a very leisurely paddle down to the southern access point in Marysville, PA, beside the western base of the Rockville Railroad bridge. (South Main Street, Schrauder River Park)
There are a few quite fun little Class I ripples a minute or three before arriving at the lower access point. It's probably possible to avoid them by staying out to the center, but they aren't bothersome.
We arrive at the take-out point at 5:25 or so, making our whole trip of about 8.75-9 miles just under 4 hours, including lunch and play stops.
River/Creek (Up to Class II)
Number of Portages:
Some Class II conditions on the right and center portions of the river at the bend below Dauphin.
2 10' recreational sit-inside kayaks.
High of 78 deg. F. Mostly sunny. Calm.