My wife and I arrived at the Aitch launch site around 1230 P on the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend. This launch site (and entire lake) is run and very well maintained by the US Corp of Engineers. While we were loading the kayaks, a patrolling officer made his rounds twice of the parking lot, and this was prior to the expected rush of boaters and campers later on. We felt safe leaving our vehicle there for the next 2 nights. I filled out the registration form stating we were occupying a camp site at Nancy's (which waives the launch fee), left the same msg. on my dash board so it was visible to the patrols, and after a trip to the very clean rest rooms, we were ready to paddle out to the camp sites.
The paddle out was calm and about 3.5 miles and took a leisurely 1.15 hrs. Power boat traffic was minimal, so the omni-directional wakes/waves were not as bad as I had been led to believe... that day.
We established camp 10 feet from the stone bulwark that fronts the camp ground. The kayaks were easily pulled over this from 10 inches of water. There are 50 semi-primitive sites available on a first come first serve basis. All sites have fire rings, grills, and standard park type tables. There is plenty of downed and hanging firewood close by if you are willing to hike uphill and drag it back (150-200 yds from our selected site). Plenty of places on the drive to the launch offer bundles of wood, but unless you can hitch hike it with a power boater, go with the hike and drag. While you are up the hill looking for fire wood, you'll locate the restrooms (no shower) and well pump.
The sites are $9.00 a night, and two tents are allowed per site. This fee is by honor system and collected via an envelope drop pole. The drop pole is checked by an officer around four times a day, so cough it up. At 9.00 a site, it's a bargain, and besides, by camping here you already had your launch fee waived.
OK, camp established, wood gathered, fire started, and now it's time to have a beer or few while playing camp/mountain bocce and cooking dinner. Well the few was only a light six pack and just barely made it through a dinner of steak, wild rice, and asparagus. My wife's wine disappeared also. After all, it was our anniversary. A plan was made to paddle back to the launch and drive somewhere to replenish those supplies in the morning.
The next morning I launched by my self in the 14.5 Carolina. My wife did not accompany me because she was paddling a Ocean Kayak Malibu 2 (replaced with a Prijon Touryak last month) and it's pretty much a tug as speed goes. There was enough power boat traffic early on so I didn't feel like I was paddling alone. Made it back to the launch in a little over 1/2 hour. Locked the boat up and jumped into the truck for the supply run.
I'm from Virginia where beer and wine is as close as the first 7/11 you come to. Well, not the case (no pun intended) in PA. First, I found the closest "distributor" was in Huntingdon, 16 miles away. Made it there to find I could only buy a case (I wanted a twelve), and I couldn't purchase wine there. For that I had to go to the "package" or "State" store down the street but, I could not get the beer there. Oh yeah, I could get a 12 pack at a bar that would cost about as much as a case, and they expect a tip for getting it out of the fridge. But if I wanted two 12s from the same bar, I would either have to enlist someone to by the second, or buy one, take it out, and come back in to by another. Jeez, how do they keep this straight? But I digress. Found the state store, got the wine, bought an 8 pound bag of ice and drove back to the launch.
At the launch, 1400, Friday afternoon on Memorial Day weekend: No one works that Friady afternoon. They are all here with PWCs, bass boats, pleasures, pontoons, you name it. I was the only one launching that was not under mechanical power.
A no wake zone that is strictly enforced helped for the first 1/2 mile return. Then, James Creek launch arm enters from the right and the no wake signs disappear. Remember the first day blurb about omni-directional wakes and waves? Well for the next three miles, I had plenty of OJT/practice with high and low braces, some surfing and alot of knee/hip edging. Didn't want to roll (it's all about the beer!), but it was a definite possibility.
Made it back, popped a beer, and bored my wife with this same story. More bocce, dinner, and wood gathering. Plans made to leave earlier then previously planned the next day due to the boat traffic encountered this afternoon.
Next morning and fog was for breakfast. Broke camp, packed the boats, and locked in the Aitch launch on the E-trex. The paddle back was great. Couldn't see but about 100 yds in either direction, but it was early enough that the PWC and pleasures were not up yet. The Etrex did a admirable job of directing us back to Aitch in about 1.5 hrs. We packed the truck, loaded the boats, and headed out to find some breakfast.
Overall, Raystown Lake and camping at Nancy's is a wonderful experience. The campground and sites are superb. The launch sites are all secure and well patrolled. The restrooms both at the launch and camp are clean and well maintained. We have already planned another trip there (mid-week) but launching from another site further south and on the east side. This will give us closer access to a creek arm that ends at a waterfall we did not venture out to see due to the weekend traffic.
- Beer and wine purchases in PA are problematic and expensive. Bring them with you up to the legal limit.
- Avoid holiday weekends at Raystown or plan to paddle early during the sleep-it-off.
- Fog each morning, bring a hand held GPS and paint both launch site and camp site.
semi-primitive campsites: fire rings with grill, standard park tables, clean restrooms, no showers, well/spring pump
Perception Carolina 14.5
Ocean Kayak Malibu 2 SOT with hatches mid and aft, outfitted for fishing.
Launch fee waived if boat-in camping.
Camp site $9.00/night, 2 tents per site
The Aitch launch is located east of Marklesburg PA, just off SR 26. SR 26 can be accessed off US 30 / I 76 from the south, and US 322 from the north. The James Creek launch is just south of Marklesburg
ADC Raystown Lake Map, Web site map print offs
- Sport/Activity: Kayaking
- Skill Level: Intermediate
- Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water