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Raystown Lake in Pennsylvania

by Ness

Trip Overview

"Raystown Canoe Rendezvous"

My husband Hopsing and I recently returned from the annual Raystown Canoe Rendezvous. This canoe "paddle-and-compare" camping event is held once a year at Raystown Lake, Senoia Loop campground, near Hesston, PA, and attracts canoeists, polers, canoe builders, canoe designers, paddle makers, and those with an interest in canoes and canoeing. Most of those present are associated with the website. This year, the annual gathering of canoeists and like-minded paddlers drew well over 50 people from PA, NY, MD, NC, IN, OH, CT, and Canada.

Raystown Lake has established campgrounds with amenities, so this isn't a wilderness trip. However, there is much paddling to be had at the lake, and as the weather varies, there are all manner of lake conditions to enjoy. During our stay at our campsite at Raystown Lake, we enjoyed 5 days of varied weather: high winds, cloudy skies, calm and clear skies, sunny blue skies, rain that fell so hard it got the floors of our tents wet, foggy mornings, and starry clear skies at night that were lit up by a bright half moon. The lake alternated between calm, gently choppy, and wind-whipped ferocity.

We paddled the lake at the foot of our campsites often, enjoying the irregular shoreline. We visited nearby magnificent rock formations, checked out coves, and even gathered hickory nuts on a nearby island.

Some of us also paddled a day trip on the nearby Raystown Branch of the Juniata River. I watched some of the best polers in the Northeast practice "attainments" as they poled up ledges and rapids. The mountains surrounding this beautiful river were lit up by the reds, golds, and oranges of the Fall foliage, as we meandered along the river.

I was fortunate to tandem canoe with several paddlers there during the weekend, and in a few different canoes, which was both fun and informative. We night paddled on a couple occasions, enjoying the peace and quiet of the lake at night. We even saw a shooting star.

Time at the Raystown Rendezvous is spent paddling, socializing, and eating; it's as simple as that. But this year, freestyle gold medal champion Marc Ornstein hosted impromptu freestyle lessons on the lake on Friday morning. The lessons lasted well into the afternoon. Our friend Nightswimmer also organized a viewing of the comedy cult movie "The Big Lebowski", right in camp, after the traditional grand Saturday evening potluck. These were both delightful additions to this year's gathering.

We had the opportunity to canoe and socialize with new friends and old ones, people from all walks of life, canoe builders and designers, representatives from the freestyle community, paddle makers and woodworkers extraordinaire, polers and river trippers, day paddlers and lilydippers. We enjoyed every minute of it. And God willing, we'll be back next year.



Camping is at the Senoia Loop campground within the Raystown Lake park. In October, campsites are available on a first come, first serve basis only; no reservations are needed (or accepted). In 2009, the price for a campground was $25 a night (usually self-pay at the admitting station, as park staff hours have been cut back). The campground has clean bathroom facilities, showers, potable water, and electric at each campsite.

However, please be aware that the campsites are mainly designed for RVs and trailers. Parking pads and picnic table areas are mainly gravel, and the grassy areas are small, and not always level. If you will be tenting, (as most of us do), 10-penny nails, or heavy duty tent stakes, and an ax or heavy mallet to pound in the stakes are recommended.

For more information on the Senoia Loop campgrounds, and a good location map and the campground map, with rules:


Swift Shearwater

Swift Osprey


Raystown Lake is a U.S. Army Corp of Engineers administered park, located in south central PA, near Hesston. Directions to Raystown Lake from various large cities are here:



  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip