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Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

Getting Decked on the Susquehanna

Susquehanna River, Island circuit from Cold Cabin Put in, 8.5 miles
March 13, 2005
Paddlers: Topher, Marcus, McWood, Vic, Canoeswithduckheads Tom, Mike McCrea
Decked boats: Bell Rob Roy, Sawyer Loon, Kruger Sea Wind, Clipper Sea-1, Old Town Sockeye (and an Impex Diamante sea kayak)

A slightly delayed launch Topher and Marcus decided to drive due east across York County Pennsylvania by way of Maryland saw us slipping a collection of decked canoes into the Susquehanna at Cold Cabin on Sunday morning.

A paddle-what-you-brought initial boat assignment allowed me the pleasure of commencing the days paddle into the wind and current in the Clipper Sea-1. Heading upriver (and upwind) I paused at the mouth of Muddy Creek and turned about to see my companions as wee specks on the horizon, closing slowly. The Sea-1 has a lot of giddyup into a headwind.

A more sheltered canoodle up Muddy Creek, today running crystal clear, was followed by a challenging attainment up a shallow water riffle and we beached the boats along a sandbar fringed with waist-high snow blocks for the first of several leg stretcher sessions of bankside boat blather and BS.

And for our first hull trade. I swapped the Sea-1 with Topher for the Rob Roy, Marcus swapped the Loon with McWood for the Sea Wind. Tom stuck with the Sockeye, as he would all day (we kept telling him how good he looked in that boat) and Vic didnt count since hes a stinkin kayaker. Er, I mean, well, OK, yeah, thats exactly what I meant.

Reboarded and new boated we floated back down Muddy Creek, paused to admire the remains of the old stone aqueduct that once carried the Susquehanna and Tidewater canal over the creeks confluence with the Susy-Q and then continued our ascent of the river along the York County side.

No sooner had we reentered the river than a spectacular bald eagle alit from a tree overhead, soared fifty feet upriver and perched again, framed against the blue sky and steep river valley hillside. Schweet.

Our upriver passage took up past the PA Fish Commission Muddy Creek access (permit required) and into the rocky narrows between Upper Bear Island and Peavine Island. One feature of this area that has always fascinated me is the abundant whorl holes. Small whorl holes in the making atop the rockfaces, filled with water and small stones. Giant whorl holes at river level, some large enough to paddle into, the work of eons.

Continuing upriver against stiffening current we managed the attainment between Crow Island and Upper Bear and edged our way east towards the tailrace.

The rapids dropping over a series of small ledged before us was too tempting a surf for some of our boat testers. Topher put the Sea-1 nose first into the rapid and surfed until a sudden kick out submerged his stern and poured a bit of water over the gunwales. Tom scampered atop a nearby rock for a photo op and somehow reemerged wetter than any of us. Tom is, as we all know, a bit unbalanced.

Heading downstream now we soon found another sunny beach on the east side of Upper Bear a perfect spot for some lunch, some bailing and some always enjoyable boat blather. And another boat switch, as Topher took over the Sea Wind and McWood took the Sea-1.

The squirrelly downriver currents along the Lancaster County side of Upper and Lower Bear Island are also a fine testing ground for boats, and Topher was quick to appreciate the Sea Wind. Ill have to confess, I, and I think Topher too, came into this test paddle with a vaguely preconceived notion that, OK, the Sea Wind is probably a nice, competent hull design, but, well, you know, its just a boat, at its most basic just another thing that floats.

Ill eat that preconceived notion. It is certainly the penultimate expedition canoe. Those decades of Krugers constant experimentation and refinement are demonstrable in the boats performance, capabilities and outfitting. It is no question a helluva boat.

Of course its also $4000. And to fully realize some of the designs capabilities you would want two Sea Winds to catamaran together. Ca-ching, $8000. You get what you pay for.

Coasting with the current we passed the southern tip of Lower Bear and entered into my favorite spot along this island tour, the hidden grotto on the northwestern tip of Big Chestnut Island. A small, inauspicious slot in the cliff opens up into spacious cove surrounded by high rock walls fringed with hemlock. Beauty.

Out of the hidden grotto we completed our island tour with a circuit between Little Chestnut, Wolf and Hennery Islands and put ashore to trade boats one last time before making a diagonal open water crossing back to Cold Cabin beach.

Nice day. Nice place. Nice boats. Nice company. I was amazed that we saw not another boat afloat of any kind.

And I guess I need to shop for a better seat and a foot control rudder for that Sockeye. Its time to bring it back into the shop for a re-rebuild. Its a nice enough hull and could be morphed into a fair to middling decked tripper with a few parts and a little TLC.

Tophers photos of the day all those decked boats oughta look mighty nice:


None. Small grassy parking area at put in.




From Baltimore - From the north side of the Baltimore beltway (Rte 695):

Take Exit 27 north (Dulaney Valley Rd/Rte 146) off the Baltimore Beltway.

Take Dulaney Valley Rd/Rte 146 north across Loch Raven reservoir and bear left onto Rte 146.

Continue north on Rte 146 through Jacksonville to Madonna.

In Madonna turn right onto Norrisville Rd/Rte 23.

Follow Rte 23 to Jarrettsville and turn left onto Rte 165.

Follow Rte 165 north into Pennsylvania, Rte 165 becomes Rte 74 in Pennsylvania.

Stay on Rte 74 north, cross Muddy Creek and continue to top of steep hill where Rte 74 bears hard left - turn hard right onto Paper Mill Rd.

Take Paper Mill Rd to Cold Cabin Rd and turn left.

Follow Cold Cabin Rd. to boat ramp/take out at small park at the bottom of the hill.

From elsewhere - Look at a map ;-)


Ed Gertler's "Keystone Canoeing", but even better just pick up a copy of the topo that covers this island-rich section of the Susguehanna - Topo is "Holtwood PA" quadrangle.

Trip Details

  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location