Canoeing the West Branch of the Susquehanna River

by madcanoe on March 14, 2008

It may be Pennsylvania’s best kept paddling secret and maybe one of the top canoe camping rivers in the Mid-Atlantic region. The West Branch of the Susquehanna River is one great canoe camping river because of its range, access, scenery, and remoteness. Average canoe camping trips on the West Branch can range from under 20 miles to 80 miles, and if you are feeling really adventurous you could put in somewhere near Shawville, Pennsylvania and paddle all the way to the Chesapeake Bay.

The West Branch is a mostly a tame flatwater river with occasional waves and riffles that are just enough to add some paddling excitement without too much risk, making it a perfect canoe camping trip for a family with younger children. There is one short section of barely a class two rapid called the Moshannon Falls which can be a great ride when water levels are just right. Don’t take the river lightly though, it is a fast high volume river and should be avoided when the levels swell due to flooding or a dam release.

The best time to paddle the river is during the period of April through early June. Normally the river levels are too low after June, although there have been recent years where the water levels were adequate throughout the entire year. The weeks before and including Memorial Day weekend are when paddlers are most active on the West Branch and you’ll possibly have plenty of campsite competition with the locals. However if you choose to paddle the river in early May or several weeks after Memorial Day you likely encounter only a few, if any paddlers.

For more information on canoeing and camping the West Branch and other rivers in Pennsylvania go the Website. 

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