Photo Above: Kayaking the Clarion by Tom Dorsey
Few things are more relaxing than floating on the water and soaking up the sun. Whether you prefer a canoe, kayak, or inner-tube, the PA Great Outdoors region is blessed to have many waterways perfect for paddling. The Clarion River and the Allegheny River are the only two federally designated Wild & Scenic Rivers in the Pennsylvania Wilds. They begin as a mere trickle from mountain snowmelt and rain that grows into clear and cold mountain streams, then into monumental rivers that flow through rugged and beautiful country. Both rivers sustain an amazing array of fish and wildlife in the dense forests along their banks including river otters, whitetail deer, black bear, wild turkey, eagles, and osprey.
The Clarion River meanders through narrow valleys and hardwood forests for 115 miles of which a 52-miles stretch is designated Wild & Scenic. The headwaters enter the PA Great Outdoors region in Elk County. The river flows south through Cook Forest and ultimately joins the Allegheny River near Foxburg in Clarion County. The northern Clarion River from Johnsonburg to Ridgway is one of the best kept secrets in Pennsylvania for trophy brown trout. The middle section of the river below Ridgway widens and is bordered by state game lands and the Allegheny National Forest and offers both trout and smallmouth bass fishing. Between Portland Mills and Irwin Run is a beautiful and remote section of the river with three Class 1+ rapids. Below Irwin Run the river is boarded by River Road which offers easy access to intermittent riffles and rocky outcrops that are ideal for swimming, picnicking, sunbathing, and fishing. The river becomes gentler as you near Cook Forest State Park making this section very popular for family recreation. Downstream from Cooksburg to Mill Creek, the river returns to a primitive state with limited access and is bordered by Cook Forest State Park and state game lands. Near the town of Clarion the river flows into the deep and calm waters of Piney Reservoir.
The Allegheny River is over 325 miles long. The Wild & Scenic stretch flowing through the PA Great Outdoors region has a variety of access points for visitors. Near East and West Hickory in Forest County the river offers good paddling and great fishing. Downstream Tionesta’s Lighthouse Island access site has boat launch ramps. The stretch of the river from Tionesta to Hunter’s Station is one of the most beautiful on the Allegheny. Paddlers can even spend the night on one the many remote wilderness islands in the middle of the river. The river in Forest County is known for outstanding musky, walleye, bass, and trout fishing. Further down river you will find the charming resort town of Foxburg which is the perfect place to relax and watch the river flow as you enjoy a winery, restaurants, inn, shops, and a lively art scene. At the southwest tip of Clarion County is Brady’s Bend on Pool 9 which is the northern most deep water pool on the river. This area is incredibly scenic as the wide deep water loops around the town of East Brady. Each summer there are many catfish tournaments on this section of the river.
The PA Great Outdoors also has some fantastic lakes for paddlers as well including George B. Stevenson Dam at Sinnemahoning State Park in Cameron County, Kahle Lake near Knox in Clarion County, East Branch Lake & Dam near Wilcox in Elk County, Tionesta Lake in Forest County, and Cloe Lake and Kyle Lake in Jefferson County.
A great place to start a paddling adventure is at one of the local liveries. They rent equipment, life jackets, and offer shuttle services. The liveries in the PA Great Outdoors are experts on the local waterways and can provide you with both current water conditions and valuable navigation tips. In the Cook Forest area Pale Whale Canoe Fleet and Pine Crest can help you plan a day of fun on the water. Country Squirrel Outfitters in Ridgway can help you explore the northern Clarion River. Eagle Rock Canoe & Kayak Rental in Tionesta is the place to help you explore the Allegheny River. You can find information about on fun on the water online at VisitPAGO.com or request a FREE information guide by calling the PA Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau at (814) 849-5197.