Photos courtesy of the Allegheny National Forest

In celebration of the Clarion River’s status as Pennsylvania’s 2019 River of the Year, the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau will share one excerpt each month this year from the book “True Tales of Clarion River,” published in 1933 by George P. Sheffer and the Northwestern Pennsylvania Raftsmen’s Association. The below story was written by John Reck of St. Marys, Pennsylvania.

In the year of 1887 I made my first trip on the Clarion river from Millcreek to the mouth. Oh, what a trip that was! ! ! It was about the first of June and the sun was warm and pleasant, the river was on a good rafting stage and everyone was on his toes.

Our craft was a board raft containing 60,000 feet of lumber and carrying 40,000 lath. James Morgan was pilot, while Frank Morgan and I were on the front end. Mother Williams had put up a big lunch of sandwiches and that famous ginger bread for us. And how we did go for it! ! !

The bracket dam was full of water and when we were ready to go W.R. Reck cut the bracket and away we went. Our raft was second to go out and of course our oar was unshipped and laying back on the raft. Half of the raft went under water when we made the dive over the dam.

When the raft came up you should have seen my old pal, Frank, grab that oar and put in on the pin, and then see us grab hold and pull to keep off that pier.

Had it not been for the little man with the whiskers and the big boots (Mr. Rulofson) we would have gone over the bridge instead of under it. He was the man who owned the lumber and how he could holler, “Right, Boys, Left.”

On we went, down around the bend and through those beautiful hills. We had no more trouble until we came to Grass Flats. There another raft hit the corner of ours and we had to pull like the devil for twenty minutes to keep from hitting the bank.

We reached the mouth of the Clarion safely and ran and walked two miles up the river to Foxburg where we had supper. Of course the pilot, Mr. Morgan, paid all the bills.

We took the train for Clarion at Foxburg. This was a great treat, as we did not get many train rides in those days.

We arrived in Clarion at about 10:00 P. M. and then walked back to Millcreek that night. It was all fun, but when we reached home I was tired and ready to call it a day.

That was my first trip on the river and was made 47 years ago. What a life, and what fun! ! !

Those interested in the lumber history of the Clarion River can visit the Allegheny National Forest’s Marienville Ranger Station, where you can see a display model of the type of timber raft used during this industry’s heyday.

Learn more about the Clarion River and find other interesting places to visit in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region by going to or calling (814) 849-5197.

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