|Ten Great Ways to Have Fun Outdoors in Western PA|
|Adventure #1: Canoeing & Kayaking|
Allegheny National Forest sits in the rugged plateau country of northwestern
Pennsylvania. Many creeks and streams cut deeply into the plateau, creating
a rolling and sometimes steep topography with a 1,300 foot range of
elevation. The terrain is covered with a typical eastern hardwood forest:
Black cherry, yellow poplar, white ash, red maple, and sugar maple are all
common to the area.
The Tionesta and Research Natural Areas and Hearts Content Area feature
some of the oldest and largest tracts of virgin beech-hemlock forest in the
eastern United States. The Allegheny River Islands Wilderness is another
unique feature of the Allegheny National Forest. The seven islands in the
Allegheny River offer remote canoeing and back-country camping.
The Tionesta and Research Natural Areas and Hearts Content Area feature some of the oldest and largest tracts of virgin beech-hemlock forest in the eastern United States. The Allegheny River Islands Wilderness is another unique feature of the Allegheny National Forest. The seven islands in the Allegheny River offer remote canoeing and back-country camping.
Of course, not all of the outdoor fun in Pennsylvania occurs on land. If tourists are seeking to cool off this summer, then they can enjoy many bodies of water that dot the Pennsylvania landscape. The variety is impressive. For those who wish to sit by and relax, drift along on the majestic Susquehanna River, which carves through the heartland of the state. However, if you like to live life dangerously then hold on tight while riding rapids of the Youghiogheny River at Ohiopyle State Park, or the Lehigh Gorge in Eastern Pennsylvania.
In addition to the 54,000 miles of streams and rivers, lakes are strewn all throughout Pennsylvania. Water enthusiasts can ride on the states waters or dive right in - most of the state park lakes have beaches as well as boat launches.Yet, several islands in the middle Allegheny were designated by Congress in 1986 as the Allegheny Islands Wilderness. How can islands just a few hundred yards from a highway be termed wilderness? Only a canoe voyage down river with overnight stops on the islands can give you a true picture of this unique 'wilderness' area.
In 1992, the middle Allegheny was designated a National Wild and Scenic River, based on its recreational value. It is divided into three segments omitting two relatively short stretches, one through Warren, the other from Oil City through Franklin. Together, the three Wild and Scenic stretches are 85 miles in length. All of the middle Allegheny is class I water, suitable for beginners.
The 'middle' Allegheny, the free flowing stretch from the Kinzua Dam to the head of the navigation pools near Interstate Route 80, is one of the most popular canoeing areas in the country, especially during midsummer. At this time many other popular creeks and rivers do not have enough flow to keep canoes afloat.
Fred Mendenhall, of Allegheny Outfitters in Warren, suggests three types of canoe trips down the middle Allegheny. Most popular is a one-day float from the Kinzua Dam to Warren. A two-day trip with an overnight stay on a wilderness island ends at Tidioute. Or for a journey past all of the wilderness islands, there is a three-day, two-night trip to Tionesta. They provide both guided and unguided packages.
All three journeys begin just below the Kinzua Dam. Here the valley is narrow, with steep walls. Riffles are long and gentle, the pools relatively short and with no 'dead' water. This is a stretch that you can actually float. Stick to the main channel. The smaller channels in this stretch get very shallow during mid-summer.
You have a good chance of seeing bald eagles between the dam and Warren, particularly around Dixon Island, the first island you encounter. You can expect to see a lot of wildlife as you float the river. I suggest you bring a bird field guide and binoculars.
The first actual whitewater you encounter is in Warren, nearly past a refinery. Below this is one more pool, some small islands and short riffles, then the mouth of Conewango Creek. At this point you will have traveled about eight miles.
Warren is where you encounter the first pool, where the valley broadens. From here on you will have to do more paddling, especially when the wind is blowing upriver, which it usually is.
Crulls Island is 16.5 miles below the dam. A popular camping site is on the west side, on your right. Here the valley walls close in again. For the rest of the way to Tionesta forest surrounds the river, the many scattered camps and a few small villages.
With the addition of Conewango and Brokenstraw creeks, the Allegheny is gaining flow. From here on, many of the smaller channels are worth exploring. Watch for fallen trees which can flip canoes in those channels.
Tidioute is about 30 miles from the dam, and Tionesta is another 14 miles. Camping is allowed on islands that are not posted. It is hard to tell designated wilderness islands from the rest. Sitting around a campfire in the evening, listening to the sounds of the night, surrounded by the dense bottom land vegetation, you will gain the wilderness feeling.
Be sure to bring your fishing tackle to assure a fresh fish dinner. Trout fishing is excellent from the dam to Warren. Below Warren, smallmouth bass become more abundant. Walleyes and muskellunge are common throughout. In the evenings, after setting up camp, you will probably find good fishing within wading distance.
While you are in the area, an opportunity you should enjoy is a series of eco-tours offered by Allegheny Outfitters. They have full-day eco-tours every Tuesday and Thursday, half-day tours every Wednesday and either at other times by reservation.
For more information contact Allegheny Outfitters, Inc., PO Box 1681, Warren, PA 16365; phone 814/723-1203. For more information about the Allegheny Islands Wilderness contact Allegheny National Forest, PO Box 847, Warren, PA 16365; phone 814/723-5150.
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