Stonycreek River Provides Opportunities for All Skill Levels
For most residents of Johnstown, the creeks and rivers are historically a source of flooding and frustration. However, thanks to groups like The Benscreek Canoe Club, those views have been shifting in a more positive direction as the Stonycreek and its tributaries have become a recreation destination. Most are familiar with the flat-water sections of the Stonycreek that flow through the concrete flood walls of Johnstown, however, the sections of the river to the south offer a paddling experience that rivals that of any on the east coast.
The most southern sections of the Stony flow through the Stonycreek Gorge. This section starts at the historic Glessner Covered bridge and winds its way through secluded stands of hemlock and mountain laurel. This section is not only a great section of Class III whitewater but is also a great fly-fishing destination.
After the Stonycreek Gorge, the river mellows out as it flows through Hooversville and Hollsopple. A few short miles north of Hollsopple, the excitement picks up as paddlers drop into the Stonycreek Canyon. The canyon is host to 15, Class III-IV rapids, squeezed into a 4 mile stretch of river. Some claim that this is the longest stretch of continuous rapids on the east coast! You can choose to end your paddling experience at the takeout in Carpenter’s Park or you can continue down the Stonycreek River, under McNally Bridge through the Lower Canyon.
The Lower Canyon is less rowdy than the Canyon proper but is still home to several Class II-III rapids. The Lower Canyon ends in Greenhouse Park, where you will find three standing waves of varying difficulty for you to hone your river surfing skills. The whitewater park in Greenhouse Park is the state’s first man-made whitewater park and is host to the Benscreek Canoe Clubs annual Stonycreek Rendezvous, a three-day whitewater event held every May.
To ensure that the Stonycreek can be paddled throughout the summer, when water levels traditionally drop, the Benscreek Canoe Club lobbied to have a whitewater release valve installed in the Quemahoming Dam. Releases occur every other weekend throughout the summer as long as the pool elevation in the dam is above a certain threshold. The valve allows for an additional 500 CFS of water to be released into the Stonycreek Canyon, up to 1350 CFS on the USGS Ferndale Gauge. Releases last for 4 hours and hit the Canyon at 10 am, the lower canyon at noon, and Greenhouse park at 2 pm.
The Stonycreek watershed is also host to several other amazing whitewater paddling opportunities depending on the paddler’s skill level. Paint Creek is a continuous Class V steep creek, Roaring Fork and Dark Shade are Class IV runs, and Shade Creek offers some of the most scenic Class III paddling in the area. Outside of the Canyon, Lower Canyon, and Greenhouse Park, paddlers rely on natural flows influenced by rainfall and snow melt for these sections.
If whitewater paddling isn’t your flavor of water recreation, the Stonycreek from Greenhouse Park through the city offers a relaxing Class I-II paddle. There are several river take-outs throughout the city including a ramp at Johnstown High School, near AutoZone in Hornerstown, and next to the City Garage in Cambria City. [Maybe another map just for these and where to launch]
If paddling in the Summer, you can put in at Greenhouse Park at 2 PM to take advantage of the whitewater release which makes the paddle less… stony. The Benscreek Canoe Club also holds regular full moon paddles on the Quemahoming Dam, weather permitting, once a month during the paddling season. Sit around a campfire enjoying stories of paddling misadventures from club members, then once the moon is up, everyone paddles out into the water to enjoy the spectacular view. This is just a sample of the experiences you can have in and around Johnstown. It’s never hard to find someone that is excited and more than willing to help a new paddler get out on the water. For more information on whitewater releases, Rendezvous dates, paddling trips and more, visit www.benscreekcanoeclub.com. For more information on the Stonycreek, visit www.thestonycreek .com. We’ll see you on the water!