Running Waterfalls on Bennetts Creek

About to go over a waterfall on Bennetts Creek (photo courtesy of Steve Graley)

I enjoy whitewater kayaking for many reasons.  Yes, it is exciting, fun, and challenging.  To face an intimidating rapid and still get in your boat as you are filled with fear and dread, and to successfully run it, is a great feeling.  There have been many moments when I had those feelings, feeling the roar down below, and I thought to myself, “What am I doing here?!?”  This sport is about facing fears, within reason, and to live in the moment as you negotiate a rapid.  It also shows that you are capable of more than you realize.  But I also enjoy whitewater because it enables you to see some truly spectacular places that would be difficult to see even while hiking.  And Pennsylvania is a land of rivers and streams; some claim there are more miles here than any other state, except Alaska. 
One such special place is Bradford County’s Bennetts Creek, located a few miles south of Wysox.  This is a short paddle, maybe a mile or so.  Along the way the creek has carved an incredible shale gorge down to the Susquehanna.  We convened on a cloudy morning, it was cool and the water was at a great level.  We got in our boats and were soon swept down into this gorge as we bounced over rapids and dodged rocks.  I was happy to finally get on this small creek, in part because it had two waterfalls, and I was looking to run my first waterfall.  We soon reached the falls and we got out to scout; there was no wood in the drop.  We began to run the falls one by one.  Soon it was my turn.  I focused on the intimidating horizon line where the creek dropped away into mist below.  I measured my paddle strokes and focused on staying straight.  Soon I was at the edge, and in a split second I was over, where I slid down the steep cascade into a swirling pool below.  Still upright, still alive.
The fun wasn’t over.  Another falls was just downstream; it was a straight drop into a deep, foaming pool.  The beauty was incredible.  One kayaker said this spot was known as “Acapulco” when he was younger.  There was an ampitheater of cliffs and another waterfall was on a side creek.  Again I approached the lip of the falls, trying to stay calm.  I tried to paddle slowly, staying straight, as I tried to find a sequence for my boof stroke- the stroke where you try to catch the rock lip of the falls to propel you into the pool below.  In an instant I was over and into a deep foam pile where the current surges up.  What a thrill.  Everyone ran the falls and had huge smiles on their faces.  As we headed downstream, I looked back up.  The scenery was amazing- was this Pennsylvania?
The creek was a blast to the end, with waterslides and chutes as the gorge walls closed in.  We had to keep an eye on trees, and even had to portage around one.  Soon we were at the bottom, loading our boats on our cars when someone suggested a run down a rarely-paddled gem- the South Branch Towanda Creek.  Within a few minutes, we were off…

For more pictures and videos of Bennetts Creek, click on

Courtesy of Steve Graley


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