Kayaking South Branch Towanda Creek

Bill Paggio paddling a rapid in the gorge section of South Branch Towanda Creek (photo courtesy of Steve Graley)

After running Bennetts Creek, we were all excited.  Bennetts is a quick paddle, only a mile or so long, so we were looking to do something else. So we loaded our boats, piled into our cars, and we were soon off to the South Branch Towanda Creek.  If you’ve ever driven along US 220 between Towanda and Dushore, you’ve seen the South Branch Towanda Creek.  It is rarely paddled.  We reached a pull-off and began to unload our gear as a neighbor from the house next door came over and talked with us.  He was friendly as we talked about the creek.  After running shuttle, we carried our boats down the bank and to the creek.  The water was cold, and still brown from the floods.  The creek began with easy rapids and riffles between pools.  Traffic from US 220 could be heard overhead.  Soon the rapids became more frequent as hemlocks began to cloak the steep banks.  Since this was after the floods, we had to keep an eye out for any fallen trees. 
The creek soon entered an incredible chasm or gorge, and it was stunning.  Black rock ledges, slicked with spring water, rose over the creek, and the roar from the rapids grew louder.  These ledges were undercut, as they reached over the creek.  On the other shore was this amazing old fieldstone retaining wall for an ancient railroad.  It must have been over twenty feet high along the creek; the work to build that, stone by stone without concrete or mortar, is hard to believe.  And considering the floods, much of it was still intact, although a section was washed away, revealing the ribs of the old railroad ties above.  These remnants from our past are always fascinating.
We got out of our boats to scout a rapid.  This one was rocky, with stones sticking out here and there and it curved to the left along a ledge.  Below was a swirling, whirlpool eddy.  We all bounced down through the froth and reached the pool below, which whisked us around and around.  We were all amazed by the scenery, thinking it was the Lost World as the chasm walls rose over us, encasing us with the creek.
The chasm receded and the creek opened up, but there were still plenty of fun rapids; the mountain scenery was also great, with Brier Mountain rising over a thousand feet above us.  Much of this creek is undeveloped, with only a sporadic home or cabin.  We reached another long ledge rapid, which was partially blocked by a fallen tree.  I walked the top part of the rapid, but ran the rest as I plowed through the waves below.  One last ledge rapid remained, it was about 3 feet high and dumped into a pool.  The creek was fun and beautiful to the end.  We got out before the gun club and then got a bite to eat at the Wyalusing Hotel.

The south branch is a beautiful creek and one I was glad to finally paddle.  The next time you’re driving and see a creek, there might be more down there than you can imagine.

Jay Lewis on the South Branch Towanda Creek (photo courtesy of Steve Graley)


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