Kayaking the Loyalsock Creek

Jay Lewis running Haystacks Rapids.  Photo by Steve Graley.

Jay Lewis running Haystacks Rapids. Photo by Steve Graley.

The Loyalsock is a trail and a state forest, both known for their scenic beauty.  Before either of these, it was the name of a creek that flowed through a deepening gorge with rapids and side stream waterfalls. A few weeks ago, a couple friends and I met to kayak the creek from US 220 to Worlds End State Park.  The weather was incredibly sunny with a deep blue sky.  We felt the warmth of spring.  However, the Loyalsock is known for its clear, frigid water, which reminded us winter was not that long ago.

The level was about 4 feet on the USGS gauge.  We paddled over some ledge rapids below US 220 that had surf waves.  Soon Dutchman Falls appeared on the left as the creek burrowed through hemlock forests.  The bouncy rapids grew more significant with longer wave trains.  More side streams cascaded into the creek as we floated over deep clear pools.  The famous Haystacks soon appeared and we got out of our boats to scout.  Everyone ran the rapid successfully.  The Haystack are always a little intimidating from the water.  A maze of boulders appeared before me and the current through them is very tricky with boils and crazy currents.  I tried to paddle into an eddy, but the current deflected me,  I was about to go over the drop backwards until I paddled furiously to get into the eddy.  I turned around and attempted a diagonal line over the drop.  However, I clipped the hole at the bottom of the drop and  flipped over.  Thankfully, a roll saved me from having to swim in the freezing water.  The powerful water roared between the rounded boulders.   More fun rapids awaited us downstream, but the creek mellowed out as we reached a bridge, where we got out to eat.  I drained my boat and was surprised to see how much water it had.  As we relaxed in the sun, a large group of backpackers hiking the Loyalsock Trail passed above us on the bridge.  We waved.  Everyone loves the Loyalsock.

After returning to the water, we passed a cliff with cascading springs and towering ice columns.  We soon reached the beginning of S-Bend Rapid.  Here, the creek is incredibly beautiful as slanted cliffs loom over a swirling pool with a small beach on the opposite shore.  Ahead, the creek flowed along the base of a cliff that rose over 200 feet.  S-Bend Rapid has changed from the floods, making it an even more fun, and challenging rapid.  A powerful slide shot me into a wave as I paddled to reach a pool.  Below there was a steep boulder rapid with large waves and a hole that could flip a kayak.  Massive boulders littered the shore, tossed into place by the floods. I began in the center of the rapid and gradually moved right, punching through the big waves as I paddled between two boulders.  Looking upstream, to see the whitewater rapid and the massive cliffs, was a memorable sight.

The fun wasn’t over.  Another challenging rapid was just downstream where I nearly missed a tree that had fallen into the creek.  My boat felt heavy and sluggish.  As we entered Worlds End State Park, the rapids picked up, as did the scenery.  This is such a beautiful state park.  Multi-colored cliffs rose above us as springs tumbled into the creek.  High Rock Falls roared above us as we paddled through waves.  My boat was so heavy, a wave nearly made my boat stand on its end.  I got out and looked into my boat, it had several gallons of water in it.  It appeared the hull was cracked.

We got changed in the state park as the steep mountains rose around us.  The Loyalsock, whether it be the creek, state forest or trail, is such a special place.  We are blessed to have it so close.  The roar of the creek filled the gorge as the bright sun filled the azure sky.  Days as perfect as this are few and far between.

A video of the paddling trip down the creek, courtesy of Steve Graley.

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