A first hand (not yet comprehensive) guide to paddling the complete length of the Susquehanna river. Or at the very least the Northern branch :-)

By Dominic Cucé 
           " In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has come, and the first of that which comes" Leonardo DaVinci

                                

This update was made Sept. 20, 2018:

 I just completed and published the page titled "Towanda PA to Sugar Run PA" I made this paddle on July 12, 2018. 22 miles in very sunny, hot and humid conditions that took a toll on me. At the end of the paddle my brother came to pick me up and I recall saying to him "it feels like I just ran a marathon with my arms".  And' I felt that I needed a break from the river. But, a day later I felt just fine and planned another segment; Sugar Run PA to Meshoppen PA. 17 miles. I made this run on August 17 while the river was in flood stage from heavy rains on August 15 and 16. I'm looking forward to writing about this segment as I achieved two milestones: I crossed the 200 mile mark (212 miles) and clocked my fastest speed so far (5.6 miles/hour)


This update was made on August 27:

I just completed and published the page titled "Sayre PA to Towanda PA" I made this paddle of June 21, 2018. Since then I made two more runs, Towanda, PA to Sugar Run PA and Sugar Run PA to Meshoppen PA. I hope to publish these two within the next couple of weeks.


This update was made on August 22. 2018

The photo above is of the Endless Mountain Outfitters kayak rental place located directly on the Susquehanna in Sugar Run, PA. This is where I exited the river on July 12 when I paddled the section from Towanda to Sugar Run, and reentered the river on August 17 when I paddled the section between Sugar Run and Meshoppen. Keith, owner of EMO has helped me with info and advice for that area. He has been very responsive and I really appreciate it. As the river winds thru the Endless mountains of PA, I find this section to be the most scenic that I have experienced so far. If you have been thinking of a kayak adventure for this summer check out EMO. Plenty of water on the Susquehanna this year and you're bound to have a fun day. Great thing to do for a corporate team building activity.

 On Friday August 17 I paddled the Sugar Run, PA to Meshoppen, PA section of the Susquehanna; 17.1 miles. On this trip I achieved two milestones: 1) I crossed over the 200 mile mark. So far I have paddled 211.3 miles of the northern branch which originates at Cooperstown NY. 2) I did it in only 3 hours which makes this the fastest I have travelled on the Susquehanna; 5.7 miles per hour. The fastest time before that was on the Oakland PA, to Hallstead PA section. I paddled that 8 mile section in 2 hours; 4 Miles per hour.

  On Tuesday and Wednesday (August 15 and 16) Northeast PA was deluged with heavy downpours that flooded streams and washed away several roads. I drove down to New Albany PA on Thursday the 17. I got within 10 miles of my brothers cabin and came upon a sign informing that route 220 was closed ahead. I took some back roads that put me back on 220 past the road closure only to find that a few miles ahead the road was closed again. This time I could not find a way around the closure and had to backtrack to Towanda where I picked up Route 6 south to Wyalusing and from there took a few back roads that took me to the cabin. This detour added an hour to my trip. New Albany was especially hit hard by the floods and the governor of PA, Tom Wolf visited the town on Wednesday to survey the damage.

 On my way down on Thursday I communicated with Keith, owner of Endless Mountain Outfitters (kayak rental place on the Susquehanna in Sugar Run PA) and asked him if it was safe to paddle. He told me that it was not safe as the water was still high and he could see a lot of debris still floating by. Paddling the Susquehanna during a flood is very dangerous. Doing it alone is even more so and I pretty much decided that I would not paddle the next day.

 Friday morning I left my brother's cabin with the idea that I would go to the river and check on the conditions. Most likely I would not paddle, but I could take some photos for my website. Along the way I stopped at a few places along  the river to check on the conditions and take photos. By then the level had subsided quite a bit (I could see evidence of how high the water had risen) and I did not see any debris except just a few dried out reeds and small sticks floating here and there. Keith's advice the day before was very sound, I am sure conditions the day before where much worse. But, after looking at the river that morning I decided to go ahead with the planned paddle from Endless Mountain Outfitters to the boat ramp in Meshoppen PA. It was a very fun paddle and I did not encounter any trouble along the way. I'll write more details when I write the Sugar Run PA to Meshoppen PA page (hopefully soon).


This update was made August 8, 2018

 I just finished and posted two more pages: Exploring Hiawatha Island; and Nichols NY to Sayre PA. I also started another page; Sayre PA to Towanda PA ( I paddled this section on June 21, 2018). Then after that I will add Towanda PA to Sugar Run PA )I paddled this section on July 12) and I will be caught up. However, I am planning to paddle another section, Sugar Run PA to Meshoppen PA on August 17, 2018.

 


This update was made July 24, 2018

 On July 12  I paddled a 22 mile section of the river. From Towanda to Sugar Run PA where I exited the river at the Endless Mountain Outfitters (Kayak rental in Sugar Run PA). This brings my total river miles to 195. I estimate that I have about 125 miles left to the end of the northern branch. The northern and western branches of the Susquehanna join at around Northumberland PA. I have not yet decided if I will continue all the way to the Chesapeake bay. That will depend on how I feel once I complete the northern branch, which I hope to do by the end of this season.

 I have not yet created a page for this section, but in the next few weeks I hope to add 3 pages: Nichols NY to Athens PA; Athens PA to Towanda PA; and Towanda PA to Sugar Run PA. The two last sections are the most scenic sections of the river (so far) and very historic. I am looking forward to adding the pages. These sections hold a special place in my heart because I canoed on them in my youth and it is where I developed my love for the Susquehanna, and my desire to know what was there to see around the next bend. The native Americans who inhabited the area called the mountains thru which the Susquehanna winds its way The Endless Mountains,  because as they looked in one direction and another they seemed to go on forever. The same is true for the river. Around one bend there is another bend, and another and so on seemingly forever.

This update was made June 26,2018:

 Since the last update I have returned to the river and achieved the following:

1) I explored Hiawatha island and added a page to the site. The page is not finished yet, but should be completed in the next couple of days. I've written about the island before; in the section titled  "Apalachin NY to Nichols NY". This island was used as a resort in the 1800's and later as a private residence. It was abandoned in the 1940's and the island contains many relics of the past.

2) In May I paddled the section of the river from Nichols NY to Athens PA. About 15 miles. I will add a page soon.

3) Just last week (June 21) I paddled the section of river from Athens PA to Towanda PA. About 18 miles. A really beautiful and historic section of the river. Maybe the most scenic so far. Also, a lot more rapids (nothing dangerous) than most of the other sections I paddled. The rapids made for a much more fun ride. Ihope to add a page in the next few days.

This update was made February 13, 2018:

 I have completed the Area History section for two legs; "Cooperstown NY to Portlandville NY" and "Portlandville NY to Colliers dam" Please check them out.

 My friend Dimitri forwarded to me a link to the Feb 12 airing of the NPR show On Point "The Rich History Of America's Rivers". I listened to the show and found it to be informative and fascinating. You should check it out. Here's the link:

http:www.wbur.org/onpoint/2018/02/11/the-rich-history-of-americas-rivers


http://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2018/02/11/the-rich-history-of-americas-rivers

By the way, Dimitri is an artist who produces some pretty cool stuff. You can check out some of his art at

http://sootghost.com/

and at:

http://cjdimitri.tumblr.com/


This update was made on February 9, 2018:

 As promised, I have finally started the Section History. Click on the "Cooperstown to Portlandville" tab and look for Section History. I would appreciate any feedback. Please write to me at domcuce@aol.com. I will add history to the other sections as time permits.

More thoughts: In the previous update (January 25, 2018) I typed a quotation that was found in one of Leonardo DaVinci's notebooks "In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has come, and the first of that which comes". I found this to be very inspirational and I wrote of how a river is often used to describe the passage of time (see below. January 25 update). I want to write some more about time and the river:

 Physicists often describe time as having a direction (the arrow of time), and of course so does a river. The possibility of time travel is usually discussed in any Quantum Physics books and theoretically a machine may someday be invented that allows time travel. Then, the way I understand it, once that happens time travel is possible from the point in time that the machine was activated on forward. and from the future backwards. But only as far back as to when the machine was activated. In other words, if a time machine is invented say in 2030, then someone in 2050 would be able to go back in time to only 2030. It's a lot more complicated and I think you would find it interesting to read one of the physics books if you want a deeper understanding.  In the previous update I mentioned how the river is a window into the past, but of course it is not a window into the future. That's fine with me. I don't care to peek into the future. There are monsters waiting there, just as there were monsters in the past. But, I survived the monsters of the past. No guarantee about the future ones.

 I hope you don't think the thoughts I expressed above are negative. On the contrary, I think that accepting the ups and downs of life can be very liberating. The continuous pursuit of happiness can lead to bitter disappointment. Sometimes you just have to stop paddling and let the current carry you for a while.

 



This update was made on January 25, 2018:

 "in rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has come and the first of that which comes" About 500 years ago Leonardo Da Vinci wrote those words in one of his notebooks. 400 years before Albert Einstein wrote his theory or relativity, Leonardo took a stab at it and used the flow of a river to attempt to explain the passage of time. Pick up any book dealing with Quantum physics and the section on time will likely use a river in an attempt to explain it. It's easy to see why. Nothing says "time" like a river. It's impossible not to think of it as you paddle past so many signs of time gone by: The steep banks cut by the river over eons; the occasional stone worked by Native Americans centuries ago (I found an unfinished arrowhead last summer); the occasional vintage cars swept away in floods decades ago; the dilapidated and abandoned hunting/fishing cabins, and many other signs that bring images of times gone by flooding into your mind: Why was the arrowhead not finished? who used the cabin and why was it abandoned? A great way to help overcome the monotony of paddling is to make up stories in my mind. The maker of the arrowhead was interrupted by an emergency, like a raid by an enemy tribe; or maybe it wasn't turning out too good and he just tossed it. The old car was swept away during a devastating flood. The driver barely escaping with is life; or maybe he and his friends pushed it in to get rid of the old piece of junk.

 I drove to New Albany PA a couple of weeks ago, January 11 to be exact. I stopped in Towanda and saw that the Susquehanna was completely frozen over; a sight rarely seen. We have endured bitter cold all of December and the beginning of January here in the northeastand and,  I had expected that it would be frozen over. On the way down I passed by the area of Hiawatha island (the 112 acre island near Owego NY. See section Apalachin NY to Nichols NY). I did not have time to explore it when I paddled by it this past summer and on my January trip  I had considered walking to it across the frozen river. But only for a few seconds. I quickly abandoned the idea when I noticed open water here and there. I hesitate writing about it here as I do not want to give anyone the idea to try it. But, I think its important to realize how dangerous a frozen river can be. Unlike a lake, the water under the ice continues to flow and can easily erode the ice above.It bothers me that I even thought about doing it. But, its a good reminder of how easily one can make a  mistake in trying to save time. I will explore Hiawatha. But, I will paddle to it next summer.

Top view of unfinished arrowhead. tool marks visible.

Side view of same unfinished arrowhead. I found it during the summer of 2017 along the banks of the Loyalsock creek around Forksville PA. The Loyalsock is a tributary of the western branch of the Susquehanna. it originates in Lopez PA and empties into the western branch of the Susquehanna around Montoursville PA (Just downstream of Williamsport, PA, home of the Little League).

The frozen Susquehanna in Towanda PA. Jan 11, 2018.



This update was made on October 10, 2017:

A lot has changed since I started this project in the summer of 2010. At that time you could hardly get cell phone service on the river, and most people did not have a smart phone. Now with a smart phone you can see exactly where you are on the river, and if you want you can activate a "share my location" feature and a friend or relative can check your progress.

 I just completed another section (from Apalachin, NY to Nichols, NY) that I estimate to be about 17 or 18 river miles, and I am motivated to update the site. And, because I recently retired I don't have much of an excuse to not dedicate more time. So, in the next couple of weeks I hope to update my site to include the sections that I mention in my last update (see below) and this last section that I paddled on October 5th. So far I have done about 150 miles of the river.

 I decided that in the next few weeks and months I will add a history component to each section. I have a book, "Down the Susquehanna to the Chesapeake" by Jack Brubaker that gives the history of the Susquehanna river. I will take info from the book that correspond to the sections I paddled and add them to the site. I think it will be interesting to most paddlers to know a little history about the areas.


This update was made on August 13, 2014:


 I started the project in the summer of 2010 and went as far as the dam at Goodyear lake in Colliersville NY. I had planned to do much more during the summer of 2011. But, my wife's breast cancer began to take a serious toll on her health and I spent the summer being her primary caregiver. Sadly, she passed away on Sept. 3rd 2011. We were married for 35 years and knew each other for 5 years before. As one can imagine this was a devastating blow and I thought that perhaps I would not continue the project at all. My wife, Mary Ann was the one who urged me to take on the project when i first mentioned it to her. She knew me well enough to know that I needed to do something "outdoorsy" and although in the summer of 2010 she was already too weak to join me on the river, she supported my effort by dropping me off and picking me up along the way.

 During the summer of 2012 I paddled 2 sections with the help of a friend (Colliersville to Sidney, about 20 miles; Sidney to Ouaquaga about 24 miles), and another section on my own (Ouaquaga to Oakland, PA, about 15 miles) and by the end of the summer of 2012 I completed about 135 miles of the river (from Cooperstown NY to Oakland PA). I had a very pleasant experience when I did the section between Ouaquaga to Oakland. I had to figure out a way to get get to my car after paddling. I would have to either leave the car at the entry point and find a way back at the end of the day. Or, leave my kayak at the entry point, drive down to where I would exit and leave the car there. but of course I would have to find a way to get back to my kayak. I decided to leave the kayak at the entry point and I drove down to Oakland PA (about 16 miles). I walked into the Main St. Cafe, ordered breakfast and I asked the waitress if there was a taxi service that I could call. She told me that the nearest taxi service is in Binghamton NY; pretty far away. I then told her that I needed a ride to Ouaquaga and was willing to pay someone to drive me there. A middle aged man at the end of the bar heard the conversation and said "I'll take you". His name is Kevin Seltzer and he is the owner of the cafe. He asked me to follow him to where I could leave my car and then drove me to my kayak. I offered to pay him, but he refused it. That winter, on my way to my brother's cabin in PA I went out of my way to stop at the Main St. Cafe. I had breakfast and asked if Kevin was there. He wasn't. I left a bottle of Scotch for him. A coworker from Scotland gave it to me and I had it for several years. I hope Kevin and his friends enjoyed it. I hope to stop by again to say hello sometime this year.

 During the summer of 2013 I paddled alone. from Oakland PA to Halstead, 8 miles; and from Halstead to the Sandy beach boat ramp just above Binghampton Ny about 16 miles. I did the sections over a two day period. The first day from Oakland to Halstead I found someone willing to follow me from Oakland to Halstead (where i left my car) and drive me back to Oakland where I had left my kayak. I gave him $50. He thought it was too much, but I insisted. He was very helpful by showing me a good entry point (not an easy task as the banks along the river are very steep in this area). The following day I left my car at the Sandy Beach fishing area, and called a taxi to take me to my kayak at Halstead. The charge was $36.

So far this summer (2014) I paddled a 17 mile section from Binghampton NY to Apalachin NY, just on the PA/NY border. By the way, the river crosses from NY to PA above Oakland PA, but then it turns sharply north (Big Bend) and crosses back into NY. Then turns south again and reenters PA just south of Apalachin. I was joined by my friend Betsy. We drove to Binghampton together and then rented a car at the airport and established a shuttle. in retrospect it would have been cheaper and quicker if we had just called a taxi.

 I am not sure how much of the river I have done so far. I will have to add it up, but I think it is about 150 miles.

 I have been very lazy in updating the website. I have to update the site so as to add the following sections: Ouaquaga to Oakland, PA; Oakland to Binghamton; binghampton to Apalachin. I hope to do so very soon.


ORIGINAL(Written summer of 2010):

 The Susquehanna River is a ribbon of green that stretches for 444miles thru some of the most densely populated area of the east coast. It is the longest river on the east coast, and the longest non-commercial river in the US.
Its headwaters begin on Lake Otsego in Cooperstown NY (home of the National Baseball Hall of fame). In addition to the many miles of natural beauty, the river flows thru some of the most scenic farm land of NY state, and several small NY cities, like Binghamton, before crossing into Pennsylvania where it continues thru much of the same environment; forest, farms, small towns, and a few mid-sized cities ( Wilkes Barre, Harrisburg and a few others) It then enters Maryland and finally empties into the Atlantic Ocean in the Chesapeake Bay.
Having grown up in Pennsylvania, as a young man I canoed on the Susquehanna River on several occasions and always wondered what laid beyond the next bend in the river, and I promised to myself that someday I would canoe the whole length.
To me, the Susquehanna River is the antithesis of a modern interstate highway. The highway brings civilization thru wilderness by connecting cities and towns, while the river brings an uninterrupted slice of nature thru its whole length. I’ve had occasion to cross over the Susquehanna River in some of the most urban areas such as Harrisburg, PA, and in Maryland. I sneak a peek as I speed over the bridges, and I see along either side of the river a ribbon of trees that follows the contour of the river. And I’m always surprised that such scenery can be seen in such crowded areas.
There are actually two beginnings to the Susquehanna river. I mentioned the headwaters at Cooperstown NY. This is considered the beginning of the North Branch. The other branch is known as the West Branch and it's very beginning is not completely clear. Some say it's in Bakerton, PA others say it's in Carrollstown, PA.
The two branches meet up in Northumberland PA and continue together to the Chesapeake bay.
I start my trip at the headwaters of the North Branch In Cooperstown, NY