Explore, Enjoy, and Protect the Planet

On The Trail — April 2003

Paddling Centre County’s Spring Creek

by Dave Coleman

I slipped my solo canoe into an eddy and grabbed the plastic and foam container pieces that were tangled in tree roots protruding from the stream bank and placed them in the plastic bag I had opened in the boat in front of me.

A fly-fisherman that I had passed as quietly as possible observed “It’s a great day for that”. I replied, “It’s a great day for that too.” With nothing much more to say, I ferried back into the current and continued on down Spring Creek. Not too far below I was rewarded for my modest service with the close observation of two ducklings following their mother, and just downstream from there a green snake slithered in the water. The stream, wide at this point offered bright sunshine in the middle or shady spots under tree canopy on either side. Aside from a half-dozen fisherman, I shared the creek with just the wildlife.

Spring Creek drains much of the south-central portion of Centre County. It is a resource that is gaining more and more recognition for the natural qualities it still contains. For years, the ClearWater Conservancy has hosted watershed wide cleanups to improve the aesthetics of the basin as well as to protect and enhance water quality.

Our local Sierra Club Group has participated in these cleanups for the past seven years by using canoes to travel down a section and transport bags of garbage, as well as tires, shopping carts, bicycles, mailboxes, etc., out of the creek. We are able to reach much of the trash in and along the stream more conveniently and efficiently than our terrestrial counterparts. Almost all of the paddling I have done on Spring Creek has been during these service outings.

For a watercourse that is born in the somewhat urbanized Centre Region and flows through a suburban setting, Spring Creek is surprisingly a pleasant paddling stream. Several sections offer fairly remote canoeing and kayaking opportunities. Spring Creek has been paddled from at least as far up as Spring Creek Park in Houserville down to the mouth at Milesburg. However, later in the canoeing season (like now), paddling is usually limited to below Bellefonte, where the Big Spring adds a little more consistent flow.

The Sunnyside Paddling Park, located adjacent to Tussey Mountain Outfitters is a canoe/kayak slalom course maintained by the Penn State Outing Club, MACH 1, Wildwater Boating Club and Tussey Mountain Outfitters. I had started my cleanup run at Tussey Mountain Outfitters which is located just upstream from the paddling park. I was running just one and a half miles from there to McCoy’s Dam, which is a significant obstacle to paddler and water alike. One can portage around the dam on the left if possible injury from sliding down the steep bank, or banging into the concrete is considered an acceptable risk for continuing the run down to the mouth of Spring Creek at Milesburg.

Someday, hopefully soon, the dam will be removed so that fisherman and paddlers can both enjoy the natural stream gradient that once was free. First, the silt and grit that the dam has collected over the last century would have to be removed and properly disposed of. Paddling down to the dam that day, I noticed as I went through the last riffles above the dam, that [sic.]

The run is pleasant to the end with some actual rapids where the small head dam used to stand adjacent to the old power plant site.

If You Go: If you are experienced at paddling moving water, you will not find any problems with any section of Spring Creek aside from the unexpected strainer or wire strung across the creek.

If you are a beginner, Spring Creek allows a late paddling season below Bellefonte and at least four organizations offer canoe or kayak lessons at the Sunnyside Paddling Park. Contact Tussey Mountain Outfitters for information on lessons and/or canoe rentals. The outfitter can be found on Route 150 north of Bellefonte where Routes 150 and 144 come together.

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