Canoeing the Sinnemahoning Creek

by PennPaddler

Sinnemahoning Creek
Sinnemahoning Creek

I like to paddle and I’m willing to travel to do it. I’ve traveled many hours on the road just to get in a few hours of paddling, but despite my willingness to travel there are plenty of creeks near my hometown in Central Pennsylvania that I haven’t paddled. Sinnemahoning Creek in Cameron County is one of those creeks.

On June 27, 2009, I finally decided to paddle the Sinnemahoning Creek with a local paddler from the Keating area. In my 25 years of paddling I’ve driven along the Sinnemahoning Creek more times than I can count (at least twice for everytime I’ve paddled the West Branch of the Susquehanna and that’s about thirty times) and everytime I drove along the Sinnemahoning I got the feeling that I was missing something, maybe a paddlers best kept secret that I should be aware of. After all, there isn’t much written about paddling the Sinnemahoning but it does run right between the Quehanna Wild Area and Elk State Forest, which is some Pennsylvania’s most scenic landscape, so there has to be something to it.

Boat Access at Driftwood Pennsylvania

We got on the Sinnemahoning in Driftwood, about 9AM. The Sinnemahoning forms here by the confluence of the Bennett and Driftwood branches; the Sinnemahoning meets the West Branch of the Susquehanna about 12-15 miles below Driftwood. If you’ve ever been to the Benezette or Medix area to view the Pennsylvania Elk you’ve likely been to Driftwood. It’s a small logging town that has seen better days. I don’t think there’s an official boat launch at Driftwood so the best spot to access the creek is at the new bridge, you can’t miss it. At this point the view of the Sinnemahoning looks very inviting, much like a smaller version of the West Branch of the Susquehanna. And because we would be paddling through part of the Quehanna Wild Area, I was excited about discovering new campsites for future canoe camping trips in this Pennsylvania Elk territory.

sinnemahoningcreek3Paddling Sinnemahoning Creek

The water level was about an inch too low for our trip which made me a little hesitant because I was in my 14ft kayak; there is nothing more frustrating than paddling a kayak in low water. But the distance was only around 12 miles (approximate), something we could do in a few hours even if the water was a little on the low side. 

The water on this creek is clean and cool; I am told it has great small mouth bass fishing during the summer months although the few fisherman we encountered were not having much luck. The Sinnemahoning area has very little industry and relies on outdoor tourism and recreation as part of its local revenue; therefore the landscape is very clean and well managed. It’s very Pennsylvania. Much of the creek had steady current with only a few slow pools that required some work to get through. We also met occasional riffles and swift narrow channels to break up any slow going monotony. We managed to finish our 12 mile trip in only three hours but we did work a little to get through it. I didn’t see any elk or discover a camp site for future canoe camp trips but I did see a Bald Eagle, whitetailed deer, interesting landmarks and landscape features, and a few fishermen.

Boat Access at Keating Pennsylvania

So as canoe trips go the Sinnemahoning was a good trip because I got to experience some of Pennsylvania’s beautiful natural scenery. But this creek isn’t the ideal canoe camping trip because there is continuous Highway 120 on river left and no established campsites. If you want to canoe camp in the Sinnemahoning area try the West Branch of the Susquehanna; it’s more remote and has plenty of camping opportunity.

I will definitely put the Sinnemahoning Creek on my list of canoe fishing trips.; although I think the best Sinnemahoning Creek fishing may be on the First Fork Sinnemahoning which meets the main Sinnemahoning Creek near the community of Sinnemahoning. A good takeout point on this trip is at Keating, on the right side of the new bridge. Beyond that is the West Branch of the Susquehanna and no close takeout points that I’m aware of.

The Sinnemahoning is a very easy canoe trip perfect for fishing and family style canoeing.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave June 25, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Do you have any knowledge/suggestions about paddling the Bennetts Branch of Sinnemahoning (Medix to Driftwood)?

PennPaddler June 26, 2010 at 8:16 am

Dave,
I haven’t paddled that section but it seems as if it might be a decent paddle if the water level is high enough, and I think some fishing might add a little extra excitement to the trip. Let me know how things turn out.

Darren

Kerry September 2, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Darren,
We’re planning to kayak the Bennett branch and this section as well this coming weekend, hoping the rain expected tomorrow night (Friday) brings the levels up sufficiently for a decent float with minimal dragging through gravel bars. Do you recall what the gauge was when you did your trip?

I’ve been looking for listings of optimal high and low readings on Central PA streams (like what is still available from the archives of the out-of-print “Canoeing Guide to Western PA and Northern WV” has for the waterways in the west end of the state.) No luck yet. Any suggestions? We’ve got plastic “beater” kayaks to use in low water but would occasionally like to be able to take our nicer boats (with more fragile hulls) when the levels afford better clearance.

Thanks,

Kerry and Richard

Sue Fairbanks March 6, 2012 at 9:05 am

We are planning this July – 2012, to camp at Wapiti Woods PA , and kayak on the Bennet Branch for 10 or so miles. Can you tell us anything about it? Thanks. Sue

PennPaddler April 7, 2012 at 9:47 am

The only thing I can tell you is that the water level might be a little on the low side during that time of year. I’m actually planning a similar trip but I’m going in May or June to hopefully ride some decent water levels.

Sue Fairbanks June 20, 2012 at 8:40 am

I have another question for you. I asked about paddling the Bennet Branch before, but instead, our group is going from Driftwood to Keating on the Sinnemahoning, as you did. I measured it on google, and it is 15 miles. A couple of us in the group are thinking we would like to go only about 8 to 10 miles down. I wondered maybe if you might know a place along the way on 120 where we can leave a vehicle and get out earlier than the rest of the group? Not sure if the road comes down near the creek close enough, and would be easy to drag our kayaks to. Would so much appreciate any info you might have! Thanks! Sue

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