Fathers Day Weekend Paddle on the Clarion River
by Todd Brunermer
My wife and I decided to get away with the family for the weekend of Father’s day this
year. The weather forecast was calling for lots of sun and warm weather so the date was set. Food was prepared, popup camper supplied and hooked up, and canoes loaded.
We started out Friday at around 1:30pm and headed for one of our favorite places to camp in the Allegheny National Forest (ANF). Marienville was our destination and a short 2 hour trip put us there at around 3:30pm. Unfortunately earlier in the year, the ANF head Ranger for the area had shut down our favorite campground, Beaver Meadows, due to lack of use. Apparently no one likes a mature pine forest campground with spacious camp sites that are not on top of each other. Oh yeah, and no electric, running water (except from a hand pump) and vaulted toilets (outhouses). Go figure. But I digress. Fortunately in the ANF, you can pretty much camp anywhere in the forest within reason. We found our usual site happily unoccupied and set up our camp. Water was obtained locally from a nearby spring that was pumping out ample amounts of water to fill up our 5 gallon water containers as well as 3 Sunshowers. Yes, I said Sunshowers! It’s amazing how good a warm Sunshower feels after a long day of hiking or canoeing! It took some time for our girls to get used to them however it’s now all part of camping to them. Of course, I have to take into account how much water they still use to wash their hair!
After having dinner at a restaurant in Marienville and ice cream to follow, we settled in for a night of board games and sitting around the fire making plans for the following day. Sleeping in was the order for the morning. My request! Of course, my daughters had no problem with that. Following a late breakfast, we would head to the Clarion river for a short paddle.
As agreed, we slept in till 9am (whoohoo!) and woke to lots of song birds and the occasional rapping of a wood pecker which I narrowed down to a “Hairy Woodpecker” after perusing my North American Wildlife book.
Breakfast consisted of pancakes, sausage, eggs over easy, and coffee. Ahhh, camper living! We packed up our paddling gear and headed down to Clarington, PA to rent a kayak for my oldest daughter. On the way, I checked the river gauge on my phone when I had a signal. It was running at 2.90 which was just fine. I have paddled it at 2.2 and was a bit boney and had to get out at times. Not today! The CFS was………..well, it’s the Clarion, and at that low, it’s just slow. But perfect for a lazy, lilidippin paddle with family. No hurrying to get to the takeout.
We rented a kayak at Cook Forest Canoe Rental in Clarington and headed up river for the short 4 + mile trip. Of note, if you rent from CFCR on the weekends, they will not do private boat shuttles for your canoes/kayaks. Only on weekdays now. However, they allowed us the one time courtesy of shuttling our canoes this time since we used them every year for rentals or shuttles. We put in around 12:30 with our 2 canoes , a Wenonah Spirit 2 paddled by wife and youngest daughter and a Wenonah Solo Plus that I was paddling. My oldest daughter paddled an Old Town Otter kayak.
We stopped briefly for a quick bite to eat and to let our Labrador Retriever have fun in the river and then continued on our way to the takeout. We didn’t see too much in the way of wildlife this trip. We were treated to a female Merganser and 3 of her young tooling along on the far side of the bank. There were a lot of other paddlers on the water as well but the river wasn’t overcrowded like it can be sometimes. The river scenery alone was and always is an eye pleaser.
We finished up around 3pm in Clarington. We took out at the rental place where we picked up the kayak and headed back to camp for warm showers and hot food. All in all a great day to be on the water for a lazy afternoon paddle.