Section: Near Shawville to Karthaus
The West Branch of the Susquehanna offers some of the best canoe-camping trips in the region. My favorite trip is a leisurely one or two night trip starting near Shawville and ending at either Karthaus or Keating. The longer trip is 52 river miles. The mostly secluded banks offer beautiful scenery, wildlife and plentiful primitive camping areas.
This section of the river is canoeable through June, but check the gauge at Karthaus as you plan your trip. It should read at least two feet to avoid frequently dragging of your boat over the slippery rock bottom. The mostly flat water and riffles are frequently interrupted by short, class II rapids and large boulders. Since the river is fairly wide, you can usually choose to pick a line which avoids the obstacles, or head for the waves and slalom through the rock gardens, getting plenty of practice for your paddling techniques.
The obstacle course look of the river will quickly disappear during high water, 3.5 ft or more at Karthaus gage, so if you want to maximize your paddling fun look for 2.5-3ft water conditions. When packing your camping supplies, I suggest a folding saw, as firewood gathering usually involves cutting fallen tree limbs.
While the highway will occasionally cross or parallel the river, the area is vary secluded. Don’t expect your cell phone to have service in the river valley. On a weekday river trip you may not see another boat on the water.
If you need shuttle services in the area contact McCracken Canoe Sales and Rentals near Shawville. There you can also pickup a great laminated paddler’s map, Susquehanna River Water Trail – West Branch. If you need overnight accommodations before your trip, check out the Quehanna Motor Lodge in Karthaus.
Happy Paddling !