Blue Mountain Outfitters    river tales

Beaver Creek (Dauphin County)

River of the month #10

January 1999

The physical characteristics of this Harrisburg suburban creek match up well with it’s ‘sister’ creek, Manada. They both originate in the Blue Mountain, north east of Harrisburg, are of similar size (27.2 versus 32.2 sq. mile watersheds), and drain southward, side by side to end at the Swatty. But while Manada makes for a worthwhile canoe excursion if water is way up, Beaver Creek is another story.

Being closer to Harrisburg than Manada, one would think this creek would be bordered by the normal trappings of the city’s ever expanding suburbs. Not so, although the ‘burbs’ are nearby, houses are only occasionally visible and most of the time the creek runs through a quiet little valley that is downright beautiful in spots. Before emerging from the woods by the Nyes Road bridge, the valley takes on a gorge- like appearance with talus slopes and hemlocks.

On a sunny February day Brook Lenker and I launched his C2 at the Old Jonestown Road bridge heading for a rendezvous with the Swatty, 8 miles downstream at Hummelstown. Brook, a local environmentalist and land use advocate, grew up in the area and was aware of Beaver’s green corridor and anxious to show it to me. However, never having paddled the creek, neither of us knew of Beaver’s problem. About two miles into the run we started hearing gun shots. Brook remarked that we must be close to the ‘gun club’. As we neared the grounds of the Harrisburg Hunters and Anglers Assn. shots were ringing out constant and close and we started seeing targets everywhere on river right (including a not-so-politically-correct Native American silhouette). Two footbridges made me wonder if there were targets on the other side of the creek. They wouldn’t shoot across the creek, or would they? A man in a hard hat appeared and warned us that we were entering a target range. (As if we couldn’t tell.) But after a little discussion he said we should be alright since no one was currently shooting rifles. The only sign we saw was a small ‘warning rifle range’ on the second foot-bridge. We proceeded, making the prudent decision to keep our heads down. Brook scrunched down in the bow of the boat as I wondered just how tough these Oldtown Discoverys really are. Just as a high bank on river right gave us some comfort it began literally raining shotgun pellets. Not the occasional ‘plink, plink’ like at ‘Lead Shot’ rapid on Codorus, but a steady stream bouncing off of us and the boat.

When we left the club behind and got back to enjoying the creek and surrounding woods, Brook was contemplating aloud about some type of preservation for the creek greenway as I was pondering whether this is a feasible paddling destination. But whoever goes to check out Beaver Creek’s lovely path through suburbia will have to deal with the ’flying strainers’ in the middle of the trip.

Pat Reilly

Copyright © 1998 Pat Reilly.  All rights reserved.

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