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Deep Creek

River of the month #67

February 2004

Deep Creek is really not so deep. In fact, being a typical small Pennsylvania ridge-and-valley region stream, with only 32 square miles of watershed, unless it has really been raining you’ll find Deep Creek will not be deep enough to float your boat. So where is Deep Creek? You’ll find it up in the East Mahangtango watershed. (I say east because there are 2 Mahangtango creeks, one on either side of the Susquehanna.)

Former ‘River of the Month’ columns have discussed Mahangtango Creek and a tributary, Pine Creek. Deep Creek is a tributary of Pine Creek. In these write-ups we talked about 2 themes. First, the relative obscurity of this lonely watershed, and second, the improper naming of the rivers (at least in my opinion) as the Mahangtango name does not follow the tributary with the most water. This second point is just a pet peeve of mine and not worth getting into again. Suffice to say that Deep Creek should be called Mahangtango since it appears to be the tributary with the most water, the ‘real’ headwaters of Mahangtango.

But this naming concern doesn’t change any of these 3 creeks and all are worth paddling, mostly because of the first point, their anonymity. These are 3 lonely peaceful creeks just waiting for paddlers. Until I read Ed Gertler’s ‘Keystone Canoeing’ guidebook, I had never heard of them, even though they are not far. The entire watershed lies in a seldom visited, mostly forgotten section of northern Dauphin, southern Northumberland and northwestern Schuylkill Counties. Deep Creek itself flows down a secluded little valley with Mahangtango Mountain to the north and Bear Mountain to the south. The only event to ever put this area on the map is the Hegins pigeon shoot. The town of Hegins lies at the upstream end of Deep Creek.

Putting in just north of Hegins at the route 125 bridge you’ll have about 9 miles of pleasant and very rural waters on which to boat. Never spectacular, but never dreary either, Deep Creek’s scenery is quite variable, from pasture and lonely farm, to nice hemlock and hardwood forest and small cliffs. The creek takes its time weaving north and south while generally making its way east to merge with Pine Creek. You’ll have to take out at the state road T605 Bridge a mile from the mouth or continue down Pine Creek after the merger for another 2.5 miles to the next bridge. This is a better choice as woods and cliffs continue after the T605 bridge and get particularly secluded and quiet at the confluence with Pine. There’s an old small dam that is runable, just above the T605 Bridge to add excitement. If you paddle in May, you’ll be sure to see lots of columbine growing from the streamside cliffs.

Besides Hegins there is another town, and a rather large one, in this quiet valley. Valley View runs along route 25 on the south side of the valley and is about 2 miles long. It’s far enough from the creek and rural enough that it won’t disturb the paddler. The mere fact that it exists at all surprised me. Here was this long stretched out town in the middle of nowhere that I had never heard of. Heck, it even has a high school. Any club members graduate from Tri-Valley High School? When I ran Deep Creek one May evening in 1998 with Dave Ertel, along with the 2 kayaks we loaded up 2 bicycles for the shuttle since we both wanted to enjoy the peddle. We shuttled on Mountain Road, on the opposite side of the creek from route 25. It was after dark and as we cruised along this seldom traveled road it seemed peculiar to see the lights of Valley View stretched along the parallel route 25 about a mile to our south. Such a long town for such a secluded little valley, we referred to it as the ‘Obscure Metropolis’.

Whether it’s Deep, Pine or the upper Mahangtango, this humble vicinity, not so far from Harrisburg, ought to be on the exploratory paddler’s list of locales to visit.

Pat Reilly

Copyright © 2004 Pat Reilly.  All rights reserved.

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