Buffalo Creek

River of the month #7

author: Pat Reilly
date: October 1998

When a paddler thinks of Perry County, Shermans Creek inevitably comes to mind. But the county has another paddling gem in Buffalo Creek, albeit somewhat smaller. Originating in the mountains north and west of Ikesburg, Buffalo flows through the quieter northern region of the county. Its easterly path leads it to the Juniata at the northern end of Newport.

The stretch from rt. 17 to rt. 74 contains easy whitewater. But the price for some steep little cobble-bar rapids is a lot of braiding and strainers. This section is very remote with only a few cabins hidden in the woods once you leave the farm lands a mile below rt. 17. But the creek never takes a very defined path. It's just too small and seems to want to braid far too much. The braiding and the brushy tangled woods make for lots of strainers. And you had better have plenty of rain before venturing up that far.

Rt. 74 makes a more reasonable put in. You may not find anything more than class 1 but at least it's passable and you needn't wait for a deluge. Before taking off from the rt. 74 bridge walk a short way up the creek to check out a marvel of home engineering. Someone has built a bridge crossing the creek out of an old mobile home frame. The frame alone would not support much weight but the designer has strung cables over posts at each end and under the axle still attached to the middle of the frame. They used the original wheels (minus tires, or course) as pulleys and thus made a mini suspension bridge. Something tells me this may be the work of Amish farmers that inhabit this end of the county.

From 74 to the Juniata you've got almost 20 miles of good small creek paddling. You'll see roads and plenty of farms but not much else as the creek retains a subdued flavor all the way to the mouth. There's not much happening up this way, which is just fine for most of us paddlers.

The creek still braids a good bit down as far as Markelsville (about halfway) but tributaries entering near rt. 74 now give it enough volume that the separate channels are not always a problem. Interesting rock outcroppings make for good scenery below Markelsville. But below Wila (5 miles or so from Markelsville) you encounter the showstopper. Here a cliff of strangely colored rock juts abruptly from the creek. A distinct humpback wave in the rock is clear evidence that some ancient forces were at work. If only I had studied my geology lessons, I might have known what I was looking at. (An anticline maybe?) Some boaters that have paddled Buffalo Creek refer to this as 'Upheaval Rock', but the locals call it 'Gilligan's Rock'.

Buffalo is a noticeably smaller creek than the more popular streams surrounding it - Juniata, Tuscarora, and Shermans but it can be run without a whole lot of rain. I believe the lower reaches may be passable with just 3.0 feet on the Conondoguinet Hogestown call-in gauge.

Pat Reilly

Copyright © 1998 Pat Reilly. All rights reserved.