Fishing Creek - Long Level

River of the month #110

author: Pat Reilly

“What! Again with the Fishing Creek?” That was the opening for the 3rd ‘River of the Month’ column (April ’01’) about a “Fishing Creek”. I suppose it applies again here, as we begin discussing the 4th. None of these four local Fishing Creeks are big enough to make it into Ed Gertler’s ‘Keystone Canoeing’ guidebook. Where are they? Let’s review:

#1 (May, 99) – drains route 850 valley in Perry County and dumps into the Susquehanna at Marysville about a half mile below Blue Mountain Outfitters.

#2 (April, 2000) – Opposite #1, it drains Fishing Creek Valley (of course!) north of Harrisburg and hits the Susky at Fort Hunter park.

#3 (April 2001) – drains the 'Fishing Creek' area of northern York County and runs into the big river at Goldsboro.

Fishing Creek #4 is also in York County and like the others is a tributary to the Susquehanna. It flows into the big river at Lake Clark, the pool formed by the Safe Harbor dam, about a half mile below Shanks Mare outfitters in Long Level. Similar in size (small) to the other Fishing Creeks, this one has continuous whitewater, unlike the others. In fact, it is listed on the AW ȁNational Whitewater Inventory’. However, not having a designated ‘streamkeeper’, there is little information about Long Level’s Fishing Creek on the American Whitewater website.

The creek is found at the start of the final stretch of the Susquehanna where the big river begins cutting down through the piedmont on its way to sea level forming a shallow gorge. Bordered by relatively flat Lancaster and York counties, the sides of the gorge are steep enough to force highways and development away from the river’s banks for the first time since the West Branch canyon.

The most intriguing attribute of the lower Susquehanna is not the river which is impounded and strewn with motor boats, but the little tributaries that cut and tumble their way down into the big river forming spectacular little side canyons with enticing whitewater. This topography has been discussed in previous columns about Holtwood and Conowingo.

Fishing Creek’s side canyon is about 2 miles long and drops 100 feet. Okay, 50 feet per mile is not a lot of gradient for a little creek, but definitely qualifies as ‘worth checking out’. On March 14th, Eric Spaar and myself launched from a side road off of route 425 that leads to a private fishing club. The nearest gauge, on Codorus at York, was at 6.1 feet, a result of big rains melting the big snows of 2010.

The creek loops back and forth, forming seven 180 degree bends on its short path to the Susquehanna. The entire run is contained in a wooded gorge, free of any development once past the fishing club at the first 180. With some gorgeous old beach trees, many large hemlocks and a variety of other old timber, this gorge is a neat natural area and had me wondering who owns it (the fishing club?). It was not posted anywhere that we saw.

Little Fishing Creek tumbles through this lovely mini canyon with much of the wood breaching the stream as one would expect. We carried 6 times on that short run. The rapids were really only class II except for 2 short spots. The first spot at bend # 3 features a quick series of bigger technical stuff. Then on the last 180 the rapids build to a bit stronger than II.

So if the run is mostly class II, why was I feeling edgy and a bit intimidated at times? Age may have something to do with it, but I like to think it was mostly the continuous nature of Fishing Creek. The rapids are straight forward and not big but they never let up. Eddies are few and wood is everywhere. Throw in those 7 mostly blind 180 degree bends and you have a creek of consequence. You need to be prepared for some out-of-boat scouting or, at the least, some rubber-necking along with quick maneuvering and stopping. So if you want to get a look at the pretty side gorge carved by Fishing Creek into the lower Susquehanna and boat its waters, you best be over-qualified for class II.

Pat Reilly

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