Bermudian Creek

River of the month #13

author: Pat Reilly
date: April 1999

It seems like a good many paddlers are always in search of easy rapids. In central Pa. any rapids are hard to come by, but easy rapids can be found on Adams/York County’s Bermudian Creek. This tributary of Conewago Creek, has a 4 mile stretch of simple rapids formed by diabase boulders near Kralltown starting below the Hull rd.. Bridge and ending 2 bridges downstream. These widely spaced drops can be technical but never so hard as to confound 2 competent boaters in an open C-2. And neither are they very big as this is a small creek. I’ve seen Bermudian scheduled as a CCGH trip once. But being so small and tough to find up it doesn’t lend itself well to advanced scheduling.

So if you get the chance you should jump on it, but the whitewater is only one section of the 13 miles of creek that can be easily accessed. From rt. 94 the creek offers a nice way to check out the farms and orchards of Adams County. But it is tiny up this far and you must be prepared for downed trees, sometimes in strong riffles. You’ll see no towns, the scenery being strictly rural the whole way.

I constantly get asked by non-paddlers how I work the bike shuttle when paddling solo. Fellow boaters realize that it’s not rocket science here, but I always provoke further inquiry by replying that it depends if the river in question is flowing toward or away from my home. Huh? Well, that fact determines whether you arrive first at the put-in or the take-out. If arriving at the put-in you drop off the boat, drive to the take-out, park and bike back. If the take-out comes first you drop off the bike, drive to the put-in and put in. Sometimes it all depends on the route you take to the creek and when I paddled the upper section of Bermudian, I came down rts. 15 and 94 to the put-in first. So the boat was dropped off and when I was biking the shuttle I noticed an electric fence bridging the creek over a fast riffle with chains dangling from it to within inches of the water. ‘Hmm, could be trouble.’

Now did you ever paddle a whitewater run and find yourself worrying about a particular rapid that was coming up? Maybe you read a guide book account about the ferocity of the drop or heard a boater’s tale of an epic trashing that occurred there. Sometimes the anticipation of the upcoming rapid can be so engrossing as to distract from the rest of the trip. Paddling Maine’s Kennebec River was like that. I just could not relax until I got through ‘Magic’ rapid. The guide book description had my stomach in knots but the rapid proved to be anti-climatical with a relatively easy ‘highway’ down the middle to river left.

Now Bermudian, of course, has nothing like ‘Magic’ but I had those same stomach butterflies worrying about that darn fence. It was a beautiful June day, sunny and fresh after the previous evening’s big storm that brought the creek up. I should have been enjoying the vivid greens of early summer, the fragrance of wild flowers and the sound of songbirds. But no, ideas about what to do when I arrived at the fence consumed my thoughts. Carrying around it would put me in thick briars on posted land, if I saw it in time to stop. And I was paddling a wildwater K-1 which is very hard to get in and out of.

Finally I devised a plan to take advantage of the race boat’s speed. Cranking along at a good clip, I would slap the chains out of the way with the paddle and shoot through before they swung back and zapped me. But as I swiped at the heavy chains, I caught one with the edge of the paddle and only managed to flip it out in front of me. I stared in horror as it came swinging back right for my head. I ducked by still ran right into it and it draped across my cheek like a wet spaghetti noddle. For one long moment I waited for the paralyzing jolt to hit me, but it never came! I don’t know whether the fence was turned off, not working or what.

I counted my blessings now free to enjoy the rural beauty of Bermudian and prepare for the rapids (certainly less intimidating than the fence). The fence is visible from Creek Road downstream from rt. 194. You may want to look for it and come up with a better plan than mine. Maybe talking to the farmer would be a wise choice.

After the rapids the creek soon dies in the impoundment behind Detters Mill on the Conewago. As I said, Bermudian isn’t easy to find up. Look for a good down poor in South Mountain south of Dillsburg. You probably want to see the Yellow Breeches gauge shooting up to around 4 feet or so.

Pat Reilly

Copyright © 1999 Pat Reilly. All rights reserved.