Fishing Creek (York County)

River of the month #36

author: Pat Reilly
date: April 2001

What! Again with the Fishing Creek? Well, we noted before that there are probably more ‘Fishing Creeks’ in Pa than any other creek name. So here we go with ‘Fishing Creek’ number 3. And these three don’t even include the two covered in Ed Gertler’s ‘Keystone Canoeing’. The Fishing Creeks appearing in ‘Streamlines’ are local and too small for Ed’s guide. The first was in Perry County, the 2nd in Dauphin County, and now York County. Number 3 drains the low hills between Lewisberry and the Interstate 83 expressway and dumps into the Susquehanna just below Goldsboro. It’s origins are springs located near Fishing Creek (where else?) Elementary School found right off the (you guessed it) Fishing Creek exit of I-83. You’ve probably gone over it traveling down 83 just before the hill leading up to the Yocumtown exit. But unless you’re a gotta-paddle-everything addict you probably never noticed it.

I noticed the creek long ago when I fished it for trout. I remember intently working a pool with a dry fly one afternoon. I had targeted a rising fish that kept dimpling the water’s surface as he fed on hatching mayflies at the far end of the pool. After repeated casts fell short, using a touch of finesse, I was finally able to land my imitation fly right above the fish. To my satisfaction he took the bait. But upon bringing him in I was rather disgusted to discover that he was not a prized rainbow trout but a lowly creek chub. We fly fisherman can be such elitists.

Sorry to digress, this is a column about paddling, not fishing, regardless of the creek’s name. I pretty much hung up the rod when I discovered the paddle years ago. While the rod may have first drawn me to little Fishing Creek, it was the paddle I went for last March when we were hit (or should I say blessed) with 3 inches of rain. After a mad dash down I-83 after work, I selected the Red Mill Road bridge as the put-in after making a right turn at the crossroads in Yocumtown. I cancelled on the original idea to use the Old York Road bridge right beside the expressway. The creek there was tiny and quickly disappeared under a low overhanging tangle of briars. A sizable tributary joins the creek between Old York Road and Red Mill Road making it a boat length wide anyway.

The creek was up good, bank full at least. After stashing the boat I drove past a few choice scouting spots on the way to Goldsboro. In the lower part of the creek, just before the ‘Welcome to Goldsboro, home of Greg Gross’ sign, the water was up on the road! (I’d talk about Greg Gross, but that would be digressing again, this time into baseball.) Water on the road! Uh oh, now we’re talking flood, or are we? The road is low here and right beside the creek and there was only an inch or two on the road. Of more concern was the 2-foot railroad-tie dam at this spot that had formed a vicious hydraulic and was re-circulating a big log. This was a bit unnerving knowing how innocent this little dam looks at regular flows.

The nearest public access spot to the mouth of Fishing Creek is ½ mile up the Susquehanna in Goldsboro. The town has a few public ramps that are below the huge Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission access area. They only have temporary parking at the town’s ramps, but I’ve used them on Susquehanna trips and then parked in the PFBC area, since none of my boats are registered. (That may be cheating but I won’t tell.) One ramp is right on the other side of the railroad crossing and the other is upstream a bit, just below the start of the PFBC area.

As I got ready to peddle the shuttle, I finally faced up to a fact that I had been known to ignore on many a previous trip. It was getting just too dark to tackle this run, especially at this level. Considering also that it was still raining and the creek may not yet have crested. I really didn’t need the anxiety of another run like the last Fishing Creek where I was constantly scrubbing off speed on floodwater in anticipation of unseen obstacles. After locking the bike to a tree surrounded by heavy brush, I drove on home applauding my uncharacteristic good sense. My only concern was my poor naked bicycle lying in the wet weeds all night.

The next day, with the shuttle set and the car scouting done, I had plenty of time. But I didn’t have plenty of water. Now Fishing Creek wasn’t far over minimal level! You get a runnable window of around 24 hours on these little local creeks, that’s it.

Has anyone taken notice to what’s happened to the Yokumtown/Etters area in the past 20 years? It’s become a real tribute to sprawl. The area is equal distance between York and Harrisburg, about 15 miles from either city, so it’s sort of a suburb in the country. And sprawl it does, with Fishing Creek winding through the middle of it. There’s a bit of gradient in the bed but few obstacles. So the creek runs fast and mostly smooth at the edges of numerous lawns and under bridges supporting roads with suburban sounding names like Sam Sneed Circle and Valley Green Road. At one point, poor Fishing Creek suffers the ultimate humiliation, it’s been re-channeled. For a quarter mile or so, above the Valley Green bridge, its path has been altered to allow for larger lawns, I suppose, or some other equally dubious reason.

After Valley Green bridge the creek leaves the ‘burbs’ for good and the scenery is quite pleasant for the next 3 miles as it winds through empty farmlands with wooded buffer zones. With no significant gradient or features, there’s little whitewater to speak of, but if the creek is up enough to run it will be hurrying along at a good clip.

At two locations the creek makes abrupt left hand turns when it runs up against attractive little cliffs. A substantial tributary joins Fishing Creek at the second 90 degree left, nearly doubling the flow. Now there’s good water for the last mile. The hydro on the little dam should probably be looked at as you near Goldsboro. But then, it’s right beside the road so you’ve no doubt scoped out a runable line when running the shuttle.

The last half mile is the best. After the little dam the creek leaves the road and forms some strong riffles (rapids maybe?) as is makes yet another 90-degree left up against a high hill before hitting town and becoming lost in the back water of the Susquehanna’s Goldsboro pool.

Okay, so now we’ve covered Perry, Dauphin and York. Anyone know of any Fishing Creeks in Cumberland or Lancaster Counties? Lebanon or Adams perhaps?

Pat Reilly

Copyright © 2001 Pat Reilly. All rights reserved.