Little Juniata (Perry County)

River of the month #39

author: Pat Reilly
date: July 2001

Here we’re talking about the Perry County trout stream and not the popular canoe creek near Tyrone in Blair and Huningdon Counties. Perry’s Little Juniata is indeed little, not making it into Ed Gertler’s ‘Keystone Canoeing’ guidebook. But it’s worth paddling when everything else in Perry County is near flood. It flows out of New Bloomfield and into the Susquehanna at the southern end of Duncannon. A friend and I ran this creek back in the mid eighties, before I was seriously into paddle sports; back when my only boat was a salvaged open C-1, when I paddled in blue jeans, carried an old seat cushion for a PFD and didn’t know a thwart from a gunwale.

But I did have the inclination to explore and so we set off by an old saw mill just north of Dick’s Ridge. From here, south through Dick’s Ridge to Paradise Road, the creek initially has some gradient and forms a few simple rapids as it cuts through the Ridge. Then it cools down and becomes a mixed bag of twists, turns, strainers and riffles for seven miles to the mouth.

About midway through the trip at a place called Sulfur Springs, we encounted the nastiest of all paddling obstacles, the electric wire. Be prepared to hit the deck and use your paddle to fend off. A wooden or composite paddle is always recommended over one with an aluminum shaft when tackling small creeks in agricultural areas. I’ve run across many electric fences while paddling, but luckily, I’ve yet to get zapped. Maybe farmers turn them off when the water is up. But it still puts the fear of God into me to encounter one when barreling down a creek at a high rate of speed. Especially ominous are those ‘steel curtains’ that feature chains dangling from a charged wire to the water’s surface. (I assume these are for smart cows that have learned to do the limbo.) Unless you’re really skinny, avoiding them is next to impossible. And remember, fences always come in pairs. (See ROM for April ‘99 on the BMO website for more about electric fences.)

As the Little Juniata nears Duncannon, more houses appear, as do riffles. By the time you hit town both are nearly continuous. You can take out (in more ways than one) at the conveniently placed beer distributor near the mouth.

Pat Reilly

Copyright © 2001 Pat Reilly. All rights reserved.