Lost Creek

River of the month #42

author: Pat Reilly
date: October 2001

Sometimes I play this silly road game when I’m driving away from home. As I head out of town, whenever I cross a bridge over water, I determine if I’ve ever paddled under that bridge. Then I see how far away from my house I can get before encountering a ‘virgin’ bridge. Yeah, it’s a bit weird, but anything to pass the time when behind the wheel; driving is far from being one of my favorite tasks.

Heading out on rt. 22/322 West is a common drive for me and for many other club members, I’m sure. This scenic highway goes up along the Juniata River to destinations north as well as west. Shortly after the Mifflintown exit motorists go up and over Moyer Ridge, a substantial hill, and when descending the opposite side they notice a pleasant rural landscape off to the right with a picturesque creek winding through farm pasture and woodlands. The creek curves toward the highway and passes under it at the bottom of the hill. For years I would look over at the creek when approaching the bridge and think, ‘Why haven’t I paddled under this bridge on that pretty little creek?’ Upon researching the waterway, I learned that Ed Gertler has paddled under the bridge. So finally in April of this past year I got my chance. Mid-week rains and an early exit from work allowed enough time to go find Lost Creek.

Ed says Lost Creek is worth finding and gives it a ‘very good’ scenery rating. I concur and was lucky to hit it on a beautiful sunny spring day. But even with 2 inches of rain, there was little water under the Rt. 35 bridge in Oakland Mills by the Post Office, the uppermost put-in. Paddling the first 2 miles is typical of ‘micro-stream’ boating. There are tight turns, braids, fences (3 that I remember), and strainers, all in a creek barely a boat length wide. Conditions get a bit more reasonable 2 miles into the trip where you pass under the Mill Road bridge (bridge # 3). Lost Creek has now picked some tributaries, including Little Lost Creek and Laurel Run. If you can find this back road bridge, two creek miles into the trip, I would suggest using it as the put-in. Unless of course you’re into the type of abuse that the aforementioned obstacles provide.

Now I was enjoying myself up to this point but many paddlers will just as soon skip the first 2 miles. You can still get over 6 and a half miles of paddling by putting in at Mill Road. Lost Creek now looks more like a canoeing creek. But after an initial open stretch, Lost Creek again gets lost as it narrows and winds back and forth while flowing swiftly through a long patch of thick alders. This makes for a neat fast natural slalom but it has the potential to collect strainers.

Finally Lost Creek settles down and heads toward its rendezvous with the Juniata using only wide sweepers instead of tight hairpin turns. The scenery cleans up its act also. The farms disappear for now and a nice secluded ravine takes shape. When exiting the ravine, the scenery stays good with some farmland and pasture, but mostly woodlands, especially on river left. The creek appears to be trying to find a way through Moyer Ridge as it turns south and bumps up against the ridge 3 times, each time veering off and heading west again.

On one of its collisions with the ridge, Lost Creek puts on its best face. On river left there is some exposed layered rock forming a low cliff that stretches for a few hundred yards. The cliff is not straight up and down but curves gracefully out over the creek and back again forming a spectacular overhang that runs its entire length. It also curves back and forth in gentle waves as the creek weaves along with it. The rock must contain some iron as it’s red in color. On river right is a dark hemlock forest. With the late afternoon sun lighting the rock and making the water sparkle, it was simply stunning. That scene alone was worth the price of admission, it’s why we head out and take the pains to explore these obscure little creeks.

All too soon you hear the highway and Lost Creek bends south then west under the high Rt. 22/322 bridge. The trip’s heaviest riffles are found here. Long but straightforward they accelerate the creek to yet another collision with Moyer Ridge. Lost Creek then turns north only to bump into another ridge, this time with a high cliff of brightly colored rock. Undecided, Lost Creek heads south once more and yet another cliff appears, now with houses and a road on top that signal the town of Cuba Mills and the creek’s mouth. There’s some neat aqueduct ruins from the old Pa Canal just past the last bridge. Check ‘em out. The best takeout is 6/10 of a mile up the Junaita at the PFBC Cuba Mills access.

Go find Lost Creek some time and check out the cliffs. Then the next time you pass over the bridge while cruising Rt. 22/322, you’ll be able to say to anyone listening, ‘Hey, I’ve paddled under this bridge.’

Pat Reilly

Copyright © 2001 Pat Reilly. All rights reserved.