Little Chickies Creek

River of the month #43

author: Pat Reilly
date: November 2001

There are Big rivers and Little rivers. You’re probably thinking, ‘Wow, now there’s a profound observation’. But wait, I was talking about names, as in Big Sandy or Little Conewago. Now we’ve had a big river/little river discussion before, during the write up of Little Swatara (ROM # 25). Back then, we determined that little rivers seem to be more desirable to paddlers and that they are much more numerous. Checking out river names supports this theory, as there are lots more Little rivers than Big. Looking at my paddling logs, I see that I’ve boated only 4 ‘Big’ rivers compared to 8 ‘Little’ rivers. And of the 4 ‘Big’ rivers only Tennessee’s Big South Fork is truly big. West Virginia’s Big Sandy and North Carolina’s Big Laurel Run are more whitewater ‘creekin’ type runs. And Newville’s Big Spring is anything but big. Whereas most of the ‘Little’ rivers are indeed little. Little Chickies, Little Conewago, Little Falls, Little Gunpowder Falls and Little Juniata (Perry County) are those type of creeks that you’ve got to catch after a good downpour. And while Little Swatara, Little Juniata (Huntingdon County) and Little Schuylkill aren’t as small as the others, they are far from big. Let’s call them medium sized.

So why all this talk about creek names? Well, Little Chickies is one river that holds true to its name and like most ‘Little’ rivers, the name is derived from a larger namesake. And to tell the truth, there is just not a whole lot else to talk about on Little Chickies. Now this is not to say that Little Chickies is not a worthwhile creek. Be it far from me to bad-mouth any stream; I love ‘em all. It’s just that a paddler may have to look a bit closer to see Little Chickies' charms. Like other Lancaster County farm streams, it’s generally flat and, at runnable levels, very brown. It’s path leads from the borough of Mount Joy, through heavy agriculture, on to a union with Chickies a mile or so above Marietta.

The Rt. 772 bridge makes a suitable put in. The creek gets off to a good start as just beyond the bridge it makes a loop and in the process, practically surrounds a nice big park in Mount Joy. Soon after the park, there’s a dam to carry and soon after that another that can possibly be run in a plastic boat. You’ll notice some attractive cliffs on the sides of Little Chickies, mostly limestone I believe. The farms are pleasant if not spectacular. Mount Joy is the only town and you only really see the park when paddling through Mount Joy. Some cottages appear near the mouth but not many.

There’s a bit of a rapid. It’s the remain of an old dam or something. You encounter it about 2/3 of the way through the 7.5 mile trip. There is a curving pushy chute on the right, surprisingly technical. But it's over in a second and that's all you get in the way of whitewater, besides numerous little ledges.

I was lucky enough to paddle Little Chickies in the summer. Creeks this size are much easier to catch up in winter or spring. With June’s lush foliage, I felt as though I was hiding from the world paddling down Little Chickies. No one saw me put in, no one saw me take out and even the people in the Mount Joy park were too busy setting up for a big picnic to notice me stealthily gliding by. So if no one saw me on Little Chickies did I really paddle it? Well I must have because it’s right there in my log books, not once but twice. So if you want to hide from the world on the water, head down to gentle Little Chickies Creek after the next Lancaster County storm.

Pat Reilly

Copyright © 2001 Pat Reilly. All rights reserved.