Harveys Creek

River of the month #61

author: Pat Reilly
date: July 2003

Harveys Creek is not what you would call local. But neither is it all that far, at least not time-wise. For those club members that are used to the 1.5 hour drive to the Nescopeck, Harveys can reached by driving an additional half hour, all on expressways. If you keep motoring past the Nescopeck on Rt. 81north and take 29 east and cross the North Branch Susquehanna at Nanticoke, you’ll be but a stone’s throw from the mouth of Harveys and some very hot whitewater.

Harveys rolls out of the mountains north of West Nanticoke at a gradient of 80 feet per mile for almost 7 miles. That’s 3 times the gradient of the popular whitewater section of the Nescopeck. A partner and myself hit Harveys during the late winter melt from the big snowstorm of 2003. Other than events like this snowmelt, Harveys may be hard to find up. The closest online gauge we found was Muncy Creek at Sonestown, which read 3.25. At this level the creek was really rocking with plenty of water and we had a great run. As we finished up we met another group of boaters and bummed a shuttle ride. After talking with the other boaters, I found myself contemplating just where whitewater boating is headed these days. But first, we need to talk about the whitewater itself.

Harveys is small, but not tiny. With the amount of water we had that day it was pushy in spite of its small size. But Harveys’ rapids are comprised mostly of small ledges and boulder gardens with boulders not usually big enough to block downstream views. And tight turns are rare, so we were able to boat scout the entire run with two notable exceptions. Within the first mile or so of our put-in we encountered 2 big, hungry drops that are pretty much what I would describe as ‘hair’ water. The first was a big double drop with a nasty hydro at the bottom that fed into an undercut rock. The second was a long complicated twisting slide into big highly agitated pile of foam. Both rapids dropped 10 to 15 feet. We examined feasible lines, but didn’t have the advantage of seeing someone else run them (or even know if they were being run) to determine if what we were predicting would actually happen. Nor had we seen the drops in low water to ascertain what was hidden under all that froth. So we carried and feasted ourselves on 4 miles of non-stop action below the biggies.

The whitewater was absolutely unrelenting; continuous but not intimidating due to the consistency of the riverbed. Soon the shuttle road, rt. 29, paralleled the creek, with a concrete retaining wall on one side for much of the remaining length. This wall takes away half the potential for eddies, making an already high, eddy-deficient creek even worse. So we shaded toward the woods side of the creek and kept a sharp eye downstream as we rocketed along. In this manner we had little trouble stopping for the few strainers that reared up.

The creek seemed to grow steeper and faster as we went. The last mile or two is a lot like Maryland’s Savage River. A real hoot! Entering West Nanticoke, the rapids continue as the creek becomes totally walled in, necessitating a short trip down the Susquehanna to take out. In spite of the creek-side road the scenery is good with the creek cutting a narrow path through a big mountain. The entire trip is all wooded with only a cottage or 2.

We had put in just below a dam which is just below the second rt. 29 bridge over the creek, about 5 miles from the mouth. My shuttle ride was with a group of 5 young boaters, some of whom belong to an online user group called ‘PA Creekers’. They showed me another put in an additional 1.5 miles up the creek just below a second dam. This put in was right above a big ledge that formed a runable 10-foot vertical falls. Combine this big drop with the 12-foot dam above our put-in (which they said had also been run) and the 2 drops that we had carried, and you have yourself somewhat of a ‘hair’ run, with 4 big heart-pounding drops.

My partner was having some regrets about not running the 2 big drops we had scouted once we heard that the ‘Creekers’ ran them regularly. I was fine with it though, as I savored the delightful memory of our swift descent to the Susquehanna. Which is why I was so astonished when I saw the ‘Creekers’ drop off their take-out vehicle on the shuttle ride. They parked at the first spot below the last big drop, leaving out over 3 miles of wonderful bouncy whitewater! What gives? They had no plans for another trip that day, they simply weren’t interested in anything but the ‘hair’ water.

Yes folks, times are a-changing. With today’s new super short designs and magazine emphasis on big drops and rodeo, is actual river running becoming outdated? I hope not, but the younger set seems to want only park and play, big drops or nothing at all. Is it a sign of our modern society’s increasing desire for instant gratification? Or maybe I’m reading too much into it. The important thing is that we all had a good time on a great creek that day.

Pat Reilly

Copyright © 2003 Pat Reilly. All rights reserved.