Paddling in the PA Wilds’ Pine Creek
By Jim Hyland
It was Easter Sunday, and although the chilly spring wind, high water, and budding trees well represented April, the exact century we were in was less obvious. The combination of primitive watercraft, wild scenery, and the timeless music of water on rocks was profoundly deceptive.
With a trout in its talons, an immature bald eagle launched itself from a high, left shore snag. It glided downstream to a safer perch, reconsidered, and then disappeared over the horizon.
We were just below the village of Blackwell on Pine Creek, and the strong current hastily carried our canoe toward the Susquehanna some 40 miles downstream. Below a choppy riffle, we ruddered into the shady head of a green pool overhung by dripping shale terraces and hemlocks. Below the boat, I could see the rocky crevices where the big trout hide.
Around the bend, the Cedar Run Trestle and some fishermen came into view. We were brought back to the 21st century, but only temporarily, because Pine Creek had a lot more to offer on our seven-hour, 20-mile journey to Jersey Mills.
Pine Creek was known as “Tiadaghton” to the first Americans, a name thought to mean “river of pines”, or perhaps “bewildered river”. European settlers named it “Pine Creek” because of the massive pines along the shores.
Pine Creek is one of Pennsylvania’s most scenic and historic water trails. When not able to navigate the swift waters by canoe, native peoples walked an ancient footpath along the shore, which now, in part, is the Pine Creek Rail Trail! Described as a “howling wilderness” by early pioneers, the Pine Creek Gorge and lower valley still offer an amazing natural experience to paddlers.
While floating Pine Creek, one can’t help but imagine what it must have been like some 200 years ago, given how spectacular it remains today. Herds of elk grazed on the shores, and mountain lions prowled among the high rock outcrops. The pools were full of native brook trout, and American shad seasonally migrated from the Atlantic.