For those looking to explore the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, this day trip is a perfect chance to experience some iconic river towns and delve into lumber history from the comfort of your kayak. Jersey Shore and Williamsport are not only historic 19th century lumber towns, but are also both designated Susquehanna Greenway River Towns, making them the perfect gateways to outdoor adventure.
Begin your paddle in Jersey Shore. Stick around or plan a trip to come back and experience the beautiful 62-mile Pine Creek Rail Trail, often recognized as one of the best hiking trails PA has to offer. Put-in at the Jersey Shore Borough Access (RM 55.6). As you launch, the coast of Long Island will be on river right, and you will soon pass beneath the PA-44 bridge. After a few miles of paddling, you will see the mouth of Larry’s Creek on river left.
Next, you will approach Crane Island, around river mile 52. Go river left around the island and keep close to the shoreline as you enter the 12-mile pool behind Williamsport’s Hepburn Street Dam. Be cautious of heavy boat traffic along this stretch, as it can become very congested during the summer.
After passing Linden on river left, you will begin to see remnants of the Susquehanna Boom—the largest boom on the West Branch. Booms were a series of manmade structures that were built in the river and chained together in order to corral logs that had been cut and floated down for timber. As the logs floated downstream and reached the booms, they were then guided to one of several sawmills based on the brand burned into each one. This practice was used throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. While the wooden “cribs,” or sunken piers, that made up the boom were originally built log-cabin style (22 feet high and 200 feet apart), today they have been reclaimed by nature and appear to be overgrown islands.
These boom remnants will be visible all the way to your take-out at Susquehanna State Park at RM 42.1. Be sure to navigate to river left as you approach this point. After your paddle, take some time to explore the Susquehanna Greenway River Town of Williamsport. There are restaurants, walking and biking trails, and it is the home of the Little League Baseball Stadium. If you are up for another, more leisurely on-water adventure, see the sights of the Susquehanna River again by taking a trip on the Hiawatha Paddlewheel Riverboat, also located at Susquehanna State Park.
The Jersey Shore borough access has restrooms, drinking water, picnic tables, food, lodging, and groceries nearby in Jersey Shore. The Susquehanna State Park take out has parking available for roughly 20 cars, seasonal restrooms, and is home to the Hiawatha Paddlewheel Riverboat.
River Mile 55.6: Jersey Shore Borough Access
River Mile 42.1: Susquehanna State Park Access