Nice, secluded canoe camping

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of May 1-7, 1997
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Nice, secluded canoe camping
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Nice, secluded canoe camping
Question: Where in the general area of West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania is there decent canoe camping? I don't expect anything like the Boundary Waters, but how about a nice, secluded river?

Indy Lim
Madison, Wisconsin
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Pine Creek Gorge may not be the Boundary Waters, but it is Pennsylvania's answer to the Grand Canyon. The 47-mile, 1,000-foot-deep canyon is the centerpiece of the largest wilderness between New York and Chicago — the Black Forest.

Located in the north-central part of the state, Pine Creek has approximately 70 miles of navigable, free-flowing river with consistent Class II riffles. The swift-flowing river will carry you past sandstone and shale cliffs mixed with dense stands of hemlock and beech trees. You may even spot a coyote. Most people start their river trips near Ansonia and do an overnight through the canyon portion of the creek. But if you're ambitious, it is possible to paddle all the way to the Susquehanna.

Within the gorge, there are 8 miles of shoreline designated for primitive camping, but first you need to pick up a free permit from the Tioga State Forest District Office in Wellsboro (717-724-2868). Pine Creek Outfitters in Ansonia (717-724-3003) guides two- and three-day canoe trips as well as raft trips for approximately $36 per person, per day. The Gorge is five hours northwest of Philadelphia.

If just getting out on water is your goal, and you don't mind rafting instead of canoeing, West Virginia has some of the finest whitewater east or west of the Mississippi. The New River provides everything from gentle rapids to roiling whitewater and can be run throughout the summer. The Gauley — commercially runnable only in the fall — provides bone-chilling thrill with consistently terrifying Class V rapids lined up one after the other. For this kind of water, you're wise to go with a group. Call Class VI at 304-574-0704 for trip details.

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