Upper Allegheny River, PA
By Paulette Dininny
87 miles of the Allegheny are designated a National Wild and Scenic River and seven of the islands from the Kinzua Dam to Tionesta, PA, are part of the Allegheny Islands Wilderness. You can camp for free on them, no permit required.
The U.S. Canoe Association will hold its 2009 National Canoe and Kayak Championships from August 11-16 in Warren, www.uscanoe.com.
The upper Allegheny River is 45 miles of narrow valleys, open country and wilderness islands where you can set up camp on a multi-day paddling trip. Add in some small towns where good eats, cold beverages or hot coffee are within walking distance of your boat, and you’ve got the perfect balance of wilderness meets creature comforts.
“With the right planning, you can start at Kinzua Dam and we can pick you up in Pittsburgh,” says Piper Lindell of Allegheny Outfitters, Inc. That’s about 190 river miles for the ambitious paddler. For the less ambitious, a good starter trip is from Kinzua Dam to Allegheny Outfitters, a seven-mile trip. It’s the company’s most popular offering.
The Allegheny is a Class I river, but near Warren there are rapids strong enough to tip a canoe if it turns sideways. Park your canoe on the mud flats at the sightseeing boardwalk and take the steps up to the street in downtown Warren where restaurants are a short walk from your boat.
The river passes through narrow valleys, open country past wilderness islands with opportunities for hiking, bird watching, stargazing or enjoying the solitude. Camping is permitted unless the land is posted as private; Leave No Trace techniques are required on wilderness islands.
“Crulls Island, between Buckaloons and Tionesta is my favorite,” says Piper. “It has ponds and its own microclimate. I wish I could live out there.”
Buckaloons, eight miles downriver from Warren and past Starbrick, has one of the prettiest launch areas and is the site of a former Seneca Indian village. This placid spot offers a boat launch, developed camping facilities, water and an interpretive trail. Farther on about 15 miles, Tidioute is the last chance for supplies before Tionesta, where the upper Allegheny gives way to the middle Allegheny.
Among the human-made sights are the Sherman Memorial Lighthouse and the Hunting & Fishing Museum of Pennsylvania in Tionesta. The water quality of the upper Allegheny is good for wildlife; look for bald eagles, muskrats, Northern snapping turtles, long-tailed weasels and great blue herons along the way – don’t forget your waterproof camera.
Where it’s at: About 2 ½ hours northeast of Pittsburgh; from downtown Warren, PA, take US 6 east to PA 59 (Kinzua Road), bear left and go four miles to Kinzua Dam and the visitors area.
Contact: www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/allegheny or
(814) 362-4613 (don’t expect to speak to a human)
Digs: Free camping on the wilderness islands; Buckaloons campground, 877-444-6777; Eagle Rock Motel in Tionesta rents canoes and kayaks and will shuttle you upstream, www.mybluecanoe.com or (814) 755-4444 ($45-$115/night, two-night minimum on weekends)
Grub: Snuffy’s Café & Lounge, Warren, (814) 723-3372; Tippy Canoe Inn, Tidioute, (814) 484-7341
Gear and outfitting: Allegheny Outfitters, www.alleghenyoutfitters.com or 814/723-1203, they will provide shuttles for DIY paddlers (rates vary)