Nothing is more cooling on a hot summer day than paddling down a river. Why not try kayaking the Susquehanna near Bloomsburg, PA, for a great summer adventure? This area of the 500-mile network that makes up the Susquehanna River Water Trails is called the North Branch. The North Branch section of the Susquehanna River was voted the 2023 PA River of the Year!
Whether you are a novice with the kayak or experienced, you can find a water trail that suits your ability level. Pack a lunch, bring plenty of water, and have a relaxing day. Before you start, let’s go over a few safety precautions.
Planning for Your Trip
Suppose you have your own kayak (or canoe). In that case, Pennsylvania requires that any unpowered boat (like a kayak or canoe) using a PA Fish and Boat Commission or Department of Conservation and Natural Resources boat launch must register their boat or purchase an annual permit. The state requires that you have an up-to-date and properly fitted PFD (personal flotation device) and a signaling whistle.
Before you start, you want to plan your route. Here is an interactive online map that can give you an idea of any hazards and a listing of all launches. Check for weather and water levels, which may change the perceived difficulty of your trip. Plan your starting and ending point, and arrange a drop-off and pickup.
What to Bring
Make sure you dress appropriately (quick drying material, not cotton). Bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm, insect repellent, and plenty of drinking water. You will probably want your cell phone or GPS, snacks, and a waterproof bag to protect everything that can be fastened to the boat.
Renting Kayaks or Canoes
If you haven’t brought your kayak, here are several outfitters that can rent kayaks or canoes:
Riverside Adventure Company: Hourly to multi-day rentals are available. Check out their calendar for group paddles, or arrange a guided trip, if that makes you more comfortable.
Five Mountain Outfitters: Several options are available, including transportation to their launch site. Reservations are strongly recommended.
North Branch Paddling Itineraries
Now for the fun part, actually getting on the water! Here are several itineraries to try:
PFBC Bloomsburg to Montgomery Park Danville
This route is a 12.5-mile one-way paddle. It should take 3-4 hours, depending on the river level. It is generally considered “easy,” as it is a quiet stretch of the river. At river mile 148.8, launch at the PFBC Bloomsburg boat ramp. You will pass multiple private islands and carved glacial cliffs resembling a human head, called “Indian Head Rock.”
Watch for bald eagles, otters, beavers, and other waterfowl. You will see downtown Danville and end the trip at the Montgomery Park Municipal Access (River Mile 136.4).
Berwick’s Test Track to PFBC Bloomsburg
This water trail is considered an easy 10-mile paddle. It should take about 3-4 hours. Launch from the Berwick Test Track Park Access, River Mile 158.4. On the trip, you will see rolling mountains, a chain of islands, and interesting waterfowl.
The trip finishes at the PFBC Bloomsburg Access at mile 148.8. Take some time and explore the town of Bloomsburg.
Meshoppen to Tunkhannock Access
This 14-mile paddle is long for beginners and does have a class 1 rapid area. Your launch is the Meshoppen Boat Launch, which is River Mile 232.7. The class 1 rapids are located at mile 228.3; navigate the river left.
At mile 228, you will reach Vosburg Neck, a gorgeous region where you can expect to see bald eagles diving through the cliffs. Stop at the Howland Preserve at mile 223.3. There are the remains of an 18th-century cemetery, old stone walls, and what is left of the old North Branch Canal System. Exit at mile 218.5, the Tunkhannock Riverside Park Borough Access.
Finishing Up the Day
After a day kayaking on the Susquehanna River near Bloomsburg, PA, what’s next? Stop at the Turkey Hill Brewing Company if a cold beer sounds perfect! If you are staying with us at the Inn at Turkey Hill, you are just steps from your room. Check out the calendar for summer concerts or local festivals! Spend a fun evening at Knoebels Amusement Park on one of their wooden roller coasters. Tomorrow is another day, and how will you spend it? Did you bring your mountain bike? Or maybe hike to see local waterfalls? As you can see, you will need more than a day to explore everything the North Central PA area offers!