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Conemaugh River - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip

Report Type: Destination Report
Nearest City: Saltsburg, PA
Difficulty: Easy

Description:

The Conemaugh River runs from Johnstown to where it meets the Allegheny River near Freeport. This stretch is interrupted by the Conemaugh reservoir. The river is almost all easy with only a few areas of fast water in the section between the Johnstown and the reservoir. The entire river is suitable for canoeing. Kayakers use it as well, but there are no sections that provide really challenging water.

The Conemaugh River was the course of a canal that provided a transport link from Pittsburgh to Johnstown in the 1800s. From Johnstown, freight was portaged over the mountains and floated down a another series of canals and waterways to Philadelphia. Parts of the canal channel and other structures are still visible along the way.

The best part about the river is the scenic beauty. Since its heyday of the canal, the river has also served as an industrial waterway. But the last few decades has seen it revert mostly back to its natural state.

If you like to fish, this river has action. Any species you find in the Allegheny River is found all the way up to the dam.

This river has had a hard past but has come back nicely. So if you are going to use it, please help keep it clean. Don't abuse the property along the way. Leave it the way you found it and the Conemaugh River will continue its comeback.

Accommodations:

It is pretty sparse. If you like wilderness camping, there are plenty of places. But there is little in the way of developed campgrounds or hotels. If you do decide to an overnight, it is likely to be on private property.

Directions:

Directions to the Conemaugh Dam- From Rt 22 in New Alexandria, follow Rt 981 North. Take a right turn at the sign for Tunnelton. Go through the valley, over the bridge at Tunnelton. About a mile or so up the hill, take the right turn toward Conemaugh Dam / Reservoir. Once in the Dam area, follow the signs to the put in area.

For the section between Johnstown and Blairsville- There are a number of other put in locations in towns and bridges located near Rt 22 between Blairsville and Johnstown. The towns of Seward, New Florence and Bolivar all have river access.

Launches:

Above the Dam, you can put in at a number of locations along Rt 403 (Johnstown area). There are several bridges between Seward and Blairsville. This is the most remote and fastest moving section of the river. It is probably also the section of the river with the best opportunity for an overnight or weekend paddle.

Once you get below Blairsville, you get into the reservoir where there is almost no access unless you are willing to make a long portage.

An easy day trip is from the Conemaugh Dam to Saltsburg. This is about 7 miles and can be covered in 2.5 - 4 hours depending on the flow. Below Saltsburg, you start to get into the towns of Apollo, Vandergrift & Leechburg. You can take out at any of these starting from the Dam.

Contact:

The best source of information about the river that I know of is the folks at Saltsburg River and Trail (724) 639-1314.


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