Put-ins To catch the whole 6.2 miles begin your run at Aberdeen Mills (just above Aberdeen Rd.) From the west (Harrisburg) take route 283 to the route 230 & route 341 exit. At the end of the ramp turn right in a block turn left at the "T" onto route 230 heading east. In a couple miles turn right (south) on South Deodate for the shorter run described below; S. Deodate will take you to the put-in. Continue to the next left (northeast) onto Hertzler Rd if you want the full run. Hertzler Rd gradually approaches and follows the creek upstream. Turn right at the "T" when you reach Mill Rd. You will soon cross the creek. Walk a couple hundred yards up the rail trail to where you can put-in.
Take-out From the upper put-in retrace your path to route 230 and cross it staying on Hertzler Rd. Hertzler Rd will merge with S. Deodate Rd just above the bridge at the lower put-in. Just before you cross the bridge take a right on Locust Grove Road. Follow Locust Grove Rd until a "T" on Hillsdale Rd. Turn left at this "T" passing under the rairoad and follow Hillsdale until it crosses the creek at the takeout. From the lower put-in follow the directions starting at Locust Grove Rd.
River Description (upper put-in) After the short hike up the rail-trail you can launch upstream of the class 3 drop just above (and visible from) the bridge. This drop is quite technical, somewhat sievelike but usually not very pushy. Scout before running this drop as the two lines are narrow and easily obsructed by downed trees and if you are running it there has likely been a very recent and very hard rain. A lot of the water passes through the rocks at the drop but if the creek is runnable there will be enough going over the top for your boat. The hazards associated with sieves remain.
From the rapid at Aberdeen Mills to South Deodate Rd you will travel a distance of almost 4 miles of flatwater and easy riffles. Watch out for a low water bridge as you pass through a nursery. You and your boat are not likely to fit through the culverts. If the creek is especially high you can float over.
There are a couple of ledges just above S. Deodate Rd. with very modest surfing potential. Below S. Deodate Rd. the action begins again. Most locals choose to put in here to catch most of the action while avoiding the flatwater. There is a series of class 2 to 3 rapids for the next 3/4 mile. The last of the excitement ends a couple hundred yars after you pass under the railroad bridge. Although the gradient drops off there is one modest glassy wave at a sharp right bend in the creek. In general this creek has little to offer in the way of surfing so grab the limited opportunities. Soon you will come to a road bridge and the takeout at Hillsdale Rd. You can also continue on down flatwater and riffles to route 441 and the Susquehanna river.
An excellent reference is Keystone Canoeing by Gertler, E.
There are two Conewago Creeks, on opposite sides of the Susquehanna river; the other one to the west is fairly flat, with one short Class III-IV section.
There is a gauge painted on the bridge at S. Deodate Rd. with tally marks up to six or seven. I ran it today with the level reading at three tally marks and ledge upstream of the bridge was one big river wide hole. It was difficult to see the bottom of two or three rapids because the waves blocked downstream vision. I recommend scouting at this level or above to make sure you do not get pushed into trees that partially block the creek in spots.
12 years ago
In case the E. Conewago gauge is down: The top section of Swatara Creek is of a similar size and both rise and fall quite quickly so that Swatara Creek at Pine Grove is a fair approximation of the level in Conewago. All bets are off for summer thunderstorms with their erratic rainfall patterns. You can use a rainfall map such as the one available through accuweather (selecting accumulated precipitation radar maps and using the dropdown menus to select PA and 24 hr) or rainfall readings at the automated streamflow warning system. If the rainfall in the area has been over an inch Conewago (east) will probably running for the following day. They can also tell you if the rainfall in the upper Swatara drainage basin is similar to that of Conewago. Once at the creek you can look at the ledges just upstream of the Deodate Rd. bridge; if they are passable the creek is runnable. If we've had a decent rainfall but Conewago isn't runnable when you get there, just scoot over to Codorus Creek.
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On a rock just below the RR bridge, after an early thaw.
Rapid just upstream of the RR bridge after an early thaw.
First rapid below S. Deodate Rd. after an early thaw.
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