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Difficulty IV
Length 11 Miles
Gauge Little Mahoning Creek at McCormick, PA
Flow Range CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 47.1 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 12/31/2003 8:27 am

River Description

Dave Woten gives the beta:
Cowanshannock Creek is a small delightful run that flows into the Allegheny River in Kittanning. It is perfect for the up-and-coming creeker ready to step up from Slippery Rock Creek towards more gradient and tighter lines. Numerous tight lines to choose from, some rock banging, log boofing and even pipe dodging are all part of what makes this trip creeky.

The take-out is at the PA Fish Commission boat launch area on Cowanshannock Creek just before its confluence with the Allegheny River. You drive parallel to the run for much of the shuttle. There is a put-in area in the woods partway up the run which cuts out the flat water and a couple rapids. The long version has you putting in around route 28/66.

We hop on the creek just behind a min-mart type store. Watch for the "no parking" signs lining the road. Here is an obvious flat area across from the mining operation where we get a visual. If the little ripple looks like you can float downstream it is runnable. If the water is coming out of the banks into the river right grass it is definitely on the high side. The photo "Buttermilk Falls" at the bottom of the page was taken with the water up in the grass (very high). Compare both photos since they are the same rapid.

The Cowanshannock begins with a long stretch of flatwater, however, time passes quickly due to the fast current and enjoyable scenery. The first couple rapids are a good place to warm-up, do some eddy hopping and even a little surfing. You will soon approach a small steep slide. You can have some fun playing at the bottom. You will notice the gradient begin to pick up. Soon you will approach the steepest part of the creek beginning with Buttermilk Falls, a 2-3 foot ledge stretching from river left to 2/3 of the way across the creek. The lead-in to the falls is shallow. You can go over the drop anywhere--just stay straight. The far right line requires a more technical but easily manageable move with an ill-placed rock.

If you get out to scout Buttermilk Falls, scout the next drop while you are on the banks because it is just a few feet downstream. This drop starts center, goes sharp right, then immediately left. This happens fast with a decent amount of gradient. You can use the pillowed rock at the bottom of the drop to turn left but if you do, watch out for the hole.

The footbridge should now be very close and easily visible. Approach with caution! I have seen strainers, pipes and other "nasties" become lodged around the abutment and in this area of the creek. They are often right in the middle of the desired line.

Though the creek continues to drop, the steepest and most difficult drops are behind you at this point. You should be able to read and run the rest of the creek as it continues to become easier. Before you know it, you will be at the take-out, ready for run number 2!

The fast run, easy shuttle, and great put-in/take-out make it a nice run on a cold snowy winter day.

Rapid Descriptions


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Robert Fusilli
9 years ago

Just ran the Cowanshannock for the first time today, actually got two laps in. I was pleasantly surprised with the run. It had a nice creeky feel with plenty of different lines to take. Although it is not that long of a run, the rapids are very continuous and it has some nice gradient. My one comment that I would like to make is regarding the shuttle. Because this is a short run, its worth doing some laps, but instead of driving all the way up near 66, behind the mini mart area, you can just drive up to where the iron bridge (that is gated off) crosses the creek and park there. There is a little campsite here and I don't know how much it gets used, but from here it is only a short walk upstream (river right) side of the creek via bike trail to Buttermilk Falls. Today we just walked up above Buttermilk Falls and put in on river right. You do miss a couple of little rapids/ waves to surf but it definitely beats driving all the way up to float all the flatwater. It really cut down on the shuttle time and made running laps much easier and quicker. Also, there was some wood in the creek, we didn't have to portage anything but just wanted to advise anyone doing this creek that there are blind turns and you do need to make sure that these are clear of wood.

Gage Descriptions

Dave Woten gives the beta:

With no USGS gauge on this creek, a visual is the only way to know navigability for sure. We often use Slippery Rock Creek and rain/snowfall to the North to judge if it is running. If Slippery Rock has risen a few feet or there has been a good rain and or snow melt to the North, your chances are good. There is talk of a gauge on the 28/66 bridge but I have never seen it because I put in a little downstream of the bridge.

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports




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Pennsylvania Dam Removal Conference to be Held January 31st.

Kevin Colburn

There will be a one day conference on January 31st in eastern Pennsylvania that will address dam removal and rehabilitation in the state and region. It is likely that this very affordable conference would be helpful to paddlers interested in working on dam removal projects in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Registration for the conference is due by January 23rd.

Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1191395 12/31/03 n/a n/a