Indian Creek - Route 381 to Camp Carmel

Indian Creek, Pennsylvania, US


Route 381 to Camp Carmel (Indian Creek Gorge)

Usual Difficulty III-IV(V) (for normal flows)
Length 4.9 Miles

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Laurel Hill Creek at Ursina, PA
usgs-03080000 2.00 - 4.25 ft III-IV(V) 27h05m 4.88 ft (too high)

River Description

When the Lower Yough is getting high, check out Indian Creek. This is a fairly continuous Class III-IV run with a nasty V at the end called the Terminator. Access is the trick. To putin you must do a long carry down an electrical line right of way from Rt. 381 north of the town of Mill Run in Fayette Co. Pa. The jeep road access one takeout is described below. To preserve your vehicle, you can also paddle to the confluence with the Youghigheny River and run 5 miles down to Connellsville, Pa. on flat but likely high water. The run is big and open, but quite a few of the ledges and rapids are blind. There are many, many surf waves and the rapids are pretty big at higher levels. This is definitely harder than the Lower Yough and has some Class IV characteristics in places. Watch for 2 big ledges of more than 6 feet and several long hole-filled rapids. Make sure you know where the Terminator begins. The top of the rapid looks like a lot of the other ledge rapids on the run, but the final long chute is severely undercut (particularly on the right side) and dangerous.


2008 Update:

The road on creek right that comes down through Hawkins Hallow may (or may not) be gated with a lock. The current best shuttle is to park across from Camp Christan just prior to the gated / locked bridge and hike to just past the dam with your boat.   Try to be as invisable as possible (we are working on access issue) - take the let branch of the old rail road gauge through the cut thru that also is gated.

Then put in and paddle from just below the dam and to the last rapid (right after Terminator.  Take out creek left and hike up the old railroad gauge to the parking area.   Hike takes roughly 45 minutes and is about a 2% grade so it is an easy walk and shorter than any other shuttle set ups.

As of May there were no issues with wood or other dangers. 

Enjoy and be safe.

Monday, May 31, 2004 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Westmoreland County Municipal Authority owns those well-loved 1,600 acres of water, a stretch of Indian Creek, and valley, and it's trying to prove to Fayette County zoning officials that it doesn't condone the "piglike" behavior of some of the visitors to the area. So, using hired guns, no trespassing signs and word-of-mouth, the authority is spreading the message to all who satisfy their weekend wants at Hawkins Hollow: Keep out or pay fines up to $300. This month, the authority board voted to hire 20 part-time security officers, deputies from the Westmoreland County sheriff's office, to patrol Hawkins Hollow over the next few months. The armed officers will cite anyone caught violating trespass and littering laws, and ask them to leave the premises. Authority Solicitor Kenneth Burkley said it was a shame, but that the board had little choice. Some of the users have worn out their welcome??. ??Their actions may thwart the random party animal, but Hawkins Hollow fans include bird-watchers and wildflower-spotters, fishermen, hikers, canoeists and kayakers, in other words, nature-lovers who pride themselves on leaving behind no sign of their passing. Members of American Whitewater routinely shoot the rapids on Indian Creek, which feeds into the Youghiogheny?. "We'd like to work out an agreement for access, maybe just at certain times and places." The authority and environmental groups agree that shutting down the access road might solve many of the dumping and noise problems. The authority plans to ask township supervisors in Springfield to give up their claim to the road, Kerr said, so the authority could block off the rutted lane completely?.. ?..we?re making it clear to trespassers that we're not taking it lightly, that our signs and gates really mean something. If you're down at Hawkins Hollow this Memorial Day, you'll be cited." Please take care relating to access of this stream! AWA is working on access so please don't take individual actions that could jeopardize future access for all! Please take care relating to access of this stream! AWA is working on access so please don't take individual actions that could jeopardize future access for all!

Richard Hopley sez:
"The shuttle-road is pretty random. Go two or three miles north from the bridge over the reservoir, turn left on some road in a small village, and good luck in the warren of dirt and gravel roads serving the trailer homes back in there. Look of an auto junkyard on yer left to tell you you've made the right choices at the first couple of intersections.
Then look for an unmarked 'jeep' road that angles off the nice dirt ridge-road yer on, heading steeply down to the left, and hope yer vehicle can make it back up outta there. We set our takeout where this jeep road fords the creek (if the creek is low enough to ford, I'd forget trying to run it)."
Thanks, Richard, for the info!

StreamTeam Status: Verified
Last Updated: 2008-05-22 11:13:52


Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
June 25 2017 (30 days ago)
jsbolling1 (159088)
Ran this stretch with a small group for the first time on 6-25-17. Gauge was about 4.2' and
falling, so the run was absolutely non-stop, read-and-run. While most of the rapids individually
were Class III or III+ moves, the continuous nature of this run made it a real shot of adrenaline
at the higher end of this page's recommended levels. Simply put: you wouldn't want to come out of
your boat here. There are practically no recovery pools, so keep your crew tight and keep an eye on
each other at these levels. The first major ledge drop was runnable on the far left with a
right-left-right move around some pretty big holes. Alternatively, we took an awesome auto-boof
about 4 feet off the far right shore. At lower levels, I think you could easily boof the center,
but there was probably 7 or 8 feet of backwash off the ledge, which made us collectively decide it
was too sticky for our taste. Terminator is a huge horizon line, and even with having never paddled
this, it was clear that something worth scouting was ahead. Scout and walk on the right. Most of
our group walked it. The sieve rock described above (where all of the water is pushing) isn't the
only issue here: there's about 100 yards of rapid above it, a decently large hole below it, and
several more rocks that can bang you up below that. The shredder in our group cleaned it, while the
two kayakers both spent time in the hole and took a couple of hard hits on rocks below before
eventually getting bow rescues in the short pool below. We paddled down the flooded Yough (over 10'
in Ohiopyle) down to Connellsville, which was about 4-5 more miles on very fast current. Heads up
when you get to your first railroad bridge after the confluence: there's a nasty low-head dam that
you have portage via the railroad tracks on river right. This run is totally worth it if you have
the right levels and the right crew.
July 1 2013 (1485 days ago)
skansi (155636)
There is a log at water level at 5 feet on the 653 gauge in Terminator. It is towards the end of
the rapid. Also, Leon from Indian Creek Camplands demands that he be contacted if you park off
Hawkins Hollow Road by the yellow gate. You will be arrested for trespassing if you do not. His
number is 724 455 7900. He has a campground next to the entrance to the road where you can park.
May 7 2009 (3001 days ago)
x (1)
Robert Farmer---Well, I happened to catch this with about 2 feet more water than the last time (see
below), and it sure felt a lot different! This time, the level was 3.5 at Route 653 (2.8/1500 at
Ursina), and it was rather pushy! In fact, at the top, it was kind of intimidating, seeing as how
the water was too fast and shallow to get control from the put-in launch spot. Later, there were
whirlpools that appeared and disappeared suddenly but which were not deep enough to really do
anything bad; they just wanted to mess with us. As the creek got going at the first steep section,
the waves were big and pushy. As the creek bends to the right, the first 6-foot ledge appeared
after a somewhat flat pooling spot. At 1.8, it had seemed inconsequential, but at 3.5, it seemed
quite consequential, you bet! Scout on the right (easy walk). From here down to the pool below
Terminator, there are no pools (several miles). Some sections don't even have eddies, or at least
not good ones, so in addition to bringing your bombproof roll, just don't flip; there are few
hazards, other than long wave trains and the occasional hole and maybe a few logs, but the water is
so fast that swimming to shore with your gear will really tire you out. Our group had a few
swimmers, and, trust me, it's a whole lot better not to swim. At the second 6-foot ledge, the left
side was Class 5-ish, but the popular route (other than portaging, which was fairly popular) was a
chute on the far, tight right. Farther downstream, the 3 horsemen of the apocalypse were under
water, but there is an island to the right of that undercut left-side bend. I think that this is
the only island on the creek, and Terminator is right downstream. At this level, taking out on the
right above T. was perfectly easy because the water pools above a ledge; although, with much more
water, there might be a tendency to be washed over this ledge. Some people went left, but, for the
life of me, I can't understand why. Also, there is an old road about 50 feet from the shore on
river right, which makes scouting and portaging Terminator just so-freakin'-easy, even your
grandmother could do it. The Indian was quite popular on this day, as about 3 groups converged at
Terminator. 4 or 5 people out of about 15+ ran it, including one who, I'm told, swam from very near
the top (emphatically not recommended!). We ran 2 different lines: semi-center, and the left sneak
(very bumpy-looking). It was a delightful day on a terrific creek. I'd say it was all continuous
Class 3 with occasional bits of 4 thrown in sporadically. Remember that there are basically no
pools, but, even though there are constant threatening horizon lines, it basically stays pretty
much the same difficulty all of the way down, except for Terminator, which is intimidating and
potentially hazardous, but not exceptionally technically difficult. This creek should definitely be
on your list!!! Scrumptious!
May 7 2009 (3001 days ago)
x (1)
Robert Farmer---As for the shuttle, the people whom I joined decided to take out at the confluence
of Indian Creek and the Youghiogheny River. It's a fairly long shuttle, but it definitely beats
walking back up, and you can look at Morgan Run while you're there. The shuttle is a lot faster if
you know where you're going, so: From Camp Christian, go north on 381 to Normalville, then west on
711 to Connellsville, then south on 119. Just past the Chevy dealer (which may be a historical
relic soon) or where the two directions of 119 come together, there is a traffic light---a brand
spanking new, shiny, expensive, lah-dee-dah traffic light. Apparently they used up their whole,
entire budget on this traffic light and therefore couldn't afford road signs. Well, if you're not
from around there, maybe you just don't need to turn there, could be the thinking. Anyway, on the
right, there is a tiny sign behind a bush that says, "Arch Bridge Road," or maybe two words, not 3.
On the left is Dogwood Road or Lane or something. The road that you want to turn left onto actually
has no sign, so I'm not going to guess its name, but it goes through the town of Dunbar. Just try
to keep on this main road until it comes to a T-intersection. The sign should say, "Ohiopyle" to
the left. That's your route. After the Dunbar mine and a big grassy area, the road goes up a steep
hill. Look for the signs for Camp Carmel. Follow these signs to the left. There is one place where
it looks like this side road might turn bad and go straight, or go steeply down a freakin'
ridiculous cliff with a pretty good road surface. Keep to the good surface down the hill; it's
better than it looks from the top. Follow this road basically down to the Yough, where you'll park
next to Morgan Run. Camp Carmel, at the Indian/Yough confluence is @ 1/4 mile downstream (left).
Carry your boats back here from the takeout. There was some speculation among the members of our
group that shuttling through Ohiopyle might be faster than going through Connellsville. This is
wishful thinking. The Camp Carmel turnoff is @ 15 minutes from Ohiopyle and @ 12 minutes from
Connellsville; and Connellsville is closer to the put-in. There is an obnoxious traffic light in
downtown C.ville where traffic gets stuck as you're driving back to the put-in, but you can
circumnavigate it via side streets to the right, if you're more clever than a potato. Much of the
time for this shuttle involves narrow and/or dirt roads. It might be better to just paddle into
Connellsville, and skip the rustic road rallye event, but whitewater boaters seem to be downright
phobic about the thought of paddling flatwater, so I haven't been able to sandbag anyone into
trying that route, yet.
April 23 2009 (3015 days ago)
x (1)
Robert Farmer---I caught this at a minimum level the other day. If you were wondering just what the
minimum is, I would say it is 1.8 on the Route 653 gauge. (Note: this gauge is on river left
upstream of the bridge and has black lettering on dark concrete that makes it almost impossible to
see, let alone read.) Laurel Hill was at @ 1.86/350. At this low level, it was all Class 3, with
the one Class 5---perfect for your
almost-non-paddling-significant-other-in-an-inflatable-kayak-on-a-hot-summer-day. Probably another
foot or so would be quite fun and mostly Class 4. The run starts off with a long left bend, then
goes into a long right bend; toward the end of this right bend, on the right side, is a hole that
is backed by a piece of bedrock from the shore---very sticky at low levels; probably washes out at
some point, but watch out. Best to stay left. The streambed for this creek is pretty much all
smooth bedrock, with many slides and ledges, but not so many boulder gardens---very interesting.
After a while there is a 6-foot ledge; run right (6-foot vertical to a deep pool) or left (short
vertical to a right-curving slide) but not center (6-foot vertical to flat rock). Scout Right. It's
pretty easy to tell when the crux rapid is coming. You'll come to a right bend with undercut
shelves on the left; there are 3 rocks scattered in the way---I thought of them as the 3 horsemen
of the apocalypse. Anyway, it turns out not to be hard, but then there is a 3-4-foot ledge just
downstream that you might want to scout. From here, you can see up ahead that the 80-foot-wide
creek narrows to about 25 feet and acquires some 10-foot shelves for the shorelines---hey, it ain't
rocket science; it's easy to figure out! At low water, the line was elegantly straight, though it
is always trying to force some turns---very interesting. I cleared the undercut rock by a good 2
feet---18 inches, at least! Plenty of room. Or the carry on the right looks perfectly reasonable.
There's a soccer ball jammed in a crack on the bottom left, if you feel like exerting yourself a
bit to get it out. One more scout-worthy rapid (clear on the right), and the creek eases off. I
walked back up the creek from the confluence, but I really can't recommend this hiking shuttle---it
is definitely not 45 minutes, as reported elsewhere! I timed it at one hour and 55 minutes, with no
more than 5 minutes of minor pauses; I was walking briskly, although my boat is big and heavy. Of
course, you don't really have to go all of the way to the confluence, but I like to do that.
Personally, I would rather just do some flat water and a shuttle, but, hey, it's up to you. On
another note, 2 young guys discovered that their ATV doesn't float in the creek; yeah, they hiked
up to the trail, looking a bit spooked, and asked me if I had a truck! Well, I wouldn't be carrying
my boat 4+ freakin' miles uphill if I had a truck, now would I?! I'm thinking that ATVs aren't
supposed to be back here, but about 30 of them passed me, perhaps on a rescue mission. The trail is
a perfect old railroad grade. When I got home, I got out my folding kayak dolly/trailer thingy, and
put it in my car, in case I want to do this one again; it fits nicely in a large boat.
March 27 2008 (3407 days ago)
x (1)
Robert Farmer---I looked at this a little bit last weekend. I saw some local guys taking off it.
Apparently, the approach is different than the description above. To put-in, turn west off of Route
381 at Camp Christian, a few miles north of the town of Mill Run and 0.2 mile south of the steel
truss bridge over Indian Creek Reservoir. Park in the obvious parking lot and walk 1/2 mile to put
in below the dam. The local guys whom I saw said that they took out on river left and walked up an
old road back to the put-in (@5 miles). There is a gauge at the bridge over Indian Creek at Route
653, just a mile or two north of the steel truss bridge and about a mile east. The first day, the
gauge showed 3.5 and looked too high for first-timers (me); the next day, the gauge read 2.75 and
looked good, but the day was cold and snowy, so I passed.
October 7 2005 (4309 days ago)
Renee & Paul ClineDetails
Indian Creek Water Quality Update 10/7/05 from the Tribune-Review
The water still flows orange in some streams in the Laurel Highlands of Fayette and Westmoreland
counties, but if the Mountain Watershed Association has its way, those streams will some day run
crystal clear. It's been 11 years since the nonprofit group was formed by a small group of
volunteers. Since that time, the organization has managed to bring in more than $4 million in
private and government funding for increasingly ambitious environmental projects aimed primarily at
cleaning up acid mine drainage in the streams of the Indian Creek Valley in Donegal, Saltlick and
Springfield townships.
The group's first project, in 1998, was a $20,000 stream bank stabilization project along Indian
Creek in Donegal Township. Since then, the scale of the projects undertaken by the association has
grown, along with the cost and the frustration of dealing with government red tape. Today, the
association is involved in some of its largest and most expensive undertakings, including the $2.4
million Anna and Steve Gdosky Indian Creek Restoration Project.
Beverly Braverman, executive director of the association, explained that the Gdosky project, also
referred to as the Kalp Acid Mine Drainage Treatment Project, is designed to not only treat acid
mine drainage from the former Melcroft No. 1 mine, but also to avert a mine pool blowout that could
dump millions of gallons of acidic mine water into Indian Creek. The first phase, which involved
tapping into a 53 million gallon mine pool that formed when the Melcroft Mine No. 1 was closed and
abandoned in 1966, has been completed. The next step is to draw down the pool and then treat the
orange mine water using a passive treatment system, made up of a series of ponds to be built on a
10-acre plot of land across Route 711 from where the pool is to be tapped. The treatment system is
designed to raise the pH of the mine water to the point where it can be safely drained into Indian
Creek. Braverman said the project is a priority, not only because of the environmental threat of
the acid mine drainage, but also because of the danger a blowout of the mine pool poses to public
….it could flood homes in the area and dump millions of gallons of untreated mine water into Indian
Creek, instantly killing thousands of fish. "Fifty-three million gallons of water would wipe
out Indian Creek, all the way down to the Yough," Braverman said.
Complete story at
June 18 2003 (5151 days ago)
Karl WhippDetails
We paddled this creek on Sunday, June 8th, 2003. We caught it at 2.7' on the bridge gauge. I would
have liked to have seen at least 3', but 2.7' was good to go. It was free of wood as of this date
too. There are countless shoal type rapids with so many side-surf, spin holes its crazy. Definately
a playboat run if you dont mind dropping a couple of 6'+ ledges in your playboat. All the ledges
are recognized by horizon lines. We ran the first big ledge center right. The second one had a
right line and a left boof line. Be sure to take notice of the diagonal hole just downstream on the
river left side that feeds directly into a bad undercut with wood sticking out of it. The center
line proved to be doable, but if you have no momentum or drop off sideways, yer gonna get munched
in the hole below and likely stuck in the curtain (just ask my buddy Adam ;). This ledge is badly
back-cut and may form a second hole behind the curtain. If you run the center line, do so with 1:00
angle....not 12:00 and not 2:00....1:00. Lastly is Terminator. There is a clean line all the way
down the left side. For those with a real need for adrenaline, run the center line all the
way...just be prepared to boof the big hole at the bottom off the rooster tail and for Gods sake,
stay away from river right. Its BADLY undercut and the rock sticking out 4/5 of the way through the
rapid is not only undercut, but has a bad sieve in it. Overall, fun run of the class II-IV nature.
I can see Terminator going class V at high flows. Its visable from the 4-wheel drive road while
running shuttle...stop and look at it so you'll recognize it once you're on the river. Terminators
lead in looks like the other smaller ledge rapids from above.

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