Description: This section of the Little Conemaugh, especially dropping in at Lilly, needs pretty high flows. The gauge is inacurate as well. It all depends where the rain falls. Best bet is to shoot me an email to ask if Cassandra is passable, if so, you can drop in from Lilly down, or if the gauge is 2000cfs or greater, it is probably running. You pass under a lot of original, ungraffitti'ed bridges, which makes for some awesome scenery. It also is freshwater until a certain point where an AMD site called "Mars" can be found on it.
Class II - III continuous creek from Lilly to Portage where it slows down to a float with some class I after "Twin Lakes" in Jamestown on the way down towards Wilmore. From Wilmore to South Fork it picks back up to class I with smaller II after another north branch which is class I and unmarked on AWW comes into it.
I would consider the area through Cassandra to be class III as it starts with a rapid, has some fishing dams to drop down and is a fast through the park all the way to where Ben's Creek meets it past Oil City. There is nothing big water about this, but it can be technical especially at higher flows, only reason its marked a class III.
It is pretty much continous class II from here on out but you must be aware of a natural beaver dam that has formed shortly after Hughes Borehole. Make sure you take the river left channel when the river forks shortly after Hughes. There are still bigger strainers in the river that can easily be avoided and mainly in areas where there is no gradient, but need chainsaw and a crew. Most other trees have been cleared in 2015.
There are river access points to put in and take out all along this section, the main ones in Jamestown, Portage, PA, rt. 160 in Wilmore, and Ehrnefeld before the south branch comes in From Portage to South Fork this section is a very friendly class I with maybe one small class II rapid.
The Little Conemaugh originally ran around the mountain in which it flows through now near Echo in East Conemaugh, but after the flood the mining companies decided to cut through the rock creating Echo Rapid around 1920. Echo rapid is comprised of a straightforward path above the actual drop, then goes to a 5-8 foot waterfall, into a rockslide, into a hole with a rather large pool afterwards. The hole at the bottom can get rather chompy so make sure you scout this thing before you run it. You can tell the rapid is coming up by looking for a green bridge that connects the top of the canyon together, used as an old coal tram. You will also notice some boney piles on the right, and essentially a mountain cut down the middle. Portage to river left through the forest over a train track (just be careful) and around the mountain or through the canyon on a lower day, or up the mountain on the right. Be aware that this hike does suck pretty bad.
IF YOU PLAN ON RUNNING ENTIRE LENGTH TO JOHNSTOWN BE AWARE OF ECHO and check reach South Fork to Johnstown.
When to paddle:The Little Conemaugh river's season ranges from March - June. It is runnable however all year long after rainfall, but does not hold water as well as the Stonycreek. This is the creek section of it and only runs during significant rainfall or snowmelt. It is typically best to go off of a "CFS" range as there are two major branchs to this river with the gauge in Johnstown well after they both adjoin. This section is at the very top of the North section, and the gauge is far, though if the gauge reads 2000 or more CFS, it probably is running.
Release timing: There are no releases on this section of river.
Hazards: There is a natural formed beaverdam river right shortly after "Mars" so take the river left route when it forks. I would like to remove this but I would need some serious help. This is also where the major pollution (Acid Mine Drainage) starts. There is industry polution (few car parts and metal beams which aren't really an issue at all) further down and then when the confluence way down in South Fork happens with the South Branch, it turns to a river and there is a dam shortly after. The dam is runnable at lower levels (under 600 cfs) on far river left, or there is a portage route around it a few hundred yards before, or you can paddle up to the dam and get out on the left at the dam. Their is also a rapid just after Mineral Point take out known as Echo. This can be ran, but is a whole different ballgame than the rest of the river. Once you pass under the viaduct, you will be at Mineral Point. The typical takeout is on the right. If you continue to Johnstown you will have to deal with Echo. It can be portaged but is tricky.
Events: There would be no events for this section, though it is nice to see at the beginning of the season if possible.
Directions: You can put in across from the cemetary in Lilly along the hillside. Take route 53 north from Portage, once in Lilly turn left onto main street, over the bridge and left towards the middle school.
Shuttle:Shuttle can be at a few different locations.
Cemetery Lilly Put in -
Cassandra Access -
Jamestown Access -
Wilmore Access -
South Fork Confluence and Access -Video:
For other streams in this watershed, check out:Stony Canyon (III-IV)Stony Gorge (IV)Roaring Fork (IV)Shade Creek (III-IV)Paint Creek (V)Dark Shade Creek (IV-V)Clear Shade Creek (III)Quemahoning Creek (III)Little Conemaugh River - South (II-III)Little Conemaugh River (II-III(V))Trout Run (IV-)
Put in in Lilly is after the confluence of a smaller stream after the railroad bridge. Look for the big cemetary on the hill, there are a few parking lots on the river. I would drop in downstream from where "Bear Rock Run" comes in, less trees and a bigger creek
Cassandra part I is coming into Cassanrda, "Festivle Park" is on your left. This starts with a class III drop into fast moving water over a fishing dam before going under a bridge. Flood walls surround you. It starts here and will end past the river left turn. After that it continues a bit fast until you go back into the forest with a nice little beach on river left. Lengthy class II/III rapid.
This river will calm a bit until just past Cassandra to "Oil City." This turns back into a class III, not as continuous as before until Ben's Creek flows into it
There is a big tree on the riverbed, after the tree, Noel's creek comes in the right.
This is Jamestown, with Twin Lakes up on the left. You need to be a member to go up there. After twin lakes, it eases quite a bit all the way to the Wilmore take out, then you could continue on down towards South Fork, where it picks back up to a class II creek/river.
You can maybe find parking at Twin Lakes or Jamestown Rod N Gun Club parking lot.
Take Out after the class II - III section, the rest of the river is suspected to be slow to South Fork, more details to come.
There is no active updating gauge, there is a historical one in Wilmore, but the easiest way to see if this is running is to drive to Cassandra and look at the river as it passes under the bridge. If you can see whitewater here and it looks runable, its runable.
Permits are not required for this reach.
Follow route 53 north to Lilly. Once in Lilly, turn left onto main street and go over the big bridge, you will see a cemetary on the hillside on the west side of town. The put in is along the Little Conemaugh here. I would put in after stream "Bear Rock Run."
Take out is in Wilmore off route 160 south, right near Tanner Lumber. There is a parking lot on the other side of pumpstation road after the tunnel on the left. A shorter take out can be near Twin Lakes in Portage PA off of Jamestown Rd. From there down it is class I/II.
Or continue the rest of the length to the confluence of the south branch in South Fork.
Little Conemaugh North
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