Little Conemaugh (South) - St. Michael to South Fork

Little Conemaugh (South), Pennsylvania, US


St. Michael to South Fork (Path of the Flood Part I)

Usual Difficulty II-III (varies with level)
Length 3.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 31 fpm
Max Gradient 36 fpm

Sulfuric Slide

Sulfuric Slide
Photo taken 04/03/17

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Little Conemaugh River at East Conemaugh, PA
usgs-03041000 8.71 - 11.95 ft II-III 00h24m 8.85 ft (running)
May be able to boat, have to scout.

River Description

Description: This run starts in St. Michael, or up further (has not been explored past St. Michael) and continues through South Fork, eventually to Mineral Point or Johnstown. Typical takeout is in Mineral Point, do not run all the way to Johnstown unless you are experienced. This is the riverway which the great flood of 1889 took decimating the city.  It is a pretty nice beginner/intermediate river, mainly a scenic class II river, with a few Class III rapids on it and with one major class V in Echo right past Mineral Point.  For historic reasons, you should put in either in the park of 1889 or where Put-In is marked directly accross the street from the St. Michael firehall in the new park.  The river itself is damaged due to Acid Mine Drainage but it is currently being cleaned up by an active plant in Beaverdale and a few passive treatments.  Along the river you will see a dam, trains and the infamous Conemaugh Viaduct that was rebuilt in 1889 after the flood damaged the first one.  If you are lucky you will see a train go over it as you run the rapid beforehand and under the tunnel.

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.

I personally suggest running this section, coupled with the main river after the north branch comes in, 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.  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.  More than likely, this section runs more than the North Section and can be ran around 400CFS or higher, though scouting from River St. in South Fork to see if the section is running should be easy to do.

Release timing: There are no releases on this river, however there are 2 major resevoir's upstream on various sections that would allow for future releases if possible.

Hazards: Aside from the major pollution (Acid Mine Drainage) and industry polution (few car parts and metal beams which aren't really an issue at all), there is a dam shortly after the confluence of the North and South branches.  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 is a group event, "The Path of the Flood," paddle that I would love to see come into fruition during the week or weekend of May 31st, marking the anniversary (May 31st, 1889) of the great Johnstown Flood.  

Directions: You can either put in at the park of 1889 or right off of the Rager's Hill bridge near Soul Perfection Tattoo.  Putting in near the tattoo shop eliminates a mile or so of flatwater and puts you right before the class 3 begins, however you miss out going through the historic south fork dam that broke.   

Shuttle:Shuttle can be run two ways with two different take outs, though Mineral Point is traditional takeout.

A: Turning back to 53, head north to Summerhill.  Take a left onto Main Street once in Summerhill and head over the railroad bridge and around making a left onto Jackson Street.  Follow Jackson Street (SR3043) and turn left onto Mineral Point Rd.  Follow Mineral Point Rd, to Mineral Point for 3 miles, turn left onto Front St.  There is a old church and across the way from that is a parking area with a picnic table.  Obtained permission to park here as well, the family is nice.

B: Turning back to Maple street, turning right at the Kicks/Fabo intersection onto Lake St, follow until it becomes Rager's Hill Rd.  Continue on Ragers Hill for a while up the hill to Clapboard Run Rd.  An alternate route to Mineral Point can be taken here on the right onto Beech Hill Rd.  Follow Beech Hill Rd to Mineral Point turning right onto Front St and following that to the above location at the church lot.  If you are taking out in Johnstown instead (reminder you will have to deal with Echo), do not take Beech Hill Rd. and continue down until you get into the Franklin section of Johnstown, you will know it.  Turn immediately right after you cross Clapboard Run stream into a park where you can park your car and check the fench to see if it still has an opening in it.  You can park at the park and river access is down the stream through a tunnel to the river.


Park of 1889 put-in: 40.334967, -78.767325
Sandy Run put-in: 40.349101, -78.782962
South Fork Putin:40.364161, -78.794977
Dam: 40.368828, -78.805386
Mineral Point Take-Out: 40.377004, -78.833163
Echo: 40.360915, -78.859768
Johnstown Take-Out: 40.346384, -78.880584

Elevation Profile:

Put In: 1573.8
Alternative Put In: 1534.4
Take Out: 1464

Total Drop: 1573.8-1464 = 109.8ft

Mile 1: 1573.8 - 1552 = 21.8ft
Mile 2: 1552 - 1519 = 33ft
Mile 3: 1519 - 1483.3 = 35.7ft
Mile 4: 1483.3 - 1464 = 19.3


1000 CFS:

2000 CFS:

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 - North (II-III)
Little Conemaugh River - South (II-III)
Trout Run (IV)
Benscreek - Portage (IV-V)

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2017-04-03 14:34:41


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Put InN/APutin Access
1.6Alternative Put-InN/APutin Access Playspot
2.0Small GuyII+Photo
2.1Sulphuric SlidesIIIPlayspot
2.3Sulpher SurferII+
2.4River Wide DropII+
3.4South Fork ConfluenceN/APutin Takeout

Rapid Descriptions

Put In (Class N/A)

Put in at park of 1889 across from the fire company

Alternative Put-In (Class N/A, Mile 1.6)

Shave off the flatwater by putting in here, nice little warmup wave

Small Guy (Class II+, Mile 2.0)

Small Surf

Small Surf
Photo taken 04/03/17

Very small class 2+/3 on certain days, take the river right path.  Down from that is some surf holes.

Sulphuric Slides (Class III, Mile 2.1)

Small Boof and then few different lines, easier line is river left, river right features a boof.  Eddy to the left and walk it again.

Railroad (Class III, Mile 2.2)

Smaller class III, hole on the left about half way down. 

Sulpher Surfer (Class II+, Mile 2.3)

Some smaller surfing holes after the railroad rapid.

River Wide Drop (Class II+, Mile 2.4)

A river wide drop about 3-4 feet.  Run it around middle river right, easy boof, nothing major.  After this it continues on at class II continuous until South Fork.  See other reach.

South Fork Confluence (Class N/A, Mile 3.4)

Put in, take out, continue through, portage the dam

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