Stonycreek River - 2 - Stony Canyon

Stonycreek River, Pennsylvania, US


2 - Stony Canyon (Hollsopple to Carpenters Park)

Usual Difficulty III (varies with level)
Length 5.7 Miles

Scout rapid surf

Scout rapid surf
Photo taken 04/25/05

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Stonycreek River at Ferndale, PA
usgs-03040000 470 - 4000 cfs III 00h19m 751 cfs (running)

River Description

This section has great play all over it. It primarily consists of ledges coming at you from all directions, though there are a few boulders thrown in as well.

When to paddle: This river is typically runnable on natural flow after significant rainfall and in the winter, spring, and fall. In 2012, the Stonycreek Quemahoning Initiative helped to install a new valve and new whitewater park on the Stonycreek River. From April until October, the Quemahoning Reservoir has recreational whitewater releases every other Saturday and Sunday, assuming the lake level is above the minimum. Late summer and fall releases are highly dependent on lake level. See the Benscreek Canoe Club page on the Quemahing Releases for updated info on release schedule. To continue supporting these releases, please consider donating to the SQI/Whitewater Fund.

Release timing: Scheduled releases will be on Saturdays and Sundays.  Releases start around 7 AM and the river should rise at Faustwell Bridge put-in by 10 AM.  Water should start dropping at Faustwell by 2 PM (each day).  Water should start to rise around 1 PM at Carpenter’s Park.  Note: each release is a 1 hr ramp up, 4 hr full release, and a 1 hr ramp down.

Hazards: there are two man-made structures. The first is Border Dam, which has spikes that can put a serious hurt on your boat. Below 7' Ferndale, it's wise to walk this one on River Left. The second structure is Pipeline, just downstream of the dam. It's runnable via a tongue on river left; the hole in the center is punchable at most levels, as well, but hit it in the wrong spot and you can get stuck in a very nasty hydraulic.

Most of the good play occurs upstream of Border Dam, though there are play waves below.

Events: The Stonycreek River is home to the Stonycreek Rendezvous, a whitewater festival that is held at Greenhouse Park in mid- to late- May of each year. Benscreek Canoe Club works with the Quemahoning Reservoir to ensure that there is enough water to paddle Stony Canyon on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the festival.

See the Benscreek Canoe Club Stonycreek Watershed Page.

Directions: This river has two popular put-ins: either at the ballfield in Hollsopple which adds about 1 mile of flatwater/warm-up prior to showers, or at the bridge on Rte. 601 in Foustwell. The takeout is at Carpenters Park, on river right. From Hollsopple, take State Rte. 601 to Foustwell. Make a left before the bridge that goes over the Stony onto SR 4039. Follow this road for about 2 miles and under Rt. 219 (4-lane road). Just past Rte. 219 make a right onto Kaufman Church Road (there's a church on the corner). Follow for about a mile and a half and turn right at the stop sign onto SR 4022 (Carpenters Park Road). Follow over Rte. 219 (4-lane road) and down to the Stony takeout (Carpenters Park).

Hollsopple Put-In: 40.210790, -78.922907
Faustwell Bridge Put-In: 
40.215315, -78.901279
Carpenters Park Take-Out: 40.244293, -78.883687

For other streams in this watershed, check out:
Conemaugh River (I-II)
Clear Shade Creek (III)
Quemahoning Creek (III)
Shade Creek (III-IV)
Stony Gorge (IV)
Roaring Fork (IV)
Dark Shade Creek (IV-V)
Paint Creek (V)
Little Conemaugh River - North (II-III)
Little Conemaugh River - South (II-III)
Little Conemaugh River (II-III(V))

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-01-14 12:10:25


Stream team editor

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Hollsopple Ballfield Put-inN/APutin
1.4Foustwell Bridge Put-InN/APutin Access
1.6Shade Creek Surf WaveII+Playspot
1.7Split StreamIII
1.8Surf LabIIIPlayspot
2.2Lower RailroadIII
2.4The WallIII
2.6Three Ugly SistersIIIPlayspot
2.9Rooster TailIII
4.2Border DamN/APortage Hazard
5.5Eddy HopII+
5.7Carpenters Park Take-outN/ATakeout

Rapid Descriptions

Hollsopple Ballfield Put-in (Class N/A)

The first of two popular put-ins: the ballfield in Hollsopple which adds about 1 mile of flatwater/warm-up prior to showers, then about 1/4 mile down to the PA 601 Foustwell Bridge

Showers (Class III+, Mile 1.1)

To run Showers, put on in Benson/Hollsopple or park at Foustwell and walk up the dirt road. The river funnels into a fast-moving wave train that spits your boat into a V-shaped hole that has a tendency to flip many kayakers. The hole is not sticky. There are two smaller holes just downstream and a heavy rock garden below the main rapid that paddlers can pick their way through.

Foustwell Bridge Put-In (Class N/A, Mile 1.4)

Alternate spot to park and put-in for Stonycreek. You can put in here to avoid Showers, or walk up stream about a quarter mile to put in right above Showers. This will avoid the approximate 1 mile of flatter warm-up that you get when putting in at the Hollsopple Ballfield.

Shade Creek Surf Wave (Class II+, Mile 1.6)

Right where Shade Creek joins up with the Stony, there are a couple of small surf waves to get warmed up on that you easily access from an eddy on river right, or in the middle of the river. A good place to warm up when not too busy, but the main event is downriver in Surf Lab.

Split Stream (Class III, Mile 1.7)

At the end of the pool where Shade Creek enters, the river splits around an island. This is sometimes called "Split Stream", or "Road Rapid" due to the access road way on river-left.

The river-right channel around the island is the usual line, and provides a couple small boofs and eddy turns around a short, but technical boulder garden.

Surf Lab (Class III, Mile 1.8)

This rapid is packed with play spots. From the beginning of Johnson's Hole and Test Tube Hole down to an overhead railroad bridge, there are 10 to 15 nice play spots, depending on the water level. This rapid is 1/4-mile below where Shade Creek enters the Stony on river-right.

Lower Railroad (Class III, Mile 2.2)

Just downstream of a railroad bridge, this rapid begins with a long slide that ends with a nice haystack wave. Immediately after this comes the Locomotive – a ledge that stretches nearly across the width of the river from river left. At mid- to high-levels, the ledge transforms into a mean hole that can reach the size of a large locomotive. The hole can be avoided easily on river-right (but not too far right--watch out for Atticus Rock), and three to five great surfing waves usually form over the next 100 yards.

The Wall (Class III, Mile 2.4)

This rapid easily can be identified where the river splits into two channels around an island and makes a hard drop to the right and a shear slope is on your left. The left channel is the main line. Drop in at the top on river left, and follow the water down, avoiding some boulders in the bottom section. The right channel is straightforward, but very bony at low water. 

Three Ugly Sisters (Class III, Mile 2.6)

Soon after The Wall you will enter a succession of rapids named the Three Sisters that provide wonderful surfing at medium to high levels. The Third Sister is a near-river-wide hydraulic than can be enjoyed at low levels also. There have been up to nine boats in that hole at the same time on numerous occasions.

Rooster Tail (Class III, Mile 2.9)

This rapid is run left of a river island through a mid-sized shoot. Try to stay along the left side of the island to avoid the odd-shaped “rooster tail” hole.

Scout (Class III, Mile 3.0)

The river eventually will bottleneck into a hole named Scout on river-right. This hole is a play-boater’s dream at low to medium levels. Just be sure to scout up river for any traffic before jumping in the hole.

Hydro (Class III, Mile 3.1)

Just after Scout there’s a large boulder in the middle of the river. Hydro is run by pointing the boat at “1:00” in front of this boulder. Depending on levels, there can be a standing wave in the middle of the drop and a nice-size hole at the bottom that can be a little sticky, followed by a large pool after the rapid. These two features can provide some of the best play-boating on the river between 4.75 (~1,500 cfs) and 6 (~3,000 cfs) feet on the USGS Ferndale Gauge.

Beast (Class III, Mile 3.2)

Affectionately named, this rapid features one of the steepest drops on the river. Not known for play-boating, Beast can flip paddlers at the top of the rapid and make them thankful they can roll back up – as a swim always ends with bumps and bruises. After Hydro, stay right of the river island. After bending back to the left, there are two choices at the top of the rapid: left through a slot and over a pour-over, or right through a series of chicane-configured rock gardens. At the bottom of the rapid is a medium-sized moving pool.

Backward (Class II, Mile 3.9)

Stony Canyon veterans traditionally run this rapid with their bows pointing upstream and hold that position until they float through the rapid and into the Border Dam pool.

Border Dam (Class N/A, Mile 4.2)

This used to be considered runnable, but the understructure is falling apart, and your boat (and body) risk unfortunate encounters with construction materials and large exposed bolts. Portage river left.

Pipeline (Class III, Mile 4.5)

This rapid should be scouted by first-timers and portaged on river-right if the line is not apparent. The unnatural pipeline across the river forms a potentially dangerous hydraulic and should be avoided. There is always a tongue on river left that can be successfully and safely run. Start left over the drop then make your way to the middle to avoid a nasty rock garden.

Hermit (Class II+, Mile 5.0)

A series of mild rock gardens that is run most easily on river-right.

Dislocation (Class III, Mile 5.3)

Dislocation Rock is tucked against the right side of the river and has a noticeable undercut feature. A nasty hole is just above the rock and should be avoided between 3.75 (~1,000 cfs) and 5.5 (~2,500 cfs) feet on the Ferndale Gauge. There are a series of glassy surfing waves with good eddy access just behind the rock when levels are between 4.5 (~1,200 cfs) and 6 (~3,000 cfs) feet on the USGS Ferndale Gauge.

Eddy Hop (Class II+, Mile 5.5)

Nice little boulder garden prior to the takeout that has eddies on the right and left of the channel. Most boaters try to hop down through this section, trying to catch as many of the eddies as possible.

Carpenters Park Take-out (Class N/A, Mile 5.7)

Take-out on river right just below the bridge.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
May 20 2012 (2397 days ago)
Charles WalbridgeDetails
I just got back from the Stony Creek Rendezvous near Johnstown, PA. This is the first year that the
new valve at Quemahoning Dam released into the river. It added 500 cfs to the river, roughly
doubling the flow. What a great creek! Like the Tohockon, but bigger, like the Yough, but more
continuous and playful. They'll be releasing every other weekend for the rest of the year. It's
part of a multi-millon dollar project that paddlers had a big role in, cleaning up the water and
creating a new whitewater park. Check it out!
August 16 2010 (3040 days ago)
wpowel (151629)
There is a tree down about 1/3 of a mile below the railroad bridge at what I understand is the 2nd
Ugly Sister. It is after the river turns 90 degrees to the right after the railroad bridge. It
covers about 1/3 of the river on river right. It is easily seen and avoided.
April 26 2009 (3517 days ago)
x (1)
Warning! There is a very large tree that is lodged in the large rock below pipeline. Get out and
scout at all river levels. We ran it at 3.5 today and the tree is a factor but at higher levels it
could make this rapid deadly. AS OF 4-25-09 (FESTIVAL WEKEND) THIS TREE HAD BEEN CLEARD OUT.!
September 2 2008 (3753 days ago)
x (1)
9-02-08 there is a big tree down that crosses the river @ the 1st major rapid that you come to if
you put in @ the baseball field. It looks as tho somebody chopped it down. It may wash out when the
water gets high again, but then who knows.
May 1 2006 (4608 days ago)
Sean O'MalleyDetails
Ran this on 4/29/06 at 3.5 Ferndale, about 2 ft on the putin bridge. This seemed the lowest
reasonable level, perhaps even below, for my tastes. Many nice playspots still, but a lot of the
drops were VERY bony and technical. I guess folks put up with the boat abuse to get to the

In contrast, I think 4 or 4.25 Ferndale is a lovely level. The run is nearly continuous, boat
scoutable class 3 at that reading, with short recovery pools below most drops and lots of surf
March 29 2004 (5370 days ago)
Ran this on March 28, 2004 at 4 feet on USGS and 2.5 on the bridge. The best/biggest rapid is the
one just above the gauge bridge. Don't know its name but it was a fun one!! The play below the
bridge was incredible. At 1100 cfs it was fun class three, with only the rapid above the bridge
rating a 3+. At the 1100 cfs level there was nothing that was close to a class 4 on the river. We
looked at the dam, there was no logical reason to run it or submit the boats to the abuse. We
carried left.

Overall the run is very pool drop with good sized pools for rescuing beginners. The run is good for
beginners with good rolls.
October 1 2003 (5551 days ago)
Fritz CrytzerDetails
26 September 2003: Ran this at a 2.5" level in a tandem open boat with my daughter, Rozalyn,
and some friends. Very good run with continuous Class III action. Forget about the dam-it's just
not worth it with the threat of rebar to puncture boats and people! Pipeline was over rated at this
level. Easy to run left of center. Otherwise, great rapids, fun holes and waves, good technical
Class III river!

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