Paint Creek - SR 56 to Stonycreek River

Paint Creek, Pennsylvania, US


SR 56 to Stonycreek River

Usual Difficulty V (for normal flows)
Length 2.54 Miles
Avg. Gradient 124 fpm

Big Sluice

Big Sluice
Photo of Zacahary Frederick by Roger Loughney taken 11/20/05 @ Medium-Low water

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Stonycreek River at Ferndale, PA
usgs-03040000 5.50 - 10.00 ft V 01h01m 3.98 ft (too low)

River Description


This is the Paint Creek in Johnstown PA.  The creek itself is highly damaged and polluted by AMD.  Each year there is a Paint Creek pick-up to fish trash from the creek.

Paint creek flows after heavy rain and run's more often than the gauge is listed.  Typically if the Little Conemaugh gauge takes on rain, then paint more than likely runs, or if the Stonycreek gauge hits 5.5ft, its more than likely paint is running.

There is a painted gauge at Carpentars Park.  The levels are as follows:

Bare minimum (really jonesin' for it): now -16", was -12"
Low-med (most mortal's minimum): now -12" to -9", was -6" to -3"
Med (worth driving from a distance for): now -9" to -6", was -3 to 0"
Med-high: now -6" to 3", was 0-6"
High: now 3-6", was 6-9"
Connoisseur: now 6+", was 9+"

Paint put in is typically just up from route 56 where Little Paint Creek meets Paint Creek.  There are 2 waterfalls just above put in that can also be ran.  Little Sandy's Falls (Little Paint) is the easier of the two and more rocky, but have witnessed both being ran successfully.  Hit your boof.  

Paint starts with "Deal-Breaker" and continues its steep decent under route 56 all the way down to the Stonycreek.  After deal breaker tons of ledges and drops all the way down to the first named rapid, Mousetrap.  You will go over catwalk falls, big falls, big sluice and road hole on your way down (descriptions in rapids).  Carpenter's park serves as its take out and has a gauge on the railroad bridge that spans it.

After Catwalk falls, there is a path all the way alongside via river left.  I believe it is a sewer pipeline.  Anything can be easily portaged via this route.  

When to paddle: 

Paint Creek season peaks in the Spring.  March and April are good months but it can run after significant rainfall.   Look for the Stonycreek Gauge to hit 5.5 feet or over 1.8K cfs.  The Little Conemaugh gauge may be better to go off of, if the Little Conemaugh is 9.5ft or higher, or rainfall peaks, Paint may be low runnable.

Release timing:

There are no releases on this creek.


Major AMD and other pollution in this creek.  Don't drink the water.  Also be aware of potential strainers after stormy events and the winter.


Potential for "paint creek race".


You can access paint creek in Windber/Paint area.  If you are travelling via 56 south, take the Paint exit and make a right towards windber.  You should see on your left a bigger church with a nice parking lot that trucks sometimes park in.  You can park here and walk down to the area where Paint meets Little Paint, or run one of the two waterfalls on either stream.  Take out is at Carpenter's Park, where the Stonycreek Canyon take out is.


From Carpenter's Park, follow SR 4022 (Cottage Ln.) all the way into Windber/Paint.  Make a left as it turns into main street and park at the church as your cross 56.  Cottage Ln. follows the entire length of Paint Creek.


Paint Putin: 40.245079, -78.847503
Carpenter's Park Take-Out: 40.244544, -78.884373

Elevation Profile:

Put In: 1615.6
Take Out: 1301.9

Total Drop: 1615.6-1301.9 = 313.7ft

Mile 1: 1615.6 - 1489.1 = 126.5
Mile 2: 1489.1 - 1419.7 = 69.4
Mile 3: 1419.7 - 1301.9 = 117.8


For other streams in this watershed, check out:

Stony Canyon (III-IV)
Stony Gorge (IV)
Roaring Fork (IV)
Shade Creek (III-IV)
Dark Shade Creek (IV-V)
Clear Shade Creek (III)
Quemahoning Creek (III)
Little Conemaugh River - North (II-III)
Little Conemaugh River - South (II-III)
Little Conemaugh River (II-III(V))
Trout Run (IV)


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-05-15 17:24:56


Stream team editor

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Little Sandy'sN/APutin Waterfall
0.0Paint FallsVPutin Waterfall Photo
0.8Catwalk FallsIVWaterfall
1.0Mine 37III
1.7Big FallsIVWaterfall
1.8Big SluiceIV+Photo
1.9Momma's CrackIV
2.0Road HoleIV
2.5Take OutN/ATakeout

Rapid Descriptions

Little Sandy's (Class N/A)

10-12 foot waterfall, typically ran on the right.

Paint Falls (Class V)

Lee hitting big paint falls

Lee hitting big paint falls
Photo taken 06/02/17

Ran on the right, hit your boof or piton below.

Dealbreaker (Class IV, Mile 0.1)

First rapid after putin, or after the waterfalls.  It has river wide holes all the way down, we worked our way from left to right.  There is a short break right before the tunnel, where there is a choppy rapid through the tunnel as well.  If you are intimidated by dealbreaker, you should turn around now! 

Drops (Class III+, Mile 0.3)

After dealbreaker are a few un-named rapids.  Some fairly straightforward drops, some that have some technicallity to it.  There is one with a rolling wave on the right, so navigate that with some precision.  It then turns into smaller bogey water until mousetrap.

Mousetrap (Class V, Mile 0.7)

Mousetrap on Paint

Mousetrap on Paint
Photo taken 06/02/17

The creek will split as you approach an island in the center. You can scout from the island, but to run it you will want to go left of the island.  Blind entry; continuous; one clean route (left to right). Also has been run backwards, sideways, and upside down – though not recommended. Note: Numerous pinning spots.

Catwalk Falls (Class IV, Mile 0.8)

A short bit after mousetrap starts some waves and curlers upon reaching a scrapey cascading drop with catwalk/pipe above. Five feet vertical drop; muncher hole on river-left / middle; pool at bottom. Clean drop on river-right.

Mine 37 (Class III, Mile 1.0)

After Catwalk falls begins almost a mile stretch of class 3+ bogey water.  Just poke through using your best judgement as you will pass under a pipeline and go around Mine 37, and underneath another catwalk.  Eventually it calms down again before Big Falls. 

Big Falls (Class IV, Mile 1.7)

You will be aware of entry into this rapid when you see a huge round rock directly in the center of the creek. Wide-open visible line from left to right. Nice boof move.  Note: Watch the undercut far river-right.  Easily avoidable.  Can be scouted via river right.

Big Sluice (Class IV+, Mile 1.8)

Dropping into Big Sluice

Dropping into Big Sluice
Photo of Zacahary Frederick by Jason Miller taken 03/25/07 @ -1'

30 yards past Big Falls. Blind entry; almost vertical; rooster tail wave half way down; joyous “V” shaped hole at bottom; drops into a fast moving recirculating pool. This rapid has shown up in many nightmares. Recommend scouting.  Note: Low volume boats almost always come out vertical here.

Momma's Crack (Class IV, Mile 1.9)

75 yards past Big Sluice. In the middle of a rock garden; deceptively undercut rock at low to medium levels (this undercut has held boats in the past).  One lost paddle in “The Crack” to date. Recommend scouting (though you may not even notice it if you are not familiar with it).

Road Hole (Class IV, Mile 2.0)

House and road will be in front of you on river left. Creek bottlenecks into a recirculating hole; drops into a pool.  Depending on levels, can boof of the edges.  Undercut on the right.  Scoutable via left.

Take Out (Class N/A, Mile 2.5)

The rest is bogey class 3, easier than the above bogey class 3.  Take out is at Carpentar's Park river left, or continue down the Lower Stonycreek to Greenhouse Park

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