Susquehanna River - Saginaw Railroad Bridge

Susquehanna River, Pennsylvania, US


Saginaw Railroad Bridge (The Wave)

Usual Difficulty III (for normal flows)
Length 2 Miles
Avg. Gradient 5 fpm
Max Gradient 5 fpm

"The Wave"

"The Wave"
Photo of Walt Shank by Bill Bishard taken 12/16/01 @ 3.9 ft

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Susquehanna River at Harrisburg, PA
usgs-01570500 3.80 - 4.20 ft III 01h31m 4.58 ft (too high)

River Description

The "Wave" is a 4 to 5 ft high wave that is 30 feet across. A pillow hole forms in the middle that allows for 360 spins and the river right edge of the wave is good for blunts.There is a huge eddy on the river right side of the wave behind the railroad bridge concrete truss. Washing off the wave to far down stream requires alot of work to get back to the eddy. The trick is to enjoy your surf and then to slide back into the eddy, without getting washed off.

You can easily spend anywhere from 2 -6 hours at the Wave.
Put In and Take out are the same place

Follow the same directions as to the Codorus Creek Takeout. See Codorus Creek. Instead of turning right when you cross over the Codorus Creek at the takeout, turn left onto River Farm Road. Follow this gravel road for about 1/2 mile, until the road starts to curve to the right and gets away from the Codorus Creek. There is limited parking on the left side of River Farm Road.

Put In on the Codorus Creek, you have to paddle approximately 1/2 mile on the Codorus to reach the Susquehanna River. Paddle and Ferry straight across the river, you'll see a Railroad Bridge downstream of you. You must be about 3/4 of the way across the width of the river before you cross under the Railroad bridge. As you are looking at the railroad bridge, you will notice old stone trusses and new concrete trusses, you want to go between the old stone truss and the new concrete truss, on the river left side of the new concrete truss.. 50 yards before you pass under the railroad bridge is a micro eddy and a nice cartwheel ledge/hole. When you pass under the bridge catch the huge river irght eddy, behind the large concrete truss. The wave is now towards river left. Please be aware that the current is swift below the wave. A swim here will end oup with the boater and rescuer a 1/4 to 1 mile below the wave, and on the wrong side of the river. The Susquehaanna river is a very wide river. And below tthe wave there is not much for eddies for a weary swimmer to catch. I never recommend anyone paddling out here alone. It is only Class III, but if you swim, you are in for along swim.

To get back to the Put In/Take Out, you can set a shuttle downstream of the railroad bridge on river right or left. But this is not the standard way off taking off the river. We typically, paddle out of the eddy at the wave from behind the truss towards the river left side of the concrete truss. There is a small island in front of the next truss over. You have to get out of your boat in front of this truss and rock hop upstream to the last available piece of broken concrete. This concrete fragment is large enough for at least 3 or 4 boats to launch from. Upstream ferry at a 45 degree angle towards river right. Keep your nose targeted on the outlet of the Codorus Creek. It will take you at least 10 minutes to ferry across the river. Once you are along the river right shoreline, you have the following options. You can try to attain your way up along the river right shoreline and than paddle upstream on the Codrus. I've done it and is a pain in the ass, especially since you arms are already spent after all the paddling and playing you have already done. We typically get out on the river right shoreline right above the railroad bridge in a little cove. You will find a hiking trailing straight ahead. The hike out is approximately 1 mile. There are no good landmarks to find the beginning of the trail, so your best bet is to go with someone that knows the way.Ultimately, you need to see the Codorus Creek on your right. If you have not seen the Codorus Creek after about 0.5 miles, than your are lost. Following this trail will take you right back to your car. You will cross under the railroad truss that crosses the Codorus about 1/2 way on the trail, so you can look for that landmark also.
StreamTeam Status: Verified
Last Updated: 2002-01-20 06:19:12

Rapid Descriptions

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User Comments

Users can submit comments.
August 19 2013 (1676 days ago)
Steve BeckerDetails
This can also be a run - starting on the eastern side at the town of Bainbridge. Called the
Haldeman Riffles, there are 5 class 2 ledges, and some nice surfing at one well before the bridge.
The Wave can easily be avoided by taking any of the other river chutes making a nice class 2 run
for beginners, but just about anyone should be able to go straight through it, as long as you do
not have an open deck boat. The Wave is located in the bridge chute left of the largest abutment on
the river left (seventh tunnel from the river left edge). The island on its left is a nice spot for
a break. Take out on river left at - River Front Park. The last mile is flat water. The river flow
really slows after the bridge all the way to Chickies Rock (another 4 miles downstream/lake).
May 11 2006 (4334 days ago)
Chris PreperatoDetails
At levels above 4.1 or so, you have to start from the eddy on river left of the wave to catch
it...which means you have to basically walk up the island beside that eddy and ferry out into the wave, and try to slip back into the eddy.

Anything below 4.0 is easy to catch though
October 22 2005 (4534 days ago)
Mark CooperDetails
The wave is very hard to catch in a short, spud boat @ 4.1. It's difficult to get across the eddy
line and over the green on river right and into the pile without getting flushed. The word is that
at 3.9 it's a little easier to catch in a short boat. Bob's S8 did well @ 4.1 so bring your fast

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