Holtwood has a number of different boating options:
The new Whitewater Park! The Whitewater Park is located at the base of the old fish ladder along the river right shore, just upstream of Route 373. The park is activated during scheduled releases in early spring and fall, and the schedule can be found here. American Whitewater worked closely with local paddlers to negotiate construction of the whitewater park as mitigation for excavations and flow impacts to natural whitewater features downstream of the dam. The park features a big extremely fast breaking wave at the top, a strong and dynamic hole in the middle, and a finicky but at times very nice small wave at the outflow of the park.
When Holtwood Dam is spilling at high flows, paddlers can make a circuit of all of the spots listed below, except for Almond Joy. I have listed the circuit in logical order. Please note that this circuit will require long upstream attainments and carry's across islands .
Description of the river right channel
Big Water fun, Class IVPlayspotsStorm HoleThe Play Spot
Other Squirt linesPut In
the playspot list, low water to high water
Storm Hole 5.5 thru 6.7
Playspot 6.0 to 7.5
Playspot II 7.5 to 10+
Powerline 7.5 and up
Rumble Pit 7.0 to 8.0
Pleaseant Surprise 7.5 to 9.5
Rock-N-Roll Hole (aka Almond Joy) 8.0 to 10.0
Accelerator 10.0 to 12.5
Mama Bear 11+
You can do some creeking in the fish ladder on river left at the breast of the dam. I must warn you that the river left wall of the fish ladder has holes that are blown out that create sieves. There is a lot of rebar in the Fish Laddeer. I know a few locals that have run it. When there is a lot of water coming through the the fish ladder, the dangers are not as evident. I tell people to look at it first without water before you decide to run it. I typically put in about 1/2 way down the fish ladder, you still get a little creeking before you hit the pumping Susquehanna.
The Holtwood whitewater park consists of 3 spots on river right (west), made from the flow of a dam flood gate, some cement, and a large boulder wall to constrict the flow. head north from 372 on River Road near the Lock 12 historical park. Follow the road up to near the dam and park. There is a large path to get to the river with plenty of warning signs, you can see the river from this parking area. It releases in Spring and Fall, after fish and rare plant season, but before and after ice season... (Oct-Nov, March-April)
Do not paddle above the three spots - (maybe what the above description is referring to the fish ladder?)
The upper spot - is a large wave, the river falls about 10 feet into a wide wave with a large downstream wave train. Eddie service on both sides provide easy access. It is very fast, tall and bouncy. Not overly retentive, ie easy to get out river left.
The middle spot - is more of a hole, a smaller drop maybe 5 feet. This one is more similar to a feature you would find on a river. Easy to catch the current and entry/exit on either side, easier river left.
The lower spot - is a narrow wave, kinda washed out with higher releases. Not retentive unless you have a fast boat.
Any chance someone could do an update here? Supposedly, this has changed a lot with a $4M whitewater park. A good article on it (with some good photos of action there) is: http://m.lancasteronline.com/sports/outdoors/million-whitewater-playboating-park-below-holtwood-dam-tested-about-to/article_09276d42-5099-11e4-84f2-0017a43b2370.html?mode=jqm
The full 'old' guide to it is available at: http://chasingrain.com/surfguide/Holtwoodguide.pdf
Holtwood is best accessed from McCall's Ferry road (River Right). There is a trail leading down to the river next to the large warning sign (with the Starrk-Moon sticker) under the powerline. Take the Trail to the left. If you plan on staying above the bridge, simply attain or walk back up the the put-in. If you head downstream, you'll want to set a shuttle and take out at the Lock 15 area, reached off of River Rd. (McCall's Ferry Rd downstream of Rt 372.) Park outside of the gate if you're going to take off after sunset.
Unfortunately, several people have had their cars broken into here (some more than once). It's best to leave your valuables at home. Most of the time the theifs steal wallets, cell phones, CD's, and the like, and don't usually go after the smelly boating gear you leave in your car,but to be on the safe side, if you have an extra boat on your car, make sure it's locked up securely and it's best not to leave boats unattended when running or walking shuttle. Consider yourself warned.
Re: Give us the holtwood beta... by Bradley Jan 01 2004, 20:44 GMT New
Date: Jan 01 2004, 23:12 GMT
Holtwood is on the Susquahanna River in Southern PA. The good playspots are about 1/4 mile downstream from the huge dam. Check it out at chasingrain.com
For the real skinny on Holtwood play, surf over to the constantly evolving Susquehanna Surf Guide at:
Colby runs Holtwood Dam New
Date: Aug 26 2003, 23:01 GMT
Homeboy Colby Mackley comes in from the Olympic Pennisula borrows a boat and heads out and runs the big dam left of center. Colby was out scouting the dam yesterday and decided it could be done. Colby said that he dropped off the biggest horizone line ever out on the big river. Some boards were missing and the water was just below the remaining boards as he got his ass launched into the air coming off the lip. Cool stuff on the Susquehanna. Not for others. Don't try this at home. Brad@Starrkmoon
Isn't the fish ladder on river right?
3 months ago
by Kevin Colburn
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Park Wave - top close
Park Hole - middle
Park Wave - top
Unnamed Holtwood Wave
Storm Hole Loop
Accelerator at Holtwood
Upper Piney Channel - Holtwood
Holtwood Dam and Downstream
Steve Graybill below Holtwood Dam
Joe Stumpfel on Shockwave
Mark Cecchini & Rob Terry at Playspot 1
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
Anticipation was running high for the first public dam releases on the newly constructed Holtwood Whitewater Park this fall, however the final round of testing in early October revealed more work was needed before opening the park. Testing and modifications are ongoing, and we'll release a schedule of releases early next year. The good news is that the waves are going to be incredible.
Earlier this week the owner of the Holtwood Hydroelectric Project on the Susquehanna River (PA) initiated a construction process that will result in two sizeable whitewater waves at the base of a defunct fish ladder on the west side of the dam. Once completed, the waves will be activated by 264 hours of scheduled water releases each year as well as by significant periods of spill. The waves will provide for high quality freestyle kayak surfing opportunities. Construction is anticipated to be complete by year end, and releases should begin no later than the summer of 2013.
On December 15th, 2011, the owner of Holtwood Dam on the Susquehanna River submitted a whitewater boating plan to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for approval. The plan calls for two new whitewater features to be built immediately downstream of Holtwood Dam along the York County side of the Susquehanna River at the base of a defunct fish ladder. It is anticipated that the construction of the features will occur in 2012, and will be fully operational in 2013.
Last week, the owner of the Holtwood Hydroelectric Project on the Susquehanna River resubmitted their project expansion proposal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and requested expedited approval. This action restarts the process for modifying the Holtwood Project that was shelved in December. American Whitewater and our partners are working with the owner to fully implement the settlement agreement we signed last year to minimize and mitigate recreational impacts of this hydro-project expansion.
Yesterday the owner of Holtwood Dam on the Susquehanna River announced that they would not move forward with their plans to install additional generation capacity to their dam. In a statement on their website, William H. Spence, executive vice president and chief operating officer of PPL Corporation stated: "As we evaluated this project in light of current economic conditions and projections of future energy prices, we reached the conclusion that it is no longer economically justifiable.”
Representatives from the paddling community today reached an Agreement in Principle with the owner of the Holtwood Hydroelectric Project, Pennsylvania Power and Light. This tentative agreement supports fish passage goals, power generation, and protects and/or mitigates whitewater boating opportunities.
The dam owner and FERC staff will conduct a site visit and host public meetings regarding the Holtwood Hydroelectric Project on Thursday, April 17, 2008. Holtwood is located on the Susquehanna River. The dam owner is proposing to install additional turbines, modify the channel, and delay relicensing their dam, each of which will impact paddling opportunities downstream.
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