Walnut Creek, Pennsylvania, US
|Usual Difficulty||II-III(IV) (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||30 fpm|
|Max Gradient||35 fpm|
|Walnut Creek Upstream Pool, near Erie, PA|
|usgs-04213152||300 - 2000 cfs||II-III(IV)||01h14m||18.7 cfs (too low)|
NOTE: A new gauge has been installed on Walnut Creek itself!!! Because of this and checking Elk's visual gauge simultaniously, it is now known that Walnut takes less water than Upper and Middle Elk.
This run starts out easy and picks up significantly throughout the run. There are numerous play
oppertunities throughout the run. As you approach the Route 20 bridge, the rapids begin to build.
As the river makes a sharp bend to the right, a fun wave train develops on the river left. Beyond
Route 20 property is posted on both sides, so you will want to stay off the shorelines. About 75
yards below Route 20, there is a rapid created by concrete slabs. The gradient then tapers off
for a short distance until you come to the first railroad bridge and enters a beautiful gorge. Be
careful here because strainers tend to build up on the bridge pillars.
About 0.25 miles downstream, the river is divided into two tunnels with 3' drops at the end of them and catchy holes. You must take the left tunnel! The right tube ends with exposed metal! Just as Route 5 comes into view around a right hand bend, the river gets extremely wide, thus becomes quite shallow. The deepest route is right center. Just before Route 5, there are some nice surfing ledges and small drops and after passing under Route 5 a long stretch of several hundred yards of solid Class II with boulders and standing waves strewn about. About 0.4 miles after Route 5 there is rapid called Michael Falls. It was named after the first dude known to flip here and swim. It is horse shoe shaped and not very high (about 4 feet), but do not underestimate this rapid! There is a nasty Class IV hole in the center of the river! It has also been named 50/50 Hole because of its record of flipping about half of those who hit the hole. Sneak routes are on both the river right and left and are quite easy. Just downstream is Devil's Advocate. This one is river wide, but not as bad.
The next 100 yards are called The Slides and it is a narrow spot with a series of holes. If you swim at Michael Falls, you will probably have to swim The Slides. This area can be very nice even when the water is a little lower than the recomended level. Instead of a fast, roaring sluice, the section breaks down into a few short rapids. Depth in these rapids is usually still three or more feet deep. This makes The Slides very good for enders and cartwheels. There are about five good waves to surf with plentiful eddies along the banks of the river. The first one is about 10 yards below Michael Falls. The others are after Devil's Advocate. Although Devil's Advocate can be surfed, it is very irregular, deep, and sticky. It is quite similar to the first hydaraulic of Double Hydraulics on the Lower Yough. At the bottom of the slides is a large pool. You then cross under Manchester Road and there are a couple of nice Class II surfing ledges. Be aware of trees that were placed in the river bed for fishing purposes. They are not strainers however, because there is no void space underneath them. The trees are in a V shape pointing upstream. At low water it is a small tight drop down the center (the only deep route) and twisting waters at the bottom. At high water it washes out.
Parking for the putin of this run is on the right side of the road, just before the bridge if you are going north on Millfair Road. There is room for a few cars here, but the land beyond the parking area is private property. You must walk down the road to the bridge and walk to the river on the downstream side of the Millfair bridge.
Parking for the takeout is at a PA Fish and Boat Commision access area located on Manchester Road and on the river right. There are a few trails from the river to the parking area, but if it is a windy day you may want to consider going out in the lake to surf waves before taking out. You must have a PA registration on your boat to take out here, regaurdless of boat length or type of boat. Otherwise you can take out on the upstream side of Manchester Road on the river left.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|-7.9||Millcreek Mall (Dollar Theater Put In)|
|0.9||U Turn Wave||I|
|2.9||Forgive Our Trespasses||II|
|4.3||Route 5 Drop||I|
|4.7||Mansion Surf Waves||II+|
|4.8||Fairview Manor Access||I|
|5.0||Michael Falls (50/50 Hole)||IV|
|5.2||Fisherman's Ledge #1||II|
|5.3||Fisherman's Ledge #2||II|
You can add almost 8 miles of Class I and II by accessing the creek behind the Cinnamark Millcreek 6 movie theater. From there down to Millfair, rapids are spread out but some are pretty major Class II's. One worthy of mention is just upstream of a bridge no more than a couple of miles below the Mall. It is very narrow and has a huge hole. It may be caused by altering the streambed during the bridge construction. You won't need much more water to put in all the way up at the mall since Walnut gains no major tributaries during it's course from the the Mall to Millfair, but just make sure you catch it early enough after the rain as the level will drop earlier up by the Mall. Average gradient for this section is 20 ft / mile.
This is one of the better rapids in low water. The water almost drops below the horizon line as you approach a shale wall in front of you where the river bends to the left at the bottom of the rapid. Soon you are in a plesent mix of bolders and pour-overs mixed together. This is one of the rockiest rapids, so take advantage of some nice boofs and eddy catching. Stay to the far right to catch the best stuff and you'll find a nice hole to punch about half way down. This rapid just turns into a series of tall waves at levels above 5.5 ft.
This rapid is right by the gun club. Be sure to make your presence known without getting out! Otherwise it may be possible to get shot if people didn't know you were down in the creek. These good ol' boys don't like boaters, but there's nothing they can do.
This is a rocky, sloping rapid with a few concrete slabs thrown in the mix. The right side can have some huge holes at levels above 6 ft, but watch out for big strainers on the right side as the river makes a bend to the left at the bottom of the rapid. In low water there isn't much of anything here.
Immediately after gun club, there are some nice surf waves on the right bend. Be sure not to get shot, because I think this is where the bullets literally go over your head and into the opposite bank! If people are shooting, I wouldn't hang around for too long!
About .25 miles after going under the first railroad bridge, you will come to a two tubes that the river flows into. They were put there by the railroad company. You must take the left tunnel to avoid being turned into fish bait! In low water, this falls is easy because there is not much of a hole at the end of the tunnels but still sounds like Niagara Falls while in the tunnel! In high water (above 1.5 feet), you should probably portage as a river wide hole forms which can easily suck boats back into it and surf you over to the right side and into the sharp metal and you could die! After comming out of the tunnels, look on the right side of the river and you can see where this rapid gets it's name. There is graffiti of a flag of a marijuana leaf on the tunnel structure and it says Marijuanica.
Just after the first right bend after the tubes you will come to a huge hole on the right side of the river. It can be fun to punch but very violent to surf at high water. All of this can easily be avoided on the left side.
This ledge is extremely wide. It is shallow even around 1.3 feet when the river begins to get pushy. The hole at the bottom can comfortably surf 4 people. Watch out for "Nosedive" just above the ledge. It is a small drop into a huge hole on the right side. It tends to grab the front of your boat and may be capable of flipping you end over end if you lean into it. Neato!
This is just a place where the river get a little steeper. A couple of small drop offs occur here at lower water. At higher water they wash out.
This is a dynamic rapid under constant changes. Concrete debris creates many of the holes and has a tendancy to change after big floods. It has gotten a lot bigger over the past few years.
From Route 5 the river has many surf waves over a long stretch of 200 yards or so. There are also a lot of eddies here. It is fun to slowly pick your way down by choosing a few waves. This may very well be the best place to surf on the entire river.
You can park at Fairview Manor and walk just down the street to the electric sub station. Here a trail leads down to the water. This is a very important put in because "The Slides" section of Walnut can be fun even when the rest of the river is too low.
This is a small horseshoe shaped falls that drops about 4 feet and creates a HUGE hole in the center of the river! A sneak is possible on the left or right and is pretty easy (only a Class II move.) Be aware that the falls looks very easy from above. Most people don't realize just how bad the hole is until the lip of the falls. You will want to have have tons of speed and be ready with a battle roll if you decide to punch the hole. If you swim here, the hole will usually spit you out quickly, but you will have to swim through "The Slides" which include "Devil's Advocate." If you attempt the hero route your chances of flipping are 50%, hence the name! Want to gamble?
Shortly after comming through 50/50 Hole you will come to this next big hole. No matter what the water level is this hole always big. In fact at low levels it is almost as big as 50/50. No doubt this is a fun hole to punch but I wouldn't recommend sufing this one unless you enjoy deep holes that you can't surf your way out of! There are plenty of other holes to surf just downstream over the next 75 yards.
Take out on the right side of the river. There are a couple of trails that lead up to the big parking lot.