Walnut Creek - Millfair Road to Lake Erie


Walnut Creek, Pennsylvania, US

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Millfair Road to Lake Erie (Lower Walnut)

Usual Difficulty II-III(IV) (for normal flows)
Length 5.4 Miles
Avg. Gradient 30 fpm
Max Gradient 35 fpm

Frank on Michael Falls


Frank on Michael Falls
Photo by Ted Engelhardt taken 02/21/12

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Walnut Creek Upstream Pool, near Erie, PA
usgs-04213152 300 - 2000 cfs II-III(IV) 21h38m 128 cfs (too low)


River Description

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.


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2012-02-21 14:44:12

Editors


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
-7.9Millcreek Mall (Dollar Theater Put In)
0.0Millfair RoadPutin
0.0Warm-up WavesIPlayspot
0.2Concrete EddyIIPlayspot
0.6Fallen TimbersIIHazard
0.9U Turn WaveIPlayspot
1.5Smelly CowIIPlayspot
2.1Greenhouse EffectIII
2.4Bolder DashII
2.8Gun ClubIIPlayspot
2.9Forgive Our TrespassesIIPlayspot
3.3Railroad PillarsIIHazard
3.6Marijuanica FallsII+Portage Hazard
3.9Hemlock HoleIII
4.2Broadway HoleIIPlayspot
4.3Route 5 DropI
4.7Mansion Surf WavesII+Playspot
4.8Fairview Manor AccessIPutin
5.0Michael Falls (50/50 Hole)IVWaterfall
5.0Devil's AdvocateIII+
5.2Fisherman's Ledge #1II
5.3Fisherman's Ledge #2IIPlayspot
5.4Take-OutTakeout

Rapid Descriptions

Millcreek Mall (Dollar Theater Put In)

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.



Warm-up Waves (Class I)
This is a nice place to surf around a little before making the descent. There is one nice sized hole and a couple of waves below it that are small but fun.

Concrete Eddy (Class II, Mile 0.2)
Just around the first bend is a series of holes and standing waves. At high levels they become quite large. The first waves are deep and narrow. They are tough to stay in. The waves near the end of the rapid are not as deep but very wide. On the right side of the river there is a large concrete block that provides eddy service for surfing some of the waves on this rapid.

Fallen Timbers (Class II, Mile 0.6)
This is a dangerous rapid. The river narrows toward the right and there are a couple of big holes. However it is not advisable to surf them. Just below these big holes is a death trap. A couple of trees have fallen on the right side of the river and caught a lot of debris inside. The left side is open and there is plenty of room. It is easy to identify this spot. After a right bend, the river enters a very calm area with a lot of pine trees. The rapid is at the end of this stretch where the forest becomes less dense.

U Turn Wave (Class I, Mile 0.9)
This is a big pool with a nice little wave in the middle of it. There is plenty of room in the pool for several kayakers. This spot is Walnut Creek's version of Piddly on the Lower Yough.

Smelly Cow (Class II, Mile 1.5)
Just as the river widens out you enter into a long series of holes and you will smell a strong odder of cow dung. I never figured out why because all that seems to be nearby is a golf course at the top of the gorge on the right. The rapid is about 50 yards long and there are plenty of holes to choose from and some have the capacity for multiple surfers. The biggest one is at the bottom of the rapid and is almost river wide.

Greenhouse Effect (Class III, Mile 2.1)
Just as a green house comes into view straight ahead on a tall cliff you will come to a couple of holes. At very high levels the first hole on the right can become HUGE! At low levels this rapid is not really a big deal.

Bolder Dash (Class II, Mile 2.4)

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.



Gun Club (Class II, Mile 2.8)

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.



Forgive Our Trespasses (Class II, Mile 2.9)

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!



Railroad Pillars (Class II, Mile 3.3)
There are some pillars in the middle of the river. Logs and debris tend to get hung up here. Scout from the right shore or from the river before going around the pillars.

Marijuanica Falls (Class II+, Mile 3.6)

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.



Hemlock Hole (Class III, Mile 3.9)

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.



Broadway Hole (Class II, Mile 4.2)

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!



Route 5 Drop (Class I, Mile 4.3)

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.



Mansion Surf Waves (Class II+, Mile 4.7)

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.



Fairview Manor Access (Class I, Mile 4.8)

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.



Michael Falls (50/50 Hole) (Class IV, Mile 5.0)

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?



Devil's Advocate (Class III+, Mile 5.0)

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.



Fisherman's Ledge #1 (Class II, Mile 5.2)
There used to be a ledge in this part of the river but is now a couple of logs placed in the river in a V-shape for fisherman. It poses no real danger because all of the water flows over them. At low levels it can be a little tricky but washes out at higher levels.

Fisherman's Ledge #2 (Class II, Mile 5.3)
Fisherman's Ledge #2 also known as The Stop Sign Ledge is a nice 3 foot ledge. It is quite wide and tends to be a little shallow. There is a slot down the center which drops straight off and a sloping drop sneek down the right side which are the deepest routes. This is also a nice spot to surf, especially when the water is up.

Take-Out

Take out on the right side of the river. There are a couple of trails that lead up to the big parking lot.




User Comments

Users can submit comments.
December 16 2013 (1592 days ago)
tedtanglwood (151601)
At 3000 CFS the tubes AKA Amarijuanica falls get BIG. Creek boat is a must, Frank took a playboat
at 3000 and was fine until here. Had about a 2 or 3 minute recirc in the hole before he dove down
and got washed out. It is very deep there so diving down is not sketchy, probably your only way out
really. Make sure you take the left tube when its high, 3 ft ish off the left wall and get a good
boof! Its a slide boof too, trickiest of all boofs. The second biggest hole on the run is right
downstream of the pool after the tubes, hemlock hole. Stay center or even right, definitely not
left. Its really four holes on either side of the creek right in front of each other with a break
in the middle. The two in the back that are hidden by the front ones are far worse with the second
sets left hole being the worst. This feature has changed the most over the past few years of
anything on this run.


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