Wild and scenic Allegheny

Robert Stanger Contributing writer

Warren is fortunate in having the Allegheny River serenely flowing through its midst. And a full 87 miles of the middle portion of this river from the dam south are part of the National Wild and Scenic River System — the seven miles from the Kinzua Dam to the Glade Bridge, the 48 miles from Buckaloons to Oil City, and the 32 miles from Franklin to Emlenton.

But there are problems when it comes to public use of this wild and scenic river.

The seven miles down from the dam are an attractive portion of the river given the clarity of the water flowing fresh from the dam and the scenic views offered as the river skirts forested slopes, islands, and attractive clusters of cottages.

However, if boaters want to stop at the Glade Bridge and thus avoid the tempestuous set of rapids which run past Warren’s United Refining complex, they must rely on Allegheny Outfitters, located just north of the bridge. Most people who end their river trips before the bridge thus rely on that outdoor entrepreneur’s rental craft and its shuttle service to the dam.

I have run the United Refining rapids several times and know that I would not take children through them, either as passengers in a canoe nor would I allow them to run the rapids in their own craft.

A couple of years ago when I went down the river from the dam to Point Park in Warren on an Allegheny Outdoor Club outing, veteran club member Dennis Anderson had his sister end her kayak trip at the Allegheny Outfitters landing (where she and her craft were picked up later) because she was a novice kayaker.

Although Allegheny Outfitters does provide a valuable service, public use of the seven river miles south of the dam would be more equitable if there were a public landing and parking area near the bridge.

Canoers and kayakers would then be able to use their own boats and make the river passage at their own convenience, not just when Allegheny Outfitters is running its shuttle service. The paddlers would then have to retrieve their vehicles left at the dam on their own. However, many who use the river arrive in more than one vehicle.

Point Park has its problems as a river landing site since is at the mouth of the very muddy Conewango Creek. I once saw an AOC member lose her river shoes as she disembarked from a canoe at the landing due to the thick deposit of mud left there by the creek. I have had similar problems there too.

Farther on at the Buckaloons Recreation Area at the mouth of Brokenstraw Creek on Allegheny National Forest land there is an ideal river access area, with a launching and retrieval ramp, plenty of parking and sparkling clean restrooms.

However, users of this facility must pay a $5 fee to a “management agency.” What does this “agency” do for the site, besides picking up the fee envelopes? And why should taxpayers have to pay to use an area which their taxes already support?

Between Buckaloons and the river access site at Tidoute, there is a beautiful 16-mile stretch of the river that lacks a decent public site with restrooms where boaters can enter or leave the river. (There is, however, a rather rudimentary site called Bonnie Brae located about two miles north of Tidioute on Route 62.) This is too long a kayak or canoe paddle to be without a good access site, especially in unsettled weather.

However, a good many paddlers on this section of the river (as well as elsewhere) make use of the many river islands to camp overnight, thus breaking up their journeys.

I have also noticed canoers and kayakers do make some use of a site at the south end of the Althom Eddy at the mouth of Conklin Run. This site is located a little more than half the distance down from Buckaloons to Tidioute, and there is a small parking lot there.

But trees, brush and a steep short slope leading down to the river just above the mouth of the creek make this a difficult site for boaters to use.

The site is a public one, as it is within Game Lands 86, a 14,000-acre expanse that borders the west side of the river in that area.

If the Game Commission and the state government could be prevailed upon to turn this site into a serviceable river access site, it would certainly enhance public use of the river between Buckaloons and Tidioute.

The eight miles of the wild and scenic river from Tidioute to the new and very impressive bridge spanning the river at West Hickory is one that is very popular with kayakers and canoers.

The West Hickory river access site, like Buckaloons, is also on federal land and features an attractive roofed picnic area. But the site lacks restrooms.

About five miles on from West Hickory paddlers can disembark at Tionesta, where there is a rudimentary landing just north of the borough.

I would say that this portion of the wild and scenic Allegheny that I am familiar with — from the dam to Tionesta — is a fine stretch of the river for paddlers but has its drawbacks in terms of accessibility at necessary points and the lack of restrooms.

Robert Stanger has lived seasonally for over 40 years along the Allegheny River and has the stories to tell about it.