River Festival Planned at Susquehanna Depot

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It’s Susquehanna County’s turn to celebrate the ‘2016 River of the Year’ designation with the two-day North Branch River Festival slated for this weekend. Activities will include a leisurely float and paddle for families on Saturday morning, live music and camping Saturday evening, and a downriver race on Sunday morning.

Residents in and around Susquehanna Depot in Susquehanna County are planning a two-day celebration of the North Branch Susquehanna River this Saturday and Sunday, August 20 and 21. Highlights of the inaugural North Branch River Festival will include a family-friendly six-mile paddle on Saturday and a 2.5 mile race on Sunday. Registration is required for both and can be done on the morning of each event.

The North Branch Susquehanna River was designated by DCNR and POWR (Pennsylvania Organization of Watersheds and Rivers) as “2016 River of the Year.” The waterway, which is also part of the National Parks trail system, was sponsored for the contest by Endless Mountains Heritage Region (EMHR) and Susquehanna Greenway Partnership (SGP). The two organizations shared a $10,000 grant that has been used to promote and enhance river-related activities in 2016.

EMHR manages the water trail from Berwick in the south to Sayre at the New York state line, as well as the portion of the Susquehanna River that swings south into Susquehanna County from New York’s southern tier.

This weekend’s events have been coordinated by Friends of Starrucca Creek (FSC), the Susquehanna County Development Association, and Susquehanna Borough. FSC administrator Dana Rockwell (below) related that his organization was formed in 2012 in an effort to clean Starrucca Creek of debris left by flooding in 2011.

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We were frustrated with the amount of trash in the river, and we know that a lot of it comes from local creeks,” Rockwell explained. Starrucca Creek is the largest tributary of the Susquehanna River in Susquehanna County. Since 2012, FSC members and volunteers have cleared nearly 30 tons of trash from 10 of its 18 miles that would have potentially made its way into the river.

The purpose behind this weekend’s North Branch River Festival is two-fold, Rockwell continued.

We wanted to do something in the community to celebrate ‘River of the Year’ locally and also to get an annual event started up,” he stated, adding that helping residents realize the recreational value of the river is equally important. “We’ve had a lot of local interest in kayaking, but we’ve never done anything about it. We want people to appreciate what we have in our own back yard.”

The family-friendly paddle and float will launch from the Pine Crest Campground, just over the state line in Windsor, NY. It will end at Victory Park in Oakland Township, PA. Check-in will begin at 9 am at Victory Park, and participants will be shuttled to Windsor. Once back at Victory Park, paddlers are encouraged to stay for food and beverages, live music by Kevin and Kathy Grausgruber (below), vendors, prizes, and rough camping Saturday evening.

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Victory Park parallels the river for about a quarter mile, Rockwell noted. “It’s the perfect spot to host such an event.”

The 2.5-mile race is designed for kayakers and canoers in adult and youth classes. Registration will begin at 7 am at Victory Park, and participants will be shuttled to the PA Fish and Boat Commission public access at Oakland for a 9 am race start. Fish and Boat Commission launch permits are required for the race only. For both events, participants must also sign an ACA (American Canoe Association) Waiver Form, which will be available on site.

According to Rockwell, both the family float and the race will pass the mouth of Starrucca Creek. The Starrucca Viaduct (below), the largest stone arch railroad bridge at the time of its construction in 1848, is visible from the Susquehanna River and just one of many man-made and natural features for paddlers to enjoy.

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EMHR Greenway Coordinator David Buck will have a limited number of kayaks available to rent for the float and race both mornings. For additional information, including directions to Victory Park, “like” the North Branch River Festival on Facebook. Rockwell can be reached at 607-765-6087 and danarockwell@hotmail.com.

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