Attention paddlers—kayakers, canoers, SUPers, and more! There’s a new incentive to grab your kayak and get out on the Greenway to explore the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.
The Susquehanna Greenway Partnership (SGP) is excited to launch the West Branch Paddle Club: a program that provides resources and celebrates paddlers of all ages and ability levels for their exploration of the Susquehanna River Water Trail – West Branch (West Branch).
Whether you’re a day paddler, a seasoned, multi-day adventurer, or just really love the West Branch, the West Branch Paddle Club (WBPC) offers a variety of opportunities to join a community of like-minded paddlers who enjoy paddling, value the West Branch of the river, and want to give back and help grow the network.
There are two ways to join the club: 1) join as a segment paddler or 2) join as a water trail supporter.
Segment Paddlers are paddlers who report their trip(s) along one or more of the four segments of the West Branch. These journeys can be reported online to SGP through our website susquehannagreenway.org/wbpc to earn keepsake pins and special discounts on membership. There are no date restrictions on reporting paddling trips, so recent and past trips qualify. Segment Paddlers are encouraged to provide supporting materials to assist SGP in verifying your journey; these can include pictures, testimonials, blog posts, etc.
General supporters are paddlers, friends of the West Branch, or members of the community who want to support SGP’s ongoing projects to improve and grow the West Branch Water Trail. Supporters do not have to report segments and can instead join the club through the purchase of individual or family memberships. Funds from supporters are utilized to improve safety, install signage, work with communities to build new launches, and more.
All members receive an annual WBPC newsletter, official WBPC sticker, discounts on SGP events, and the knowledge that they have supported the West Branch Susquehanna Water Trail so that more people can enjoy the beauty and adventure to be found along the West Branch!
The West Branch Paddle Club (WBPC) was born out of SGP’s desire to celebrate the paddlers of the West Branch and encourage people of all skill levels to get out and discover the many paddle routes, historic sites, and healthy activities that exist along the water trail.
“We really wanted to get people out on the water and exploring new sections of the West Branch,” notes SGP Executive Director, Corey Ellison. “The West Branch is home to such a variety of paddling experiences from remote multi-day excursions to easy floats past river towns and historic lumber sites. It really is rich with opportunity, and we are excited to launch the program as a way to support paddlers from across the Commonwealth and beyond in discovering this treasure.”
SGP modeled the West Branch Paddle Club after its partner club ‘The 444 Club,’ which is managed by the Endless Mountains Heritage Region. The 444 Club acknowledges individuals who traverse the 444-mile main stem of the Susquehanna River from Cooperstown, NY to Havre de Grace, MD in its entirety.
“SGP has been involved with the 444 Club from its infancy in 2014,” notes Alana Jajko, Director of Communications & Outreach for SGP. “It is such a great program, but it does not include the 228 miles of the river’s West Branch. As the water trail manager for the West Branch, we saw an opportunity to provide a similar experience for paddlers of the Susquehanna River – West Branch.”
For many paddlers, 228 miles is quite an endeavor. Unlike the 444 Club, the West Branch Paddle Club considers exploration of the 228-mile water trail in more manageable pieces, breaking it down into four segments and allowing paddlers the option of completing one segment or all four segments for the full 228-mile experience.
“We really wanted the Paddle Club to be more inclusive; more of a choose your own adventure model vs. all or nothing,” says Ellison. “Framing the program in this way allows both novice and experienced paddlers to plan an exciting trip along the water trail.”
The four segments were chosen based on river mileage and available river accesses along the trail:
Segment 1: Cherry Tree traverses 54 miles from Cherry Tree to Clearfield and is represented by a Cherry Tree icon to mark the starting point of the trail.
Segment 2: Wilds meanders 76 miles from Clearfield to Renovo, making up the longest and most remote segment of the trail, and is represented by an Elk icon to indicate the wild elk herds unique to the region.
Segment 3: Hyner flows 43 miles from Renovo to Jersey Shore and is represented by a Hang Glider icon in recognition of the hang gliders that paddlers often see as they pass Hyner View State Park.
Segment 4: River Towns winds 55 miles from Jersey Shore to Northumberland and is represented by a River Town icon to recognize the abundance of SGP designated river towns along this segment.
With the successful completion of each segment, paddlers can then apply to become segment finishers within the WBPC. Successful applicants receive a soft enamel pin of the segment’s icon to be displayed on life jackets, hats, or at home, an official WBPC sticker, and are recognized in the WBPC newsletter and on the SGP website.
Segment finishers are also given the opportunity to purchase a discounted $15 one-year membership to the club or a discounted $35 one-year family membership (up to 4 people). Membership benefits include discounts on SGP events, an annual WBPC newsletter, and the knowledge of having supported the West Branch Susquehanna Water Trail.
For the non-paddlers who just want to support the West Branch Water Trail, a regular $25 one-year membership to the WBPC is also available, as well as a regular $45 one-year family membership, and additional levels of membership for organizations and businesses.
All proceeds from the WBPC go to supporting SGP’s work along the Water Trail. SGP works with local and state agencies to monitor the trail, maintain access and launch sites, create new boat launches in partnership with municipalities, improve safety along the trail, create maps and guides, and compile outreach materials to promote the water trail across the state.
“This work is all geared towards engaging people with a wonderful resource that exists right in their backyard,” says Jajko. “Our goal is to connect people with the river and the world-class opportunities for outdoor recreation that can be experienced along it.”
SGP has also been working to update the 2004 West Branch Susquehanna River Water Trail map. After conducting a water trail access and launch inventory, SGP has compiled this information to update and inform the public of access points, amenities, hazards, points of interest, and more. SGP anticipates the release of the new map in 2021.
To learn more about the West Branch Paddle Club, please visit susquehannagreenway.org/wbpc. Stay up to date on SGP initiatives by following Susquehanna Greenway on social media or signing up for newsletters at susquehannagreenway.org.
The Susquehanna River Water Trail – West Branch is a designated Pennsylvania State Water Trail that runs 228 miles from Cherry Tree to Northumberland, as well as a National Water Trail via the National Park Service from Lock Haven to Northumberland.