I feel as though Conoy Creek is my own personnel discovery. I never knew anyone that fished or boated in it, never checked it out on a map. Plain fact is, I never knew it existed until I drove over it and thought, ‘Hey, there’s a local creek big enough to explore some day.’
Not that discovering Conoy Creek is any great contribution to paddling. There’s really nothing special about it. Never the less, I take simple satisfaction in finding a previously unknown (to me) stream, close to home, when I wasn’t really looking for one, and then taking the opportunity to paddle it. I love exploring and when you find a new place to explore less than 20 miles from your house, well that sort of wakes you up to the fact that you’ll never see it all. Even if you’re only talking about the greater Harrisburg area.
Some of you probably know this creek. It runs through a township of the same name. One of the towns in Conoy Township is Bainbridge, the little Lancaster County river town south of the Susquehanna’s popular whitewater run at Falmouth. I first saw Conoy Creek while driving south on rt. 441 just past Bainbridge. I may not have even noticed the obscure bridge on that busy road if not for the trout fishermen lining the creek. Bicycling north another time, I turned off of 441 to detour through Bainbridge and escape the traffic. Crossing the creek on this side road, I could see lots of rocks and riffles upstream as it cut a path through the south end of town on its final leg to the river. That sealed it for me, ‘gotta run this sooner or later’. But I still didn’t know the creek’s name.
Maps showed it to be Conoy Creek and in the spring following that bike ride, there was enough water to paddle it. Conoy is small, having only about 30 square miles of watershed. It begins in the hills on the east side of Elizabethtown, flows through town and on into farm country on the west side. This is where I began my trip, about 5 miles up the creek from its mouth. Typical Lancaster County, this area is basically farm country fast becoming suburbia. Modern ranch houses sit between the road and old farm fields. Wood lots are sparse.
The water was chocolate milk brown and flat at the start. Soon the creek left the roads and wondered through the fields. It ‘gorges up’ just a bit before route 441 with wooded slopes on both sides. At first, riffles are few and far between. But after 441 little Conoy gets a little rambunctious and begins falling over some bigger ledges, one about 2 feet high. This lively stretch, just before the river, gives you your whitewater fix. With no access at the mouth one has to paddle up river about .8 mile to Bainbridge. The old stone wall from the Pennsylvania Canal is visible for most of this attainment and it takes away eddies making for a good current. But hopefully you’ll be paddling plastic and not a leaky glass boat with a hole in the bow, compliments of the 2-foot ledge, like I had.
Now, is anyone going to take this write-up and head for Conoy Creek the next time there is a deluge in E-town? Probably not. But maybe it will inspire someone to go out and discover that new local creek they didn’t even know was there.
Copyright © 2004 Pat Reilly. All rights reserved.