Mahantango Creek

River of the month #27

author: Pat Reilly
date: July 2000

Like the Conewago creeks further south there are 2 Mahantango creeks, one on either side of the Susquehanna River with their mouths nearly opposite each other. The east shore creek, forming the border between Dauphin and Northumberland counties, is medium sized and described in Ed Gertler’s Keystone Canoeing guidebook, the west shore creek in Synder County is smaller and didn’t make the ‘cut’.

At it’s mouth, about 6 miles north of Liverpool, I believe Mahantango west is one of the largest streams in central Pa. not in the guidebook. But creeks, like everything in nature, are variable. While some drain long narrow valleys, like Clarks or Stoney, others drain relatively broad expanses. The creeks draining narrow valleys have small tributaries and take a long time to build up volume. Those draining broader areas may pick up sizable tributaries from all directions and build a good volume of water in a short distance.

Mahantango is such a creek. In the last mile and a half, it appears larger than, say, the Yellow Breeches at Boiling Springs or the Swatara at Pine Grove. But is loses roughly half it’s water less that 2 miles up from the mouth to the West Branch. From there, traveling upstream, north on rt. 104 you notice that it steadily loses volume, until near Mount Pleasant Mills, just 8 miles from the mouth, it splits up into 3 meager dribbles, none of which is worthy of putting a boat on, no matter how much it has rained.

The Potato Valley Road bridge, just below Mount Pleasant Mills, makes a good put in. Expect a good many strainers in the first mile or 2 as the creek braids a lot. Scenery is decent with a covered bridge as a highlight. There’s no rapids, just riffles and 1 small runable dam. But the best thing about this run for me was watching the creek steadily evolve from little more than 3 drainage ditches, into a bonafide canoe creek inside of six miles.

Pat Reilly

Copyright © 2000 Pat Reilly. All rights reserved.