Swatara Creek Water Trail
Lebanon , PA
Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network

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Brief Description:

Do you want to combine water, good food, recreation, open space, history, culture, scenic beauty and geology into one day-trip? The Swatara Creek Water Trail has you covered. Canoeing the "Swattie" is like exploring a wilderness. One of the only ways to tell where you are is by the bridges that cross the stream. "The Swattie" is an urban/suburban wilderness less than 50 minutes from Pennsylvania's capital.

The Swatara Creek Water Trail is a 60-mile segment of Swatara Creek from Pine Grove, Schuylkill County, throught Lebanon County, to the PA Fish & Boat Commission's Middletown Access, in Middletown, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. You will pass through Swatara State Park, see farms and bank barns, Union Canal locks, forested riparian buffers, the Appalachian Trail Bridge, the abandoned Lebanon to Tremont railroad and bridge, Harper's Tavern, limestone outcrops and the only lava deposits in the state. If you want to stay in the area overnight, try Twin Grove Park, Lickdale Campgrounds, Union Canal Canoe Rentals, the Swatara Creek Inn or Hershey Highmeadow Campground. Fort Indiantown Gap, the national cemetery, and historic Lindley Murray/Conrad Mill are a great hike from the water.

In central Pennsylvania, the Swatara Creek Watershed encompasses 570 square miles in Berks, Dauphin, Lebanon and Schuylkill counties. Swatara Creek flows into the Susquehanna River, and eventually, the Chesapeake Bay. In addition to the four counties, there are 46 municipalities in the watershed with a total population of more than 800,000 people.

Location / Directions:

North to south, the trail extension will start just south of Pine Grove, Schuylkill County, PA. From Interstate Route 81, take the Pine Grove exit. Turn north onto Route 72. At Route 649, turn east approximately one/quarter mile to the bridge over Swatara Creek. There is a trailer park and sewage treatment plant on the right before the Creek. Put in there, or, on Swope's Valley Road, which is on the north end of Swatara State Park; or at an access on either side of the Creek near Twin Grove Park; or at the Appalachian Trail Bridge, which is on the south end of the Swatara State Park; or at the Lickdale Campground, Swatara Township, Lebanon County, which can also be reached by taking exit 90 of Route 81, then turning east on Fisher Avenue to the intersection with Route 72. The campground is visible on the northeast corner of the intersection (by the Hess station).

The current water trail starts at Jonestown, Lebanon County PA, which is one-half mile east of Route 72. Cross the bridge, and put in on the northeast corner. A water trail sign marks the access point by the bridge.

The next access is located at the Swatara Creek Watershed Association's launch affiliated with the PA Fish & Boat Commission at the Water Works, north of Annville in Lebanon County on Swatara Rd., which is west of and accessed from Ono Rd., which is accessed from Route 934, which is accessed from exit 85 of Route 81.

In East Hanover Township, Lebanon County, next is the Union Canal Canoe Rentals and Cricket Hollow Golf Course and Camp Ground, which is on Black's Bridge Road, which is west of and accessed from Route 934.

The next access is Boat House Road Park in Derry Township, Dauphin County. Appropriately named, the access is on Boat House Road, which is west of Sand Beach Road, which is accessible from both Route 81, and Route 22 on the north, and Hershey Park Drive from the south.

Then just off of Route 39, which is accessible by Route 81 and 22 on the north and Hershey Park Drive on the south, comes the Swatara Municipal Park access in South Hanover Township, Dauphin County, PA.

Hummelstown Borough, Dauphin County, has two accesses, one at the Hanover Street Bridge on the north side of town and one at Hummel Nature Trail on the south side of town.

At Fulling Mill Road in Lower Swatara Township, Dauphin County PA, along the M&H Railroad is an access where the old Clifton Bridge used to cross the Swatara. Enter from Union Street, which runs between Hummelstown and Middletown.

The Swatara Creek Water Trail ends at the PA Fish & Boat Commission launch, which is along South Union Street in Middletown, Dauphin County PA.

At that point, you are at the mouth of the Susquehanna River, which flow into the Chesapeake Bay. Approaching the mouth of Swatara Creek, you can see Three Mile Island nuclear facility.

Please note that Route 81 bridges over Swatara Creek are undergoing reconstruction during 2004-05, and an additional portage is necessary to avoid falling debris.

Address: Swatara Creek Water Trail
2501 Cumberland Street
Lebanon , PA 17042
Phone: (717) 274-1175
E-mail: swatara@mbcomp.com

Fishing, canoeing, camping (Lickdale, Union Canal, and Hershey Highmeadow Campgrounds), caving (Indian Echo Caverns), trails (including the Appalachian & Horseshoe Trails), train rides (M&H Railroad), fossil collections in Swatara State Park, exploring Union Canal locks along the entire length of the water trail, municipal parks, and Hershey Park. Swatara Creek Bed & Breakfast Inn is also along the water trail. Fort Indiantown Gap and the National Cemetery are also in the Watershed.

Camping Fishing Hiking Swimming Canoeing / Kayaking

Operating Hours: Open daylight hours.
Fees: None.
Visitor Facilities: Currently nine access points. The extension will add six access points. Parking is free, but on private property, please respect property owners rights. Portapotties are at most, but not all, access points.
Length: 42 miles / 68 kilometers
Accessibility: For people with disabilities, some of the accesses (Boat House Road Park in Derry Township for example) are paved to the water’s edge, which makes the Swatara accessible for the disabled for fishing. However, during the course of the four-day water trail, there are three portages around low-head dams.
Website: http://www.mbcomp.com/swatara
Safety Info: Remember: safe use of rivers and any designated trails, at any time, is your responsibility! Water trail maps are for informational and interpretive purposes only and are not meant for navigational purposes, nor do they take into account level of skills or ability required to navigate rivers. The Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network, the National Park Service and/or the individual trail associations assume no responsibility or liability for any injury or loss resulting directly or indirectly from the use of water trails, maps or other printed or web-based materials. [View a list of water safety tips]
River Classification: Class I. Read more about the different levels of River Classifications.

Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network - Comments or Questions: Call: 1-800-YOUR-BAY