Susquehanna River Water Trail - Middle Section
Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network

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Brief Description: The Susquehanna River meanders 444 miles from its origin at Otsego Lake near Cooperstown, NY until it empties into the Chesapeake Bay at Havre de Grace, Md. The Susquehanna River Trail covers the middle stretch of the river - 50 miles from Sunbury downstream to Harrisburg.

Along this route, boaters, canoeists and kayakers can explore the great river and its diverse scenery and habitats. River otters, beavers and other mammals are sometimes seen from the river. In May, many birds dot the landscape as spring migration is at its peak throughout the trail. Birds of prey - such as hawks, eagles, osprey, vultures, and owls - show up along the ridges and throughout the river valley much of the year.

Please note that boating, canoeing, kayaking and other activities on rivers can be dangerous. Obtain a water trail map and guide in advance, plan your trip, and follow all safety precautions.

Location / Directions: The trail can currently be accessed at a number of access points along the lower 26 mile segment from Halifax to Harrisburg. US Routes 11/15, on the west, and US Routes 22/322 and PA Route 147, on the east, parallel the river. Obtain a water trail map and guide for planning your trip and for specific access point directions.
Mailing Address: Susquehanna River Water Trail - Middle Section
John Lake, Susquehanna River Trail Association
PO Box 62023
Harrisburg, PA 15083
Visitor Phone: (717) 948-6780
Business Phone: (717) 737-8622
Activities: The lower 26 mile segment of the trail is accessible at three formal trailheads and at other municipal or private access points. Harrisburg’s City Island is the terminus for the trail. (Caution: All boaters must exit at City Island to avoid a dangerous low-head dam.) The normal summer flow of the Susquehanna River along the length of the trail accommodates small, shallow draft, powered, and nonpowered craft. Avoid the trail when the river level in Harrisburg is predicted to be over six feet. The river presents many obstacles, including rocks, rock ledges, trees, sandbars, and dams.

Anglers can fish for muskies, walleye, smallmouth bass, panfish, catfish, and carp. This stretch of river is renowned for its fantastic smallmouth bass fishing. (Note: PFBC Big Bass regulations are in effect for this stretch of water.) Fishing is best around sunrise and sunset.

The lower 26 mile segment of the Susquehanna River Trail boasts these sights along the way:

  • Haldeman Island, a 990-acre island that serves as a rearing location for young eagles brought to Pennsylvania from Canada as part of the eagle restoration program. Don’t plan to climb ashore, since the island is closed to all human activity.

  • Clarks Ferry Bridge, where the Appalachian National Scenic Trail crosses at the midpoint of the its 2,155-mile route.

  • Dauphin Narrows/Statue of Liberty, the most difficult section of the River Trail. Stay far to the left when traveling downstream, and exercise caution. To your right, you will see a 25-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty constructed out of wood, metal, and fiberglass by a group of Harrisburg area citizens.

  • Fort Hunter Park, a 37-acre county park and 19th century house that mark the site of an important frontier fort during the French and Indian War.

  • Rockville Bridge, the longest (3,280 feet) stone-arch railroad bridge in the world. More than 30 trains cross over its 48 arches every day.

  • McCormicks Island, one of the largest islands on the River Trail. The southern tip of the island is a great stop for an afternoon picnic.

  • Wade Island, Pennsylvania's largest multi-species rookery (nesting island). You’ll see great egrets and black-crowned night herons. The island typically contains hundreds of nests. It’s illegal to trespass son the island, so enjoy the sights from your boat.

  • Sheets Island, a state natural area that contains a bottomland hardwood forest and ruins of a farmstead—sometimes visible at the north end of the island.

  • City Island, a 64-acre regional recreation site that connects to downtown Harrisburg.

Boating regs mandate that you bring a flotation device for each person, an anchor light, some sort of daytime running lights, and a whistle or other sound-producing device. All boats, including canoes and kayaks, using the formal trailheads must have valid registration.

You can camp along the river trail, but you must dispose of human waste and leave rocks, plants, and trees as you found them.

Birding and Wildlife Viewing Boat Access Camping Canoeing / Kayaking

Operating Hours: Access points to the Susquehanna River Trail are open from sunrise to sunset.
Fees: There are no fees to access the Susquehanna River Trail.
Visitor Facilities: The Susquehanna River Trail features three formal trailheads with portable bathroom facilities. City Island at the end of the trail also offers portable facilities as well as flush toilets.
Length: 50 miles / 81 kilometers
Accessibility: Susquehanna River Trail’s access points are handicapped accessible, and the portable bathroom facilities include handicapped-accessible toilets.

The following product(s) are available to enhance your experience at this Gateway. Click on the title below for a more detailed description.

Susquehanna River Water Trail (Middle Section) Map & GuideSusquehanna River Water Trail (Middle Section) Map & Guide - Full color, water-proof paper, with protective, resealable, vinyl envelope.
Price: $11.50 
Trail Map & Guide: A map and guide for the lower 26 miles of the Susquehanna River Trail is currently available from the Susquehanna River Trail Association.

A new map of the entire 50 mile trail route is currently being prepared.

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 to II Read more about the different levels of River Classifications.

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