Middle Allegheny River Water Trail
- Trail Guide -
Trail Map -- Water Trails Index
Water trails are recreational waterways on a lake, river or ocean between specific points, containing access points and day use and/or camping sites for the boating public. Typically, water trails emphasize low-impact use and promote stewardship of the resource. Explore this Pennsylvania water trail!
For Your Safety & Enjoyment
The upper Allegheny River begins as a spring in a farmer's field in northern Pennsylvania's Potter County, near Coudersport. The river loops north into New York state, eventually returning to Pennsylvania at the Allegheny Reservoir. The Middle Allegheny River Water Trail is 107 river miles long, starting at Kinzua Dam and ending at the community of Emlenton, just upstream of the I-80 bridge. Over 300 miles from its beginning, the lower Allegheny River joins the Monongahela River at Pittsburgh's Point State Park to form the Ohio River.
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National Wild and Scenic River
In 1992, three sections of this river trail, totaling 86.6 miles, were designated a component of the Wild and Scenic Rivers System by Congress. This exclusive list of rivers was established to recognize outstanding examples of the nation's free-flowing rivers and to raise public awareness of how important and fragile America's river resources are. The Allegheny was given a "recreational" classification under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to reflect the relatively high level of accessibility and development, when compared with other rivers in the Wild and Scenic Rivers System. However, the middle Allegheny is still considered a primitive river.
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Allegheny Islands Wilderness
In 1984, Congress designated seven National Forest islands between Buckaloons and Tionesta as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, to preserve vestiges of unique riverine forests. The islands are mostly vegetated with fine riverine forests of sycamore, silver maple, shagbark hickory and green ash. The Allegheny River Islands Wilderness, totaling 368 acres, is one of the smallest components of the Wilderness System in the United States. The USDA Forest Service, Allegheny National Forest, is the federal agency responsible for managing both the Wild and Scenic River and Wilderness Islands.
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Oil Heritage Region
Pennsylvania's Oil Heritage Region is located along the southern half of the river trail. Nearby in Titusville, in 1859, Edwin Drake drilled the first commercial oil well, and that discovery changed the world. This area is well-known for its colorful history and many historical attractions.
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Respect the Privacy and Rights of Landowners
Although much of the river trail has a national Wild and Scenic Rivers designation, most of the shoreline along the river trail and islands are in private ownership. Respect the privacy and rights of landowners by obtaining permission before entering any privately owned land. Avoid making loud noise and boisterous behavior. Remember that sound carries across water much louder than on land. Many of the landowners enjoy the peace and solitude overlooking the river from their decks and living rooms. Share the same courtesy that you would want. A friendly wave or quiet greeting is always welcome.
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The Middle Allegheny River Water Trail project was created as a partnership among the U.S. Forest Service Allegheny National Forest, PA Fish & Boat Commission, Oil Heritage Region, Allegheny River Support Group and the Venango Museum of Art, Science & Industry. This project was financed in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Recreational Trails Program under the administration of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Bureau of Recreation and Conservation. Funding for this program is provided through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21).
If anyone believes he or she has been subjected to discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin, he or she may file a complaint alleging discrimination with either the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, P.O. Box 8475, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8745, or the Office of Equal Opportunity, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, D.C.
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Floating the River
The size of the Allegheny River and the constant release of water from Kinzua Dam make the river canoeable all year long. The normal summer flow of the Allegheny River along the length of the trail accommodates small, shallow-draft, powered and non-powered craft. This is a good novice and family canoe and kayak river. Assume you will float approximately 2 to 3 miles per hour with leisurely paddling. Boat only at water levels appropriate for your capabilities and never when the river is high or flooded. Trail use is not recommended when river flow levels at Kinzua Dam are more than 5,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) for canoes and kayaks, and more than 8,000 CFS for powerboats, or when water temperatures are below 55 degrees. Contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for Kinzua Dam outflow information. Inexperienced and novice canoeists should avoid the Oil City Rapids by portaging around them. Only experienced canoeists should attempt to canoe through the rapids, and should wear their life jackets if they do. There are a number of canoe liveries from Warren to Foxburg that provide shuttle services and canoe rentals. Contact the Allegheny National Forest or regional tourist promotion agencies for a current list of liveries and telephone numbers. Many of these liveries can also provide helpful information on current river conditions. All access points are indicated on the map. Some of these access points are "primitive", indicating they are more suitable for canoes and cartop boats.
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Camping is permitted on any National Forest lands (island or shoreline), Cranberry Township lands, Venango County islands, and the Allegheny River Tract of Clear Creek State Forest. Camping is not permitted on state game lands. Suitable sites might be limited at times because of wet areas or very dense vegetation.
Leave no trace for camping and day use:
1) Pack it in, pack it out. 2) Properly dispose of human waste. 3) Leave what you find. 4) Properly dispose of what you canŐt pack out. 5) Plan ahead and prepare. 6) Camp and recreate on durable surfaces. 7) Minimize use and impact of fires.
For more information on "Leave No Trace" outdoor ethics, go to www.lnt.org. Public lands available for camping are indicated on the map. Islands colored purple are part of the Allegheny Islands Wilderness, where the use of motorized or mechanized equipment is prohibited. When locating National Forest lands from the water, look for occasional yellow U.S. Forest Service boundary signs on trees around the perimeter.
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The Allegheny River supports a very diverse fishery. Beginning at the start of the river trail, below Kinzua Dam, trout can be caught. Farther down the trail, anglers can fish for musky, walleye, smallmouth bass, catfish and carp. PA Fish & Boat Commission special regulations apply for trout fishing between Kinzua Dam and Conewango Creek in Warren. From 8:00 a.m. on the opening day of regular trout season until midnight, Labor Day, the minimum size for trout in this stretch of river is 14 inches, and the daily limit is 2 (combined species). Between midnight, Labor Day until 8 a.m. of the opening day of trout season the following year, no trout may be killed or had in possession. Check the current fishing regulations and seasons before fishing and keeping fish.
Wilderness Islands (Northern) Segment
Kinzua Dam to Tionesta
Heritage (Southern) Segment
Tionesta to Emlenton
|This water trail segment begins at the developed boat access at the base of Kinzua Dam and ends at the boat access in the borough of Tionesta. It is characterized by pastoral/rural landscapes and a large number of islands. It contains 24 public islands that are part of the Allegheny National Forest (including seven federally designated Wilderness Islands), in addition to 60 islands under other ownership. All of the public islands are open for camping and recreation.||The Oil Heritage trail segment begins at the boat access site in the borough of Tionesta and ends at the community of Emlenton. This segment of the trail is rich in history associated with the oil and lumber booms, and settlement along the river. Remnants of the iron, oil and railroad industries are visible along the way. This trail segment contains four public islands owned by Venango County, in addition to 64 islands under other ownership. The public islands are open for camping and recreation. Access is available, but more limited compared to the northern segment upriver from Tionesta.|
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Along the Way (Northern)
Kinzua Dam and Visitor Center. Operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kinzua Dam was constructed for flood control and river-flow augmentation. Operations and hydroelectric production began in 1966. The visitor center offers exhibits and slide shows about operation of the dam, hydroelectricity, regional attractions and area ecology. Group tours can be scheduled ahead of time. Canoes can be portaged around the dam if you wish to start on the Allegheny Reservoir, but this must be coordinated with the Army Corps of Engineers. Call ahead to arrange a portage, or to verify tour availability at (814) 726-0661. The top of the dam offers scenic views of the Allegheny Reservoir and the impressive dam outflows. Two easy, short interpretive trails are also available at the dam. Restrooms and telephones are available. Ample free parking is available in the visitor center parking lot.
Allegheny National Fish Hatchery. Across the river and slightly upriver from the boat launch lies the Allegheny National Fish Hatchery and visitor center, operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This state-of-the-art coldwater hatchery is dedicated to the restoration of lake trout in the lower Great Lakes. However, there is no river access to this site.
United Refining Company. The United Refining Company was built in 1902 to process crude oil, and has played a key role in Warren's history. About halfway down along the refinery there are standing waves and riffles created by shallow water and rocks. If your boat is heavily loaded, scout this area out ahead of time. Immediately below the riffles, there is a small island with a burning flare. This is part of the refinery operation. Do not trespass on the island with the flare.
Point Park. A public park operated by the city of Warren is located where Conewango Creek enters the Allegheny River along the right side of the river. "Conewango" is an Iroquois word meaning "below the riffles." You'll find an undeveloped boat access site here, along with picnic tables, grills and a day-use pavilion.
Downtown Warren/Soldiers and Sailors Park. As the trail passes through downtown Warren, just above the Hickory Street Bridge, on the right side of the approach, lies Soldiers and Sailors Park. This is a small municipal park operated by the city of Warren. The natural center of the region's lumber economy, Warren was used as an early river port for rafts and boats of all descriptions. Steamboats made the difficult trip upriver from Pittsburgh starting as early as 1830, followed by railroads in the late 1800s. Warren has Victorian homes that are on the National Register of Historic Places, a professional summer theatre, and a number of municipal parks. It is the seat of government for Warren County. Warren is a full-service community, with restaurants, lodging and telephones available in town.
Crescent Park. This small park is located on the left bank, and offers a tree-lined path along the riverbank, and a picnic shelter at the south end of the park. Warren County General Hospital is located next to the park.
Clifford Betts Park. Undeveloped boat access, picnicking and sporting facilities, pavilions, and a short walking trail are available at this public park operated by the city of Warren along the right riverbank. Seasonal restrooms, a pay phone, and ample, free parking are available.
Buckaloons Recreation Area. Buckaloons lies on the site of a former Native American village, at the confluence of the Allegheny River and Brokenstraw Creek on the right riverbank. It is operated by the Allegheny National Forest, and has direct river access. The name "Buckaloons" means "broken straw" in the Seneca language, named for the tall grasses that used to prevail on fields around the village. Developed campsites, picnic areas, restrooms, an interpretive trail, pay phone and a boat launch are available at this developed boat access site. The Buckaloons area and historic Newbold Estate to the south are rich in Native American and European settlement heritage, dating back some 12,000 years. Note: Digging for or removing artifacts from National Forest or state lands is prohibited by law. Fee and site availability information is available by contacting the Allegheny National Forest.
Anders Run Natural Area. This 96-acre old-growth white pine forest offers a 1.8-mile hiking trail. The area is administered by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry. You can access the area by hiking approximately a quarter-mile up Anders Run, found along the right riverbank.
Thompsons Island. This 67-acre Wilderness Island was the site of the only Revolutionary War battle fought in northwestern Pennsylvania.
Tidioute Borough Access. This is a developed boat access site, operated cooperatively by the PA Fish & Boat Commission and the borough of Tidioute. It is located on the right bank. A dock is available. Parking and seasonal restroom facilities are also available. Telephones and restaurants are available nearby. Restock on ice and supplies in Tidioute, a full-service community.
Tidioute Riverside Rec Trek Trail. This 4.5-mile gravel and natural-surface trail follows the west bank of the Allegheny River south from the town of Tidioute.
West Hickory Bridge. This impressive bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was originally constructed in the late 1800s. The original piers and abutments continue to support the bridge to this day.
Baker Island. This 67-acre Wilderness Island stood in the path of two tornadoes that crossed the Allegheny National Forest on May 31, 1985. Most of the larger trees blew over in the storm, with younger saplings and shrubs now filling in the island.
Tionesta Access. This is a formal, developed boat access site, operated by the PA Fish & Boat Commission, and is located on the left riverbank. Ample free parking is available, but restroom facilities are not. During the 1860s, Tionesta was a main assembly point for both rough-cut timber rafts, some as long as 300 feet, and loads of semi-finished lumber. This lumber was shipped downriver on shallow-draft flatboats. Eventually, Tionesta became the seat of government for Forest County.
The Tionesta Access is the end of this trail segment, and also serves as the starting point for the southern segment of the water trail. Telephone, restaurants, camping and hotels are available in Tionesta. Private camping is also located between Tionesta and the Hunter Bridge.
Tionesta Fish Culture Station. Located across State Route 62 from the boat access site, this hatchery offers a visitor center that is open year-round from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. M-F, and until 3:30 p.m. on weekends. The hatchery is operated by the PA Fish & Boat Commission, and raises steelhead trout for stocking in Lake Erie, and walleye and muskellunge for stocking throughout the state.
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Along the Way (Southern)
Tionesta Access. This is a formal, developed boat access site, operated by the PA Fish & Boat Commission. It serves as the starting point for this segment of the river trail. Ample free parking is available, but restroom facilities are not. Tionesta is a full-service community, a short walk from the boat access site. Camping and hotels are available in Tionesta.
President. This is an informal boat access site on the left bank, which is owned by the village of President. Some parking is available. Lodging is available just upriver of President. Private camping is available just past President.
Oil City. Oil City first was established in 1791. Fourteen miles north of here, along Oil Creek, lies the birthplace of the world's oil industry, where Pennsylvania crude oil was discovered in 1859. The first successful oil well in the world struck on August 27, 1859, sending this rural, sparsely settled region into an exciting new era of frenzied growth and prosperity. This valley has been aptly referred to as "the valley that changed the world." Throughout the 1860s, Oil City was the staging area where much of the oil gathered in the Oil Region was shipped to the rest of the world. During 1865, approximately half of the oil shipped in the world was shipped through Oil City, often on rafts, packet boats and steamboats down the Allegheny River to Franklin or Pittsburgh. Later, railroads expedited transportation through the area.
Oil City today is a full-service community, and a short walk from the boat launch. Located at the confluence of Oil Creek and the Allegheny River, Oil City offers much to visitors. Attractions include Hasson Municipal Park, the National Transit Building and art gallery, and the Venango Museum of Art, Science & Industry. Several districts of Oil City are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Telephones, restaurants and lodging are available in Oil City.
Oil City Rapids. The Oil City Rapids, considered class II rapids, are the most technical/difficult section of the river trail. This section is located just below the Veterans Bridge at the Holiday Inn, where Oil Creek enters the Allegheny River in Oil City. Novice or inexperienced canoeists should portage around this area around the shallower river bank. Experienced canoeists should wear their life jackets if they attempt to canoe these rapids.
Oil City Access. This formal, developed boat access site is located a half-mile downriver of the rapids, along the left bank, and is operated by the PA Fish & Boat Commission. Free parking is available, along with seasonal restroom facilities.
Samuel Justus Recreational Trail. This 5.8-mile paved bike/hike trail follows the left side of the river to Franklin, where it becomes the Allegheny River Trail. It is maintained by the Allegheny Valley Trails Association (AVTA). Picnic facilities, owned by Cranberry Township, are located along this trail one mile south of Oil City. Camping is permitted here, but restrooms and water are not available.
Franklin. This county seat is located where French Creek enters the Allegheny River. Both the French and the English occupied forts in Franklin. It is the only city in Pennsylvania to have had four different forts within its borders. After the French and Indian War and the War of Independence, Franklin began to prosper as a commercial center. Its downtown area is on the National Register of Historic Places. Riverfront Park is a public park located at the mouth of French Creek. Telephones, restaurants and lodging are available in Franklin. The Franklin area offers much to the visitor interested in history, including museums; Victorian architecture; Pioneer Cemetery, one of the earliest marked grave sites in northwestern Pennsylvania; the county courthouse; iron furnaces from the early 1800s; and an orchard planted by the famed Johnny Appleseed. John Wilkes Booth was part owner of an unsuccessful 1864 oil well one mile south of Franklin, very near the river trail.
Allegheny River Trail/Cranberry Township Hike/Bike Trailhead. On the left bank, just below the Route 322 bridge, lies the trailhead for the Allegheny River Trail. This bike/hike trail starts where the Samuel Justus Trail ends. It is maintained by the Allegheny Valley Trails Association, and follows the Allegheny River past the remote village of Brandon. This bike/hike trail intersects the Sandy Creek Trail 5 miles south of Franklin at Belmar Bridge. A canoe ramp, seasonal restrooms, picnic and camping facilities, and an information kiosk are available on site.
Franklin Access. This is a developed boat access site on the right bank at Third Street that is operated by the PA Fish & Boat Commission. Free parking is available, along with seasonal restroom facilities.
Cranberry Township Primitive Camping/Lower Two-Mile Run. Primitive camping and picnicking facilities, with seasonal restrooms, are available just upriver from the confluence of lower Two-Mile Run, on the left riverbank. Drinking water is not available here.
Cranberry Township Primitive Camping. About three miles down the river from Franklin, a small primitive campsite is available on the left riverbank. No restrooms or water is available.
Belmar Bridge. The spectacular Belmar Bridge over the Allegheny River was constructed in 1907 as part of a railroad built by local oilman Charles Miller, intended to connect New York with Chicago. Ultimately, it transported much of the coal from Clarion County to Ashtabula on Lake Erie. Belmar Bridge is now decked for safe, convenient pedestrian and bicycle crossings.
Indian God Rock. Approximately 9 miles south of Franklin is a reminder of use of the river by Native Americans. More than 50 carvings dating between 1200 and 1750 A.D. were made on a large rock at the river's edge, known as Indian God Rock. The rock, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, can be easily accessed from the water trail. An observation deck marks the location along the left riverbank.
Danner's Rest/Clear Creek State Forest, Allegheny River Tract. This state forest is administered by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry. This forest offers primitive overnight camping at Danner's Rest for float trips, as well as hiking trails, restrooms, spring water and day-use areas. Danner's Rest is on the right bank, about 400 yards past a gas line right of way and a sign that says "Don't Anchor."
Kennerdell. (NO LONGER OPEN TO PUBLIC-2018) A private boat launch exists on the left bank of the river in Kennerdell. A fee is required to use this launch area. The Kennerdell monument (the obelisk seen on the left bank) is dedicated to men who lost their lives to nitroglycerine blasts during the oil boom years. Private camping is available a quarter-mile below the bridge on the right. Established camping sites are not available below Kennerdell.
Kennerdell Tunnel. The Kennerdell Tunnel is a nearly mile-long cut through a mountain that allowed historic railroads to pass around the village of Kennerdell. The hiking trail is not complete to the tunnel, so travel at your own risk (and bring a light, because the curved tunnel is very dark). Rockland Furnace. Located on the left bank, slightly up Shull Creek, is the historic
Rockland Furnace. The year 1825 ushered in the birth of the industrial age in the Franklin region as iron ore was discovered. During the next 20 years, more than two dozen stone blast furnaces shot up throughout the county, including this one still standing at Rockland (which is located on the National Register of Historic Places). This is the best representative furnace remaining of more than 30 furnaces that once existed in Venango County.
Emlenton. This community marks the end of the river trail. Established in 1834, Emlenton became a junction for a narrow-gauge railroad that traveled east to present-day Clarion, and the Allegheny Valley Railroad that traveled south to Pittsburgh. This community's mills, foundries and machine shops produced tools and well equipment that sustained the region's oil production. It became home to many wealthy industrialists and entrepreneurs during that time, and the steps that climbed the hillsides to their homes became known as "the millionaires' stairs." The Emlenton Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There is an undeveloped boat access site at the first bridge in town. Parking is limited. Lodging and telephones are available in town.
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