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Kayaking The Conewango

The Frewsburg American Legion's 3rd Annual Kayak River Run on Conewango Creek will be held on Saturday, August 17. Submitted photo

The Conewango Creek has always intrigued me.

Every time I travel on Route 62 between Jamestown and Warren, I think about the creek as it and the road meander along together. Where did that water come from and where is it going?

From what I have read in the Roger Tory Peterson Institute’s Natural History Atlas to the Chautauqua-Allegheny Region, written by Mark Baldwin with Jim Berry, Mike Lyons and Solon Morse, the “Conewango Valley is the heart of the Chautauqua-Allegheny Region…” In this valley is where the creek is born, at the edge of the Portage Escarpment flowing into the Randolph-Steamburg area and eventually draining into the Allegheny River in Warren, Pennsylvania.

This 71-mile long waterway snakes along in its 900 square mile drainage basin which includes much of southeastern Chautauqua and southwestern Cattaraugus Counties. The Chadakoin River, which is the outlet of Chautauqua Lake, is one of its main tributaries, as is Cassadaga Creek.

In 2015, the Conewango was named Pennsylvania’s “River of the Year” by the DCNR, Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which is overseen by the Pennsylvania Organization of Watersheds and Rivers or POWR. It was nominated by the Conewango Creek Watershed Association and chosen as one of the top five. The general public voted online, and the river received 42% of the tally. The CCWA received a $10,000 Leadership Grant to fund River of the Year activities. And along with all its natural beauty, the river is also home to two rare fish species – the burbot and the paddlefish. (pariverof theyear.org)

A couple of years ago in the fall, I decided I was going to kayak the Conewango. I loaded my baby kayak in my car and drove to the Marden E. Cobb Waterway Trail on Route 62 just west of the Village of Frewsburg. I put the kayak in the water and paddled upstream a bit and then decided to head downstream and go under the bridge. I didn’t know a lot about the river, like the swiftness of the current and some of the little rapids, and I almost got myself in trouble. When I made it back, I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to go on that river again.

Then last year I saw a flyer about the Frewsburg American Legion Kayak River Run. Mustering up my courage, I stopped into the Samuel L. Derby Post 556 to gather more information. To participate, you had to buy a ticket, which included a t-shirt, chicken barbecue and transportation to and from the river. I knew there would be others with me on this trip, so I decided to do it. I was glad I did! It was so much fun.

We all gathered at the Legion with our kayaks. When the time came, we were loaded up and transported north though town to a different launch site which I didn’t know about. The Legion guys were great with helping us get our boats in the water and making sure everyone had their safety gear and life jackets.

It was a beautiful day, and the river was just perfect. There hadn’t been any heavy rains, so the river wasn’t high or flowing rapidly. I wanted to explore, so I leisurely paddled north for about an hour, then turned around to head south where we were going to be picked up at the bridge on Route 62. I saw a different side of the Conewango that day. My fears were softened, but I still retain a healthy respect for the waterway.

This year, the Legion is sponsoring its third Kayak River Run on Saturday, Aug. 17, starting at 8 a.m. This year’s event theme is superheroes. Tickets, which include a T-shirt, chicken barbecue and transportation to and from the river are $35 and are on sale until Aug. 12. They are also for sale online if you go to the Frewsburg American Legion Post 556’s Facebook page. Call them at 569-3321 for more information.

I bought two tickets, one for me and one for my niece, Margie, at the Post 556. We are excited about this adventure. Hopefully it will be beautiful and calm – just perfect for a day on the water. Hope to see you there.

Susan M. Songster Weaver is retired teacher, nature lover and longtime CWC volunteer and supporter.

The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, call 664-2166 or visit chautauquawatershed.org or facebook.com/chautauquawatershed.

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