Floating on the Shenango River
One wonderful way to see portions of our western Pennsylvania landscape is to paddle a river or stream by canoe or kayak. One place to paddle is the upper Shenango River in western Mercer County, 70 miles north of Pittsburgh. A 23-mile stretch flows unimpeded between the Pymatuning and Shenango reservoirs. The Iroquois name Shenango, “the beautiful one,” perfectly describes this stretch of river.
The upper Shenango River has high biodiversity, supporting many species of fish, freshwater mussels and the state amphibian, the eastern hellbender. Some of the mussel species are endangered, and the round hickorynut mussel, which no longer exists in any other Pennsylvania stream, is still in the Shenango. Fish include smallmouth bass and walleye.
While the water is smooth with occasional riffles, paddlers may encounter downed trees and log jams. Several put-in and take-out sites are available. The scenery is gorgeous, with abundant wildlife. Forested floodplains along the lower nine miles are protected by a federal flood easement, which maintains their wild character.
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s Canoe Access Development Fund has improved access to the region’s rivers and streams by assisting in the creation or improvement of 70 public access sites across western Pennsylvania, including three along the Shenango. This fund was created in 2008 and is sustained through generous gifts from Pittsburghers Roy Weil and Mary Shaw, authors of “Canoeing Guide to Western Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia,” which is the best source of information for exploring our region’s streams. If you are planning a trip down the Shenango, also consult the Shenango River Watchers at shenangoriverwatchers.org.
For more information about the Conservancy’s canoe access sites, please visit WaterLandLife.org or call 412-288-2777.