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Boating on the West Branch

Brandon Stonge leads South Williamsport in rushing this season with 583 yards on 84 carries.

Summer fun on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River can take many forms and boating life is the one activity delivering so many possibilities. Want to fish, swim, water-ski, kayak, have a cookout or sleep along the banks at a river lot? You’re in the right place!

How fortunate to live along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, which graces 243 miles of our region. It begins its journey in upstate New York traveling 441 miles before emptying into the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, the largest contributor to that bay.

The Susquehanna, the longest river on the east coast, serves as a boon and a blessing to our area. If your idea of a great time on the river is parting the waters or skiing the wake, motorboats are probably your speed. “It’s a thrilling experience, flying through the water, feeling the wind tease your hair and the river spray your welcome,” an avid boater once proclaimed.

The West Branch Motorboat Association (WBMA), in existence for nearly 72 years, was incorporated in 1949 “to serve the interests of power boat owners, defend against discriminatory legislation and taxation, prevent pollution, stimulate boating interest locally and provide boating information, boat docking and to repair facilities,” according to Mark Glossner, president of the association.

Of the 150 members, 51 have a slip (parking place in the water) where they can dock boats for the summer, “Those without a slip,” Glossner said, “have a field membership where they can park their boat and trailer in the lighted field and use the launch ramp. Picnic tables, garbage disposal and larger docks are also available for their use.” Glossner added, “This field membership is available to canoe and kayak and other small craft owners, also.” The popular Lumberjack Triathlon and Boat Regatta are annual events sponsored by the club. The WBMA office is located on Summer Street in Duboistown.

Fishing the river and all its tributaries is another satisfying way to enjoy the bounties of the Susquehanna. Whether catching and releasing or catching and eating, anglers find a myriad of fish living in these waters: bass, muskies, catfish, carp, suckers, crappies, perch, blue gills, chain pickerel and trout.

Some of those fish are the result of stocking, one activity the Lycoming Creek Anglers’ Club pursues. “We raise 11,000 trout a year for stocking and stock through April and May,” said Sam Caldwell, manager and secretary-treasurer of the 600 member club. “Trout fishing runs through February 2022. Walleyes can be legally caught beginning in May, bass in June. All the rest, year-round,” he said. A yearly derby is held for children ages 3-13 years old. When asked about bait, Caldwell listed lures, plugs, hand-tied flies, worms, minnows, crayfish, and artificial bait.

Another viable club, The Susquehanna Boat Club, is located on the Montgomery banks of the river in Lycoming County. The club’s first lot was purchased in 1976 from the Susquehanna Cove Association, a campground organization that began selling off lots.

The 80-member Susquehanna Boat Club is located on several lots with a building and an in-and-out boat launch. The launch may be used by the public through the honor system, but yearly ramp passes are also available for a reasonable rate. Treasurer Karen Berger reports that the club offers many activities open to the public, including pig roasts along with corn hole and horseshoe tournaments every year, all very well-attended. “And camping sites can be rented for the season, though there is always a waiting list,” Berger said.

Owning or leasing river lots is a popular way to enjoy the Susquehanna. Camping, barbequing, picnicking, singing and cooking at campfires, playing yard sports and cards are all enjoyed on the riverbanks. Jenn and Joey Minella, along with eight other families, have rented four lots near the old Antler’s Club for the past 16 years. “There are always lots of kids playing, including our own, and lots of food, but what I love most is how relaxing it is to be there,” said Minella. “We’ve built two decks, which we all enjoy, and a pavilion. Some of the families have boats and spend time on the river, also” she added.

Yes, the Susquehanna River is boating, swimming, fishing, sunbathing, sleeping and playing. And spotting wildlife and simply gazing, especially at sunset. But Glossner offered some reminders of what an economic boon the Susquehanna River is. “If everyone would think of all the things that we buy to pursue the activities on the river, it amounts to a lot! For example, fishing rods, lures, bait; fishing boats, motorboats, canoes, kayaks, motors, trailers, skis and wakeboards, coverings for boats; fire extinguishers, padding, anchors, ropes; memberships and leases, picnic tables, campers, tents, wood for building docks, pavilions, cabins; barrels for flotation, cables and clamps for securing docks,” said Glossner.

Also, gas and electricity at the river lots, generators, refrigerators, coolers, sunscreen, towels, canoes, kayaks, roof racks, labor and equipment for servicing the equipment and storage rental in the winter. “It’s an amazing amount of revenue that is generated,” Glossner remarked.

While the revenue generated is certainly substantial, some boaters will tell you that they measure the river’s worth by the memories it generates. Boaters, along with their families and friends, see it as a blessing to be counted when they’re being numbered in the West Branch Susquehanna Valley.

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