Signs along interstate guide boaters’ journeys

BY JAMES LOEWENSTEIN
Times-Shamrock Writer

On an interstate highway, there are often signs telling you whether there is food or motels available at the next exit.

But what if you were canoeing or motor boating down the Susquehanna River? How would you know where you could land your boat, get a bite to eat or camp for the night?

Now there are signs, literally aimed at boaters on the river, which provide that information.

Over the past couple of years, 38 of the signs have been installed at public boat access sites along the Susquehanna River between Berwick, Pa., and the New York state border, with letters large enough to be read by boaters on the river, said Phil Swank, executive director of Endless Mountains Heritage Region Inc.

The signs, which face the river, state the location of the site, and have icons indicating whether there are picnicking facilities at the site, whether there are restaurants nearby, and whether camping is available, he said. Many of the signs also indicate whether the site is a “carry-in” site for canoes and kayaks, or a “back-up” access for motor boats.

The signs are blue with white lettering and 16 of them have been installed in Susquehanna County, Swank said.

“I have gotten a lot of good feedback about the signs from canoeists and kayakers who look for the public boat access sites while traveling downriver,” said David Buck, owner of Sugar Run business Endless Mountain Outfitters, which rents kayaks and canoes.

Buck said he has heard from paddlers who have traveled the length of the Susquehanna River and who are “very glad” that the section between Berwick and the New York state border is so well marked.

Swank said that as far as he knows, the section of the Susquehanna between Berwick and the New York state border is the only part of the river that has signs aimed at boaters in the river.

Every public boat access between Berwick and the New York state border has one of the signs, said Buck, who also serves as the greenway coordinator for Endless Mountains Heritage Region Inc.

Among the locations where the signs have been installed are the Fish and Boat Commission Access at Great Bend in Susquehanna County.

Each sign also indicates how many miles the site is from the mouth of the Susquehanna River on the Chesapeake Bay.

The sign at Fish and Boat Commission Access at Great Bend, for example, is marked RM (River Mile) 347.8.

The location of the signs “match up” to state-sponsored maps of the Susquehanna River, which are used by boaters, Buck said.

For example, most of the sites where the signs are located, along with the site’s river mile number, are listed in the “water trail” map and guides to the North Branch of the Susquehanna River, which can be downloaded from the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission’s website, Swank said. The map and guides to the North Branch are also available free of charge at the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau on the top of Mile Hill on Rt. 6 west of Tunkhannock or from the Endless Mountains Heritage Region Inc.’s office, 2 Jefferson St., Towanda.

The map and guides to the North Branch list additional information about the sites, such as historical information and sight-seeing attractions in the area.

In addition, the sites where the signs are located, along with the site’s river mile number, are listed in the North Branch Water Trail Map & Guide, which is a more in-depth guide to the Susquehanna River’s North Branch that was produced several years ago by the Endless Mountains Heritage Region and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. The North Branch Water Trail Map & Guide can be purchased for $15 at the Endless Mountains Heritage Region office and at various stores in the area.

The EMHR, which is a non-profit agency, designed, purchased, and installed the signs using a grant from the National Park Service’s Chesapeake Bay Gateways & Watertrails Network program, Swank said.

He said he hopes that other agencies will install similar signs in other sections of the river.

There are also signs, which are smaller and green-colored, which have been installed by the Pennsylvania Department of Forestry to indicate a public camping site on islands in the Susquehanna River, Buck said.

Among the locations where the green island signs have been installed are Athens and Homets Ferry, he said.

The island signs are florescent, lime green, “so they are very easy to see from a distance through all the vegetation,” Swank said.

Additional signs are being installed at other public island campgrounds, Buck said.

The Endless Mountains Heritage Region is looking for volunteers to perform various duties, including clearing grass and brush that is growing in front of the river signs.

Once a boater pulls ashore at a public access site, they will find a free-standing “safety and orientation” sign that includes a map of the section of the river they are on, with nearby towns marked on map, Swank said.