Despite decades of watershed degradation, recreation abounds within the Stonycreek River Watershed. Thanks to the efforts of SCRIP and its many partners, the Stonycreek is becoming a hub for a diversity of recreational opportunities, from fishing to whitewater boating. Quality trout and smallmouth bass fishing exists at various points along the Stonycreek. Spring whitewater boating is excellent along the middle Stonycreek and can now be done year-round at Greenhouse Park with the addition of Whitewater Park by Bens Creek Canoe Club. Thanks to the efforts of Cambria Somerset Authority, a wide variety of recreational activities are offered at Quemahoning Lake. Other facilities, such as the Jim Mayer Trail in Johnstown also offer opportunities, thanks to Cambria County Conservation and Recreation Authority and Conemaugh Valley Conservancy.
Although utilized by increasing numbers of anglers each year, the fisheries of the Stonycreek and many of its tributaries are still not widely know. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission stocks the portion of the river upstream of Shanksville with adult trout each spring. The Gorge is stocked with fingerling trout by the agency, and those stream-raised fish become as challenging as wild trout. As the river flows downstream, smallmouth bass begin to appear, becoming more common near Hooversville. The Fish and Boat Commission and SCRIP stocked smallmouth and rock bass fingerlings in a cooperative program to bolster the river’s comeback, and both species – as well as trout - are now found throughout the river. The brochures “Guide to Fishing the Stonycreek River” published by the Mountain Laurel Chapter of Trout Unlimited and SCRIP’S “Fisheries of the Stonycreek & Upper Conemaugh Basin” contain specific details about fishing the river.
The aptly named Stonycreek River is no place for a lazy summer’s float, but its abundant rapids give whitewater fans just what they crave. The Canyon has become famous among canoeists, kayakers and rafters, especially when water levels are high and action can be almost continuous. They arrive in droves each spring for the Benscreek Canoe Club’s annual Stonycreek Rendezvous, during which they spill over onto Shade, Paint, Bens and Quemahoning creeks. Summer’s low waters once made the Stonycreek useless to boaters, but a specially designed area at Greenhouse Park in Tire Hill, named Stonycreek Whitewater Park, has given whitewater enthusiasts a place to play even during low flows, and the pending installation of a valve to allow scheduled water releases from the Quemahoning Reservoir should make it possible to run the river at any time of year. The Benscreek Canoe Club Web site contains specific information on area whitewater runs and events. (http://benscreekcanoeclub.com/).
Although people have used the Stonycreek River throughout history to take a refreshing dip, pollution diminished its popularity as a swimming spot for generations. Whitewater Park in Tire Hill’s Greenhouse Park was designed not only to allow whitewater boating during low flows, but also to make that part of the river attractive to swimmers and tubers.
Although hiking opportunities abound in the Stonycreek watershed, two short trails in Johnstown that parallel the river have proven especially popular. The James Mayer Riverswalk Trail runs 1.2 miles between Riverside and Johnstown’s Moxham section, following an abandoned railroad bed. Plans to extend the trail upstream to join a shorter trail at Greenhouse Park and downstream toward downtown Johnstown have stalled, but remain alive. The 2.4-mile James Wolfe Sculpture Trail climbs the hillside next to the Incline Plane from downtown Johnstown to Westmont. It features eight steel sculptures by the nationally known artist for which it is named.
Since coming into public ownership, recreational facilities have been improved and expanded each year at this 900-acre impoundment owned by the Cambria-Somerset Authority, a joint venture of the two counties. Once officially open only to steel-company management, it now offers opportunities for boating (manual powered or electric motors only), swimming, fishing, camping, hunting, hiking and other outdoor pursuits. Details can be found at (http://www.cambriasomersetwater.com/QueRec.html).
The Somerset Conservation District is a sponsor for the Cambria Somerset Authority’s Quemahoning Reservoir in the CHIP Program. CHIP stands for Cooperative Habitat Improvement Program though the PA Fish & Boat Commission. These fish habitat projects started in 2008 with the addition of rock humps, porcupine cribs, short vertical structures and felled trees along the shoreline. Mapping of fish habitat improvement locations for these impoundments are available on the Commission’s web site. http://www.fish.state.pa.us/lakeplans.htm