West Branch Paddling Guide

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The West Branch of the Susquehanna River is 160 mi (257 km) long, is entirely within the state of Pennsylvania, draining a large mountainous area within the Allegheny Plateau in the western part of the state. Along most of its course it flows in tight meanders along mountain ridges and through water gaps, forming a large zigzag arc through central Pennsylvania around the north end of the Allegheny Ridge. In colonial times the river provided an important water route to the Ohio River valley. In the 18th century, its lower valley became a significant industrial heartland of Pennsylvania.

The lands along the West Branch were vital hunting grounds and agricultural lands for Native Americans. During Pennsylvania’s great lumbering era, the most significant log drive was conveyed on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. The Susquehanna’s West Branch Canal Division further shaped the corridor, linking towns and villages and providing vital opportunities for commerce. Finally, railroads in the corridor fused the links between communities and commerce within the corridor.


Early inhabitants

The first recorded inhabitants of the West Branch Susquehanna River valley were the Iroquoian speaking Susquehannocks. Their name meant "people of the muddy river" in Algonquin. Decimated by diseases and warfare, they had died out, moved away, or been assimilated into other tribes by the early 18th century. The lands of the West Branch Susquehanna River Valley were then chiefly occupied by the Munsee phratry of the Lenape (or Delaware), and were under the nominal control of the Five (later Six) Nations of the Iroquois.

RM 36.5 - Ostonwakin Indian Village

Madame Montour's village of Otstonwakin or Ostuagy was a vitally important location during the settlement of what is now Lycoming County. Her village at the mouth of Loyalsock Creek on the West Branch Susquehanna River was an important stopping point for the Moravian missionaries who were spreading the gospel throughout the wilderness of Pennsylvania during the 1740s. Count Zinzendorf, a missionary being guided by Conrad Weiser with the permission of Shikellamy came to Ostuagy in 1742.