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May 11, 2013

Rapid growth: Stonycreek Rendezvous adds events for beginners

JOHNSTOWN — Even those who have never been in a kayak or prefer their water a little less rapid won’t be up the creek without a paddle.

When the 2013 Benscreek Canoe Club’s Stonycreek Rendezvous is held Friday through May 19, there will be several new boating opportunities for beginners available.

The three-day festival is based at Greenhouse Park along Route 403 in Tire Hill.

“This is an enjoyable opportunity to see our river and try boating on moving water,” said Craig Rosage, president of Benscreek Canoe Club, which produces the annual rendezvous.

“This is an event geared to water enthusiasts and beginner boaters, along with fellow boaters and friends.”

For inexperienced boaters, Johnstown outfitter Coal Tubin’ will offer a basic paddle for beginning kayakers from Greenhouse Park to the Point on Saturday and leisurely tube floats from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and May 19.

The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission will provide 18 kayaks for the beginning kayakers, which will be available to the first 18 people who register and pay through Coal Tubin’.  

People who bring their own craft should register in advance through Coal Tubin’ to make sure enough transportation is available for a shuttle.  

“We’ll let them get a feel for the river and the moving water,” Rosage said.

“The first time should be on flatwater, but there will be club members, people who have knowledge of the river, in every boat and a medic, which is mandatory for a sojourn.”

 All beginning kayak participants must be at Greenhouse Park at 10 a.m. Saturday and are asked to either bring a lunch or purchase lunch at the fes­tival.

Rosage said when Coal Tubin’ opens on Memorial Day, customers are already waiting in line.

“Their usual route is from Greenhouse Park to their Moxham station, but for the event it will be from their station to the Inclined Plane,” he said.

The beginners whitewater trip will cost $50, half of the normal fee, and the tube float will cost $15.

Advance payments and reservations for tubing and the beginners trip can

be made by calling Coal Tubin’ at 243-3286.

 This year, SurfSUP Adventures will offer stand-up paddleboard demonstrations Saturday at Whitewater Park and allow people to try it with some instruction.

A paddleboard is similar to a large surfboard, Rosage said.

“Most of them are inflatable, some are plastic,” he said. “They’re sturdy and you have one paddle to guide them. They’re good for flatwater and light water, and can be used for floating or fishing.”

At Greenhouse Park, there will be new vendors for jewelry and clothing, several new kayak vendors and a beef jerky vendor who is a favorite.

Music will be performed by the Halftime String Band from West Virginia, which played at the River of the Year Festival.

The Stonycreek Rendezvous historically attracts 800 to 1,000 paddlers from all over the East Coast for this whitewater festival.  

The Stonycreek’s rapids are rated from Class I (beginner) to Class V (expert).

The central attraction is the Stonycreek Canyon, primarily Class III whitewater supported by scheduled releases from Quemahoning Dam.  

When water levels are high enough, kayakers also run the Stonycreek Upper Gorge (Class IV-V), Benscreek (Class I), Shade Creek (Class III-IV) and Paint Creek (Class V).

Boating competitions will include:

• A five-mile Downriver Race at 6:30 p.m. Friday from Carpenters Park to Whitewater Park.

• A PlayBoater X Race at 10 a.m. Saturday at The Showers rapids in the Stonycreek Canyon.

• A seven-mile flatwater race at 1 p.m. Saturday from Whitewater Park to downtown Johnstown.

• A Kayaking Rodeo at 5 p.m. Saturday at Whitewater Park.

Rosage said that as more paddlers find out about the rendezvous, it is drawing in more whitewater enthusiasts from other states.

“The Stonycreek is one of the favorite rivers to paddle on the East Coast,” he said. “Its popularity is skyrocketing.”

Rosage added there is definitely a rise in interest by local residents as well.

“When you look at the parking lot when it’s all done and see all the different license plates, you know all the planning was worth everything,” he said.

The event has become an official Pennsylvania Sojourn supported by the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

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