Holtwood Whitewater Park: New Fun in Pennsylvania

I had the opportunity to make it back to one of my favorite places to kayak in my old stomping ground this past weekend: Holtwood on the Susquehanna River.  This is a high-volume, wide river that runs from New York, through Pennsylvania, and eventually finds it’s way to the ocean in Maryland through the Chesapeake Bay.  I spent many days paddling here on the natural playspots, which has been one of the least-known gems in freestyle kayaking.  Recently, a whitewater park was built here for kayakers to enjoy in addition to the natural spots.  The good news is that it’s been running 4 days a week for all of October and November, which has given paddlers in the mid atlantic something new to enjoy during these dryer months.  I played a small part in getting the ball rolling on this project almost 10 years ago, and was brought back to help with some pre-constuction testing in 2010.  Read about that trip here:


So what’s it like?  Two FAST, fun playpots with good eddy service and easy parking.  The top wave is legitimately big and fast, kind of like a cross between Garb and M-wave (and just as tall).  It’s ridiculously fun to surf and spin on water moving at these speeds.   I found it easy to throw any of the big air wave tricks and plenty of air to be had.  Unfortunately it has a very unnatural feel, and the engineered shape of the wave makes it challenging to stick most aerial tricks, so most rides only manage to stick on or two tricks.  But, honestly, the wave is so fast that it’s really fun whether you can stick any tricks or not.  The hole just downstream is also fairly fast and powerful, but a fun spot to work looping and cartwheeling.  It’s also pretty artificial-feeling and it’s shallow, so I hit bottom on the majority of my loops.   Despite this, again, it was a really fun hole to work on blunts, loops, cartwheels, mcnasties, and other tricks.

Last weekend Topher Smith, Matt Samms, and a few other local boaters worked to organize the first-ever Holtwood Freestyle Competition event, which was a BLAST.  More than 30 kayakers turned-out to enjoy this grass-roots event.  People traveled from all over the East Coast to enjoy the new playpark.  I was stoked to compete on Saturday, then teach a few classes on Sunday.  For more info on the Whitewater park, check out the Holtwood facebook page here:


Enjoy some photos of the event!

Live from Columbus, Ohio,

Stephen Wright

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