On one of three Thursday Paddler trips July 26 (two of them on Catoctins in different states!), four kayakers and three open boaters had the good fortune to catch Middle Creek (which is the upper part of Catoctin Creek near Myersville) when the sun finally came out after days of rain and before the creek dropped too much. This Middle Creek is not to be confused with Middle Creek near Emmitsburg, which was our backup but was still running high, so we were lucky our Middle was still fit to fiddle. Our group was Dave C, Angel A, Jenny T, and Fred D in kayaks, and David C (not to be confused with the other David C), Rich C, and Larry L in solo canoes.
We ran Steve Ettinger’s section 2 from Grossnickle Church to Brethren Church Rd., which is Class II or II+ and is not to be confused with section 1, which is Class IV. The church at the put-in has lots of parking; we used the lot alongside Wolfsville Rd and encountered no objections (actually, we encountered no one at all). We put in about 100 yards across the road and upstream of there. Worth noting about the put-in: there is a sign on that property that alerts fishermen (sorry, the sign did not say fisherpeople) that they are on private property but may access the river provided they show good stewardship (that was the gist of it—can’t remember the exact phrasing). We figured that paddlers and fisherpeople are related species and proceeded to put in, again encountering no one.
Level was 396 cfs on the Catoctin-at-Middletown gauge when we put in at about 10:00 a.m. and 370 when we took out at 12:30 p.m. Steve’s and the CCA StreamFinder minimum is 300, although the latter (but not the former) specifies a four-hour lag (i.e., you’d want the gauge to be at least 300 four hours later). Either way, we were fine--four hours after our put-in, the reading was 360. We had enough water but none of us thought we’d want to run it much lower. At that level, it was Class II and there was a fair amount of unavoidable bumping into rocks. Nonetheless, it was a swell narrow creek with constant flow and interesting, tight maneuvers, though no distinct drops. There were several strainers we could duck under or squeeze by, one large riverwide blockage that we had to walk around shortly after the put-in, a low-water bridge with a three-foot drop that was unrunnable at our low level, and one pair of lightly electrified wires to duck under. These wires were a guide for cows to cross the river; one of said cows was in the river as we approached, and another (or maybe it was the same one) gave us a stern eye as we slipped under the wires.
Worth noting about the takeout: parking is difficult at Brethren Church Rd., with no real parking spots at all. We left one car in what could almost have been called a turn-out at the bridge and another in grass along the road. Fortunately, we again encountered no objections (and no one at all). But a better takeout cutting off very little of the run would take advantage of the relatively new Doub’s Meadow Park at Rte. 17 and Rte. 40. There’s lots of parking there and an easy takeout from the creek about 100 yards from the parking lot across a big field.
Having seen the Catoctin Creek sign countless times when driving along I-270 (the highway crosses the main, lower part of the creek), it was great fun to finally paddle this nice section of Catoctin Creek.