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Itinerary:

Fort Hunter to City Island

This trip starts just north of Harrisburg at the Fort Hunter Boat Launch. Pushing off from the ramp and immediately you pass the mouth of Fishing Creek (RM 77). The flow is slow here so just relax and prepare yourself for the 6-mile journey ahead – but get your camera ready for the historic Rockville Bridge. Stay close to river left as you go under the bridge because there are some dangerous rapids ahead. Slightly more than 1/4 mile after the bridge will be a line of rocks across the water. The river hurries past these rocks and creates some hazards that should be avoided at all costs. Only expert boaters should attempt to navigate the channels and waves created by this 3 to 5 feet of elevation drop. Everyone else should stay far river left if they want to stay dry and safe. There is a nice path to take along the eastern bank at far river left that takes you around the hazardous area.

There are no more areas of concern on this float so just sit back and enjoy the rest of your journey. You will approach a series of islands to your right and now you have a choice. Do you stay on river left in the faster flow of the river or do you paddle the shallows between the islands? It depends on what you want to do that day. If you have less time, you may want to keep the islands to your right and head down river. Exploring the islands gives you a very interesting way to see what the river is really like. Egrets, herons, ducks, cormorants, kingfishers, ospreys, and eagles all live and hunt in the waters here. Near the banks of the islands are also great places to hook some nice bass if you brought your gear.

You will pass under the Route 81 highway bridge and come upon McCormick's Island, the largest in the archipelago (RM 75). This island is over a mile long and has an area of 100 acres. There is a great place at the southern tip of the island to stop for a snack and rest. Once you set off again you will see the Harrisburg skyline on river left. You can continue to meander in and around the islands for the next 3 miles. City Island will be in the center of the river once you pass under the Harvey Taylor Bridge (RM 71). The boat ramp is located near the southern tip on the western side of the island. Keep the island on your left and you will pass the remains of a walking bridge that was partially torn down by flooding in 1996. It does still connect the Harrisburg side to City Island but no longer spans the western side. One more bridge to pass and the take-out will be on your left.

Navigational hazard: It is very important to not pass City Island – a hazardous low head dam is just 250 yards down river.  Do not attempt to cross this dam or even approach it, as the current is very powerful and dangerous.

Emergency info:

Pinnacle Health
111 S Front St
Harrisburg, PA
(717) 782-5256

Water Safety

Remember: safe use of rivers and any designated trails, at any time, is your responsibility! Water trail maps are for informational and interpretive purposes only and are not meant for navigational purposes, nor do they take into account level of skills or ability required to navigate rivers. The National Park Service, Chesapeake Conservancy and/or the individual trail associations assume no responsibility or liability for any injury or loss resulting directly or indirectly from the use of water trails, maps or other printed or web-based materials. Learn more about water safety.

Image Credit: Alex Chambers

Water Safety

Remember: safe use of rivers and any designated trails, at any time, is your responsibility! Water trail maps are for informational and interpretive purposes only and are not meant for navigational purposes, nor do they take into account level of skills or ability required to navigate rivers. The National Park Service, Chesapeake Conservancy and/or the individual trail associations assume no responsibility or liability for any injury or loss resulting directly or indirectly from the use of water trails, maps or other printed or web-based materials. Learn more about water safety.