Boating the Allegheny River's Pool 9

by Jeff Knapp

River

photo-Jeff Knapp

Transition. It's a word that often crops up when discussing outdoor activities. The bass angler is concerned about transitions that relate to fish location, influenced by such factors as food sources and spawning. But what about the recreational boater? Is transition a consideration?

Pool 9 of the Allegheny River provides a type of transition that is important to boaters. It marks the most upriver pool of the Allegheny, an area that provides boating opportunity for traditional prop-driven craft, as well as access to waters negotiable only by jet-driven or non-powered boats. And it does so in the steep-sided, wooded surroundings of the beautiful Allegheny River valley.

Lock & Dam 9 forms some nine miles of navigable backwaters. L&D 9 is located just upriver of the tiny hamlet of Rimer, on the eastern shore of the river. Like all eight navigational dams found on the Allegheny, L&D 9 is a fixed-crest design. This means the river spills over the concrete dam that spans the width of the river. There are no movable gates to allow for regulation of the upriver pool. The lock chamber is on the eastern side of the dam. A hydroelectric station has been incorporated in the western portion of the structure. Because it draws water that would otherwise flow over the dam, the hydroelectric plant influences the pool elevation, though this effect is minor.

A glance at the navigation charts produced by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shows that Lock & Dam 9 is located just upriver of mile marker 62. This means it's 62 miles upriver of "The Point" in Pittsburgh, where the Allegheny joins the Monongahela to form the Ohio River. The same charts indicate navigable water up to mile marker 72, though the water gets quite thin above mile 71.

The Clarion County town of East Brady serves as the center of activity for Pool 9. A "Riverfest," a festival that revolves around the recreation provided by the Allegheny, has taken place in recent summers. The Fish & Boat Commission maintains a fine access area, Brady's Bend Access, just up from the Route 68 bridge in East Brady on the west side of the river (Armstrong County). During the recreational boating season, a large dock is located at the access, and the ramp has two lanes. Unlike many river ramps, the one at Brady is quite level. Plenty of parking is available, though the access can be crowded during busy summer weekends.

The Allegheny serves as the Armstrong/Clarion County boundary above the mouth of Redbank Creek, with Armstrong to the west and Clarion to the east. Below Redbank, both banks of Pool 9 are in Armstrong County. Like much of the Allegheny, areas of Pool 9 are steeped in history. Bradys Bend is located here. It is named for Revolutionary War-era Captain Samuel Brady­and his battle with Indians in the late 1770s. At Bradys Bend, the river turns about three-quarters of a circle in a matter of a few miles.

Fish & Boat Commission Clarion County Waterways Conservation Officer Bob McClellan has patrolled this section of the Allegheny for the past four years. He sees Pool 9 as having plenty to offer local boaters and travelers.

"With the good access at East Brady, Pool 9 is ideal for the boater coming from out of the area," McClellan says. "And unlike some areas of the Allegheny, there's pretty good drive-to access to the many areas of the river's shoreline."

During his Clarion County stint, McClellan has had the opportunity to see how the pool provides recreation for a wide variety of boating types.

"The pool is open to bass tournaments, so we see a lot of traffic of that type," says McClellan. "The Butler area doesn't have any waters close by with unlimited horsepower. Lake Arthur, at Moraine State Park, has a 10hp limit. So we get plenty of boaters who travel up Route 68 from Butler."

The Pool 9 shoreline includes many riverside cottages, of which most have docks and boats. During a typical summer day, anglers, boaters and skiers use the waterway.

From a safety aspect, McClellan sees Pool 9 as relatively hazard-free.

Boating

photo-Jeff Knapp

"The channel's depth is maintained from bank to bank in much of the pool," says McClellan, "but boating traffic can be heavy on weekends. And you have to watch out for shallow bars located near the mouths of feeder creeks."

One such spot is located directly below Brady's Bend Access, where Sugar Creek comes in. A large bar washes out into the river in front of this stream. Boaters should use caution­swing toward the East Brady side of the river when passing Sugar Creek and navigating under the Route 68 bridge. Brady's Bend Access is located at mile 70. Navigable water is found only a short distance above this access point. When boating above the access, keep an eye on your sonar unit.

McClellan notes that even though boating traffic can be heavy at times, for the most part boater behavior is good. He says folks are good about following the "rules of the road."

Personal watercraft and jet-driven flatbottoms aren't limited to the confines of the stillwater pool. McClellan says such craft commonly run up the river from East Brady to the West Monterey area. The excellent smallmouth bass fishing is one of the draws that pulls folks to the free-flowing waters.

The scenery is perhaps the most pleasant aspect of Pool 9. According to McClellan, the big river bends and bluff banks add to the boating experience, especially in the spring and fall. Much of my own experience on Pool 9 has taken place during October, when the combination of flaming hillsides and catching bass has proven ideal.

One of the more popular spots for boaters is the lower end of Redbank Creek. Redbank enters the Allegheny at mile 64, nearly two miles above Lock & Dam 9. The damming effect of Lock & Dam 9 can be felt nearly three-quarters of a mile up Redbank Creek, making it navigable for prop-driven boats. The channel is narrow (less than 200 feet wide), so Redbank Creek is a no-wake zone. This provides a quiet contrast to the more hectic playground found on the river proper, making it ideal for onboard lunches and just plain lounging around.

Why not take a trip to Pool 9 of the Allegheny next season? It can offer you a great time.

A trip to Pool 9 can be part of a boating-oriented vacation.
Contact the following agencies for more information:

The Armstrong County Tourist Bureau, 402 East Market Street, Kittanning, PA 16201.
Phone: 888-265-9954;
web site: www.armstrongcounty.com;
e-mail: armscopd@alltel.net.

Northwest Pennsylvania Regional Visitors Bureau, 175 Main Street, Brookville, PA 15825.
Phone: 800-348-9393;
web site: www.magicforests.org;
e-mail: magicforests@ncentral.com

More Information on Pool 9

"Locking through" can provide you with many more miles of boating adventure. Essentially, lock chambers are boxes built into the dams. Gates lead into the chamber from both the upriver and downriver side. When a boat locks through from the downriver side (heading upriver), the water level in the lock chamber is lowered to that of the pool below, via underwater gates. Once at that level, the downriver gate is opened and the boat is allowed to enter the lock chamber. After the gate is closed, the water level in the chamber is raised to that of the upriver pool. Then the upriver gate is opened and the craft can proceed upriver. When heading downriver, the operation takes place in reverse.

To lock through, a boater must have a 150-foot rope, and the boat should have bumpers to protect the hull from scraping the lock wall. Pull ropes located along the approach walls of the lock must be pulled to notify the lockmaster that you wish to lock through. Blinking lights similar to traffic lights indicate, via a green light, when it's okay to proceed into the lock.

Lock & Dam 9 has limited hours of operation. Check these hours and pay attention to your watch to ensure you don't become stranded in a pool other than the one from which you launched.

l Pool 9 provides not only excellent recreational boating opportunities. You'll find excellent fishing there, too. The pool is most noted for producing numbers of smallmouth bass. I concentrate my efforts along three distinct habitat types: Creek mouths, boulder shorelines and weedy flats.

The same rocky bars that pose navigation hazards at the mouths of streams provide good cover for smallmouth bass. The fish near these rocky bars respond well to grubs, tube jigs and topwater lures.

Shoreline areas that are lined with rocks and boulders also hold smallmouth bass. Try grubs and tube jigs.

During springs and summers of stable flows, growth of aquatic vegetation can be significant along shallow flats. Bass make good use of these areas. Seek out aggressive fish by running a buzzbait above this cover.

l A small library of maps and charts can prove valuable when making a trip to Pool 9. The Fish & Boat Commission's book Guide to Public Fishing Waters and Boating Access costs $2.83 and can be purchased with the publications order form in this issue. You can also order the Fishing & Boating Map. Contact the Commission at the address listed on the order form or at its web site: www.fish.state.pa.us.

For on-the-water guidance, purchase a book of Allegheny River navigation charts from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Phone 412-644-6872 for the current price and availability, and ordering instructions.--JK.

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November/December 2000 Angler & Boater


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