Swatara Creek, which runs from the mountains of Schuylkill County to the Susquehanna River just south of Harrisburg, is one of Pennsylvania’s most fascinating waterways. Along its 72-mile course, it flows over two beautiful waterfalls, through Swatara State Park, and past Indian Echo Caverns. It also passes through small communities, past historic buildings and the ruins of the Union Canal, and through an area frequented by bald eagles.
All this amazing scenery, combined with the creek’s easy flow and accessibility from several different areas make this a perfect destination for beginning kayakers or those looking for an easy and enjoyable place to kayak. Because of this, Cocoa Kayaks opened their business in the spring of 2013 to provide kayak rentals, guided tours, and shuttles along this amazing waterway.
Cocoa Kayaks, run by Ben and Debra Miller, offer a variety of trips along the lower half of Swatara Creek. Their nine trips range from five to ten miles in length, which is perfect for a fun and relaxing day on the water. Standard trips are unguided and come with all the equipment that you need.
Prior to leaving on an unguided trip, Cocoa Kayaks does their best to ensure that you have all the skills and information that you need to have a worry-free trip. For those that would like support along the way, Cocoa Kayaks also offers guided trips, which can provide additional enjoyment, as well as someone to point out the many interesting sights along the way.
Whichever option you chose, a staff member will shuttle you from your car to the starting point and collect you and the equipment at the end of your journey.
Last summer, I was invited by Cocoa Kayaks to go on a guided tour along the Swatara Creek. I was a bit nervous since I hadn’t been in a kayak in many years, but my wife and I nevertheless decided to spend a day on the creek. It was recommended to me that we do the six-mile trip from Cocoa Landing to Boathouse Park. Boathouse Park is only about five minutes from Hershey Park, Hershey’s Chocolate World, and Troegs Brewery, making it an ideal starting and ending point for a trip along Swatara Creek.
After parking our car at Boathouse Park, we hopped in the Cocoa Kayaks van for the short trip to Cocoa Landing. From there, we go our gear ready, went over a few trip details, and hopped in our kayaks. Despite not having kayaked in many years, it only took a few moments to get my balance and feel very comfortable on the water.
Our trip along the Swatara was uneventful, but quite fun. For the majority of the trip, the creek moved along at a slow, but steady pace, which left me with plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful scenery. What few small riffles and turns there were were very easy to navigate and quite fun.
In my opinion, taking a kayaking trip along the Swatara Creek is perfect for beginning kayakers. The creek is very easy to navigate and the water was rarely more than a few feet deep. Should you get into trouble, you can not only stand virtually anywhere along the creek, but you are also never more than a few yards from the shore. However, there is plenty of interesting things to see along the creek, so the trip certainly wouldn’t bore an experienced kayaker either.
Along our six-mile trip, our guides pointed out a few spots of interest, including Pennsylvania’s only lava deposits, a soaring bald eagle, and the remains of the Union Canal. It was amazing to me how secluded this portion of the creek felt. Despite being mere minutes from the hustle and bustle of Hershey’s many attractions, the creek was peaceful, with little development to be seen and little to be heard but moving water and the occasional bird.
Without a doubt a kayaking trip along Swatara Creek with Cocoa Kayaks is a relaxing and fun way to spend a few hours when in the Hershey/Harrisburg area, whether you are a beginning kayaker or an expert. If you have your own kayak, Cocoa Kayaks offers shuttles to make your trip easier, or you can utilize the creek’s many access points to complete your own trip.
Whether you are looking for equipment, a guide, or just a shuttle, you can’t go wrong kayaking on the Swatara with Cocoa Kayaks.
Cocoa Kayaks runs trips on the Swatara Creek from April to October, assuming proper water conditions. For more information about them or to book a trip, visit their website.
Note: My kayaking trip along Swatara Creek was provided free of charge by Cocoa Kayaks. However, the opinions expressed are my own.
Looking for more great kayaking? Try kayaking around Erie, PA’s Presque Isle.