Water Trail, Boating, and Fishing
Where can I find information about canoeing and kayaking on French Creek?
Check out our canoeing and kayaking page to download a copy of the French Creek Water Trail Map and Guide. Check updated water levels at the USGS site:
USGS French Creek River Gauges:
What is a ‘water trail’
The Pennsylvania Water Trails Program is a statewide partnership between the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR), Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, and the National Park Service that seeks to promote a network of water trails throughout the Commonwealth. Pennsylvania Water trails are recreational and educational corridors between specific locations that can be used for both single day and multiple day trips. They are comprised of access points, boat launches, day use sites, and — in some cases — overnight camping areas. They provide safe access to and
information about Pennsylvania’s waterways while also providing connections to our diverse history, ecology, geology, heritage and wildlife.
Water Trails are also positive contributors to local communities by providing economic stimulus and protecting resources that are important to the quality of life of Pennsylvania residents.
Canoeing and Kayaking
French Creek’s main branch is navigable for its entire length from the Union City Dam to its confluence with the Allegheny River at Franklin, a distance of approximately 76 miles by water. When water levels are elevated, some boating is also possible upstream from the Union City Dam. There are several public access points along the entire length of French Creek, as indicated on the adjoining maps (see Water Trail map links above.)
Float times between water trail access points will vary and are dependent on several factors, including river height and volume of water flow, changing characteristics of the river between points (riffles and runs vs deep lake-like channels), daily weather (headwinds vs tailwinds – headwinds are more common on French Creek), and paddler skill level and speed. The general rule of thumb is a speed of 2 to 4 mph, depending on the combination of all the above factors, can vary with conditions, and can even fall outside of that range on any particular day.
Below are the approximate distances between water trail access points on French Creek, and approximate times using the 2-4mph guide, with known channel impacts factored in (slower pools vs riffles and runs). Unless paddlers are highly experienced and paddling fairly constantly, the higher time should be used as a guide. In all cases, as they say – your mileage may vary. Always carry sufficient snacks, water, and spare clothing layers and for safety be prepared for the trip to take longer than you expected.
- Union City Dam Recreation Area to State Routes 6N and 19—10 river miles, 3.5 to 5 hours
- Routes 6N and 19 to Cambridge Springs— 15 river miles, 5 to 7.5 hours
- Cambridge Springs to Conneautee Creek confluence 3 river miles, — 3/4 hour to 1 hour
- Conneautte Creek confluence to Saegertown: 10 river miles, 3 to 5 hours
- Saegertown to Meadville: 7 river miles, 2 to 3 hours
- Meadville to Wilson Shute— 5 river miles, 1 to 2 hours
- Wilson Shute to Shaw’s Landing—4 river miles, 1 to 2 hours
- Shaw’s Landing to Cochranton — 4 river miles, 1 to 2 hours
- Cochranton to Utica – 8 river miles, 2.5-4 hours
- Utica to Franklin— 10 river miles, 3.5 – 5 hours
Flatwater Boating in the Watershed
Boating is also permitted on lakes and reservoirs in the watershed. Motor restrictions apply to most of these bodies of water, and all boats must be registered with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) if they are launched or removed at PFBC operated access areas. Public access areas are available on Findley Lake in New York, Eaton Reservoir, Lake Pleasant, Union City Reservoir, LeBoeuf Lake, Edinboro Lake, Conneaut Lake, Woodcock Creek Lake, and Sugar Lake.
The 88 fish species that are found in the French Creek Watershed not only represent a number of rare specimens, but also a wide variety of panfish and game fish prized by anglers. French Creek harbors muskellunge, northern pike, smallmouth bass, walleye, pickerel, perch, sunfish, and blue gills. These species are also found in the watershed’s lakes, ponds and reservoirs.
French Creek Trout Fishing
Although noted for its warm water fishing, trout fishing opportunities exist within Pennsylvania’s portion of the French Creek Watershed. The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission stocks catchable size trout throughout the Watershed, while many, un-stocked streams contain self-sustaining trout populations.
In Erie County, the main stem of French Creek from the New York state line to its confluence with the West Branch, is stocked, as is the nearby South Branch of French Creek. Conneauttee Creek, from the outflow of Edinboro Lake downstream to Normal Street, in Edinboro, is stocked with trout, each spring but fishing is limited to children and individuals with disabilities. Erie County’s Lake Pleasant is stocked and provides an opportunity to catch trout, through the ice, in winter.
Stocked trout streams in Crawford County include upper Muddy Creek, Woodcock Creek, and Little Sugar Creek. Trout stocking occurs throughout Crawford and Venango Counties’ Sugar Creek Watershed, while Mercer County is home to North Deer Creek, a trout stocked, French Creek tributary.
Trout fishing within the Watershed is not limited to stocked trout. Many streams within the Watershed contain self-sustaining populations of brook and/or brown trout. Several tributaries of the South Branch of French Creek contain healthy populations of brown trout. A pair of small creeks within the Lake LeBoeuf Basin also boast robust brown trout numbers. Crawford County contains a few streams that contain wild trout populations, including some direct tributaries to French Creek. It is, however, the Sugar Creek Watershed that houses the most extensive, wild brook and brown trout stream miles.
Most stream miles with wild trout populations are found on private property. Several State Game Lands along with other properties open to the public, however, contain waterways harboring wild trout. Not surprisingly, even some of the stocked streams contain fair numbers of wild trout.
For more detailed, trout fishing information, go to the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission webpage at www.fishandboat.com
French Creek and its adjoining waterways have a rich tradition of musky fishing. Stories passed down for generations contribute to the lore of this prized fishery, and trophy sized fish are regularly taken in the watershed. The Pennsylvania state record musky was caught in Conneaut Lake in 1924. The fish weighed 54 lbs.
The French Creek Summer Sojourn is typically held in June. Sojourners paddle a section of beautiful French Creek, get to learn about some of our conserved properties, the creek communities nearby, learn about the extraordinary biodiversity and special history of French Creek, and enjoy food from some of the area’s great independent local restaurants.
Explore some previous Sojourns:
- 2017 French Creek Summer Sojourn slideshow
- 2016 French Creek Summer Sojourn slideshow
- 2015 French Creek Summer Solstice Sojourn
- 2014 French Creek Summer Solstice Sojourn
- 2013 French Creek Summer Solstice Sojourn