The Susquehanna River is the largest river in Pa. It winds through several counties and through the state of Maryland, before finally dumping into the northern Chesapeake Bay. The Susquehanna provides the largest influx of fresh water into the bay, which helps keep the salt line below Baltimore throughout most of the summer. You would think that with this amount of surface area and water volume, that it would be an ideal boating river. Unfortunately, nothing is as easy as it first looks. While the Susquehanna is wide and long, it's typically not very deep. To make matters worse, in most parts there are also plenty of boulders and rocks to add to the woes of the shallows. There are some areas which are navigable, but generally the Susquehanna is not noted for being very boater friendly. But leave it to man to correct what mother nature failed to provide. Along the lower part of the river there are a series of dams, constructed for both flood control, and electric power generation. These dams provide a deeper pool of water behind them, which makes for practical boating opportunities. One of these dam created "lakes" is Lake Aldred. Situated between the Safe Harbor dam to the north, and the Holtwood dam to the south, Lake Aldred is about 6 - 7 miles of navigable waterway, which is perfect for skiing, tubing, fishing, and even some cruising. Check here for a map of the area. Two public launch areas are available. One is on the Pequea (Pronounced "peck-way") Creek, situated along the eastern shore. The other is Otter Creek, on the western shore. Both sites are near camping facilities, which we usually avail ourselves of, as this area is a bit far away for a practical day trip. We normally choose Pequea, since it is about a 1/2 hour further drive to make it across the river to Otter Creek. The launch facilities on Pequea Creek are decent, with a paved parking lot and a concrete ramp. But parking is limited, and it fills up quickly on weekends. So people are advised to set out early if they want a prime parking spot. The ramp dumps directly into the Pequea Creek which is a bit narrow, and with traffic, can be a bit tricky to navigate. My 24' boat lining up on approach to the trailer can pretty much block most of the waterway. See an aerial photo of the Pequea ramp here.
Lake Aldred has some interesting features, including a fairly large island (Weise Island), which sports a long sandy beach on the eastern side which makes it a prime spot and it's usually the place where everyone ties up to hang out. There are also other smaller "islands", some of which are barely more than exposed rocks, which should clue boaters into what the bottom is like. There is also an interesting sign hung on an old abandoned tower in the middle of the river as you get close to the Holtwood dam, which warns boaters of a "Sudden 60' drop ahead". Subtle humor? I thought so.
While the main part of Lake Aldred itself is mostly good water, there are dicey spots to be aware of. Stay toward the western side, once you travel below Weise Island, as there are numerous rock shoals on the eastern side. Also, circumnavigating Weise Island to the north can be a bit tricky as well. Even in the shadow of the Holtwood dam (and that 60+ feet of height), there are shallow spots. I hit rocks in the area while pulling a tuber in seemingly deep water, causing the following damage:
Fortunately, it wasn't worse, but this underscores the importance of knowing the area. A scant 20 yards from where I hit the rocks, I recorded a depth of over 75 feet. In years prior, I had had no problem in the same area. As this had been a year with lower than average rainfall, the lake (river) level was a foot or two down from normal, and that's all it took to make the difference.
Despite the numerous hazards, this is still one of my all time favorite places to tube and ski. The dam end of the lake is not usually crowded (Most people tend to congregate in the areas around Weise Island), and it is rather large, which provides room to make a wide gentle turn, which makes for a gradual, less stressful ride on a tube.
Here is a picture of the "River Rats" hanging out at Weise Island:
And a picture of Art and the "Evil" jetboat, during one of his camping trips with us:
Pros: A great lake for skiing, tubing, or drag racing. It's also in a nice, scenic area of the state (Lancaster county).
Cons: Can be hazardous if you don't know where the "bad" spots are. Not close enough for a practical day trip for me, although it is closer to me now than it was from my old house.