For ten years Steve Podratsky has been fighting to install a valve in the Quemahoning Reservoir that would allow more than 3,000 gallons of water to flow into the Stonycreek River every second. On Friday Podratsky will get to see that valve ceremoniously turned for the first time.
The event will mark the beginning of the 30th annual Benscreek Canoe Club Whitewater Rendezvous. The Rendezvous runs Friday the 13th through Sunday the 15th. Most of the activities center around Greenhouse Park in Johnston but with 700 to 800 kayakers and rafters expected to be in town for the event, it will spill over into other creeks and rivers. “We have quite an established whitewater watershed in our area with anywhere from 6 to 10 streams that run from class III to class V,” said Podratsky who is the president of the Benscreek Canoe Club.
Rivers in the area are running high following the wet spring and Podratsky believes that will make for a great run on the Stonycreek. The main race event runs Friday from Carpenter’s Park to Greenhouse Park.
This year the valve will only be opened to allow 350 cubic feet of water per second to pass under the dam and into the river. When the valve, which was installed over the winter, is fully operational it will be capable of releasing 500 cu ft /sec. The old valve topped out at 150 cu ft /sec. The valve replacement project came with a $1.5 million price tag. The goal is to allow water releases every other weekend throughout the spring and fall.
More than half of the kayakers that turnout for the event are from out of town said Podratsky and the region’s whitewater opportunities are growing in fame. “Paint Creek is class V, that stream actually drops 200 feet in elevation in two miles so it has 10 to 12 cascading waterfalls on it that a lot of whitewater kayakers find very attractive and we have Shade Creek too that runs about 14 miles of continues white water,” said Podratsky. Those runs have been getting write-ups in several publications and websites.
Saturday will feature a whitewater rodeo in the recently improved section of Stonycreek in Greenhouse Park. “We have between 30 and 40 semi-professional, intermediate and amateur kayakers,” said Podratsky, “They have 90 seconds to do as many tricks and flips and twists and turns as they can.” The runs will be scored and winners will take home prizes.
Schedules and maps can be found at the Benscreek Canoe Club web page.