Posts Tagged With: Pennsylvania Main Line Canal

Wednesday Walking Tour to Feature River Ecology

HUNTINGDON, PA: The 4 and More Cultural District partnership continues its weekly Wednesday morning walking tours with a walk exploring the ecology of the Juniata River on Wednesday, June 26, 2013. The tour will meet at Merchant’s Park on the corner of Sixth and Penn Streets in downtown Huntingdon at 10:00 AM. The hour-long walking tour will be led by Mike Makufka, executive director of the Juniata Clean Water Partnership. The tour is free of charge, but donations to the Juniata Clean Water Partnership are welcome.
Upcoming Wednesday Walking Tours include:
July 3: A History of Stained Glass
July 10: River Ecology
July 17: History and Architecture
July 24: Public Art
July 31: Civil War History
August 7: A History of Stained Glass
August 14: River Ecology
All tours begin at 10:00 AM at Merchants Park on the corner of Sixth and Penn Streets in downtown Huntingdon.  Ample free parking can be found in the borough parking lot across the street.
About 4 and More: The 4 and More Cultural District partnership is an initiative of Huntingdon Landmarks, Inc. to promote downtown Huntingdon as a hub of cultural learning and creative entrepreneurship, centered on the activities of four non-profit organizations on 4th Street: Huntingdon County Historical Society, Huntingdon County Library, Huntingdon County Arts Council, and Huntingdon Health and Wellness Association. For more information like 4 and More Cultural District on Facebook at
About the Juniata Clean Water Partnership: The Juniata Clean Water Partnership (JCWP) is dedicated to enhance, restore and protect the natural resources of the Juniata River watershed. JCWP is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization based in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. More information can be found at
Categories: Events, Things to Do | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Main Stem Madness: A Day on the Juniata River Sojourn

By Mike Makufka, Juniata Clean Water Partnership

With the smell of breakfast gently filling the air with pleasing aromas, the group of campers hastily finishes packing their tents and breaking camp to begin another day on the river. This group (officially called sojourners), numbering a little over 100, are on the first day of what will be a seven day adventure on the Juniata River. Each person is here for different reasons, but they all share a love for the outdoors and the beauty of the river. Some are veterans of many a trip but there are also a number who are experiencing this event for the first time. Once breakfast is done and vehicles packed; people begin assembling along the river’s edge that is lined with canoes and kayaks of many different colors. They are checking equipment, filling water bottles, and putting on their personal floatation device in anticipation of the day’s adventure. All are anxious to hit the water as they say. What you may be asking is this madness that  overcomes normally sane people? It is the annual Juniata River Sojourn and it happens every year during the second week of June.

Photo by Matt Price

Mapleton’s Riverside Park will be the starting point of the 2013 Juniata River Sojourn on the Main Stem of the Juniata River.

The Juniata River Sojourn is a multi-day floating trip down the river that combines beautiful scenery, a touch of history, and great friendship into a fulfilling vacation.

Any trip on the river, whether one day or several days is technically called a sojourn, the Juniata River Sojourn is an organized
event in which all participants float together, eat together, and camp together. It is a bonding experience with like-minded people. An added feature we provide is that the trip uses professional outfitters provided by Rothrock Outfitters who know the river well and can offer help with paddling and always stress safety first. You kind of leave the driving to us. All of your comforts are met. Well almost all; sometimes showers are at a premium and port-a-potties are the norm. But as far as outdoor adventure goes, I can promise that meals are good and hot and the campsites are usually cozy. But the best feature of all is the fact that the trip is family oriented and is the perfect place for parents, children and sometimes grandparents to enjoy the outdoors together.

All this begs to ask “what is a typical day like? ” A typical, if there is really such a thing, begins with a six AM wakeup. For all you sleepyheads; you do get used to it. The first order of business is breaking camp and packing gear which all needs to be done before seven AM. At seven, breakfast is served. Each day catered meals are provided and every effort is made to accommodate people with
special dietary needs. All you need to bring are eating utensils and an appetite. Once breakfast is Getting started A Hazy Morning
concluded at eight AM, drivers of all vehicles assemble in a convoy to shuttle gear and vehicles to the next campsite. A bus awaits them there to shuttle people back to the launch site. Once everyone is ready to go, a brief safety talk is conducted and we are on the water. Just the sight of so many boats in one place is inspiring.

The dew hanging low on the water in the early morning gives peacefulness to the beginning trip. As boats slowly drift downstream the excitement of what lies ahead and the pure freedom that you feel is hard to duplicate anywhere else. Paddling along with people you only met yesterday or with old friends from many a sojourn past, you begin to form bonds that sometimes last a lifetime. Sharing the sight of a bald eagle soaring aloft or the splash of a river otter as it slips into the river makes you appreciate the natural beauty the river has to offer. But wildlife is not the only sight that awaits you.

Photo by Matt Price

Paddling is a favorite pastime on the main stem of the Juniata River in Huntingdon County.

You are also floating through history. The Juniata River and its three branches, the Raystown, Frankstown, and Little Juniata are steeped in history. From Native American trails and old campsites to the Main Line Canal to the railroad; the Juniata River helped shape American history. The remnants of bygone days are there for the viewing if you know where to look. A journey as part of the Juniata River Sojourn group can help you discover these glimpses into the past. Each section of the river offers a wide-ranging visit back into history. You may drift under an iron truss bridge in Huntingdon County (circa 1870), the partially restored structure of a woolen mill (circa 1800’s), numerous historic foundry buildings, structures from the canal days, or covered bridges the Juniata River
offers it all. Float the Raystown Branch and you can see the remnants of the double covered bridge near the site where British soldiers forded the river and you feel yourself drift back in time.

After several hours on the river when the sun is high in the sky; it is time for lunch. Lunch is usually a catered affair at a pre-determined stop with each day’s menu different from the next. After the meal a short program is offered. The program is always tied into a unique feature of that area. Occasionally though, lunch is on the river and then the group decides where and when to stop. In that case, you can revel in the surroundings or take a dip in the cool refreshing water. After lunch it’s back in the boats for the
afternoon’s adventure.

The afternoon float offers similar experiences as the morning but it also has something that is just a whole lot of fun; and that is water fights and rope swings. There are many places along the river for opportunities to swim, swing off of rope swings, or just play. The Juniata Sojourn certainly provides many chances to do just that.

The days on the river are very relaxing and the outfitters allow plenty of time for enjoying the wonderful experiences the river provides. So kickback and allow the stress of everyday life to drift away.

As the afternooon fun begins to wane, the day’s trip is nearing its end. The evening’s campsite comes into view and tired but happy people crawl out of their boats and begin to setup camp. Tents are erected, clothes are changed and the wet ones are hung out to dry. If available, Old railroad bridge near Cypher Water Battles showers are in order. Nothing feels so good as a shower after a day of playing in and along the river. On most days the float ends around three-thirty or four PM. Since dinner is at six, there is time to relax have a few beverages and talk about the day’s events. And there is always plenty to talk about. At six o’clock dinner is served and a hot meal
along with cold drinks and desserts replenishes the body and tops off a good day. Or so you think. The evening provides still another surprise. An evening program, maybe a campfire talent show, or exploring the hidden treasures near the campsite await you. Evening programs start at seven PM and a varied in nature. Previous programs included history talks, local geology, environmental presentations, flyfishing lessons, swimming, first aid, wilderness survival, storytellers and music. There is something for

Nighttime brings an air of silence and peace. The full day of activities and great food leaves a person satisfied and sleepy. Those tents sure look inviting and the sleeping bags bring relief to tired muscles. Sleep comes quickly and as nature’s nighttime sounds fill the air, dreams of the what lies ahead tomorrow fill your head. Just another day on the Juniata River Sojourn.

The 2013 Juniata Sojourn will be held June 8 thru 12, 2013 on the main stem of the Juniata River. Registration will open on April 8 and can be accessed at

You do not have to be an experienced canoeist or kayaker to join the fun. Just remember that everyone had to start sometime and what better place to learn than with experienced guides/teachers and a group of friendly helpful people. If you do not have a boat, Rothrock Outfitters (814-643-7226) will gladly offer rentals to fit your needs. Ask for Tony, Paul or Evan and they will put you in business. If you are looking for new adventures or taking up kayaking again, a sojourn is just the ticket for you.

If your interest is peaked than call Mike at 814-506-1190 and I can answer any questions you may have. I look forward to seeing you on the river.

Categories: Events, Group Travel, History, Things to Do | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vote Now for the Juniata River to be Pennsylvania’s 2013 River of the Year!

The public again is invited to vote online for the 2013 Pennsylvania River of the Year, choosing from among six waterways nominated across the state.

Photo by Matt Price

Mapleton’s Riverside Park will be the starting point of the 2013 Juniata River Sojourn on the Main Stem of the Juniata River, a candidate for River of the Year.

They are: Juniata River and Swatara Creek in south central Pennsylvania; Kiskiminetas River and Monongahela River in the southwest; Lackawanna River in the northeast; and Schuylkill River in the southeast.

Vote here!

“Individually, each of these waterways showcases unique natural resources and recreational potential,” said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Richard J. Allan. “Collectively, they demonstrate just how blessed Pennsylvania is with its wealth of rivers and streams.”

Nomination of the six waterways was based on their conservation needs and successes; as well as well as celebration plans should the nominee be voted 2013 River of the Year. Visit to read the nomination statement for each and to vote. Voting ends Friday, Jan. 18, 2013.

“This is the third year that our selection process is through public voting,” said Allan, “and we know the spirit of competition rallies community support around our waterways and puts deserving rivers and streams in the limelight.”

DCNR and the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers, or POWR, administer the River of the Year program. Nominations were made by local groups.
Pennsylvania’s River of the Year is an honor designed to elevate public awareness of specific rivers and recognize important conservation needs and achievements. River of the Year designations have been presented annually since 1983.

“We are excited to partner with DCNR for a third year of public voting on River of the Year,” POWR Executive Director Janie French said. “The River of the Year program is a great way for us to highlight the opportunities and challenges facing the state’s waterways. As part of the larger river sojourn program, the River of the Year helps connect thousands of Pennsylvanians to the water.”

After a waterway is chosen, local groups implement a year-round slate of activities and events to celebrate the river, including a special extended paddling trip known as a sojourn. These water-based journeys for canoeists, kayakers and others raise awareness of the environmental, recreational, tourism and heritage values of rivers.
The Pennsylvania Sojourn program, jointly run by DCNR and POWR, is a unique series of a dozen such trips on the state’s rivers. For more information about the sojourns, visit

POWR and DCNR also work with the local organization to create a free commemorative poster celebrating the River of the Year.
Pennsylvania’s 2012 River of the Year is the Stonycreek River, flowing through Cambria and Somerset counties.

To learn more about DCNR’s Rivers Program, visit (click on “Conserve,” then “Waterways”).

Download this press release (Word document).

Photo by Matt Price

Paddling is a favorite pastime on the main stem of the Juniata River in Huntingdon County.

Categories: Events, Group Travel, HCVB News, Things to Do, Tourism Industry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Historic Huntingdon: The Architecture

Publisher’s Note:   This article first appeared in the 2006 edition of the Raystown Lake Region/Huntingdon County Visitors Guide.  A new video-guided walking tour was created in 2010 for i-pods and smart phones.

By Sandy Carowick

The town of Huntingdon stands literally at the crossroads of history.  Indian and trader paths, the early turnpike, the Main Line Canal, and the Pennsylvania Railroad, pathways crucial to the movement of people and goods, all either ran through or skirted the town limits.  Few vestiges of the earliest thoroughfares remain, but the Union Depot train station still welcomes the casual visitor to town.  Although currently vacant, it is reminiscent of the pride of place embodied in the structures built in the historic district of Huntingdon.

Huntingdon Union Station from Allegheny Street by Richard Stahl

Huntingdon Union Station from Allegheny Street by Richard Stahl

Once a bustling transportation hub, the train station has been silent since the 1960’s.  The long, two-story structure exhibits a low-pitched roof with bracketed eaves, decorative brick ornamentation, and paired round-topped windows, all Italianate influences from the mid to late 1800’s.  Although alterations have changed the appearance on the Allegheny Street side of the building since its construction in 1872,   these structural elements may still be viewed on the railroad side of the building.  Today this structure awaits rehabilitation for adaptive reuse.

Unlike many small cities and towns across the country, where today abandoned factory buildings dot the streetscape, the J.C. Blair factory building retains its character while continuing to contribute to the allure of historic Huntingdon.  Located two blocks from the Union Depot at the corner of Sixth and Penn Streets, the J.C. Blair factory was once hailed as the “tallest building between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg” (some said Philadelphia!).  Architect F.L. Olds, a Huntingdon native, modeled the design for the structure after H.H. Richardson’s design for the Marshall Field Wholesale Store in Chicago.  John Chalmers Blair, whose factory building exemplified the corporate motto of “Perfect Goods Only,” hired local contractor Henry Snare to build the stone and brick structure.  Snare began work in the summer of 1888, and by July 11, 1889, the Huntingdon Globe proclaimed “J.C. Blair’s mammoth building looms far above other structures—and 24 more feet of wall to be built!”  Converted to housing units in the early 1990’s, the imposing structure retains much of its original stylistic elements and charm.

A stroll along Penn Street and its connecting side streets reveals many exceptional examples of early 19th century homes.  The oldest in the borough, located at 105 Third Street, was built in 1797 by Richard Smith, son of town founder William Smith.  The appearance of the stone house has changed over the years, with improvements including porches and overhanging eaves.  The substantial home was owned or occupied through the years by a number of influential men, including David R. Porter (Governor of Pennsylvania, 1839-1845) and his notable son, General Horace Porter (Civil War veteran; U.S. Ambassador to France, 1897-1905).

The Gage Mansion by Ed Stoddard

The Gage Mansion, Huntingdon, PA photo by Ed Stoddard

The immense and stately Queen Anne structure situated at 317 Penn Street remains largely untouched since its construction in 1896.  The building was designed by George F. Barber and Company of Knoxville, Tennessee for George F. Gage, General Manager of the Huntingdon and Broad Top Railroad.  Except for changes in color and the style of the front porch, the home has changed little throughout the years.  Its asymmetrical design and elaborate ornamentation are hallmarks of the Queen Anne style, and this beautiful home invites a second look.

Not all of Huntingdon’s historic architectural features are visible from the outside.  To really appreciate Huntingdon’s past one must step through the doors and examine some of the marvelous interior features.  The interior of Boxer’s Café, located at 410 Penn Street, enhances the dining experience.  The brick building, constructed in 1865 by John Read to replace a previous wooden structure, was touted as “the first modern business building in Huntingdon.”  Today the original façade remains, including windows, iron window ornaments, and the store front, even the company name “Read’s” is still visible spelled out in the tile of the entrance floor.  Once inside, the distinctive atmosphere heavy with chatter from the lunch crowd is thoroughly contemporary, but the surroundings reveal the building’s past as a drug store.  Although the soda fountain installed in 1882 is long gone, the beautiful back bar remains, blending perfectly with later improvements to create a unique and relaxing environment.

In addition to the other fine structures originally constructed as homes or businesses that contribute to the ambiance of this town on the move, other historic public buildings include the 1829 stone jail at Third and Mifflin Street, the 1883 French Renaissance style courthouse on Penn Street, and St. John’s Episcopal Church, an 1845 Gothic building directly across from the courthouse.

Fortunately for us today, some of those who traveled past Huntingdon by foot, boat, train, or automobile decided to stop.  The town that they started has been shaped and molded over the years by new residents, who in their turn continued pushing Huntingdon forward without forgetting the past. Today most of the opulent homes have other purposes.  The McMurtrie property on Fourth Street houses the public library and the county historical society.  Others house restaurants and specialty shops.  But no matter what purposes the buildings now serve, every one contributes to the unique spirit of a bustling town humming with life.

You can find more information on the borough and county of Huntingdon in History of Huntingdon and Blair Counties, Pennsylvania, by J. Simpson Africa (1883),  An Architectural Study of the Ancient Borough of Huntingdon (1976) and Two Centuries in Huntingdon(1996), both by Nancy S. Shedd, and a variety of other publications found at the Huntingdon County Historical Society, 106 Fourth Street.  A walking tour brochure encompassing Huntingdon’s Historic District and a listing of downtown shopping and dining options is also available free at the historical society, Raystown Lake Visitor Center and at the courthouse.

Categories: 2006 Visitors Guide, History, Things to Do | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Huntingdon County: A History of Transportation and Industry

By Ron Morgan

Visitors to scenic and historical Huntingdon County will quickly identify with the area’s down home atmosphere, quaint country settings and an abundance of outdoor beauty and recreational opportunities. What many travelers may not realize is that the Raystown Lake Region of The Alleghenies, including Huntingdon County, boasts of an exciting transportation and industrial heritage that can be experienced by a visit to many attractions in the region.

The development of historic Huntingdon County is traced back to its transportation resources which started out as rugged Native American “paths,” or “Indian Trails.” These early transportation routes, used for both military and civilian purposes, cut into the heart of the mountains and valleys of central Pennsylvania. The “paths,” which included the north-south Warriors Path that closely paralleled Raystown Lake and Tussey Mountain, played prominent roles in the region’s history during the French and Indian War and the American Revolution.

With the close of the Revolution, settlers pushed west, first crossing the Alleghenies by wagon and on foot, or utilizing some of Pennsylvania’s major rivers and smaller streams, including the Juniata River system. Locally, a number of “toll roads” were established which connected Huntingdon County with its neighboring counties.

During the early years of the 19th century, rival canal systems like the Erie Canal to the north and the C&O to the south forced the state to construct its own Pennsylvania Canal, which “Middle Division” passed through the heart of Huntingdon County, helping to boost the economy and growth of Huntingdon and Mount Union.

By the early 1850s the canal system was replaced by the trend-setting Pennsylvania Railroad. Branching off of the main line PRR at Huntingdon was the standard gauge Huntingdon and Broad Top Mountain Railroad, constructed to haul coal from the tri-county corners of Broad Top Mountain. A short, two decades later the narrow gauge East Broad Top Railroad was built from Mount Union to the eastern side of the Broad Top Mountain and Coal Field to haul the “black diamonds” to the PRR.

With the advent of America’s industrial age and new transportation technologies, the steam railroad locomotive was replaced by diesel engines and the horse and buggies relinquished their place in rural Huntingdon County to the arrival of automobiles and airplanes. Today, the railroad continues to stop in Huntingdon to pick up passengers while freight from all parts of the nation roll through the region. Not far away, a busy U.S. Route 22 passes through the county making connections with major roadways like U.S. Route 522, state routes 45, 453, 26 and the celebrated Pennsylvania Turnpike which passes through the southeastern corner of the county.

At the heart of the county’s road, canal and railroad development was a growing economy which roots were planted in local industries like iron making, coal, coke and brick production, as well as agricultural and timbering interests. Although the industrial history of the county has seen many changes since the American Revolution the heritage of those early industries can be experienced at a number of historical attractions throughout Huntingdon County and at a variety of seasonal activities and events sponsored by nonprofit historical organizations.

The Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau encourages visitors to stop by several, well known and time-honored transportation and industrial heritage attractions. More information about these attractions and other activities can be obtained at the HCVB’s visitor center at the Seven Points Recreation Area, or other visitor information facilities in the area.

Some of the attractions include: East Broad Top Railroad National Historic Landmark at Rockhill Furnace, Rockhill Trolley Museum, located across from the EBT’s Orbisonia Station; Swigart Antique Auto Museum, east of Huntingdon; Isett Acres Museum, Huntingdon; a unique transportation and heritage exhibit found at the Raystown Lake Visitor Center; Allegrippis Trail system at Seven Points recreation Area; Lower Trail, near Alexandria; Greenwood Furnace State Park, in northeastern Huntingdon County; former PRR HUNT Signal Tower, in downtown Huntingdon and the nearby Huntingdon County Historical Society; Mount Union Area Historical Society, Fort Roberdeau, in Sinking Valley; Thousand Steps hiking trail near Mill Creek; and the Broad Top Area Coal Miners Museum and Friends of the East Broad Top Museum, both located in Robertsdale.

Numerous other historical societies in Huntingdon County also promote local history while several attractions have indirect links with the county’s history. They include Lincoln Caverns, Huntingdon; Indian Caverns, Spruce Creek; Penn’s Cave, near State College; Juniata College in Huntingdon and numerous state parks, scenic areas of the Rothrock State Forest District and a host of recreational trails scattered across the region.

About the Author

Ron Morgan is a native of Robertsdale, PA, and is a semi-retired reporter for the Huntingdon Daily News.  Ron is a founding member and current president of the Broad Top Area Coal Miners Heritage Association, which operates a museum in Robertsdale.

Categories: 2010 Visitors Guide, History, Things to Do | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: