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Mountain Home Magazine

The River Guides

May 27, 2016 04:05PM

The sun dances off the clear water and you smile. A dip of your paddle and you stroke, gliding across the surface of the Susquehanna River, allowing the current to push your craft slowly downstream. You snap to alert as the water speeds up. Searching, studying the rapid water ahead, you plan the path of your kayak. Your guide waits below the rushing water as you push on with the double-bladed paddle, steering the point of your kayak toward the funnel that points through the swift rush. You’re on a guided kayak run of the Susquehanna with top guide David Buck, who operates Endless Mountains Outfitters. David and his wife, Melody, run the river business from their home in Sugar Run, Pennsylvania, just across the river from Wyalusing.

The Susquehanna cuts through the Wyalusing Valley of Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains, so that’s what David and Melody named their guide business, Endless Mountains Outfitters (EMO). The service offers kayak and canoe tours down the North Branch of the Susquehanna River. The outfitter also offers a wide selection of kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, and river gear for sale or rent at their home base.

David Buck loves the Susquehanna and the North Branch Water Trail. Getting down to the barest of basics, he confesses that he loves to simply be near it, to sit on the bank and watch the water flow, to sit in a kayak and feel the flow. Relaxing, he is at peace on the river. Staring wistfully at the water, he says, “The Susquehanna River is beautiful. It draws one towards it.”

To be sure, David is simply following centuries of river ramblings. The Susquehanna was a major travel artery by canoe for Native Americans long before European whites had seen the area. It was undoubtedly used by the Iroquois and British rangers as they approached the Wyoming Valley and the succeeding massacre in 1778. Early settlers hauled their goods westward up the north branch. They used the river to take crops southeast to market. Timbermen floated log rafts downstream to mills. And, when it came time to map a state road overland, wherever possible, the route followed the river. Route 6 is never more than a few hundred yards from the river from Towanda to Scranton, a major section of the Susquehanna River North Branch Water Trail.

Though David is an expert guide with canoes, he favors kayaks. Kayaks were created thousands of years ago by the Inuit Eskimos eking out a living in the harsh ice and snow above the Arctic Circle. They used driftwood and dried whalebone to build the frame of the kayak. Seal skin was stretched tightly over the frame to fashion the finished craft. The word kayak in the Inuit language simply means “hunting boat.” The hunt was, of course, the main purpose for creating the kayak—hunting and fishing. In a lazy float on a stretch of glass-smooth water, the kayaker understands the Inuit sneak. Fiberglass kayaks came along, followed by polyethylene plastic kayaks. Kayaking is now a mainstream popular sport.

David works to protect the resource. He is vice chair of the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership’s Water Trail Committee in concert with the Endless Mountains Heritage Region, which oversees the North Branch Water Trail. The group promotes public and private efforts to connect people with nature and local history. More importantly, the partnership works to insure a sustainable and healthy environment by connecting communities through enhanced recreation healthy living, economic prosperity, and environmental stewardship. They work with the Pennsylvania DCNR and the National Park Service, serving as a Gateway Agency of the Chesapeake Bay Network.

In 2010, David received the State Trail Advocacy Award in recognition of his “outstanding work for the Susquehanna River North Branch Water Trail and its integration with planned and developing water trails on other section of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania and in New York, as well as other water and land trails in our region. He volunteers much in the way of time and resources beyond his designated responsibilities to enhance the water trail, attract people to it, and advocate for it.”

David is constantly finding new ways to integrate the river with communities, with the Chesapeake Bay, with the arts, with academic endeavors, and broader environmental concerns. Through David’s work with EMHR and the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership, there has been a new focus on the river, appreciation for its recreational opportunities among residents, visitors, and local communities. David is the premier ambassador for the Susquehanna River and the North Branch Water Trail’s status as a designated National Recreation Trail and Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Water Trails Network. In 2016, in part because of David’s work, the Susquehanna River was named the Pennsylvania River of the Year.

To book a kayak or canoe trip, phone: (570) 746-9140.

Stop by the Endless Mountains Heritage Center and they will help. Of course, they’ll encourage you float that portion of the river that passes by French Azilum, the present day remains of a small village erected during the French Revolution and intended as a safe haven for French royalty. That effort, though it failed to save Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI, left its influence in definite French flavor of local names.

You might want to fish on your trip down the Susquehanna. David recommends L.D. Guide Service. They can show you why the Susquehanna River is known for being one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the United States and the North Branch of the river is the best of the best. The fishing, scenery, and wildlife are second to none. It’s common to see bald eagles, great blue heron, ducks, geese, and song and shore birds, along with deer, raccoon, mink, beaver, and the occasional fox, bear, and river otter. You can fish with one of the best professional, full time river guides, seven days a week. He covers over seventy miles of river and “can tell you where the fish were yesterday, today, and tomorrow from ice out to ice in.”