Slackwater Navigation Adventure: Getting Started

Depending on your location on the river, reception can be limited and sometimes non-existent. Here’s a printer-friendly PDF for you to print or save to your phone, as well as a streamlined graphics-free page designed for faster loading.

Instructions

To reveal the treasure’s location, correctly answer the following seven clues on your expedition down the Conestoga River.

When you have the sum after answering the seven clues, click here.

Rock Hill

This paddling adventure begins at Rock Hill. It has ample parking with easy water access below the rapids. Keep in mind that Rock Hill is under Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission jurisdiction. As such, you will need a launch permit for your kayak, life jackets, and whistles when accessing this area. There are currently no restrooms available at this location. Here are the GPS coordinates for Rock Hill (39.961694, -76.363889).

Put in Recommendation: Below the rapids at Rock Hill.

Putting in at Rock Hill. Photograph courtesy of kayaklanco.com

The expedition ends 3.5 miles away at Safe Harbor Park/Powerhouse Road where Lock 9 was once located. You can find port-a-potties at Conestoga River Park a ¼ mile from take out.

Clue 1: Before embarking on your aquatic voyage, explore the nearby ruins of both the lock and the hydroelectric plant that once stood here. Look for a plaque dedicated to James Kilby. Record the smallest number listed. (39.962831, -76.364608)

If you want to learn more about Lock 5, click here.

Here’s a hint for finding the plaque.

Rock Hill Bridge

Almost immediately after putting in, you will pass beneath the Rock Hill Bridge. It was built in 1923. The 2-span, 256-foot-long, rivet-connected bridge has struts (sway bracing) of an unusual lattice design. The bridge also has large lattice railings. V-lacing is present on other truss members. The plentiful v-lacing and lattice on this bridge make it look quite visually complex. The most unique about the bridge is its open steel grid deck, which allows you to see through it.

Rock Hill Bridge

Clue 2: As you float beneath the old 1923 iron truss Rock Hill bridge, look up. The ceiling resembles a Roman numeral. Record the number. (39.961610, -76.365734)

Hazard: At the island just past the Rock Hill bridge, go left. It is shallow but currently, a downed tree makes the right side passable but tricky.

Downed tree on right of island after Rock Hill bridge. Photograph courtesy of kayaklanco.com

Lock 6 & the Confluence of the Conestogas

Less than a mile downstream from Rock Hill is the confluence of the Conestoga River and the Little Conestoga Creek. While nothing remains today, Lock 6 was located here.

The confluence of the Conestogas , birthplace of the Conestoga Wagon, and location of Lock 6.

Some sources indicate that the Conestoga Wagon was born in this immediate area as Pennsylvania German wagon builders created the massive wagons to ship farm products on the sixty-four-mile journey to market in Philadelphia. Click here to learn more about the Conestoga Wagon.

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Conestoga Wagon on display on the Conestoga Area Historical Society

Pickle Run

A half-mile downstream from the confluence on river left is Pickle Run. A narrow bridge carrying Conestoga Boulevard passes over the small tributary. In addition to having some interesting architectural features, you can catch the Conestoga Trail there and hike all the way to Main Street in Conestoga. Learn more about the tunnel at Pickle Run here.

Clue 3: Disembark at Pickle Run and explore inside the tunnel. Find the two-digit year that Larry wrote his name in the wet concrete. (39.945302, -76.367571)

1700s Trading Post

Just past the location of where Lock 7 used to be located (nothing remains today) is this abandoned home. This 19th-century Conestoga Township house is suspected of being built on the foundations of an old trading post that was part of the early landholdings of James Logan, who came to Pennsylvania in 1699 with William Penn.

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The building is situated just off Conestoga Boulevard, about a half-mile northeast of River Road. Depending on the season, the building can be challenging to see from the river through the vegetation. Here is the exact GPS location.

However, it is visible from the road. The property is marked as no trespassing, so please limit your sightseeing from the water or road. Read more about the possible trading post here.

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Lock 8

Clue 4: Before passing beneath the River Road bridge, go ashore to explore Lock 8 inside of Safe Harbor Park. Standing at the northern end of the lock ruins, count the number of stones stacked in the first column on the left while looking downstream. Record the number. (39.939724, -76.386892)

Of the nine original Conestoga Navigation locks between Lancaster and the Susquehanna River, Lock 6 is the only survivor.
The remains of the lock 8.

Lock 8 had a six-foot lift and was 220 feet long. It was completed in October 1827 at a cost of $4,550 (or $117,846 in today’s money). Looking at the stone structure today, it is hard to imagine it functioning as a lock being so far from the water.

The “Now and Then” photos below demonstrate how much wider and deeper the Conestoga once was due to the series of dams constructed by the Conestoga Navigation Company.

Lock 8 today and in the early 1800s.

After passing Lock 8, you will immediately notice that there is bridge construction where River Road crosses the Conestoga in Safe Harbor. The channel is very easy to navigate, currently river right. This may change. Also, keep in mind that the bridge will be closed to traffic beginning June 7. It will remain closed until September.

Clue 5: As you paddle beneath the River Road Bridge in Safe Harbor, look up. Count the number of joists (box beams) that appear to run the entire length of the bridge. (39.939111, -76.387278)

Lock 9

Your aquatic expedition ends here at Safe Harbor Park/Powerhouse Road, where Lock 9 was once located. Here are the GPS coordinates (39.929000, -76.383667). The photo below highlights the exit location.

Exit river left before Safe Harbor Trestle. Photograph courtesy of kayaklanco.com

Port of Lancaster

Further downstream is a sign that commemorates the canal and the bold venture of turning Lancaster into a port city. Its ambitious goal was to give Lancaster direct access to Philadelphia, Baltimore, and other ports.

Port of Lancaster sign at Safe Harbor.
Port of Lancaster sign at Safe Harbor.

But this wasn’t the first time Safe Harbor nearly became a major port. In the late 1600s, William Penn devised a plan to create a new city to rival Philadelphia on a 3,000-acre site in Manor Township just north of Turkey Hill.

A city of this magnitude would need a harbor to supply it. Part of Penn’s plan was to widen the Conestoga River to create a “safe harbor” for ships coming up the Susquehanna from the Chesapeake Bay.

Had his plan come to fruition, you might be kayaking beside cargo ships today. Read more about Port of Lancaster and the curious history of Safe Harbor’s name here.

Clue 6: After arriving at the canoe launch, locate the Port of Lancaster sign. (39.927417, -76.383867) From this location, walk south towards the Safe Harbor trestle. Hidden behind the guardhouse near the mouth of the Conestoga, you will find another sign dedicated to some of Lancaster’s earliest inhabitants. Record the year it was broken.

Clue 7. Record the sum of the first six clues added together. Use it to unlock the next location.

When you have the secret code, click here.

Need a Kayak?

Just because you don’t own a kayak doesn’t mean you can’t explore the Conestoga. Rent your kayak from Central PA Kayak Concierge or kayakLanCo.

Note Well

As with all things water-related, use your best judgment and be sure to wear a lifejacket.

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What is Water Week?

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Leading the way to clean water by protecting over 6,000 acres of wild lands, the Lancaster Conservancy created Lancaster Water Week to connect us all to clean water. Lancaster’s 1,400 miles of streams and rivers drive local economic and agricultural growth. They are a place of recreation and the source of our drinking water. Water Connects Us All! Click here to learn more about Lancaster Conservancy’s Water Week, and be sure to sign the Water Week Pledge.

About the Organizations

The founding goal of the Conestoga River Club was access to the river. It did not take long before we became invested in more than that. The dynamic history, culture, community, and conservation needs of the river became our passion. As the State recognized water trail stewards of the Conestoga our purpose is to establish a legacy of responsible recreation and preservation of the watershed we love. 

The Lancaster Conservancy was founded in 1969 by anglers, hunters, farmers, and naturalists who witnessed the rapid development and loss of lands. Today the Lancaster Conservancy manages 47 nature preserves and protects over 7,000 acres in Lancaster and York Counties. The nature preserves are managed to create habitat for animals, to protect plants and trees, and to provide public access to nature 365 days of the year from sunrise to sunset.

Uncharted Lancaster is a local history website that creates unique self-guided adventures to encourage people to get outside and explore the rich history and beauty of Lancaster County and surrounding areas.

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