New study could be first step in bringing whitewater parks to Clearfield County
Clearfield County could soon offer whitewater recreation parks on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.
These potential parks would replace two low-head dams on the river, according to Rob Swales.
Swales is the CEO of Clearly Ahead Development, a local economic development firm, who commissioned a study on the feasibility of whitewater in Clearfield and another park a couple miles downstream in Curwensville.
“The purpose of the feasibility study is to show that it is OK to remove these dams as long as you have some sort of replacement item in there to maintain your water levels in your community,” he said.
That replacement, he said, would involve cemented stone and underwater structures to form artificial whitewater waves on the river. He said these could be a boon to the local economy and a safer alternative to the current low-head dams.
“Let’s remove a community hazard,” he said. “We can take a community hazard and actually turn it into a community public park and an opportunity not only for local residents but out-of-area attraction.”
The proposed design in Clearfield involves about 600 feet of whitewater waves as well as a calmer bypass on the side for those who want to avoid the waves. The proposed design in Curwensville is similar, though smaller.
Between the parks, Swales said he estimates costs to be between $4 million and $5 million. And if all goes to plan, he said he’d like to have them installed before America’s 250th birthday celebrations.
“If we act now and the preliminary engineering takes place this winter, I see this being very achievable that we’ll have recreational public parks in time for celebrations in 2026,” he said.