French Creek’s main branch is navigable for its entire length from the Union City Dam to its confluence with the Allegheny River at Franklin, a distance of approximately 76 miles by water. When water levels are elevated, some boating is also possible upstream from the Union City Dam. There are several public access points along the entire length of French Creek, as indicated on the adjoining maps (see Water Trail map links below and left.)
Float times between water trail access points will vary and are dependent on several factors, including river height and volume of water flow, changing characteristics of the river between points (riffles and runs vs deep lake-like channels), daily weather (headwinds vs tailwinds – headwinds are more common on French Creek), and paddler skill level and speed. The general rule of thumb is a speed of 2 to 4 mph, depending on the combination of all the above factors, can vary with conditions, and can even fall outside of that range on any particular day.
Below are the approximate distances between water trail access points on French Creek, and approximate times using the 2-4mph guide, with known channel impacts factored in (slower pools vs riffles and runs). Unless paddlers are highly experienced and paddling fairly constantly, the higher time should be used as a guide. In all cases, as they say – your mileage may vary. Always carry sufficient snacks, water, and spare clothing layers and for safety be prepared for the trip to take longer than you expected.
- Union City Dam Recreation Area to State Routes 6N and 19—10 river miles, 3.5 to 5 hours
- Routes 6N and 19 to Cambridge Springs— 15 river miles, 5 to 7.5 hours
- Cambridge Springs to Conneautee Creek confluence 3 river miles, — 3/4 hour to 1 hour
- Conneautte Creek confluence to Saegertown: 10 river miles, 3 to 5 hours
- Saegertown to Meadville: 7 river miles, 2 to 3 hours
- Meadville to Wilson Shute— 5 river miles, 1 to 2 hours
- Wilson Shute to Shaw’s Landing—4 river miles, 1 to 2 hours
- Shaw’s Landing to Cochranton — 4 river miles, 1 to 2 hours
- Cochranton to Utica – 8 river miles, 2.5-4 hours
- Utica to Franklin— 10 river miles, 3.5 – 5 hours
Flatwater Boating in the Watershed
Boating is also permitted on lakes and reservoirs in the watershed. Motor restrictions apply to most of these bodies of water, and all boats must be registered with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) if they are launched or removed at PFBC operated access areas. Public access areas are available on Findley Lake in New York, Eaton Reservoir, Lake Pleasant, Union City Reservoir, LeBoeuf Lake, Edinboro Lake, Conneaut Lake, Woodcock Creek Lake, and Sugar Lake.
USGS French Creek River Gauges: