The headwaters of the Conemaugh originate at around 3,000 feet above sea level and the course of the river drops to 957 feet above sea level at the mouth of the Kiski toward the Allegheny River. This drop has carved out canyons and gaps along the way. Two of them are along the water trail. Mineral resources abound along the trail, which had a large role in America’s industrialization. Coal is the best known resource, but gas and limestone are also products derived from the basin’s geology.Conemaugh Gorge and Packsaddle Gap
These are two of the most prominent features along the trail. Conemaugh Gorge, located just west of Johnstown, is 1,650 deep. Though the railroad and routes 56 and 403 parallel the river, the paddling is serene. Packsaddle Gap is the scenic route the Conemaugh has taken through Laurel Ridge. Though not as deep as the gorge, Packsaddle offers a pleasant and scenic paddle with only the occasional train whistle to interrupt the paddler’s day.
The Forest Along the Way- A majority of the Kiski-Conemaugh River trail is forested. The recovery of the waterway is also reflected in the riparian area. Once heavily logged, the paddlers will find a mosaic of eastern hardwoods lining the river; black cherry, oak, maples, hemlock, sycamore along with mountain laurel, rhododendron, are prevalent. Black bears, deer, wild turkeys, muskrats, blue herons, grouse, wood ducks, mallards, and Canada geese all make their home along the way, and are regularly seen by boaters. Just as AMD (Acid Mine Drainage) is a problem in the water, Japanese knotweed, an invasive species, has taken over large tracts of the riparian area. Efforts are underway to halt its domination and re-introduce native species.