The weather was in transition. It was rainy and cold on the drive to Warren County. By the time we arrived at the Buckaloons Recreation Area the weather and the sky cleared for the evening. The Buckaloons Recreation Area is about seven miles west of Warren, Pa. and would be our entry point to the Allegheny River and it’s island wildernesses several miles down stream. The Allegheny River Islands Wilderness is located on the western edge of the Allegheny National Forest. Seven alluvial islands in the Allegheny River, totaling 368 acres, are located between Buckaloons Recreation Area and Tionesta, Pennsylvania.
Shoving off to the south under gorgeous late afternoon light, small may flies hovered and flickered in swarms that appeared and dissipated in waves. They were dense in the air just above the surface of the river. As I drifted downstream the flies pelted my face as if I were on a motorcycle rather than a kayak.
Crull’s Island is the northernmost island in the wilderness, we took the right channel behind the island. On the right bank of the river was the village of Althom and State Game Lands #86. The sun back light the trees providing stunning reflections of the island and village onto the placid but moving river water.
The second island in the chain is Thompson Island. Thompson Island is the site of the only Revolutionary War battle in Northwest Pennsylvania. Colonel Daniel Broadhead skirmished with and defeated the Senecas in 1779. We decided before hand that this was to be the island where we would camp for the night. A few small islands are situated at near the tip of Thompson’s Island funneling water into gentle rapids. While passing through the small islands Mallard Ducks and Canadian Geese on the banks of the larger island were startled by our approach in water craft. They responded by jumping into flight only a few feet above my head. With the body of Thompson’s Island now at our right we looked for a prime landing area and found one about halfway down the island. We pulled the kayaks from the water and conveniently found ourselves at an established campsite. The site had an overgrown fire ring while ferns and other fresh vegetation covered the ground in places at the fringes of the modest site. No one had camped here in quite some time.
As the clear evening progressed the moon rose and was nearly full, shedding soft light filtering through the trees allowing for fireside conversation and night photography until well after midnight.
The morning brought light fog that drifted upstream against the current. The sky yielded subtle blues and pinks at the early hour. After a single pear for breakfast we shoved off down the Allegheny just before six o’clock. Fog filled every saddle and hollow holding tributaries that line the river. A lone eagle soared to my right and headed for a perch near the tops of the trees closest to the banks. As we approached the eagle took flight and moved up river to psychologically safer waters away from people. The river lead us through wide open water in the eddy and close channels in between islands as we moved south towards Tidioute where our journey would end.