Falls is a real river town. It has a fine river outfitter doing an excellent – and growing – business. It has a good bar/restaurant, convenience store which stocks regular and “river provisions” and offers takeout foods, a gas station and auto repair garage (sometimes needed by river folks!), a U.S. Post Office, and welcoming churches of Baptist, Methodist and Roman Catholic denominations where river enthusiasts are welcome for Sunday services. There are also a few pubic campgrounds for campers – primitive or “enhanced.” It has an outstanding streamside public park, complete with an excellent state-of–the-art children’s playground, a regulation baseball field, two regulation basketball courts, two regulation tennis courts, as well as a picnic area with a shelter and fireplaces/rings. Falls is also home to a public-friendly 18-hole golf course. The back 9 holes partially overlook the river from a height of 300 ft! You can’t beat that, and such a setting reportedly just might provide a handicap to duffers!
Falls is also the site of the PFBC West Falls Access site. Noteworthy, too, is that the West Falls PFBC Access site is approximately 11 river miles downstream from Tunkhannock Borough’s Riverside Park, 10 river miles downstream form the Tunkhannock PFBC Access site, approximately four river miles downstream from the Kellersburg PFBC Access site, and approximately five river miles upstream from the Apple Tree (Harding, PA) PFBC Access site. (I’m doing mileage estimates without the benefit of a river map in hand at the moment –David Buck can supply exact distances!). I mention these four locations because they all interface with Falls as destination or launch site – and that is important, for obvious reasons, thus buoying a River Town designation.
Falls has been the site of three to four DCNR “Susquehanna Sojourns,” including overnight camping stops, educational programs, and tours. It has hosted Sojourn paddlers at firehall dinners and streamside breakfasts and lunches. It has held community ice cream socials, as well as an evening of musical interlude and an awards banquet at the firehall. It has been the site of two to three “Susquehanna Sojourn” fall reunions. And it has been featured on WNEP-TV’s “Pennsylvania Outdoors” one-hour program as the launch site of a river trip from Falls to Pittston. The river at Falls is safe and clean, loaded with fish, bait fish and wildlife and is picturesque and uncluttered. River usage by paddlers, rowers/scullers, fishermen and bathers has increased very nicely in the last 15 years. There is no heavy industry or man-made pollutants along its shores. Falls is about 10 miles upstream from the beginning of anthracite mine drainage entering into the Susquehanna River (at the confluence of the Lackawanna River).
Lastly, Falls has some American Indian history (Indian Oven Farm and an Indian Village site), features early gristmill activity and remains, was a former ferry crossing and Lehigh Valley Railroad station stop and was the place of General John Sullivan’s fording the river on his expedition to the north. Falls is the site of magnificent Buttermilk Falls – five waterfalls with an approximate 20 to 30 foot drop – on Buttermilk Creek, which empties into the river on its east shore, just south of the PA Route 92 river bridge.
Pennsylvania has many towns. But few Pennsylvania towns have a river. And none have a river with the quality of life characteristics that are unique to the village of Falls. The Susquehanna River at Falls is a treasure and a jewel, appreciated and used by many.
Richard Fitzsimmons is a local river historian.
River Trip Info: September 18th, 2011. Contact Art Coolbaugh runs Susquehanna Kayak & Canoe Rentals in Falls, Pa 570-388-6107 kayaktheriver.com if you are interested – REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED.