Paddling the Bottomless Marsh

By on June 24, 2017

There is a long-standing legend with this swamp that makes many a brave-hearted adventurer fear to launch a boat upon these murky waters. The swamp itself is officially recognized as , but locals call it or . This is the largest swamp in all of , but there is very little recorded information about it. No one seems to know exactly how deep the Swamp goes down into the dark depths, and even Interstate Highway 79 which crosses it only leads to further speculation, and even dread by many folks.

The stories of the construction of the interstate highway only add to the mystery and creepiness of this body of water. Rumors handed down since the generation that built the bridge over this Swamp declare, emphatically, that the bridge itself is floating, and that when the bridge was built in the 1960’s, the road construction workers could never find a solid bottom on which to anchor the bridge pillars and supports, which apparently go down more than 200 feet deep and there is still the question of whether or not there is a bottom.

Another story that is related is that a large crane or bulldozer or similar piece of equipment rolled down into the swamp and was never found again to be retrieved from the murky sludge.

A similar, but much older story relates the time that a full-sized locomotive was parked overnight on a floating train bridge that crossed the swamp. By morning, however, bewildered railroad workers could not find a single trace of the large locomotive that was left there the night before. It had completely and totally just up and vanished. Local legend says that it rolled over, the locomotive fell into the dark water, the bridge righted itself, and never another bubble emerged from below to reveal the truth.

Destination: Geneva Marsh aka Conneaut Marsh

Location: Northwest Pennsylvania

Details:  Largest natural marsh in Pennsylvania

Highlights:  Large Eagle Population, rare Bowfin fish population, Migration population

The headwaters of this massive marsh originate in Conneaut Lake, and the marsh stretches more than 12 miles before it meanders into French Creek. Its width averages a half mile, but in places expands to more than a mile. More than 5,500 acres of the mixed wetland habitats are preserved as State Game Land 213.

This is an amazing marsh to explore with your kayak or canoe. Water levels vary throughout the year, as does flora growth which may inhibit access to some areas as the Summer season progresses.

According to the PA Game Commission site     “This extensive wetland is extremely valuable to many breeding and migrating birds and is designated as Site 7 on Pennsylvania’s Important Bird Area (IBA) list. It actually comprises several kinds of wetlands, including emergent marsh, open water, and wooded swamps. The mix of these kinds of wetlands make it especially valuable to a wide diversity of bird species and offers many kinds of foraging and nesting opportunities for birds. Numerous bird species of special conservation concern nest in the wetlands or utilize the site during migration. It not only is important as a nesting habitat, but also as a stopover for migrants seeking wetlands. Several rare plant and animal species occur here as well. One of the most important features of the wetland is the open water between dense vegetation. Active management is required occasionally to maintain this open-water space.

Bald have nested consistently in Conneaut Marsh and as recently as 2003, four pairs nested here. On average, about eight eagles hunt the marsh through winter. For this large bird of prey, the marsh provides an abundant supply of fish and other quarry, protected space and suitable trees for roosting and nesting.”

On a recent April paddling excursion with my friend Tiffany, who has explored pretty much every nook and cranny of the Marsh, we actually encountered upwards of 12 DIFFERENT eagles, including a number of huge juveniles that were absolutely stunning!

Launch areas:

Launch Area :  From Interstate 79, take Exit 141 and follow Route 285 west. Continue on Rt. 285 a short distance to Route 19 North (Perry Highway) on the right. Route 19 crosses the marsh. At the north end of the bridge, pull over to a parking area on the left.  GPS COORDINATES: 41°33’0.02″N, 80°11’7.53″W

Launch Area Another launch with good visibility is about a mile east of Geneva, off of Route 285. This also is a likely spot to find eagles. A few miles further east, Route 285 reaches the town of Custards. Mercer Pike intersects Route 285 and travels north crossing the lower marsh. Mercer Pike and the second parking area provide good observation points for eagles and many other birds.  GPS COORDINATES: 41°32’17.64″N,  80° 9’26.79″W

Launch Area :  This Launch is located right between the lanes of I-79 and is actually a lot trickier to get to than the other launches, as it requires going out and about by the long way around to obtain access. It is an excellent launch right in the middle of the marsh though: 41°32’57.56″N,  80°10’53.06″W

For some awesome Blimp Photography Aerial Shots, click here.

For a map of the swamp, click here.

About Tambra

Tambra Warner Sabatini is the “Adventurer-in-Chief” of Cross Adventuring, which encompasses her vision for a better approach to our lives and where adventure and whole life mastery merge to transform us individually and within our communities. She believes that we must regain our passion and ability to design personal lives that are truly fulfilling and leave a positive legacy for our children and our world.

Tambra is a devoted entrepreneur with a heart for sharing and leading others outdoors into life-transforming adventures. After a decade-long stint with the Federal Government as a paralegal, she began her entrepreneurial adventures. A series of major life transitions were kept in perspective through expanding her adventuring activities into ultra-endurance events and teaching her love for outdoor recreation with school children and adults through one-on-one coaching and group classes and include cross country skiing, geocaching, kayaking, windsurfing, ultra trail running, backpacking/fastpacking, and the list expands frequently.

She is a prolific Indie Publisher of her own and her client’s books. Check out her Amazon Author Page for her latest releases, including Adventure Foods.

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