PHOTO GALLERY | 'Hidden gem of the outdoors': Opening of Stonycreek Rendezvous draws a crowd despite weather

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Wearing a drysuit and carrying his kayak on his shoulder, with a paddle in one hand, Montgomery County resident Brian Davis was ready to get back into the water Friday at the Stonycreek Rendezvous.

“This is awesome. This is like Coachella for Pennsylvania paddlers,” he said, referring to the California music festival that draws hundreds of thousands each year.

The annual Stonycreek Rendezvous, hosted by the Benscreek Canoe Club, brings paddlers from across the country to Greenhouse Park in the Tire Hill area for a weekend full of whitewater fun, music and camaraderie on the Stonycreek River.

The three-day event began Friday and will continue through Sunday at Greenhouse Park.

Friday’s highlight was the capstone of the Headwaters Cup Race Series, in which dozens of contestants launched from Carpenters Park upriver and paddled as fast as they could to Greenhouse Park.

First-time competitor and Patton native Alex Vesey, 28, took the win, making it downriver in about 28 minutes. He said the water level was a little low, but overall it was a “fun run.”

“I just love there’s this many people that are brought to the river,” he said. “Johnstown is a hidden gem of the outdoors.”

PHOTO GALLERY | Stonycreek Rendezvous' Downriver Race

Other highlights of the weekend include a whitewater rodeo at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, and a “heated” local head-to-head competition that Benscreek Canoe Club President Michael Cook said has been roaring for years and is always fun.

Cook thanked everyone for coming – 900 to 1,100 people are expected to attend despite a forecast of rainy weather – and called the event an awesome area tradition. He encouraged anyone who wants to check it out to stop by.

“One of the cool things for me is seeing the kids of people I started boating with getting into boating,” he said.

The $10 admission will be waived for those who want to check out the numerous vendors, groups and food trucks, but Cook asked that the contribution be paid by those interested in listening to the bands.

“We do want to keep growing the event,” Cook said.

Davis was thrilled to take in the sights, get in the river and spend the entire weekend in the Johnstown area. He could only stay for one day of the Rendezvous last year, but he had so much fun, he made sure to free up his schedule for the whole weekend this time around, he said.

Team River Runner representatives Lizzie Califf and John Goonan, of Fredericksburg, Virginia, spoke highly of the event. The pair, who were volunteering with the veteran-focused rafting group, were surprised at the size of the crowd when they arrived.

Stonycreek Rendezvous

Kayakers and rafters compete in a "Downriver Race" on the Stonycreek River in Johnstown, PA., during the annual Stonycreek Rendezvous, Friday, May 17, 2024.

Goonan said he thought the event would be smaller, but was pleased to be wrong and was looking forward to having fun throughout the weekend.

Califf agreed.

“I’m ready to get in the water,” she said.

For more information on the Stonycreek Rendezvous, visit

Water worries

While there were no problems Friday, the weekend’s festivities may be impacted by a Quemahoning Reservoir valve not releasing water as planned due to an unknown issue.

Officials from the Cambria Somerset Authority told The Tribune-Democrat that professionals had been brought in to troubleshoot the situation, even replacing a faulty wire, but were unsure when the valve would be fixed.

The 48-inch valve is controlled remotely from a computerized system in the reservoir’s control tower.

Cook said if there’s no release during the weekend event, that could lead to upset attendees.

At this time, the water level on the Stonycreek River is OK, with the canyon and the lower canyon boatable, Cook said. However, if additional water isn’t provided, it could impact Saturday’s rodeo event because the water level wouldn’t be deep enough to perform some tricks.