The Little Juniata River, a 35 mile tributary of Juniata River, begins humbly in Altoona when several small streams merge. Known locally as the “Little J” or simply the “J,” the river flows northeast from Altoona through the Logan Valley. This part of the river is a freestone fishery for predominantly stocked trout, but that changes quickly when the Little J bends sharply southeast at the town of Tyrone.
Below Tyrone, the Little Juniata flows against high limestone cliffs and receives in-flows from dozens of large limestone springs which cool the river and add nutrients. The river’s deep, chalky-green pools and numerous riffles create the perfect environments to grow truly large trout.
The Little Juniata River is a beautiful river, dotted with hand-cut stone railroad arches. But it becomes particularly scenic below Spruce Creek’s convergence, as it flows through the roadless “gorge” section within Rothrock State Forest.
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The Juniata River flows 13.5 miles south from Tyrone to Petersburg passing through a narrows with high limestone cliffs. By eastern standards the Little Juniata is a large limestone river, ranging from 30 to 60 feet wide with a moderate drop of 15 feet per mile. The Little Juniata is characterized by riffles and moderate fast water with many pools up to 100 yards long. The river reach from Tyrone to Petersburg is regulated as All Tackle Catch and Release.
The 13.5 miles of the Little Juniata River, from the bridge at Ironville to its confluence with the Frankstown Branch near Petersburg, is regulated as All Tackle Catch and Release. This special protection ensures that the river’s wild brown trout are able to thrive and attain proportions that are uncommon in the Northeastern U.S.
In addition to the wild trout, Pennsylvania stocks 30,000 brown trout fingerlings into the river each year. But these fish quickly adapt to their surroundings and by the time they reach 10 to 12 inches (average size), it’s impossible to differentiate between the truly wild trout and the newly “wild” stocked fish.
The Little Juniata is easily accessible by PA-453 and secondary paved roads from Tyrone to the confluence of Spruce Creek. Parking is available at numerous road-side pull-offs. From Spruce Creek to Barree the Little Juniata flows through the Barree Gorge in Rothrock State Forest and is only accessible by walking trails. Note, the first mile below Spruce Creek is private property and posted on both sides of the river. This reach of river is open to the public provided you keep your feet wet. From Barree to Petersburg the river is again accessible by secondary paved roads.
Visit our DIY Guide to Fly Fishing in Pennsylvania for more information on trout fishing in PA.
Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and is on a quest to map the best places for fly fishing in America. He created DIY Fly Fishing and the DIY Fly Fishing App to share this information and help you find new places to fish. Have a question? You can get in touch with Ken here.
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