Yellow Breeches Creek

World Famous Trout Fishing

Yellow Breeches Creek Water Trail

The Yellow Breeches Creek originates on South Mountain, in Michaux State Forest, Cumberland County, near Walnut Bottom.  From there, the Yellow Breeches flows through the limestone rich Cumberland Valley and joins the Susquehanna River near New Cumberland. The main stem of the Yellow Breeches is roughly 49 miles long and drains 219 square miles of forested areas, farmland, and suburbs.

Most of the developed land is currently concentrated in the eastern portion of the watershed, with forested areas in the headwaters and on the hilltops. Agriculture dominates the fertile valley areas, lending a pastoral setting to the middle reach of the stream. In 1992, the Yellow Breeches was designated as a “Pennsylvania Scenic River.” The portion of the main stem encompassed by this water trail is characterized mainly by long, shady pools with occasional dams and riffle areas.

Pennsylvania Water Trail Program

Long before airports, highways or even trains, Pennsylvania’s streams, rivers, and lakes provided a means of transportation for native inhabitants. As European explorers ventured into “Penn’s Woods,” these waters became important trading routes. Later, as demand for logs, coal, and other goods soared, the Commonwealth’s waterways became commercial highways.

Today, you can travel these same routes, enjoying the state’s natural resources while getting glimpses of rich history and tradition on an official Pennsylvania Water Trail. The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission has designated the Yellow Breeches Creek Water Trail an official Pennsylvania Water Trail. The goal of the Yellow Breeches Creek Water Trail is to highlight existing public recreation facilities and to encourage stewardship and recreation of the creek.


Like much of the lower Susquehanna River, the Susquehannock and Shawnee Indians were the first known inhabitants of the Yellow Breeches Watershed. In the mid-1730s, the area was legally opened to settlers who focused on agriculture and operated as many as 60 grist and saw mills along the banks of the Yellow Breeches. Many of these mills were associated with dams to improve water flow through the mill. Many of the old mill buildings are currently used as residences or warehouses.

The Yellow Breeches Watershed, particularly the Boiling Springs area, was also used as an important shelter and checkpoint on the Underground Railroad.  It also served as an essential source of water, food, and lumber for the early settlers.  Today, water suppliers, including two large ones in the eastern portion of the watershed, use the abundant water resources of the Yellow Breeches.


The Yellow Breeches Creek Watershed supports an abundance of wildlife. There are a variety of nongame species of birds, amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals. Game species include white-tailed deer, gray squirrel, cottontail rabbit, turkey, ruffed grouse, ring-neck pheasant, woodcock, mourning dove, and various waterfowl. There are also red and gray fox, mink, muskrat, raccoon, weasel, opossum, black bear, bobcat, and beaver. Several threatened and endangered species occur in the watershed.

Endangered bog turtles make their home in several wetlands in the Yellow Breeches, while the eastern mud salamander has been found in Michaux State Forest on South Mountain, Cumberland County.  Threatened sedge wrens also live and potentially breed in the watershed’s wet meadows and marshes.  Portions of the Michaux State Forest have been designated as Important Bird Areas, providing critical habitat for interior bird species, while the abundant water resources harbor many species of water fowl.


The Yellow Breeches Watershed is world-famous for its trout fishing opportunities, attracting local and state residents, as well as fishermen from throughout the surrounding states.  Most of the stream and its tributaries are designated as Cold Water or High-Quality Cold-Water Fisheries. Trout thrive in its cool, limestone waters.  Brown and rainbow trout are more prevalent in the lower portion of the basin, while brook trout can be found in the smaller, headwater areas and tributaries around South Mountain. Trout are stocked extensively in the Yellow Breeches, both by the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission and local fishing clubs. Fly-fishing is very popular and a portion of the stream near Boiling Springs is regulated as a year-round “Catch-and-Release” Area.

Each year the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission publishes the Pennsylvania Fishing Summary.  Before planning a fishing outing, refer to this guide. The Summary is available online at or at local license-issuing agents. All individuals age 16 and over must obtain a license to fish or angle for any fish species and to take fish bait, baitfish, frogs and turtles from Commonwealth waters. Casting and/or retrieving, whether by rod, reel and line, or by handline, for oneself or another person, requires a current license unless specifically exempted by law. While fishing, the license must be clearly displayed to allow waterways conservation officers to verify quickly and easily that anglers are legally licensed. Anglers are also required to carry another means of positive identification, such as a valid driver’s license, to establish their identity if requested by a waterways conservation officer.