It’s that time again for the public to vote for the PA River of the Year. The 2016 River of the Year voting period runs from now to December 14th. The winner will be chosen by popular vote.
Last year votes cast by the public determined that the Conewango Creek was the 2015 PA River of the Year. This year locally, folks in the Lehigh Valley are rooting for the Lehigh River, which is one of the nominees. The Lehigh River has previously won the award in 2007 and 1997.
The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) annually recognizes one river in the state as the River of the Year. This recognition is done to raise awareness of the important recreational, ecological, and historical resources associated with the state’s rivers and streams.
Once chosen, the River of the Year is honored with celebrations throughout the year. Events have included paddling trips, speaker series, clean up days, photography contests, and more. Partnerships of community groups organize the events including a Sojourn paddling trip. In addition, the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers, or POWR, coordinates the production and distribution of a free poster celebrating the river.
This year’s nominees are:
The Kiski-Conemaugh Rivers offer 80 miles of paddling along the borders of Cambria, Westmoreland, Indiana, and Armstrong Counties. The rivers are part of the Pittsburgh-to-Harrisburg Main Line Canal Greenway™, with nearby bike trails and historic communities. Once one of the most denigrated waterways in the Commonwealth due to abandoned mine drainage and other pollutants, the Kiski-Conemaugh is a true restoration success story.
The Lackawanna River flows for 60 miles through Susquehanna, Wayne, Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties. It confluences with the North Branch Susquehanna River at Coxton Point between Duryea and Pittston in Luzerne County, mid-way between the cities of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.
The Lackawanna River has been adversely impacted by the Anthracite coal mining industry, railroad, industrial and urban development over the past 200 years. With the abandonment of the Anthracite Mines in the 1960’s and the development of modern sanitary treatment works, the river has staged a remarkable recovery. The Lackawanna now sustains a vibrant cold water “Class A” fishery in its middle and upper reaches.
The Lehigh River watershed drains 1,345 square miles of eastern Pennsylvania, encompasses portions of 108 municipalities, contains more than 2000 miles of tributary streams, and drains portions of ten counties. The watershed is home to more than half-a-million people. The headwaters of the Lehigh River are located in the Pocono plateau at Lehigh Marshes just north of Gouldsboro in Wayne County. From there, the river winds its way 103 miles to its confluence with the Delaware River in the City of Easton.
A river once polluted by coal from mining operations and other industrial wastes, the water quality of the Lehigh is now very good. The upper Lehigh River has been acclaimed for its excellent trout fishing. The river is popular for whitewater rafting and kayaking and tubing. The popular D&L Trail, a nationally significant historic transportation route that traverses railroads, canals, rivers and trails parallels approximately 70 miles of the river.
The Ohio River runs through largely urbanized and industrialized landscapes, brownfields, and main river channels managed largely for commercial interests. The Ohio runs through or along the border of six states, and its drainage basin includes parts of 14 states.
Just 50 years ago, the Ohio River ran red with unregulated pollution and was quite inhospitable to aquatic life, which decimated fish populations. The Ohio River has experienced a rebirth, and today, the Ohio River and its tributaries represent one of the most diverse freshwater ecosystems on earth.
Susquehanna River – North Branch
The North Branch of the Susquehanna River flows from Cooperstown, New York, enters Pennsylvania at Oakland before heading back into New York at Great Bend in Susquehanna County. It re‐enters Pennsylvania at Sayre, in Bradford County and ends at Shikellamy State Park in Northumberland/Sunbury at the confluence with the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. It was once a major transportation corridor, and although its shallow rocky waters are now considered unnavigable in the modern sense, the entire North Branch is still navigable by kayaks and canoes, even during the dry season.
Conservation challenges for the Susquehanna River North Branch include long‐term water quality recovery from abandoned mine drainage and sediment issues since the timber was cleared over 200 years ago and development of towns and cities add to the runoff into the river.
The Pennsylvania River of the Year honor has been presented annually since 1983. Past local rivers which won the River of the Year were:
2014 – Schuylkill River
2011 – Delaware River
2007 – Lehigh River
2003 – French Creek
2002 – Delaware River
1999 – Schuylkill River
1997 – Lehigh River
1996 – Tulpehocken Creek
1995 – Upper Delaware River