2021 River of the Year Nominees

Buffalo Creek

Buffalo Creek

An Audubon-designated Important Bird Area, Buffalo Creek is home to hemlock-lined ravines, rich ecology, and unique recreational opportunities. Buffalo Creek is a 34.4-mile tributary of the Allegheny River that drains in eastern Butler County, western Armstrong County, and a small portion of northern Allegheny County in western Pennsylvania.

The watershed is a popular destination for recreational activities such as fishing, wildlife and nature viewing, and hiking. Fishing for trout, both stocked and wild, is a favorite activity. In fact, a section of the main stem is designated by the PA Fish and Boat Commission as some of the state’s best fishing waters for stocked trout. Birders are delighted by species such as the Louisiana Waterthrush and Bald Eagle which rely on the watershed’s in-tact forest and healthy streams for breeding. Each season brings amazing beauty: spring offers iconic trillium wildflowers, summer evenings bring fireflies, fall radiates with vibrant leaf color, and winter glistens with farms and forests dappled with snow. The Butler-Freeport Trail, which follows Buffalo and Little Buffalo Creeks, has 100,000-150,000 visitors annually.

An area of high biological diversity, the watershed is faced with many challenges such as development and invasive pests. Audubon Society of Western PA has pulled together groups from across the region to establish the Buffalo Creek Watershed Coalition. Together we will help protect and enhance this valuable watershed.

Lehigh River

Lehigh River

The Lehigh River boasts 103 scenic miles as it winds through 10 counties. From the headwaters of the Poconos in Gouldsboro, Pa. to the metro-wilderness of its confluence with the Delaware River in Easton, the mighty Lehigh has long been the lifeblood of all the communities situated along its reach.

It played an essential role in the industrial growth of our country, moving anthracite coal from mine to market from the 1700s well into the 20th century. The Lehigh River was said to run to black, and even today, it still bears the scars of its industrial past in the form of abandoned mine drainage, the most widespread water pollution challenge in the state.

Despite these legacy impacts, the Lehigh remains a valuable natural resource, and through the cooperative efforts of like-minded organizations, partnerships, agencies and concerned citizens over the past 40 years, the Lehigh is the cleanest it has ever been in over a century. In 1982, a 32-mile section in the northern corridor was designated a Pennsylvania Scenic River.

Today, the Lehigh River is the keystone of many local economies. It is a backdrop for urban revitalization, as well as a growing outdoor recreation and tourism industry that offers whitewater rafting, fishing and boating. The Lehigh River is a source of drinking water for five municipalities, it supports critical wildlife habitat, and it colors both the natural character and sense of place for the hundreds of thousands of residents who live in connection with it.

Loyalhanna Creek

Loyalhanna Creek

Those who have visited the Laurel Highlands region are aware of the vast treasures found within its peaks and valleys. Clear, cool streams that topple out of steep hollows of the Laurel and Chestnut Ridges, deep pools teaming with native trout, and miles of protected waterways that snake through a maze of carved boulders and giant trees perfectly describe the headwaters of the Loyalhanna Creek Watershed and its namesake waterway, the 41-mile long Loyalhanna Creek.

Though the Loyalhanna begins in the densely forested areas of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, historic coal mining, agricultural operations, climate change and development pressure threaten the water quality of the creek and many tributaries. Even so, the Loyalhanna Creek offers an exceptional array of opportunities, including miles of water plentiful with large trout, as well as lower reaches rich with pike, bass and muskie. An abundance of rare plant species and wildlife such as beaver, mink, herons, raptors, turtles and salamanders thrive near its banks. New access points and trails can be found along the entire length of the winding creek.

Over recent decades, the Loyalhanna Watershed Association (LWA) and partners have invested millions in grant funding to support projects that treat abandoned mine drainage, repair eroding stream banks, improve farmland, restore riparian and wetland habitats and increase public awareness and recreational opportunities along the Loyalhanna Creek. As LWA celebrates its 50th Anniversary, the new energy surrounding this “middle stream” and its legacy makes it deserving of being recognized as the 2021 PA River of the Year!

Shenango River

Shenango River

The Shenango River winds through Northwestern Pennsylvania, connecting Pymatuning and Shenango Lakes with the Beaver River via 82 miles of scenic, peaceful river. Its history includes use as part of the Erie Canal system during the Industrial Revolution, remnants of which can still be found along the historic Shenango Trail which follows part of its eastern bank. In addition to the swimming, boating, fishing, and waterfowl hunting offered on the lakes, the Shenango River has become a paddler’s paradise, bringing kayakers and canoers from many states to enjoy the diverse wildlife and riparian forest views.

The upper Shenango and its tributaries offer excellent fly fishing for trout, bass, and other choice species. The Upper Shenango River Water Trail runs from Pymatuning Dam, through downtown Greenville’s Riverside Park and, under the historic Kidd’s Mill covered bridge, to Shenango Lake. The Water Trail offers a 23-mile sojourn with Class 1 rapids, easily accessible launch areas, more fishing opportunities, and fabulous bird-watching; including majestic bald eagles, ospreys, kingfishers, and many other waterfowl and songbird species.

In Sharon, the Shenango River is home to WaterFire Sharon, one of America’s premier art and music festivals. From Sharon to New Castle, where the Shenango merges with the Mahoning to form the Beaver River, the Shenango continues to offer beautiful scenery and plentiful launch areas. The Shenango River Watchers and their partner organizations have worked together to clean up the less savory remnants of the River’s industrial past and maintain it as a beautiful destination.

Tunkhannock Creek

Tunkhannock Creek

The breathtakingly beautiful Tunkhannock Creek is a 42-mile tributary in northeastern Pennsylvania that begins in Jackson Township, Susquehanna County and flows to Tunkhannock Borough in Wyoming County, where it empties into the Susquehanna River’s North Branch.

Tunkhannock Creek has 17 different tributaries, giving merit to the English translation of the Lenni-Lenape word “Tunkhannock” that has often been said to be, “meeting of the waters.” Other interpretations of the Native American term are, “small stream”, “wilderness stream”, and “wooded stream.” A number of tourist attractions and lodging facilities are situated along the creek including the Shadowbrook Inn & Resort, Lazy Brook Park, Cozy Creek Campground, Shady Rest Campground, and, most notably, the historic and picturesque 2,400-foot long Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct, locally known as the Nicholson Bridge. This 240-foot tall concrete deck arch bridge on the Norfolk Southern Railway Sunbury Line was once considered the largest concrete structure in the world when its construction was completed by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (DL&W) in 1915.

When Tunkhannock Creek is at its normal water flow levels, it is widely utilized for outdoor recreational activities like fishing, swimming and paddling as well as the backdrop for a number of creek side events like bluegrass festivals, wine festivals, community picnics, and competitive running events.

Vote here!

For more information contact Angela Vitkoski at avitkoski@pecpa.org.

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