It’s time once again to vote for the PA River of the Year. The 2014 River of the Year voting period runs from now to December 27th. The winner will be chosen by popular vote.
For the past twenty years, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has annually recognized 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.
The River of the Year is celebrated throughout the year. Events have included paddling trips, a 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.
Last year 25,450 ballots were cast by the public which determined that the Monongahela River (8,156 votes) was the PA River of the Year. The other finalists and total votes received were:
Schuylkill River (8,010)
Lackawanna River (5,286)
Kiskiminetas River (2,310)
Swatara Creek (1,213)
Juniata River (475)
This year’s nominees are:
The Brodhead Creek and Watershed
The Brodhead Creek Watershed in the Poconos of eastern Pennsylvania drains an area of 312 square miles, emptying into the Delaware River just north of the Delaware Water Gap. Brodhead Creek is a 21.9-mile-long tributary of the Delaware and has long been regarded as the “birthplace of American fly-fishing.” An important source of recreation and natural habitat, boasting reproducing wild trout, the Brodhead watershed also provides the drinking water for area residents and visitors. The creek and watershed are located within one of Pennsylvania’s fastest growing counties, Monroe County, which has experienced an influx of new residents, many of whom are not yet familiar with the watershed, its natural treasures, and its importance as a water supply.
The Kiskiminetas-Conemaugh Rivers
The Kiski-Conemaugh Rivers offer 80 miles of paddling along the borders of Cambria, Westmoreland, Indiana, and Armstrong Counties. The Conemaugh features the 1,560 feet deep Conemaugh Gorge and 1,308 feet deep Packsaddle Gap. It originates at nearly 3,000 feet above sea level, dropping to 967 feet at the mouth of the Kiskiminetas. The Kiski’s deep pools give way to riffles and waves, calming and widening as it approaches the Allegheny. 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 Ohio River
The Ohio River is formed by the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers at Point State Park in Pittsburgh. It ends 981 miles downstream in Cairo, Illinois, where it flows into the Mississippi River. At this convergence, the Ohio is actually larger than the Mississippi. The Ohio River supplies drinking water and provides recreational uses for over five million people. Its name is derived from the Iroquois word, Oyo, meaning “the great river.” Large rivers represent the most imperiled types of ecosystems in North America, and the Ohio is no exception. The Ohio and its islands have been named an important ecosystem for conservation. The Ohio River has additionally been named an Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society.
The Schuylkill River
The Schuylkill measures 128 miles from its headwaters in Schuylkill County to its confluence with the Delaware River in Philadelphia. It is a river with a tremendous history and an inspiring environmental story. The Schuylkill was on the brink of becoming a wasteland until, in 1945, the state of Pennsylvania agreed to undertake the Schuylkill River Project. It was the first major government-funded environmental cleanup, and it dredged millions of tons of coal culm from the river. In roughly half a century, the Schuylkill has gone from being one of the nation’s most polluted bodies of water to becoming a popular recreational destination for paddlers, trail users and anglers. The Schuylkill is a source of drinking water for 1.5 million people, and waterfront communities all along the river corridor are now using those waterfronts to bolster community revitalization efforts.
The West Branch of the Susquehanna River
Starting as a narrow stream in the Allegheny Mountains, the West Branch Susquehanna River journeys 228 miles to its confluence with the North Branch at Northumberland. The river is recognized as a National Recreation Trail. Paddlers on the West Branch experience mile after mile of forested valleys with deer, bear, elk, and birds in abundance in Pennsylvania’s Lumber Heritage Region. Conservation challenges include long-term water quality recovery from abandoned mine drainage and a legacy of unregulated coal mining that occurred before 1977. The river will host the National Canoe and Kayak Championships in 2014 near Lock Haven.
To vote for one of these rivers as the 2014 River of the Year, visit the website of POWR, which administers the River of the Year program. Local organizations submit nominations for this award which the POWR narrows down to several finalists. POWR also helps organize and support local watershed associations, as well as the groups who lead a dozen sojourns on rivers around the state each year.
The Pennsylvania River of the Year honor has been presented annually since 1983. Past local rivers which won the River of the Year were:
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