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December 05, 2022

Schuylkill River among four nominees for Pennsylvania's 2023 River of the Year

The winning waterway earns $10,000 for the environmental organization that submitted it. The public can vote on the award through Jan. 18

Environment Rivers
Schuylkill River DCNR Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

The Schuylkill River is one of four rivers nominated for Pennsylvania River of the Year. The other waterways are the Perkiomen Creek, Conestoga River and Susquehanna River-North Branch.

The Schuylkill River is one of four rivers nominated for Pennsylvania River of the Year, an annual tradition celebrating the importance of the state's expansive waterways.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers, has awarded River of the Year since 1983. The title seeks to raise awareness of the recreational, ecological and historical resources found at waterways throughout the state. 

This year's nominees also include Perkiomen Creek, the Conestoga River and the Susquehanna River-North Branch. A two-month public voting period opened last Wednesday and closes Wednesday, Jan. 18. The organization nominating the winning river will receive a $10,000 grant from DCNR to fund activities throughout the year, including a paddling trip with local organizations.

"Honoring the River of the Year has become one of my favorite annual traditions and I am hopeful that we receive a record number of votes for the 2023 competition," said Cindy Adams Dunn, secretary of the DCNR. "Pennsylvania has thousands of miles of beautiful waterways which provide wonderful recreational opportunities, support our local economies, and help connect the public to the history and culture of communities across the commonwealth." 

The Schuylkill River was nominated by the Schuylkill River Greenways National Heritage Area, an organization that fosters stewardship of the Schuylkill River Trail and the river, which spans five counties from Pottsville to Philadelphia, where it joins the Delaware River. The organization hosts its own sojourn each year in June, a seven-day canoe trip that follows the 135-mile river from rural Schuylkill Haven to Boathouse Row. 

The organization is also in the middle of a 10-year strategic plan, titled "Re(Turn) to the River," which evaluates the progress in raising awareness of the recreational, economic and heritage tourism opportunities of the river and trail. The plan wraps in 2026.

The Schuylkill River's health is at risk from storm water runoff, agricultural materials and damage from abandoned mines along its route, according to the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers. Increased awareness of environmental impacts of runoff and other risks have improved the health of the 2,000-mile watershed in recent years. 

Perkiomen Creek, a 14-mile tributary of the Schuylkill River that runs across Berks, Lehigh and Montgomery counties, was nominated by the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy. Founded in 1964, the conservancy works to preserve natural resources of the watershed by encouraging people within its community to find sustainable connections to the waterway. 

The organization leads cleanups, restorations and other conservation efforts along the waterway. The conservation group also holds tree plantings, native plant sales and trail races for charity. 

The Conestoga River flows 63 miles and drains over 475 miles of watershed as it moves toward the Susquehanna in Lancaster County. It was nominated by the Conestoga River Club, which provides resources to keep the river clean and connect the surrounding communities to the importance of the waterway. 

The Susquehanna River-North Branch stretches from the New York state line through eight counties in Pennsylvania. The 300 million-year-old waterway features sacred sites, Native American lookout points and remnants of historic canals. The river was nominated by Endless Mountain Heritage Region and the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership, which co-manage the river and assist in its cleanup and recreational efforts

Past River of the Year winners include French Creek in 2022, Shenango River in 2021 and Lackawana River in 2020. 

Also in 2020, the Delaware River, which flows 400 miles and drains more than 14,000 square miles of land in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, was named River of the Year by American Rivers, a national organization that recognized the waterway due to its dramatic turnaround over the last 75 years, including the restoration of wildlife.