Dear friend,

June 1 marked the beginning of National Rivers Month, and with 2.9 million miles of river in the nation, that's a lot to celebrate, and protect. Pennsylvania alone has over 80,000 miles of streams, second only to Alaska (with 365,000 miles). Healthy rivers are essential for supporting healthy ecosystems and communities. About one-third of the U.S. relies on streams for its drinking water supply, and over $97 billion is spent each year on recreation and tourism related to rivers.

June also marks National Great Outdoors Month, making this a perfect week to venture out to gain a fresh perspective and appreciation for the rivers and streams around you. There are so many ways to explore and recreate around Pennsylvania's streams, including fly-fishing, kayaking, canoeing, bird-watching, and swimming. Waterways are also perfect for inspiring artists diving into nature photography, nature journaling, or plein air painting.

Because everything flows downstream, one of the best ways to protect all streams, lakes and rivers is through a committed effort to protect, conserve and restore the natural places closest to where we live . At the bottom of this newsletter you can find ways to get involved with ClearWater Conservancy to join in on our many stream restoration efforts.

Did you hear that? I think I hear your next adventure calling!
Deb Nardone, Executive Director, ClearWater Conservancy
Topic of the Week: Waterways of PA
Learn something new
Pennsylvania is well regarded for its forest, but our many waterways are equally abundant. Pennsylvania has over 85,000 miles of streams and waterways packed into just 45,000 square miles. This puts Pennsylvania squarely into the lead for highest stream density of any state. About 6% of Pennsylvania’s area consists of waterways or wetlands, an area twice the size of Rhode Island!

Half of the state drains through the Susquehanna River and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay. This includes the area we live in. The remainder of the state is mostly broken between the Delaware and Ohio Rivers. A small number of other watersheds cross into Pennsylvania’s borders, but they represent a small fraction of our total drainage. From our home state you could catch a river network that could take you south to the Gulf of Mexico, east to the Atlantic Ocean, north to lake Ontario, or west to lake Erie. We sit rather uniquely in this regard as few other states have as many options downhill. 

Much of our waterways’ direction and nature today come from the underlying geology. Areas of exceptionally hole-y rock, like many of our valley bottoms, absorb much of the rainfall only to send it back out into the larger streams in timescales ranging from a couple of hours to decades. The types of rock the water flows through can also drastically alter the chemistry downstream. In Pennsylvania, we typically classify streams as being limestone or freestone based upon that original geology. Freestone streams are more the classic river rock streams with water that can warm up drastically in the summer months and are usually fed by surface water or non-limestone springs. Limestone streams on the other hand are much colder-running as they are fed either by underground aquifers or ample spring flow that pass through limestone. Limestone streams offer better conditions for most aquatic life such as a more neutral pH and colder temperatures.
Tips & Tricks
There are countless ways to enjoy the beauty and wonders of our local streams and rivers, whether you’re in them or admiring from the banks.

Swimming offers a refreshing reprieve from the summer sun, and there are numerous public beaches at Pennsylvania's state parks. Opening dates and hours for swimming vary by park, so refer to the DCNR website when planning your trip.

Boating also offers a unique way to experience all our waterways have to offer. The Fish and Boat Commission (PBC) maintains an up-to-date listing of all boat launches throughout Pennsylvania, including those managed by DCNR and the Army Corps of Engineers. Paddlers can partake in everything from floating downstream to pulling into an eddy to cast for fish.

Floating on a tube or other personal device is also a fun way to spend a day on a river. While tubes and other non-registered watercraft are not allowed to be launched or retrieved at a boat launch, they are a great way to slowly spend time on the stream. Popular places on Penns Creek offer 1-2 mile floats that often require less than a quarter mile to return to the start and go again.

Fishing from the shore is great for all ages. Check the local regulations for the types of lures and baits permitted as they change from place-to-place and sometimes throughout the year. Our state parks often have dedicated fishing piers or other designated areas, while most streams are open to fishing throughout their run. Those looking for a more genial fishing experience can contact the Spring Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited and learn what opportunities are available for everything from promoting youth fishing to assisting veterans. Visit this page for a list of places to purchase a fishing license in Centre County.

Lastly, those looking to unwind without getting wet can take to hiking or walking along the many trails that parallel our streams. Many of these offer unique opportunities to see wildlife that live in riparian habitats.
Choose your own adventure!
Adventurers looking to spend some time exploring waterways have a plethora of options awaiting them.

The Lower Trail is a 16-mile rail trail that follows along the Juniata river. Hikers, bikers, and most any other human-powered locomotion is allowed on the trail that starts a short distance from Canoe Creek State Park and ends near Alexandria. In addition to the river the trail also crosses a number of important birding areas as it meanders. There are several trailheads, referred to as stations, that allow visitors to select portions of the trip to explore without needing to traverse its entire length.

Millbrook Marsh Nature Center offers fantastic views of several converging waterways. Bathgate spring offers a glimpse at a typical limestone-influenced tributary and nearby incorporates a man-made fen, another limestone feature essential to water quality. Visitors can also stroll around Slab Cabin Run before it joins with Spring Creek to see the difference in appearance between the two waterways first-hand.

Poe Paddy State Park is nestled by Penns Creek, a tremendous success story for water quality restoration projects. Penns Creek has gone from nearly a dead stream to having one of the highest measured fish biomass in the state. Visitors can explore the nearby tunnel that is part of the Mid State Trail and get a reprieve from a hot summer day as the tunnel is almost always a cool 55.

Visitors to Talleyrand Park can see the convergence of the Big Spring and Spring Creek. The water that flows out of the Big Spring has traveled dozens of miles through underground rivers before breaking to the surface in Bellefonte. This cold, and importantly very clean, water flows into the creek and acts as a buffer to any runoff associated with human development that flows into Spring Creek.

What to bring on your adventure:
  • A refillable water bottle 
  • Sturdy and water-resistant footwear
  • Long pants and high socks may be preferred for additional protection from insects and ticks
  • Child carrier/backpack is recommended for very young children 
  • Binoculars for bird and wildlife watchers
  • A light snack or picnic lunch

At-home adventure:Create a DIY Watershed!
Click the below image for directions in how to create your own interactive watershed model! This project creates a visual view of how possible pollutants get into our water system. This educates on how to keep a healthier community!
Step out and explore!
What's your unique way of enjoying and exploring nature? We'd love to see photos of your adventures and hear about your experiences. Please email your photos and stories to Dan Trew, adventure coordinator: With your permission we'll share them in upcoming issues!
For over forty years, ClearWater Conservancy has been working hand-in-hand with the community to proactively protect and restore our regions waterways through land conservation and stream restoration efforts.

For example, the Slab Cabin Run Initiative mutually benefits our community and environment by helping to ensure a steady supply of safe, clean drinking water for our region while improving the water quality of the Slab Cabin Run. In 2017, the community worked together to protect 300 acres of the Meyer and Everhart farm, which sits immediately on top of State College's drinking water supply. Then in 2019, this effort continued on with the planting of 3,000 trees in order to restore the health of the stream. As this streamside buffer takes root, it will enhance water quality, minimize flood damage, and improve wildlife habitat, all while supporting the farming operation of  Meyer Dairy Store .

Our work will never be done, but we can accomplish so much more with the help of volunteers and generous donors like so many of you. Please contact us anytime if are interested in donating to or volunteering for ClearWater Conservancy!
ClearWater Conservancy | 814-237-0400 | |