Fun on the Stonycreek River - from a canoe and kayak sojourn slicing though white water to leisurely tube floats - is expected to draw hundreds of paddlers, campers and other outdoors enthusiasts to a waterway where wild and scenic beauty earned it Pennsylvania River of the Year honors for 2012.
Shoreline and off-shore activities are planned throughout the day Saturday, June 16, at Greenhouse Park in Conemaugh Township, Somerset County. The celebration comes six months after the Stonycreek, flowing through Cambria and Somerset counties, was named River of the Year in public, online voting across the state.
"Promoting awareness of how this river has rebounded and the continuing conservation needs of the Stonycreek and other waterways across the state is the major goal of DCNR's River of the Year designation," said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Richard Allan. "There is a vital connection among the waterway, area residents and visitors, and the sojourn and other activities planned by river advocates can only strengthen those bonds."
In support of that goal, Gov. Tom Corbett has proclaimed June as Rivers Month in Pennsylvania, Allan noted. No less than a dozen sojourns have been held or are planned on waterways across the state to highlight their recreational and economic value.
"Our current River of the Year has rebounded from abandoned mine drainage threats of the past to unlimited recreational potential of the future," Allan said. "The Stonycreek has it all - near-wilderness, pristine trout waters; nationally acclaimed white-water adventure; and a watershed steeped in natural and historical resources."
Before emptying into the Conemaugh River in Johnstown, Stonycreek River flows 46 miles across the Allegheny Plateau in southern Cambria County and northern Somerset County. Anglers are drawn to Stonycreek Gorge's nine miles of near-wilderness trout water, while the Stonycreek Canyon offers 15 rapids in four miles -- the longest set of continuous rapids in the eastern United States.
Its waters now rebounded from the deadly effects of abandoned mine drainage, the Stonycreek River carves out a 468 square-mile watershed that is bordered by the Allegheny Front and Laurel Ridge, and contains rolling farmland, active and reclaimed strip mines, woodlands, and classic former coal-mining communities.
The river corridor contains the historic Forbes Trail and Flight 93 National Memorial, Quecreek Mine Rescue Site, Quemahoning Lake, Greenhouse Park and Whitewater Park - the first constructed set of rapids for boaters in Pennsylvania.
The Stonycreek is among several key features in the Laurel Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative. Led by DCNR, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and others, the initiative seeks to protect the unique character of the Laurel Highlands and recognize its communities as world-class heritage/recreation destinations as well as excellent places to work and live.
Highlighting Stonycreek's celebration Saturday, an official sojourn through the river canyon's white water is planned from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Special events and a river dedication will follow, along with daredevil wave riding, paddle boarding and a "white-water rodeo."
For complete activity listings, details on other upcoming sojourns across the state, and information on the 2012 River of the Year poster.
Stonycreek River of the Year Celebration is sponsored by the Stonycreek Quemahoning Initiative, Benscreek Canoe Club, Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, Somerset County Tourism Program, DCNR, Pennsylvania Organization for Watershed & Rivers, Stonycreek- Conemaugh River Improvement Project, and Lift Johnstown.
The Stonycreek and other sojourn programs are coordinated by POWR in partnership with DCNR, as well as dozens of local organizations. POWR's mission is to advocate protection, restoration and enjoyment of water resources, and conduct programs that foster stewardship, communication, leadership and action.
Statewide annual paddling events encompass more than 500 river miles, span more than 50 on-the-water days, and engage more than 4,000 participants. Other upcoming river sojourns include:
Juniata River, June 15-20; Susquehanna North Branch, June 20-24; Lehigh River, June 22-25; Delaware River, June 24-30; and Ohiopyle Over The Falls, August 18.
Since 1983, a state River of the Year has been featured on posters sent to watershed organizations, local municipalities and interested individuals throughout the state to encourage a statewide focus on Pennsylvania's waterways.
To learn more, visit DCNR's Rivers Program webpage.