Sojourn Marks Conewango Creek’s PA River Of The Year Designation

Fun on the Conewango Creek flowing through northern Warren County drew paddlers and other outdoors enthusiasts to a celebration on July 11 marking the rebounding waterway’s designation as Pennsylvania’s River of the Year for 2015.

A sojourn, in which pre-registered canoe and kayak enthusiasts will travel together, highlighted the day-long celebration. Paddlers floated from Frewsburg, N.Y., south to Russell in Pennsylvania. Speakers addressed participants at four stops on the waterway’s history, challenges and promise.

“Promoting awareness of how this waterway and others across the state have rebounded, and their continuing conservation needs is the major goal of this sojourn and others held throughout the summer,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “There is a vital connection among the rivers and streams and area residents and visitors, and these sojourns and other activities planned by river advocates strengthen those bonds.

“When a state designates a waterway for this honor, it also is saluting the communities, conservation groups and individual citizens all working for its improvement.”

In support of that goal, Gov. Tom Wolf had proclaimed June as Rivers Month in Pennsylvania, the Secretary noted. Highlighting the recreational and economic value of waterways, no less than a dozen sojourns were held on rivers and streams across the state.

Remaining events include the 16th annual Ohiopyle Over the Falls Festival planned Aug. 22, and the Invisible River Schuylkill River celebration set for Aug. 29.

Rich in aquatic life and home to at least two rare fish species, the Conewango Creek voted the 2015 Pennsylvania River of the Year in January after a five-week public voting period.

The general public was invited to vote online, choosing from among five waterways nominated across the state. Results were announced jointly by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the PA Organization for Waterways and Rivers.

Four other rivers were nominated finalists. They were: the Lackawanna River in the northeast; Loyalhanna Creek and the Ohio River in the southwest; and the Neshaminy Creek and its watershed in the southeast.

The applicant for the winning waterway, the Conewango Creek Watershed Association, received a $10,000 Leadership Grant to help fund River of the Year activities.

“We want to thank everyone—all the businesses, organizations, media and individuals—that made this possible,” said Conewango Creek Watershed Association Chairman Steve Kimball, after the selection was made. “Just to promote Conewango Creek for 2015 Pa. River of the Year has brought a lot of awareness of the creek locally and regionally. The creek is now ‘on the radar’ for many people that never really thought much about it before.”

Also, POWR and DCNR worked with the association to create a free, commemorative poster celebrating the Conewango as the 2015 PA River of the Year.

A tributary of the Allegheny River, Conewango Creek flows 71 miles through northwestern Pennsylvania and western New York and is part of a 900-square-mile-area drainage basin.

Though challenged by sediment pollution in some areas, the Conewango’s water quality sustains two rare fish species—the burbot, once thought to be extirpated, and the paddlefish, which was reintroduced to the area.

The waterway also is home 19 native species of freshwater mussels, and boasts a biodiversity rich in river otters, bald eagles, ospreys and herons.

The Conewango Creek also is a designated PA Water Trail, with six launch areas along its 13 miles flowing through Pennsylvania.

POWR administers the River of the Year program with funding from DCNR. Presented annually since 1983, the 2014 designation was awarded to the Schuylkill River in southeast Pennsylvania.

Each year, finalists are determined based on each waterway’s conservation needs and successes, as well as celebration plans should the nominee be voted River of the Year.

The River of the Year sojourn is just one of many paddling trips supported by DCNR and POWR each year. An independent program, the Pennsylvania Sojourn Program, is a unique series of trips on the state’s rivers.

These water-based journeys for canoeists, kayakers and others raise awareness of the environmental, recreational, tourism and heritage values of rivers. For more information about the sojourns, visit POWR’s Sojourns webpage.

For sojourn details, visit here. The Conewango and other sojourn programs are coordinated by the PA Organization of Waterways and Rivers in partnership with DCNR, as well as dozens of local organizations.

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.

Since 1983, the River of the Year has been featured on posters sent to watershed organizations, local municipalities and interested individuals throughout the state to encourage a focus on Pennsylvania's waterways.

For more information on rivers programs and activities, visit DCNR’s Rivers Conservation Program webpage.

The text of Gov. Tom Wolf’s proclamation follows:


June 2015

WHEREAS, each year, Pennsylvania joins states across the nation in celebrating RIVERS MONTH to emphasize the importance of all the Commonwealth’s rivers. Events and activities scheduled for June reaffirm our commitment to the value and beauty of our river resources; and

WHEREAS, rivers flow through Pennsylvania’s cities, towns and boroughs, providing an important natural and recreational asset to urbanized areas; and, they are a rich mosaic of water treasures, providing opportunities for boating, fishing, bird watching and other recreational activities, as well as drinking water for millions of Pennsylvanians; and

WHEREAS, through protective and innovative actions such as the Pennsylvania Rivers Conservation Program, the Coldwater Heritage Partnership Program, the Pennsylvania Scenic Rivers Program and the River Towns Programs, Pennsylvanians join in promoting the conservation and revitalization of these precious water resources; and

WHEREAS, Pennsylvania’s river initiatives are driven by voluntary partnerships with municipal officials, local groups, conservation organizations and governmental agencies, to develop watershed conservation plans for restoring, maintaining and enhancing all rivers; and leading to the rebound of waterways such as the Conewango Creek – Pennsylvania’s 2015 River of the Year; and

WHEREAS, these Rivers Conservation Plans now encompass 66 percent of Pennsylvania thanks to funding and technical assistance from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Because of local partnership efforts and stewardship commitments, 107 watersheds or corridors have gained approved Registry Status; and

WHEREAS, conservation and appreciation of our river environments represent concepts of enduring consequence.

THEREFORE, I, Tom Wolf, Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, do hereby proclaim June 2015 RIVERS MONTH. I urge all Pennsylvanians to reaffirm their commitment to protecting and conserving the quality of our river systems.

(Reprinted from the July 15 Resource newsletter by DCNR.  Click Here for your own copy (bottom of the page).)


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