Paddling Through History

July 25, 2017By: Lizzie Hessek
Photo of Bridge over Oil Creek by Amy Camp
PEC Blog

Along its 47-mile journey to the Allegheny River, Oil Creek winds through the heart of Pennsylvania’s historic Oil Region, birthplace of the commercial oil industry. Here, the world’s first large-scale petroleum production operations began shortly after the discovery of vast crude oil reserves along the Oil Creek Valley in the mid-19th century.

More than 160 years later, the area has a new claim to fame: as a premier destination for outdoor recreation. And this week, thanks to Crawford County, Venango County, the Titusville Redevelopment Authority, and the Pennsylvania Water Trails Partnership, Oil Creek becomes the state’s newest designated water trail. Nestled in the mountains of northwestern Pennsylvania, the Oil Creek Water Trail flows through lush wooded landscapes and vibrant small towns, connecting Titusville to Oil City by way of Oil Creek State Park. As an official water trail, Oil Creek offers paddlers a chance to explore the region’s historic legacy safely and conveniently, supporting small businesses and boosting local economies along the way.

The water trail designation process began in 2015, when Crawford County completed a feasibility study establishing that the creek had enough water flow to make it viable for recreation nearly year-round. The research also identified public access points that paddlers could use to get on the water, and highlighted connections between the creek, its namesake State Park, and the local communities that make visiting the water trail a uniquely attractive experience. Later, the county designed and developed a map of the water trail that called out public river access, hazardous dams, camp sites, land trail connections, and other information to help visitors plan their trips. These maps will now be available for free to anyone interested in using the newly designated water trail.

In addition to the feasibility study, the county’s successful application to the Pennsylvania Water Trail Partnership Executive Committee included information outlining the water trail’s management structure and detailing how the trail manager will fulfill the eight Pennsylvania Water Trail principles: partnership, stewardship, volunteerism, education, conservation, community vitality, diversity, wellness and wellbeing. The Water Trails Partnership encourages managers to work closely with other local organizations and businesses to fulfill these principles and build a strong, sustainable water trail for residents and visitors to enjoy.

Pennsylvania Water Trails Partnership began in 2008 as a project of the National Parks Service (NPS), the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC). Its goal is to enhance recreation and stewardship on Pennsylvania waterways by supporting water trail managers with technical assistance, networking events, funding opportunities, and the development of a state-wide system of recreational water trails. The addition of Oil Creek into this network of more than 2,000 miles of waterways makes the Pennsylvania Water Trail Program stronger and more representative of the wealth of recreational opportunities available across the Commonwealth.

Find more information about the Pennsylvania Water Trails program here.

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