Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers-River of the Year Program

Pennsylvania’s River of the Year is an honor designed to elevate public awareness of specific rivers and recognize important conservation needs and achievements.

Pennsylvania’s River of the Year (ROY) is an important award bestowed upon a Commonwealth river to indicate a combination of conservation need, a desire to elevate public awareness, and an important milestone or recent/future achievement on that river. Past ROY waterways have typically been larger rivers like the Delaware, Lehigh, Youghiogheny, and Susquehanna but more recently the focus of the award has been broadened to all rivers and streams. River of the Year status conveys an importance for statewide agencies and organizations, as well as local organizations to focus public awareness and conservation efforts. ROY activities are usually linked to sojourn activities, but the scale and impact can fluctuate greatly depending upon which river is selected and which local organization takes the lead in ROY activities.

The Pennsylvania River of the Year is selected by the general public on an annual basis to provide emphasis for a specific Commonwealth river. Selection of the feature river is based on local initiatives and stewardship efforts to restore, maintain, protect or enhance the river, its long-term viability and values, and its community connection. The feature river is celebrated through a gubernatorial proclamation, poster distribution, and sojourn activities. In celebrating June Rivers Month, the agency promotes the positive steps that regional and local communities have made in repairing or maintaining watershed health. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) promotes local efforts within the featured region through a commemorative river scene poster distributed statewide, and it provides funding and planning assistance for up to a week-long sojourn on the featured waterway. It also funds numerous other sojourns throughout the Commonwealth.

The annual DCNR River of the Year award honors local residents, governments, non-profit, and conservation organizations working to improve waterways and the quality of life in their watersheds across the state. Conserving and protecting the greenway corridor of river lands along the Commonwealth’s rivers is a top priority for DCNR, and the River of the Year designation aims to raise awareness of the river and its conservation needs.

Nominations for River of Year are typically made in the fall. After the nominations are reviewed, several rivers are then chosen to be voted on online by the citizens of the Commonwealth.

The waterway with the most public support is then chosen for River of the Year. After the designation is made, the nominating local groups implement a year-round slate of activities and events to celebrate the river, including a paddling trip or sojourn. The nominating organization of the winning river will receive a $10,000 leadership grant to help fund its River of the Year activities.

“It is always great to see how the state’s rivers get supporters to vote for them. Every year, this voting reaffirms the connections that Pennsylvanians and others have with our waterways.

“We look forward to once again highlighting the achievements of these local organizations who tirelessly work to protect and promote Pennsylvania rivers.”

Davitt Woodwell, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, an affiliate of POWR
January 14, 2016

Susquehanna North Branch Named Pennsylvania River of the Year

Steeped in historical and recreational value, the free flowing Susquehanna River North Branch in Northeastern Pennsylvania has been voted the 2016 Pennsylvania River of the Year following a five-week public voting period.

The general public was invited to vote online Nov. 13-Dec.14, choosing from among five waterways nominated across the state. Results were announced jointly today by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pa. Organization for Waterways and Rivers (POWR).

Four other rivers were nominated finalists: the Kiski-Conemaugh River in the southwest; Lackawanna River, northeast; Lehigh; east; and Ohio, southwest.

“Shaping countless community lifestyles in the past while emerging as a recreational treasure of the future, the North Branch of the Susquehanna — like all waterways nominated for 2016 — highlights how Pennsylvania is blessed with a wealth of rivers and streams, and a core of dedicated folks who fight to protect them,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “Through planned River of the Year celebrations, public awareness of the river’s value will be increased and major initiatives along this section of the river will be underscored. Economic revitalization of river-town communities will enhance access to the river; increase tourism; and provide additional land and water-based recreational opportunities for local residents and visitors alike.”

DCNR and POWR will work with the Endless Mountains Heritage Region (EMHR) to create a free, commemorative poster celebrating the Susquehanna River North Branch as the 2016 Pennsylvania River of the Year. EMHR, the applicant nominating the waterway in close cooperation with the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership, will receive a $10,000 Leadership Grant to help fund year-long River of the Year activities.

“The Susquehanna River North Branch is a national treasure in our own back yard and we’re grateful for this opportunity to raise awareness of the river’s historical and recreational value and environmental significance,” said EMHR Director Annette Schultz. “We’re making plans to celebrate the Susquehanna River’s newest designation throughout the year with educational kayaking sojourns, river festivals, educational forums, and River Town designations and support. This year will be a banner year for the river.”

“The Susquehanna connects us to one another and the natural world. Its waters rejuvenate us and provide us with power, and its landscapes inspire us to be better stewards,” said Susquehanna Greenway Partnership Director Trish Carothers. “This honor belongs to the river and the many people who care about this very special part of our heritage. We must conserve, connect, and enjoy the Susquehanna to ensure a healthy future for our region.”

In cooperation with DCNR, selection of public voting choices also was overseen by POWR, an affiliate of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

“POWR would like to commend everyone across the commonwealth for their support for the nominated rivers,” said POWR Vice President Janet Sweeney. “The River of the Year program is a wonderful opportunity to showcase all of the nominated rivers and the great work being done in Pennsylvania communities on these valuable resources.”

A 15-mile stretch of the Susquehanna River North Branch flows from New York into Pennsylvania’s Northern Tier, and continues south 166 miles to join the river’s West Branch at Shikellamy State Park in Northumberland County. The Susquehanna River North Branch is a prominent regional feature, running through Susquehanna, Bradford, Wyoming, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Colombia, Montour, and Northumberland counties. Once a major transportation corridor, the entire waterway still is navigable by kayaks and canoes, even during dry seasons.

POWR administers the River of the Year program with funding from DCNR. Presented annually since 1983, the 2015 River of the Year designation was awarded to Conewango Creek in Northwest Pennsylvania.

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

To learn more about the River of the Year program, the nominated waterways, and past winners visit

To learn more about DCNR’s Rivers Program, visit on “Rivers”).

Terry Brady, DCNR, 717-772-9101
Janet Sweeney, POWR, 570-718-6507


About the River of the Year Program 

Media contacts:
Terry Brady, DCNR, 717-772-9101
Janet Sweeney, POWR, 570-718-6507


May 13, 2015

Conewango Creek Watershed Association Announces its River of the Year Events

Along with being named Pennsylvania’s River of the Year in January, the Conewango Creek Watershed Association was also awarded with a $10,000 Leadership Grant to help fund River of the Year activities.

Located in Northwestern Pennsylvania, Conewango Creek consists of 71 miles and is home to 19 native, freshwater mussel species, including rare species such as the burbot and the paddlefish. A designated Pa. Water Trail, the Conewango Creek has six launch sites across its 13 miles in Pennsylvania.

Join the Conewango Creek Watershed Association, the PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR), and the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds & Rivers (POWR) for a full calendar of events along the Conewango over the next five months.

Additional information to be announced.

For more information see the Conewango Creek Watershed Association’s website at, call 814-726-1441, our visit their Facebook page for updates.

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