Pennsylvania 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
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