Celebrate Rivers Month in PA

June is National Rivers Month, and that means it’s officially time to go outside and celebrate our amazing, life sustaining, and beautiful river systems.

First, A Little History

National Rivers Month is celebrated across the country, and even internationally, each June. The recognition showcases the importance of rivers, promotes efforts to conserve and restore water resources, and unites river conservationists and advocates across the globe. The idea of an international event highlighting the value of rivers was inspired by the British Columbia Rivers Day, first celebrated in 1980. It wasn’t until 2005, though, that the U.S. declared its first National Rivers Month.

Next, a few reasons why rivers deserve their own month:

For some of us, rivers are what we do, where we go, what we strive to protect every day. For others, rivers may not be front-of-mind unless their waters threaten to flood our homes and neighborhoods. Yes, rivers and streams are dynamic systems that can flow without much notice, but they can also make headline news. It’s important to remember that regardless of who notices them or how often, rivers are providing critical services to people, plants, animals, and our land.

Here are just some of the functions of healthy rivers:

  • Provide drinking water for hundreds of millions of people
  • Serve as critical habitat for almost innumerable plants and animals, including threatened and endangered species
  • Offer outdoor recreation opportunities that promotes physical and mental well-being
  • Serve as critical transportation corridors, helping bring us the things we need and desire
  • Connect us to our past by allowing us to reflect on those who came before and inspiring us to consider those who will come after

Finally, ways you can celebrate Pennsylvania’s rivers and help them out a bit, too!

There are so many ways that you can celebrate Rivers Month this June (and, really, why stop at June?) and join the movement to protect them.

Pennsylvania has a vast network of rivers extending 86,000 miles, second only to Alaska. That includes 29 water trails, which are ideal for low-impact activities like kayaking and canoeing. They offer access points to put in and take out, as well as day use and/or camping opportunities.

Water-based recreation is an important driver of local economies. Water sports and fishing in Pennsylvania generated more than $8 billion in economic activity in 2020, according to research contracted by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

Perhaps you are an accomplished paddler with a kayak on the rack of your car, a well-fitted life jacket, a float plan left with a friend, and a Water Trail Map in your back pocket. Or maybe you’re completely new to paddling. Do not fret — there is a kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddling, tubing, or other boating opportunity in PA that will meet you where you are.

One of the biggest events this month will celebrate the 2024 River of the Year, awarded to the Allegheny River. The 325-mile waterway won by popular vote in an annual contest. To celebrate, the nominating organization, Three Rivers Waterkeeper, is hosting a summer kickoff at Allegheny RiverTrail Park on June 15th, from 4-8 p.m. There will be games, live music, watershed activities, and prizes.

Other recreation ideas:

  • Check out the list of paddling Sojourns (fun, educational, group trips on rivers across PA) happening this month and through October. Sign up to attend one near you or explore a part of Pennsylvania you’ve never been to. More information on the sojourns scheduled for June is listed below.
  • Contact the PA Water Trail Manager for one of 28 designated PA Water Trails. These recreational waterways have maps available to help you plan your trip, public access points with wayfinding and informational signage and parking, and an organization with staff and volunteers who can help answer your questions and help you plan a trip.

Maybe being on the water isn’t your thing. That’s okay. There are plenty of greenways and trails that meander along rivers, streams, and creeks in Pennsylvania. You can walk, hike, bike, and explore, or just find a cozy spot to sit and watch the river float by. Enjoy some birding — look for species like ducks, bald eagles, osprey, great blue herons and so many others that rely on clean healthy streams. Have a family picnic, meditate or do some yoga, grab some art supplies and paint en plein air (fancy for ‘out of doors’).

Any of the above activities are much more enjoyable (and sometimes only possible) when the rivers on which they take place are clean, healthy and free of litter, trash, and other pollution. Rivers Month is the perfect time to consider how you can play a role in protecting our shared waterways.

  • Consider joining a local Watershed Organization near you (this MAP can help you find one).
  • Volunteer for a local clean up to collect and dispose of litter appropriately.
  • Get to know your local municipal leaders, attend a few meetings in your town to learn about conservation plans and other ways smart land use can protect local waterways.
  • Read the Governor’s Proclamation and thank your local and state representatives for all that they do to support clean, healthy rivers and communities.
  • Listen to this episode of PEC’s podcast, Pennsylvania Legacies, about water trails and conservation efforts in the Perkiomen watershed
  • Tell a friend or family member why you love rivers and encourage them to learn more about them!

No matter where you celebrate this Rivers Month, always remember to recreate responsibly. During June and beyond, there are some simple things you can do to protect the beauty and quality of Pennsylvania’s waterways. Practicing Leave No Trace ethics, such as packing out whatever you bring in and keeping rocks, plants, and other natural objects where you found them can go a long way. If you’re on an overnight paddling adventure, be sure to store and dispose of waste properly.

Wherever your adventures take you, we hope you have a fun and safe time this month and beyond!

Schuylkill River River Sojourn, June 14-21

This 112-mile guided canoe/kayak trip on the Schuylkill River, organized by Schuylkill River Greenways, begins in rural Schuylkill Haven and ends in Philadelphia’s Boathouse Row. You can register for one or more days, or the entire trip. Along the way, experts will give presentations on topics like the local history, the ecology, and other aspects of the region.

Paddlers will camp in parks along the river each night, but you can choose to stay in alternative lodging. Registration is open to people ages 8 and up.

Delaware River Sojourn, June 14-22

Take a ride down the longest undammed river east of the Mississippi with the Delaware River Sojourn, hosted by the Upper Delaware Preservation Coalition.

The trip begins with a volunteer cleanup. On Saturday, June 15, paddlers will depart from Lackawaxen, PA. Over the course of the subsequent days, they’ll make their way south until they reach Pennsbury Manor State Park, where the sojourn ends.

You can choose to paddle for all eight days or register for the day(s) of your choice.

Youth Heritage Sojourn, Endless Mountains Heritage Region, June 27-29

Kayaks sit along the North Branch Susquehanna.

This three-day, two-night is organized by the Endless Mountains Heritage Region (EMHR) and Endless Mountain Outfitters on the Susquehanna River North Branch. Students in grades 6-12 are invited to join the 33.5-mile adventure from Sugar Run to Tunkhannock. Along the way, they’ll learn the history of the river and the local area as well as engage in some environmental stewardship.

The sojourn is led by Towanda Area School District teacher and EMO owner, Keith Brown, along with his team of river guides.

For more information, contact Keith Brown at 570-746-7102 or send an email to [email protected].

Susquehanna Greenway Sojourn Series, June 29

Image Credit: Susquehanna Greenway

The second installment of the Susquehanna Greenway Sojourn Series includes a float on the Middle Section of the Susquehanna River, from Fort Hunter to City Island. The series highlights the recreational opportunities of the NEPA water trail. This particular, 6.8-mile float offers views oficonic landmarks like the Rockville Bridge and City Island, as well as the protected birding grounds of Wade Island.

Lunch will be provided.