Voting ends this Friday (January 14th) for the 2022 River of the Year award. The winner of the award receives funding for celebratory events, including a River of the Year sojourn. Presented each year since 1983, the River of the Year honor is so much more than a popularity contest. It celebrates Pennsylvania’s waterways as sites for recreation and education that help to inspire a love for nature and the outdoors in many Pennsylvanians. River of the Year also recognizes and raises awareness of the challenges that rivers across the state face, from acid mine drainage, to agriculture runoff, to decreased biodiversity.
The Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers administers the River of the Year program with funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
This year’s nominees are Catawissa Creek, Connoquenessing Creek, French Creek, and the Monongahela River. Each waterway is unique and beloved. Below, you can learn more about the nominees and why they deserve your vote.
Catawissa Creek is a 41-mile tributary of the North Branch of the Susquehanna River that flows through Luzerne, Schuylkill and Columbia counties. It is this year’s only nominee on the eastern side of the state. It struggles with issues from abandoned mine drainage, but is making progress towards reaching its potential to support a wide diversity of aquatic organisms.
“A vote for the Catawissa Creek is vital because it helps raise awareness about the abandoned mine drainage issues that are currently devastating aquatic life throughout the 41-mile tributary to the Susquehanna and gets us one step closer to securing the final treatment necessary to counteract those issues and restore a potential world-class fishery,” said John Zaktansky, Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper and Executive Director of the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association. “While much progress has been made on the Catawissa due to the persistence and collaboration of various groups in the region, your vote can help us clear that final hurdle and truly make a difference for the only remaining River of the Year finalist within the entire Susquehanna River watershed.”
Connoquenessing Creek flows 54 miles through Butler, Beaver, and Lawrence Counties. It has a history of ecosystem pollution, but has seen significant water quality improvements and is now a great waterway to paddle.
“Simply put, Connoquenessing Creek should be the 2022 River of the Year because this stunning waterway deserves it!” said Christina Minich of Allegheny Aquatic Alliance.
“The creek is a tributary to the Beaver River, which then flows into the Ohio. Decades of abuse and neglect have tainted the reputation of this small but significant creek. For 22 years the only recognition it has received is as the 2nd Most Polluted Waterway in America.”
“Fortunately, this is no longer the case due to the efforts of many different organizations, local government, and individuals. The improvement of Connoquenessing’s water quality has enhanced its recreational status, making it an asset for personal enjoyment. And more importantly the aquatic species that inhabit the creek are now thriving, where once they were almost extinct. It is no longer a rare sight to spot a bald eagle, Great Blue Heron, or even a water turtle. Connoquenessing Creek has so much more potential that could be fulfilled by finally becoming River of the Year. Please help this hidden gem of Western Pennsylvania and vote for the Connie!”
French Creek flows 117 miles in northwest Pennsylvania from its headwaters in southern New York to the Allegheny River. It is renowned for its biodiversity and provides many recreation opportunities.
“French Creek is our community treasure — it has incredible biodiversity, flowing through beautiful natural landscapes, and it provides many wonderful recreational opportunities. It’s a common thread that joins so many small communities in northwest PA with a sense of pride and passion,” said Brenda Costa, Executive Director of the French Creek Valley Conservancy.
The Monongahela River (The Mon) has its headwaters in Marion County, WV. The river flows northward towards Pittsburgh for 128.7 miles, where it joins with the Allegheny River to form the Ohio River. It’s popular for boating, recreation, and fishing, but faces water quality challenges.
“The Mon has come a long way since the enactment of the Clean Water Act,” said Heather Hulton VanTassel, Executive Director, Three Rivers Waterkeeper. “Nevertheless, the Monongahela faces many obstacles, with mixed uses from agriculture to industrial sites, creating high levels of zinc and chromium in the waterways, impacting the health of our people and wildlife. With the funds provided, we plan to celebrate The Mon’s resources, encourage recreation, and help advocate for a cleaner future!”