Pennsylvania Legacies #180: Paddling the Perkiomen

The Perkiomen Creek has officially joined the Pennsylvania Water Trail Partnership. We talked to Ryan Beltz, Executive Director of the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy, about the process of becoming an official water trail and the Conservancy’s other education and conservation efforts within the Perkiomen watershed.

Water trails are recreational waterways managed to promote outdoor recreation and water conservation. Pennsylvania has over 2,000 miles of water trails and as of this fall, you can add 18 more miles to that count! The Perkiomen Creek in Southeastern Pennsylvania is officially the newest member of the Pennsylvania Water Trail partnership. 

Maps and resources for the water trail are available to help plan your perfect trip.

Just an hour outside of Philly and accessible by foot or bike via the Schuylkill River and Perkiomen multi-use trails, the Perkiomen Water Trail is a valuable addition to the water trail network. It’s surrounded by public parks and offers opportunities for all skill levels, from beginner to advanced paddlers. The water trail is managed by the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy, based in Schwenksville, PA, which has been working to protect the Perkiomen since 1964. 

While the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy has been hosting paddling events like sojourns and adventure races on the creek for years, they just recently finished the long water trail application process. After completing a feasibility study and consulting with municipalities and landowners, they determined that there were 18 miles of creek that were accessible and would make for a good route. 

“We really only had about three or four impacted areas along that 18 mile stretch, and then we were able to come up with portage trails or ways to get around those dams or problems,” said Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy Executive Director Ryan Beltz. 

The largest barrier to having the Perkiomen’s application approved was access — making sure there were enough places for people to get in the creek. But after getting buy-in from municipalities, the Montgomery County planning commission, and the county parks department, the Conservancy was ready to submit their formal application. 

“There is a lot that goes into it — it definitely took a lot of money, a lot of planning. But the benefits are, now we’re part of the state water trail system so anybody who is looking for recreation, especially in the greater Philadelphia area, can go to the water trail website and find us,” Beltz said. 

The Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy has many resources for those interested in paddling the Perkiomen, including a series of video guides for paddling different sections of the creek, a gauge to check the flow rate of the creek, and paper and digital maps. 

If you’re interested in getting involved with the Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy, they have a number of events coming up. There is a winter snowshoe race series in January and February and a stream cleanup in April. You can find information about these events on the Conservancy’s website.


Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy

Pennsylvania Water Trails Partnership

Perkiomen Creek Water Trail