Voting is now open for the 2022 River of the Year. In November, watershed organizations had the opportunity to nominate their waterway for consideration. Any navigable waterway in Pennsylvania is eligible for the distinction. The nominations considered each waterway’s conservation needs and successes, as well as planned River of the Year programs and events if the waterway wins.
Voters can now choose a favorite from the following nominees: Catawissa Creek, Connoquenessing Creek, French Creek, and the Monongahela River. The river with the most votes will become the 2022 winner!
“The value of our waterways has shined brighter than ever during this pandemic as people have visited Pennsylvania’s river and streams in unprecedented numbers seeking the natural refuge they supply,” said DCNR secretary Cindy Dunn. “This annual competition is so much more than a popularity contest. All of our rivers and streams have truly unique attributes, offer incredible recreational opportunities, and offer significant boosts to local economies. This competition shares those wonderful attributes and helps build community support around our rivers and streams, showing just how much they have to offer to the public.”
While western Pennsylvania waterways are strongly represented this year, all nominees exhibit a wide variety of characteristics and histories. French Creek hosts an enormous number of species for a waterway of its size, including 27 species of freshwater mussels and the eastern hellbender, Pennsylvania’s state amphibian. While French Creek has largely been spared any ecological destruction from industry, the other three nominees are success stories for how waterways can bounce back from decades of pollution. Connoquenessing Creek, once the second-most polluted waterway in the country, is an example of the progress that can happen when people come together to care for a shared resource. Catawissa Creek, this year’s only nominee in the eastern part of the state, has overcome hurdles from abandoned mine drainage and is working to reach its full potential as a world-class cold-water fishery. The Monongahela River, which meets the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh to form the Ohio River, has its headwaters in WV and is one of the only major rivers to flow from south to north. It’s widely used for recreation but faces obstacles from years of agricultural and industrial pollution.
The award comes with more than bragging rights. The nominating organization receives a $10,000 leadership grant from DCNR to help fund their River of the Year activities. River of the Year winners are required to host a celebratory sojourn to share their river with the public. The Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers, an affiliate of PEC, administers the River of the Year program with funding from DCNR. The River of the Year Award has been presented every year since 1983.
Last year’s River of the Year was the Shenango, nominated by the Shenango River Watchers. Watch a video from their celebratory sojourn below. The public can vote for a favorite state waterway through 5:00 P.M. Friday, January 14, 2022, on the POWR website and learn more about nominated waterways and the River of the Year program.