For the second year in a row, public voting determined the selection from among four candidates for River of the Year honors. Among more than 12,000 ballots cast, Stonycreek River received 5,674 votes.
“The Stonycreek has it all — near-wilderness, pristine trout waters; nationally acclaimed white-water adventure; and a watershed steeped in natural and historical resources,” said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Richard Allan. “Our newest River of the Year has rebounded from abandoned mine drainage threats of the past to unlimited recreational potential of the future.
“Once again the River of the Year designation raises awareness of the river and its conservation needs, while the public voting format continues to generate local enthusiasm for conservation and recognition of the importance of our waterways.”
The three other finalists were: Kiskiminetas River, Middle Monongahela River and Upper Juniata River.
DCNR and the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers, or POWR, administer the River of the Year program. Local organizations submit nominations.
“Each of the waterways that were nominated is special and important in its own way,” Allan said. “We extend hearty congratulations to the local groups who nominated their rivers, and rallied support for them not only for this vote, but through all of their continued activities and advocacy.”
POWR helps train and organize local watershed associations, as well as the groups who lead a dozen sojourns on rivers around the state each year.
“This year saw record participation in the River of the Year selection process,” said POWR Project Manager Joshua Karns. “Congratulations to the supporters of the Stonycreek River, and thanks to the thousands of Pennsylvanians who voted. We look forward to working with the communities in the Stonycreek Watershed to promote and protect their river, and all of Pennsylvania’s waterways.”
Before emptying into the Conemaugh River in Johnstown, Stonycreek River flows 46 miles across the Allegheny Plateau in southern Cambria County and northern Somerset County. Anglers are drawn to Stonycreek Gorge’s nine miles of near-wilderness trout water, while the Stonycreek Canyon offers 15 rapids in four miles — the longest set of continuous rapids in the eastern United States.
Its waters now rebounded from the deadly effects of abandoned mine drainage, the Stonycreek River carves out a 468 square-mile watershed that is bordered by the Allegheny Front and Laurel Ridge, and contains rolling farmland, active and reclaimed strip mines, woodlands, and classic former coal-mining communities. The river corridor contains the historic Forbes Trail and Flight 93 National Memorial, Quecreek Mine Rescue Site, Quemahoning Lake, Greenhouse Park and Whitewater Park — the first constructed set of rapids for boaters in Pennsylvania.
There are a number of organizations working in partnership to support conservation and recreation activities along Stonycreek River. Primary is the Stonycreek Quemahoning Initiative Inc., a not-for-profit corporation formed by representatives of recreational, sporting, conservation, economic development and historical groups. Its mission is development and presentation of Stonycreek River heritage corridor’s assets.
Several events throughout the year will celebrate the Stonycreek’s designation, including a sojourn offering canoeists, kayakers and other paddlers a chance to experience life on the river, and encourage greater understanding of its challenges and potential.
The Stonycreek River also will be celebrated with an annual Rivers Month poster issued in June.
Pennsylvania’s River of the Year has been presented annually since 1983.
To learn more about DCNR’s Rivers Program, visit www.dcnr.state.pa.us/brc/rivers.