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Allegheny River Named Pennsylvania’s 2024 River of the Year

by Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR)

Jan 30, 2024

The Allegheny River in western Pennsylvania has been selected by a public vote as the state’s 2024 River of the Year, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and Janet Sweeney of the Pennsylvania Organization for Waterways and Rivers (POWR) announced on Monday, Jan. 29.

“We are excited to honor the Allegheny River as Pennsylvania’s 2024 River of the Year, and I cannot wait to celebrate this incredible river during a sojourn later this year,” Dunn said. “Congratulations to Three Rivers Waterkeeper for the successful campaign and earning this prestigious honor. Thank you to everyone who voted in this wonderful competition highlighting one of our most precious natural resources.”

The historic Allegheny River starts as a stream in Potter County, meandering through a field of wildflowers before crossing briefly through New York and then through six counties in Western Pennsylvania. The 325-mile river ends in Pittsburgh, where it meets the Monongahela River and flows into the Ohio River, providing drinking water to more than one million people and acting as an ecologically and economically precious water trail.

The fertile valleys and abundant biodiversity have led many communities to call this place home, including the O-non-dowa-gah (Seneca Nation), who call the Allegheny Ohi:yo’ (beautiful river), the Lenni Lenape (Delaware Nation), who named it welhik-heny (most beautiful stream), and French settlers who referred to it as La Belle Riviere.

A series of locks and dams were constructed in the early 20th century to make the Allegheny River navigable for barges to transport goods, and now swimming, boating, and fishing are profoundly enjoyed by residents and visitors. The river includes the Allegheny Islands Wilderness, a seven-island, 372-acre preserve that boasts old-growth hardwoods and prolific bird populations.

The US Forest Service has documented over 50 mammals, 200 birds, 25 amphibians, 20 reptiles, 80 fishes, and 25 freshwater mussels in and around the Allegheny, including the threatened Salamander Mussel (Simpsonaias ambigua), who help improve the water quality by filtering out sediment and pollutants. Whether you are bird-watching, island camping, or traveling through the locks, you are sure to find that the Allegheny River is rich with life, history, and beauty.

The public was invited to vote online for the River of the Year, choosing from among the three waterways nominated. A total of 20,259 votes were cast, a record for the River of the Year Program, with the Allegheny River receiving 8,307, the Youghiogheny 7,212, and the Lackawaxen River 4,740.

“POWR would like to commend everyone for their support for the nominated rivers, especially for the strong showing of support for the Allegheny River,” Sweeney said. “The River of the Year program continues to engage our communities by providing a wonderful opportunity to showcase all the nominated rivers and the great work being done in Pennsylvania on these resources. We are excited about the opportunity to highlight the Allegheny River this year.”

Three Rivers Waterkeeper nominated the Allegheny River and will receive a $10,000 Leadership Grant to help fund a slate of year-long 2024 River of the Year activities. DCNR and POWR will work with them to create a free, commemorative poster celebrating the Allegheny River as the 2024 Pennsylvania River of the Year.

“We were so excited to see just how many people came together to show their support for the Allegheny River after we nominated it for River of the Year,” said Jess Friss, the Director of Community Programs at Three Rivers Waterkeeper. “We are looking forward to everything we are able to do this year to promote all the wonderful resources the Allegheny River provides to us, including a summer kickoff! We are dedicated to protecting the water quality of the Allegheny River and all its uses, and knowing that it was awarded the River of the Year because of the support of the community shows the collective commitment to environmental stewardship, recreation, and love for our waterways that defines this community.”

In cooperation with DCNR, the selection of public voting choices was overseen by the POWR, an affiliate of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC).

A commemorative River of the Year sojourn is among many paddling trips supported by DCNR and POWR each year.

An independent program, the Pennsylvania Sojourn Program, is a unique series of a dozen such trips on the state’s rivers. These water-based journeys for canoeists, kayakers, and others raise awareness of the environmental, recreational, tourism, and heritage values of rivers.

Visit DCNR’s website for more information on the River of the Year competition, and check out DCNR’s Calendar of Events for events on public lands.

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