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DCNR Celebrates the Allegheny River as the 2024 River of the Year

DCNR Celebrates the Allegheny River as the 2024 River of the Year

by Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Deputy Secretary Cindy Claire Jantz honored the Allegheny River as Pennsylvania’s 2024 River of the Year during the celebration for the river at Allegheny River Trail Park on Saturday, June 15.

Governor Josh Shapiro signed a resolution acknowledging June as Rivers Month as a part of the River of the Year celebration and has committed his administration to protecting clean water in Pennsylvania through multiple budget initiatives.

“The Allegheny River is an important part of Pennsylvania’s natural history and beauty, so it is great to celebrate all that the river offers and its impact on the Commonwealth at the River of the Year Sojourn,” Jantz said. “Congratulations to Three Rivers Waterkeeper and the community of supporters who uplifted this special river.”

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), which helps 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.

“POWR commends everyone who was a part of the strong showing of support for the Allegheny River in voting and at the River of the Year sojourn,” 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.”

Three Rivers Waterkeeper nominated the Allegheny River and received a $10,000 Leadership Grant to help fund a slate of year-long 2024 River of the Year activities. DCNR and POWR worked with Three Rivers Waterkeeper to create a free, commemorative poster celebrating the Allegheny River as the 2024 Pennsylvania River of the Year. The poster was distributed during Saturday’s sojourn.

“We were so excited to see everyone who came out Saturday to show their support for the Allegheny River,” said Jess Friss, the Director of Community Programs at Three Rivers Waterkeeper. “We remain dedicated to protecting the water quality of the Allegheny River and all its uses, are excited to have the support of the community and the collective commitment to environmental stewardship, recreation, and love for our waterways.”

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.