Sunday, January 20, 2019

Waterway goes from most polluted to River of the Year- The Clarion River

Once infamous as Pennsylvania’s most polluted waterway, the 110-mile Clarion River has been cleaned up and designated the state’s 2019 River of the Year.
In a joint statement Jan. 16, the Pennsylvania Organization for Waterways and Rivers, Allegheny Watershed Improvement Needs Coalition and state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced that in a public vote, paddlers, boaters, anglers and other outdoors users chose the Allegheny River tributary over three eastern waterways. The Clarion has attracted federal attention and is part of the National Wild and Scenic River program. The state designation opens some DCNR resources for maintenance of the waterway and is expected to focus public attention on the river and its conservation success story.
“For us the Clarion is the western gateway to the Pennsylvania Wilds, an iconic river flowing through Clear Creek and Cook Forest state parks,” said Cindy Adams Dunn, DCNR secretary. “It has a remarkable story -- the Clarion used to be too polluted for fishing and now the fishing is great, the water is clean. When I paddled it in July there were hemlock trees right down to the clean water and hundreds of people enjoying themselves, then you go around a curve and there’s no one. Solitude. You can have both experiences on the Clarion River.”
From its East and West Branch headwaters in Elk and McKean counties, the Clarion rolls off the western slopes of the Appalachian Mountains, slowly meandering to the west-southwest forming the Forest-Jefferson county line and across Clarion County to its beautiful confluence with the Allegheny River south of Foxburg.
Mysterious petroglyphs carved into river boulders support
evidence of the river’s use by Native American cultures. European settlers called it Stump Creek. In 1817 a surveyor is said to have commented that the river sounded like a distant clarion, a trumpet used in warfare.
The need for timber and wood chemicals led to massive clearcutting in the region, and in 1859 the world’s first commercially successful oil well in nearby Titusville, Crawford County, turned Pennsylvania’s west central counties into an industrial powerhouse. The Clarion was used to float timber and barges downstream as far as the Mississippi River, and became a receptacle for decades of industrial leakage, sediment, tannery waste and deep-mine acid.
Near the middle of the 20th century the clearcutting had stopped, the tanneries closed and the oil industry moved to other parts of the world. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, waterfowl hunters and anglers noted the river was slowly healing itself, and in the 1980s federal and state resources were used to clean it up.
Hillsides — once deforested and muddy — regenerated, and land wildlife returned. Mines were sealed. Fish returned by natural means and through a state stocking program. With the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers designation in 1996, 52 miles of the Clarion were protected. Today much of the river is an eco-tourism destination well-known for paddling, boating, fishing, wildlife watching and other recreation.
The Pennsylvania Organization for Waterways and Rivers administers the River of the Year program, which has drawn attention to the state’s waterways since 1983. As acting fiscal agent for the Watershed Improvement Needs Coalition, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy will receive a $10,000 Leadership Grant funded by DCNR to help pay for River of the Year activities that will be scheduled throughout the year.
Also nominated for the designation were the Delaware River, Lackawanna River and Conodoguinet Creek. The 2018 River of the Year was Loyalsock Creek in northcentral Pennsylvania.
In a statement, Kylie Maland of the Allegheny Watershed Improvement Needs Coalition noted the recent 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the Clarion River’s induction. 
“We are elated to continue to honor the Clarion as the 2019 Pennsylvania River of the Year to celebrate its remarkable recovery and pay tribute to it as a treasured resource of the state,” she said.
John Hayes: 412-263-1991,

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