A view of French Creek from 13th Street in Franklin, PA
Harrisburg, PA – Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and Janet Sweeney of the Pennsylvania Organization for Waterways and Rivers (POWR) today jointly announced that French Creek in northwestern Pennsylvania had been selected as the state’s 2022 River of the Year.
“The River of the Year highlights Pennsylvania’s amazing waterways annually and we are excited to recognize French Creek as the 2022 winner,” Dunn said. “Our waterways are a great way to connect to nature for recreation and relaxation. They also provide a great opportunity to learn about the regions through which they flow. I am hopeful that more people will consider experiencing French Creek and its beauty as a result of this prestigious honor.”
French Creek is one of the most biologically diverse waterways of its size in the United States, meandering 117 miles from its headwaters in southern New York through four Pennsylvania counties to the Allegheny River. The creek is home to 27 species of freshwater mussels, more than 80 species of fish, and numerous waterfowl and songbird species, including bald eagles and four Audubon-designated Important Bird Areas (IBAs). French Creek is also home to the Eastern Hellbender, the largest species of salamander in North America, which was recently named the official amphibian of Pennsylvania.
The public was invited to vote online, choosing from among four waterways nominated across the state. A total of 13,972 votes were cast, with French Creek receiving 6,604; the Monongahela River, 3,311, Catawissa Creek, 3,188, Connoquenessing Creek, 869.
“POWR would like to commend everyone across the commonwealth for their support for the nominated waterways,” said POWR’s Janet Sweeney. “The River of the Year program is a great way to highlight the opportunities and challenges facing our waterways, raise awareness and connect Pennsylvanians to the water, as well as highlight the great work being done in Pennsylvania communities on these valuable resources.”
The French Creek Valley Conservancy (FCVC) will receive a $10,000 Leadership Grant to help fund a slate of year-long 2022 River of the Year activities. DCNR and POWR will work with FCVC to create a free, commemorative poster celebrating the French Creek River as the 2022 Pennsylvania River of the Year.
FCVC is an accredited land trust dedicated to protecting the French Creek Watershed. FCVC currently protects more than 3,000 acres of land throughout the watershed, helping to conserve French Creek, its tributaries, critical riparian areas, and providing recreational access. FCVC manages French Creek as on the official Pennsylvania Water Trail and will be celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2022.
“We are delighted to have French Creek selected as Pennsylvania River of the Year,” said French Creek Valley Conservancy’s Executive Director, Brenda Costa. “Many thanks to DCNR and POWR for this program and this honor. French Creek has incredible biodiversity, flowing through beautiful natural landscapes, and it provides many wonderful recreational opportunities. It is a common thread that joins so many small communities in northwest Pennsylvania with a sense of pride and passion, and we are grateful to the thousands of people who voted for French Creek. People often share stories with me about their experiences and family memories surrounding French Creek, and I look forward to having more people discover our community treasure.”
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.
A View of French Creek from Route 8 near Franklin, PA.