Planning Commission

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Jul 26

Rediscovering the Hidden River

Posted on July 26, 2017 at 12:49 PM by Michael Stokes

As Water Rat paddled Mole down the river in Kenneth Graham’s The Wind in the Willows he said “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."

Water Rat may have been impressed by the Schuylkill River which offers an interesting 42-mile stretch of water through Montgomery County creating unique settings containing historic properties and natural spaces providing opportunities for active and passive recreation.   It is also a great place to mess around in boats. 

The Schuylkill River’s restoration is a tremendous success story involving a well-organized state run desilting project largely performed from 1947 - 1951.   Read A River Again by Chari Towne to understand this transformative river restoration project.  In the 1970s, residents along the Schuylkill Valley finally realized that their river was no longer the foul, polluted river that had suffered from the excesses of the industrial revolution and the mining of coal in its headwaters.  The Schuylkill River Greenway Association established in 1974 as an organization focused on the preservation of the riverfront in Berks and Schuylkill Counties expanded its mission and geographic scope to cover the entire river corridor.  In 1978, Schuylkill River advocates made sure that the Schuylkill River became Pennsylvania’s first Scenic River. 

Schuylkill River Trail, a concept that grew from the Sierra Club’s proposed Valley Forge Trail that would link the Valley Forge National Historical Park with Independence Hall, was first opened in 1979.   With over half of its proposed 120-mile route from the Delaware River to Pottsville completed, it currently attracts over a million users annually.  It connects Montgomery County with many exciting bicycling, walking, and running trails from Philadelphia to Chester and Berks Counties.

Developers too have rediscovered the attractiveness of the river.  Over the past two decades, new buildings have taken shape along the river in Lower Merion Township across from Manayunk, the Conshohocken area, Pottstown, Royersford Borough and Betzwood.  More projects along the river are on the drawing board.

With the yearly sojourns along the river and efforts to expand opportunities to access the Schuylkill Water trail, everyone is welcome to rediscover the river including those that like to mess about in boats.  On a hot summer day, take Water Rat’s advice by visiting the Schuylkill River to mess about in boats.

Part of the Kings Head Regatta at the Norristown Dam pool

Dragon Boat racing on the Schuylkill in Norristown

Just hanging out by the river in Bridgeport

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Paddling during the Schuylkill River Sojourn

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Sojourn boats locking through to the Schuylkill Canal in Mont Clare


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