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Rivers Conservation

The Pennsylvania Rivers Conservation Program aims to protect and enhance Pennsylvania’s waterways. The program, administered by DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, provides technical and financial assistance to partners to carry out activities that improve watershed health and/or provide water-based outdoor recreation opportunities.

Although the program name emphasizes rivers work, it supports initiatives that benefit all types of waterways and significant water resources.

Initiatives included in the DCNR Rivers Conservation Program are:

  • Grants for projects to restore and protect rivers and watersheds
  • Scenic Rivers
  • Rivers Registry
  • River of the Year and sojourns
  • Water trails

Grants for Projects to Restore and Protect Pennsylvania Watersheds

DCNR assists local communities and organizations with:

  • Improving the condition of their watershed
  • Increasing public access to the water for recreation
  • Protecting the landscape through Community Conservation and Partnership Program grants

Funding is available to support activities at all stages of project development, including:

  • Acquisition -- purchase or easement of land.
  • Planning -- regional or site-based planning, such as Rivers Conservation Plans, stewardship plans, or master site development plans.
  • Development -- construction projects such as river access points.
  • Partnerships -- outreach initiatives such as a watershed conference or a guide to outdoor recreation. One primary example is the Coldwater Heritage Partnership (CHP). The CHP provides small grants to local organizations to complete studies and projects that support coldwater streams and natural trout production.

Examples of projects that support rivers conservation and watershed protection are:

  • Planting riparian buffers along streams
  • Greenways and wildlife areas
  • Rails to trails and water trails

Scenic Rivers in Pennsylvania

Through federal and state legislation, certain segments of commonwealth waterways have been designated as Scenic Rivers. This designation contributes to the protection of the natural, aesthetic, and recreational values of the waterway.

Pennsylvania Rivers Registry

To assist partners with engaging in rivers conservation activities, the DCNR Bureau of Recreation and Conservation maintains the Rivers Registry, a clearinghouse of completed Rivers Conservation Plans.

Many state agencies and regional partners use this registry to better understand potential impacts of, and mitigation opportunities for development, roadway infrastructure, and similar projects. 

Pennsylvania River of the Year and Sojourns

To engage the public and share a message of environmental stewardship, DCNR supports several initiatives to connect both residents and visitors to the natural water resources in the commonwealth.

Each year, a public voting process designates a River of the Year to elevate public awareness of specific rivers and recognize important conservation needs and achievements.

The Sojourn Program offers funding assistance for local organizations to provide guided paddling trips along their waterway.

Pennsylvania Water Trails

Pennsylvania’s 26 designated water trails also serve to connect citizens and visitors to waterways, as well as:

  • Local history
  • Ecology
  • Heritage
  • Wildlife

The more than 2,100 miles of water trails are managed by local partners and provide users formalized access points, trip maps, and connections to local communities.