Schuylkill River

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Schuylkill River
River
Philadelphia skyline August 2007.jpg
The Schuylkill River, looking south toward the skyline of Philadelphia, through which the river flows.
CountryUnited States
StatePennsylvania
CountiesPhiladelphia, Montgomery, Chester, Berks, Schuylkill
Tributaries
 - leftLittle Schuylkill River, Perkiomen Creek
 - rightTulpehocken Creek, French Creek
CitiesPhiladelphia, Norristown, Pottstown, Reading
SourceEast Branch Schuylkill River
 - locationTuscarora, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, USA
 - elevation1,540 ft (469 m)
 - coordinates40°46′24″N 76°01′20″W / 40.77333°N 76.02222°W / 40.77333; -76.02222
Secondary sourceWest Branch Schuylkill River
 - locationMinersville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, USA
 - elevation1,140 ft (347 m)
 - coordinates40°42′51″N 76°18′46″W / 40.71417°N 76.31278°W / 40.71417; -76.31278
Source confluence
 - locationSchuylkill Haven, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, USA
 - elevation520 ft (158 m)
 - coordinates40°38′01″N 76°10′49″W / 40.63361°N 76.18028°W / 40.63361; -76.18028
MouthDelaware River
 - locationPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
 - elevation0 ft (0 m)
 - coordinates39°53′04″N 75°11′41″W / 39.88444°N 75.19472°W / 39.88444; -75.19472
Length135 mi (217 km)
Basin2,000 sq mi (5,180 km2)
Dischargefor Philadelphia
 - average4,650 cu ft/s (132 m3/s)
 - max40,300 cu ft/s (1,141 m3/s)
 - min995 cu ft/s (28 m3/s)
Discharge elsewhere (average)
 - Berne1,120 cu ft/s (32 m3/s)
Schuylkill River watershed
 
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Coordinates: 39°53′04″N 75°11′41″W / 39.88444°N 75.19472°W / 39.88444; -75.19472
Schuylkill River
River
Philadelphia skyline August 2007.jpg
The Schuylkill River, looking south toward the skyline of Philadelphia, through which the river flows.
CountryUnited States
StatePennsylvania
CountiesPhiladelphia, Montgomery, Chester, Berks, Schuylkill
Tributaries
 - leftLittle Schuylkill River, Perkiomen Creek
 - rightTulpehocken Creek, French Creek
CitiesPhiladelphia, Norristown, Pottstown, Reading
SourceEast Branch Schuylkill River
 - locationTuscarora, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, USA
 - elevation1,540 ft (469 m)
 - coordinates40°46′24″N 76°01′20″W / 40.77333°N 76.02222°W / 40.77333; -76.02222
Secondary sourceWest Branch Schuylkill River
 - locationMinersville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, USA
 - elevation1,140 ft (347 m)
 - coordinates40°42′51″N 76°18′46″W / 40.71417°N 76.31278°W / 40.71417; -76.31278
Source confluence
 - locationSchuylkill Haven, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, USA
 - elevation520 ft (158 m)
 - coordinates40°38′01″N 76°10′49″W / 40.63361°N 76.18028°W / 40.63361; -76.18028
MouthDelaware River
 - locationPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
 - elevation0 ft (0 m)
 - coordinates39°53′04″N 75°11′41″W / 39.88444°N 75.19472°W / 39.88444; -75.19472
Length135 mi (217 km)
Basin2,000 sq mi (5,180 km2)
Dischargefor Philadelphia
 - average4,650 cu ft/s (132 m3/s)
 - max40,300 cu ft/s (1,141 m3/s)
 - min995 cu ft/s (28 m3/s)
Discharge elsewhere (average)
 - Berne1,120 cu ft/s (32 m3/s)
Schuylkill River watershed

The Schuylkill River (/ˈskkəl/ SKOO-kəl) is a river in Pennsylvania, that William Penn chose in 1682 as one bank of the confluence upon which he founded the planned city of Philadelphia on lands purchased from the native Delaware nation. It is a designated Pennsylvania Scenic River, and its whole length was once part of the Delaware people's southern territories. Its upper end rises in what is called the richest anthracite coal fields in the world.

The river is about 135 miles (217 km) long.[1] Its watershed of about 2,000 sq mi (5,180 km2) lies entirely within the state of Pennsylvania. The source of its eastern branch is in the Poconos offshoot of the Appalachian Mountains at Tuscarora Springs, near Tamaqua in Schuylkill County. The West Branch starts near Minersville and joins the eastern branch at the town of Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania. It then combines with the Little Schuylkill River downstream in the town of Port Clinton, Pennsylvania. The Tulpehocken Creek joins it at the western edge of Reading. Wissahickon Creek joins it in northwest Philadelphia. Other major tributaries include: Maiden Creek, Manatawny Creek, French Creek, and Perkiomen Creek. The Schuylkill joins the Delaware River, of which it is the largest tributary, at the site of the former Philadelphia Navy Yard, now the Philadelphia Naval Business Center, just northeast of Philadelphia International Airport.

Major towns[edit]

History and names[edit]

The Lenape or Delaware Indians were the original inhabitants of the area around this river, which they called "Tool-pay Hanna" (Turtle River) or Tool-pay Hok Ing (Turtle Place). The headwaters of the river, up near Reading, was later called "Tulpehocken" by the English.[2] The river was later given the Dutch name Schuylkill (pronounced [sχœylkɪl]) by its European discoverer, Arendt Corssen of the Dutch West India Company.[citation needed] One explanation given for this name is that it translates to "hidden river" and refers to the river's confluence with the Delaware River at League Island, which was nearly hidden by dense vegetation. Another explanation is that the name properly translates to "hideout creek". The bulk of the Unami Lenape actually lived along the Schuylkill River and not, as their namesake denotes, the Delaware River, which the Lenape called "Len-api Hanna" or "People Like Me River."

Thomas Paine tried in vain to interest the citizens in funding an iron bridge over this river, before abandoning "pontifical works" on account of the French Revolution.

Patriot paper maker Frederick Bicking owned a fishery on the river prior to the Revolution.

The Strawberry Mansion Bridge over the river at dusk.
The Fairmount Water Works on the Schuylkill River were once the source of Philadelphia's water supply and are now an attraction in Fairmount Park.

The restoration of the river was funded by money left for that purpose in Benjamin Franklin's will.[3]

The river is also known to have been on fire more than once throughout history, for example in November 1892 when the surface film of oil that had leaked from nearby oil works at Point Breeze, Philadelphia, was ignited by a match tossed carelessly from a boat, with fatal results.[4]

Transportation and recreation[edit]

Transportation[edit]

The Schuylkill river valley was an important thoroughfare in the eras of canals and railroads. The river itself, the Schuylkill Canal, the Reading Railroad, and the Pennsylvania Railroad were vital shipping conduits from the mid-19th century through the mid-20th century.[citation needed]

Rail freight still uses many of the same valley rights-of-way that the 19th-century railroads used. Passenger and commuter rail service is more limited. Today, the old rail bed rights-of-way along the river between Philadelphia and Norristown contain SEPTA's Manayunk/Norristown Line (former Reading Railroad right-of-way) and the Schuylkill River Trail (former Pennsylvania Railroad right-of-way).[citation needed]

There are efforts to extend both rail and trail farther upriver than they currently reach. The Schuylkill River Trail continues upriver from Norristown to Mont Clare, and designers plan to connect it to sections above Pottstown. SEPTA Regional Rail service currently does not go farther upriver than Norristown. Visions of resuming commuter rail service farther up the Schuylkill valley ("Schuylkill Valley Metro") have yet to become reality.[citation needed]

The Schuylkill Expressway (I-76) and the Benjamin Franklin Highway (US 422) follow the course of the river from Philadelphia to Valley Forge to Reading. Above Reading, Pennsylvania Route 61 continues along the main river valley to Schuylkill Haven, then follows the east branch to Pottsville. U.S. Route 209 continues along the east branch of the river to its head in Tuscarora. In Philadelphia, Kelly Drive (formerly East River Drive), and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive (formerly West River Drive) flank the river.

Recreation[edit]

The Schuylkill River Trail,[5] which generally follows the river bank, is a multi-use trail for walking, jogging, bicycling, rollerblading, and other outdoor activities. The trail presently runs from Philadelphia, through Manayunk to the village of Mont Clare, the latter are the locations of the last two remaining watered stretches of the Schuylkill Canal. There is also a section of trail starting at Pottstown and running upriver toward Reading. Plans are underway to complete the trail from the Delaware River to Reading.

The Schuylkill River is very popular with water sports enthusiasts. The Dad Vail Regatta, an annual rowing competition, is held on the river near Boathouse Row, as is the annual BAYADA Home Health Care Regatta, featuring disabled rowers from all over the continent, and in autumn the annual Head of the Schuylkill Regatta takes place in Philadelphia.

References in culture[edit]

Television[edit]

In the "Thunder Gun Express" episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Frank Reynolds, played by Danny DeVito steals a tourist ferry and travels down the Schuylkill River, noting that it's "the depository of all the unsolved crimes and murders in Philadelphia"

In several episodes of Cold Case one or another of the Cold Case squad mention finding "a floater in the Schuylkill."

Literature[edit]

The angler, artist, and author Ron P. Swegman has made the Schuylkill River a focal point of two essay collections, Philadelphia on the Fly and Small Fry: The Lure of the Little. Both books describe the experience of fly fishing along the Philadelphia County stretch of the river in the twenty-first century.

Beth Kephart published a series of poetic ruminations about the river in Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia's Schuylkill River in 2007.

The river plays an important part of Jerry Spinelli's young-adult fiction novel Maniac Magee. The titular character's parents died before the main timeline of the story when their commuter train plunged into the Schuylkill, and much of the main story takes place in the fictional town of Two Mills, which is based on Spinelli's home town of Norristown, Pennsylvania, also located on the Schuylkill near Philadelphia.

Jules Verne's novel, Robur the Conqueror, starts out in Philadelphia on the banks of the Schuylkill River.

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri, native Philadelphia poet, has a poem entitled, "Faces of the Moon over Philadelphia." The poem's first stanza addresses the Schuylkill River as follows: Purple sky darkens/ Schuylkill River’s rippling skin/ near Boathouse Row displacing/ day’s dip and pull of oars/ moon’s wavering vision.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed April 1, 2011
  2. ^ Pennypacker, Samuel Whitaker (1872). Annals of Phoenixville and Its Vicinity: From the Settlement to the Year 1871. Phoenixville, PA: Bavis & Pennypacker, printers. p. 5. 
  3. ^ "The Last Will and Testament of Benjamin Franklin". Retrieved 2008-05-31. 
  4. ^ "The River Set On Fire – One Life Lost, Two Men Badly Burned, & One Vessel Damaged". The New York Times. 1892-11-02. Retrieved 2008-05-31. 
  5. ^ "The Schuylkill River Trail". Schuylkill River Trail Association. 2009. Retrieved 1 October 2012. 

External links[edit]