The Lackawaxen River, a tributary to the Delaware River that flows through PA's Wayne and Pike Counties, was the 2010 PA River of the Year!
Pennsylvania's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) named the Lackawaxen River PA's River of the Year in 2010. "A recreational treasure renowned for its flyfishing and canoeing, the Lackawaxen harbors a wealth of bird and animal species," said DCNR Acting Secretary John Quigley. "Selecting the Lackawaxen River better enables DCNR to stress the value of healthy forests and greenways and encourage stream-side planting under its Tree Vitalize program," he continued. Whether it's educating the public on issues impacting the Pocono Plateau, such as gas drilling's impact on the environment and water resources, or touting tree planting, the Lackawaxen is an excellent teaching tool. This award is special because it’s the first time a smaller stream or river has been honored.
The Lackawaxen River Conservancy (TLRC) was the lead organizer of the 2010 River of the Year celebratory activities, which included a river clean up in partnership with the Wayne County Historical Society, events at The Eagle Institute, a tour of the dams and headwaters of the Lackawaxen, fall foliage train rides, and the first-ever Lackawaxen River Sojourn, held June 12-14, 2010.
Below is a short, historical overview of the Lackawaxen River Watershed, courtesy of TLRC:
A history of commerce has altered its course but not its spirit and beauty. Spelled Lachowaxsin on early maps, the river name for the Iroquois and Leni-Lenape meant “Swift Water”. The cliffs and ridges in the Pike County portion of the river provided hunting land and shelter for these early dwellers as the area abounded with fur bearing animals and wildlife. The earliest evidence of Indian settlements was near the confluence of the Lackawaxen and the Delaware Rivers. Up near the Lackawaxen headwaters, in the Wayne County portion of the watershed, the land was still deeply wooded. The river provided Indians with a source of food, water, travel, and trade.
In the early 1800s, the need for coal and lumber for cities like New York and Philadelphia spawned the origin of the Delaware & Hudson Canal. Northeastern Wayne and Lackawanna counties were sources of anthracite, a hard, hot burning coal. Efforts to transport these commodities by land were time-consuming and laborious. The idea to build a canal that would hook up with the gravity railroad east of Honesdale started in 1824. Once completed, the D&H Canal spanned 108 miles from Waymart, PA through to the Hudson River in New York State. The canal operated until 1898 when a faster, more profitable mode of transportation took precedence.
A new source of commerce began along the banks of the Lackawaxen in the early 1860s. Constructed by the Pennsylvania Coal company in 1861 to move anthracite coal down to urban centers, a fifteen and a half mile section of rail ran between the villages of Hawley and Lackawaxen. This section of track was later incorporated into the Erie and Wyoming Valley Railroad, chartered in 1884, which extended from the village of Lackawaxen, west through Scranton to the town of Port Blanchard along the Susquehanna River. The railroad, consisting of about 60 track miles, also hosted passenger trains bringing summer residents and visitors to places like Pike County’s Glen Eyre and Hoadleys. Neither these towns nor their train stations exist today. While passenger service ended in the 1940s, freight service has continued under the auspices of the Stourbridge Rail Line in Honesdale.
In the 1920s a different type of commerce presented itself to the Lackawaxen River watershed—hydroelectric power. The damming of the Wallenpaupack Creek by Pennsylvania Power and Light (PPL) created what we now know as Lake Wallenpaupack, a popular tourist and recreation site. The Lackawaxen River, below Kimbles, receives the discharge from the hydroelectric process thereby rendering this portion of the river ‘man-controlled’. River flows vary throughout the year depending on rainfall and electric demand.
Flooding has been a major concern for Lackawaxen River residents. In 1942, and then again in 1955, raging waters destroyed homes, farms, utilities and roads along the river banks. In response to these events, the Army Corps of Engineers commenced construction of the Prompton Dam Flood Control project which was completed in 1962. Located four miles north of Honesdale, the General Edgar Jadwin Dam, overlooks Prompton Lake. The lake hosts fishing and boating activities as well as offering miles of hiking and biking trails.
The Lackawaxen River watershed is still working to give us water, provide us with electricity, and offer us recreation. It boasts lush vegetation and a rich habitat of wildlife. The mission of TLRC is protection and preservation of the Lackawaxen River, its wildlife, watershed, and natural beauty. Residents and visitors alike can play a part in helping us achieve our goal.
Become a steward of the Lackwawaxen River. Join or volunteer today at www.lackawaxenriver.org!