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It's all about Clean Water.  Post your pictures of our events, water conservation, floods, pollution.  Share your memories about the Swatara....  Our projects and areas of interest include the Bordner Cabin, Eagle Scout Projects, PA Conservation Corps, Swatara State Park, Swatara River, Swatara Sojourn, Swatara Water Trail, Tenaska, Swatara Watershed Park, and Water Companies

 Planning a Swatara Outing? Tips:

bullet Updated Map  
bullet Swatara Water Trail map and guide 7MB 10.12.2017.pdf
bullet Public     access points about every 7 miles.

For comparison, when the Harpers gauge at our launch @ 1929 Blacks Bridge Road, Annville reads the following heights:

5.5’, the Road to site #1 is almost covered, not             accessible and partly flooded;  


7’ our ramp is covered to the top gravel border; 


9’ the swell puts water onto sites 1-4 & site 8; and


10.56', only sites 26-35 do not flood. 

Depth  USGS Guages  National Weather Service provides forecasts for Harper's and Hershey gauges. Check the gauge nearest your start point.  Beginners should reschedule at 2.2' deep.  Reschedule if experienced, but water is rising between 3.5' & 4', or below .4'.  Kayaks may float a bit lower.  Memorial Lake is an option when the Swatara is too high or too low. 

bulletUse caution at dams:  With groups, avoid low-head dam in Jonestown.  Uneven portage on left bank, which disappears  into tree line in high water.  Hershey dam portage is also on the left.  Long, but flat, mowed route.  Take out at feeder stream on left before warning sign.
bulletU-Tow Canoes Available

Canoe Use agreement: CANOE USE CONTRACT.pdf


Seasonal Primitive Camping Camp/2019 Campsite Agreement.pdf  Fishing, hiking, picnicking 


Visit the Bordner Cabin in Swatara State Park:  Bordner Cabin Drive thru Swatara State Park 9AM-3PM the 2nd Fri & Sat monthly & 4th Fri & Sat Mar, Apr, Sep & Oct.


Most recent Newsletter: 

2017 Swatara News .pub.pdf


newsletters/Swatara News 2018 final.pdf



Envisioning an Environmental Legacy for the Swatara EELS, the Book in pdf file


Mills and Bank Barns Mills and Bank Barns Book.pdf\


 Minutes/Statement of Importance of the Swatara Creek.pdf

About the Swatara Watershed


Watershed Description


Virtual Driving Tour


Maps of the Watershed


Swatara State Park (position papers: Bordner Cabin and Old State Road


Watershed Links (more than 200 links to Recreational opportunities, Schools, local government, and MORE!)


Tourist Destinations (New Feature)


Contact Information/Press Room



About SWA


Our History and Mission


Officers and Board Members


Legacy Giving


Lifetime Members


Become a SWA Member


Support SWA


SWA Newsletters


Meeting Minutes


SWA Awards and Publications

SWA Projects


Canoe Trips and Sojourn




Intern Opportunities

Rivers Conservation Plan


What is a RCP?


About Swatara's RCP


Get your own copy


Read the RCP on-line


View watershed maps

Swatara on Great Nonprofits:


Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Swatara Water Trail Dedication

Projects/Swatara Water Trail.pdf  (map)

May 8, 2005, SWA dedicated a fifteen mile extension of the now 60-mile long Swatara Water Trail that starts at Route 645 below Pine Grove, Schuylkill County, flows through Lebanon County, and ends at the Middletown Boat launch, Dauphin County.

Click, watch, and listen to the event:

bulletAccess Points
bulletMaking a Splash
bulletMap Boxes

Thank you to our Sponsors:  Swatara Watershed Association, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, PA Fish and Boat Commission, Canaan Valley Institute, and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network.

Access Point Sponsors:  Heinbaugh Trailer Park, Twin Grove Park, Swatara State Park, Lickdale Camp Grounds, Lebanon Water Authority, Swatara Creek Family Restaurant, PA Fish and Boat Commission, Union Canal Canoe Rentals, Derry Township, Hummelstown Borough, South Hanover Township, and Lower Swatara Township.

Water Trail Guardians will keep the map boxes full, which will allow users of the trail to acquire information about the Swatara Creek (low-head dams to history, camping facilities and restaurants along the trail) 24 hours a day seven days a week.

bulletSchuylkill County-Dave McSurdy
bulletLebanon County-Tom Embich
bulletDauphin County-Art Schiavo

Text Assistance:  Joe Hovis and Fort Indiantown Gap; Denise Donmoyer on the Schuylkill County segments, Francis Ditzler on Twin Grove Park, and the late Earl Leiby, Lebanon Historical Society president, who decades ago showed me many of the points that are located on the map, especially the Union Canal Locks.

Design, Assembly,and Installation Team:  Craig Andrews, Swatara State Park Rangers, Kyle Boltz, Met Ed, Betty Conner, Spencer Grogan, Bob Arnold, Dave Ravegum, Rick Litz, Jo Ellen Litz, and David Kohr.


Photographers:  George Conner, Laurie Andrews, Jo Ellen Litz

The Trail runs through 3 counties and 19 municipalities.

bulletSchuylkill County: Pine Grove Borough, Pine Grove Township
bulletLebanon County: East Hanover Township, Union Township, Bethel Township, Swatara Township, Jonestown Borough, North Annville Township, North Londonderry Township, East Hanover Township;
bulletDauphin County: East Hanover Township, Derry Township, South Hanover Township, Swatara Township, Lower Swatara Township, Hummelstown Borough, Londonderry Township, Royalton Borough, Middletown Borough.

The Swatara Water Trail enables the public to exercise, appreciate riparian buffers, understand the need to protect floodplains, wetlands, the natural and cultural heritage of the area as well as biodiversity of wildlife. Marking trail heads helps users to respect private property rights too.

Job well done.  Thank you!


Jo Ellen Litz, coordinator

Swatara Creek gets its 15 minutes

Lebanon Daily News by Dave Wolf 9/3/05

Pa. Angler & Boater profiles waterway

Hard work and determination, and perhaps a little luck, put the spotlight on the Swatara Water Trail in the latest issue of the Pennsylvania Angler & Boater magazine. For those who don’t know, the magazine is the “official” magazine of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission.

The article graces five pages of the magazine and offers detailed mapping and recreational opportunities as well as historical insight into our county and the surrounding counties.

The Swatara Water Trail guide is a joint effort of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network, the Swatara Watershed Association, Canaan Valley Institute and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

The 60-mile long Swatara Water Trail starts at Route 645 below Pine Grove, Schuylkill County, flows through Lebanon County and ends at the Middletown boat launch, Dauphin County. The trail runs through three counties and 19 municipalities.

Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz serves as president of the Swatara Watershed Association and has been involved in the association for 20 years. I asked her how much work time and money it takes to develop and run a watershed association.

“Developing a watershed association takes a small group of people with a common goal or concern,” she said. “For SWA, it was Swatara State Park, which we want to see developed.”

Knowing that others want to start their own watershed association, I asked where does one begin? 

“Early on, I interviewed a lot of knowledgeable people like Frank Meiser, CEO of the Greater Lebanon Refuse Authority, and Earl Leiby, president of the Lebanon Historical Society,” she recalled. “They have since passed on, but their willingness to share their knowledge lives on in the Swatara Water Trail.

“They also took me on field trips to see the areas that we discussed. I documented everything in pictures and kept the files. I also kept the maps that we marked with the Union Canal locks.

“Years later, I could pull this information together to help create the text for the Swatara Water Trail. Other people also provided valuable input — Joe Hovis at Fort Indiantown Gap, Denise Donmoyer with the Pine Grove Historical Society, and Francis Ditzler in Lickdale.”

Apparently the fire and desire was intensified as the fledging organization began to help reclaim and maintain Swatara Creek.

“We were outraged when Pine Grove Landfill wanted to locate at the headwaters after we worked so hard to clean up the water,” Litz said. “We probably spent 14 nights at the Pottsville courthouse into the wee hours of the morning to make sure that we were heard.”

However, it seems that the rough bumps in the road to success were met with resistance.

“After the hearings, we were sued for $10 million, but the Civil Liberties Union ended up defending us pro bono, and the judge ruled the action a slap suit, which was thrown out with a stern reprimand to Rimiro, who was violating our constitutional right of free speech to testify at a public hearing inviting public comment,” Litz said.

But rather than simply walk away or become frightened off by possible lawsuits, “doing what was right” outweighed any negatives that stood in the group’s path.

“I think the whole experience made us united, stronger and very focused,” Litz said. “We didn’t have a lot of money. We did make a commitment of time to do what we thought was right.”

Many organizations need more than memberships to accomplish the many great things the SWC has over the years. In the world of grant monies allotted to associations and organizations like SWC, the process can be painful and slow.

But Litz was more than willing to explain how it all comes together.

“The first grant is the hardest to obtain,” she admitted. “You have to find an organization that thinks you can not only carry out the proposal but keep records and file all of the appropriate forms.

“For SWA, that was Canaan Valley Institute. They said that if we come to their training in Shephardstown, W.Va., at Senator Byrd’s Environmental Center, we would get $5,000 to put toward what we felt we needed — within reason, of course.

“As I recall, we asked for items like stationary, a digital camera, a computer and printer, and a GPS unit. When we received the grant, we thought it was Christmas. So, we got training on Geographic Information Systems, advice on leveraging grant dollars and networking, and the tangible items. The rest is history.

“We now have a track record of delivering on what we promise, and agencies both keep track of things like that and share information.”

Forming a watershed association is a lot of hard work, but Litz enthusiastically said, “Getting your first access sponsor is key. Convince them that they will receive good public relations for their cooperation, maybe even an economic benefit in the way of customers. Show them the law that relieves them of liability if they don’t charge anyone for access.

Offer to police the area for litter once a year. It may take some time, and perhaps several visits, but after your first success, when someone asks who else is allowing access to their property, you can point to that first local ‘waterway hero.’”

The benefits to the community are endless, but Litz tried to summarize some of the more tangible.

“(It helped to) identify public access points along the Swatara, appreciation of riparian buffers for shade and cooling the stream, understanding the need to protect floodplains, wetlands, the natural and cultural heritage of the area as well as biodiversity of wildlife,” she said. “Marking trail heads helps users to respect private property rights, too. People certainly have the ability to experience the waterway the way our forefathers probably did, an opportunity to exercise and enjoy the outdoors, an understanding of why we need to protect the Swatara Creek for drinking water to sustain our lives and our livelihood.”

How does someone and what does it require to become a member of the Association?

You can become an annual member for $20, a lifetime member for $200 or a gold sponsor for $500. Each level has a progressive incentive or set of gifts — an EELS book, an autographed EELS book and audio CD, or both the book and CD as well as a set of DVDs containing approximately 60 oral history interviews used to write the EELS book.

“If you have time, you can also help us with projects,” Litz added. “Dave McSurdy, Tom Embich and Art Schiavo have taken on roles as Water Trail guardians to keep map boxes filled along the Creek. Make checks payable to SWA and mail to 2302 Guilford St, Lebanon Pa. 17046.”

Find out more about the SWC by visiting their Web site at

Pick up a copy of the Pennsylvania Angler & Boater magazine at your favorite newsstand, and enjoy the September/October 2005 issue and read all about the Swatara Water Trail. If you cannot locate the issue, contact the PFBC 705-7800.

Wolf may be reached by e-mail at wolfang418@msn. com or through his Web site at