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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


Click below to view the section you would like to read, or scroll down to read the whole Executive Summary.

  1. Introduction
  2. Project Background
  3. Project Area Characteristics
  4. Resource Data Analysis, Conclusions, and Management Options
bullet Project Area Characteristics
bulletLand Resources
bulletWater Resources
bulletBiological Resources
bulletCultural Resources
bulletSwatara State Park
bulletSwatara Creek Greenway

A. Introduction

Swatara Creek and its watershed have played an important and varied role in the history of south central Pennsylvania. From prehistoric times through today, the watershed has fulfilled the differing needs of its inhabitants. Early inhabitants utilized the watershed as primarily hunting and fishing grounds for their existence. Later, as European settlers colonized the watershed, it continued to provide for sustenance; but it also pro- vided lumber, agricultural soils, and transportation for building a life in the area. The following generations of settlers used the streams of the Swatara Creek watershed to power mills and transport while they harvested the coal, iron, and limestone along their banks, bringing economic prosperity to the area. Today, Swatara Creek and its watershed provide prime agricultural soil for farming, land for development, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities for both residents and visitors.

All of these needs and uses have had an impact on the Swatara Creek watershed. Clearing the forests resulted in increased sediment entering the streams of the watershed. Damming these streams for power and transportation blocked the historic spawning runs of shad, herring, and salmon. Runoff from coal mining left many streams lifeless. Today, increases in the population of the watershed require greater volumes of water for drinking and industrial use. Development of the watershed is also resulting in greater runoff, increased flooding, damage to riparian areas, and less groundwater recharge from precipitation falling in the watershed.

Although problems persist, there have been numerous success stories within the watershed and there is much reason for optimism as a new millennium begins. Projects to address and correct degradation from mine drainage have been successful enough to return diverse fisheries to streams once considered sterile. Clean-ups of litter and refuse along streams and riparian areas have become annual events within the watershed. Projects to rehabilitate riparian buffers and reduce agricultural runoff have been implemented, and in-stream habitat development and water quality monitoring are also conducted within the watershed.

The River Conservation Plan (RCP) for the Swatara Creek watershed has been completed to develop a comprehensive, long term management plan that addresses the problems and concerns, and takes advantage of the opportunities present in the watershed today and the future.

B. Project Background

The RCP for the Swatara Creek watershed was initiated following the Swatara Watershed Expo sponsored by the Swatara Creek Watershed Association (SCWA) in 1996. Obtaining listing on the Pennsylvania Rivers Registry and the associated funding opportunities for restoration and management projects were the primary reasons for pursuing and receiving a Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) - Rivers Conservation Planning Grant in 1997 and 1998 respectively. Additional funding and support for the project was provided by both public and private organizations; including the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), The William Penn Foundation, Canaan Valley Institute (CVI), IBM, The Greater Harrisburg Foundation, and the Ressler Mill Foundation. Following a series of 1998 public meetings to determine interest and concern for the project. SCWA contracted Mackin Engineering Company to assist in completing the Swatara Creek River Conservation Plan in 1999. A "Draft" document was circulated for public review and comment in July, 2000. Two public meetings were held on July 12 th and 13 th to present the findings of the RCP plan. The comment period on the "Draft" plan ended August 15th , 2000. The comments received were incorporated into the "Final" RCP document.

C. Project Area Characteristics

The Swatara Creek watershed drains approximately 571 square miles in Schuylkill, Berks, Lebanon, and Dauphin Counties. Swatara Creek originates in Schuylkill County north of US Route 209 in Foster Township. It flows in a south and southwesterly direction for approximately 69 miles to its confluence with the Susquehanna River in Middletown, Dauphin County, PA. Swatara Creek flows through three physiographic provinces and numerous geologic formations.

The land use within the watershed varies from undeveloped forestland to agricultural fields and farms to residential and urban development. Agricultural land remains the dominant land use in the watershed; but residential and urban development is occurring in portions of the watershed at a rapid pace.

Population within the watershed is growing. From 1960 through 1990 the population of the watershed grew from approximately 179,500 people to approximately 252,300 an increase of 40.6 percent. Population figures from 1998 show the watershed with approximately 263,000 residents or 2.2 percent of the entire population of Pennsylvania. With the exception of the Schuylkill County portion of the watershed, the communities located in the Swatara Creek watershed generally have lower unemployment and higher per capita income than the statewide average.

D. Resource Data Analysis, Conclusions, and Management Options

A detailed analysis of available resource data revealed several issues, concerns, constraints, and opportunities within the watershed. Primary among these were issues of water quality, population growth, land use within the watershed, Swatara Creek State Park, and the Swatara Greenway.

Water quality within the watershed has seen great improvement in the last 30 years. Much of this improvement has been the result of mine restoration projects in the northern portion of the watershed. However, water quality issues, especially those associated with non-point-source (NPS) pollution, are considered the most important in the watershed. Abandoned mine drainage (AMD) from the coalfields of Schuylkill County, runoff and erosion associated with farming and agricultural practices, and runoff from developing and urban areas are all examples of NPS pollution within the watershed.

As stated previously, the Swatara Creek watershed, especially those parts in Berks, Lebanon, and Dauphin Counties, has seen significant population growth in the past 30 years. Projections indicate that this trend will continue for the foreseeable future. Most of the growth has occurred outside of traditional population centers, in areas historically used for agricultural production. This situation has resulted in the development of new roadways and infrastructure, increased congestion on local roadways, increased pollution, the loss of agricultural soils and farms, and the loss of the aesthetics associated with rural life.

Swatara State Park was identified as a significant resource within the watershed Swatara State Park is the only facility established under Project 70, a 1964 statewide initiative for the development of parks throughout the Commonwealth, that is still undeveloped. As a result, it is greatly underutilized.

Another potentially significant recreational resource is the Swatara Greenway, which is being developed in Dauphin County. The plan was developed as part of the Swatara Creek Greenway and Rivers Conservation Plan completed in 1997. Development of the greenway would increase protection and recreational opportunities along the riparian zone of the stream.

Additional issues, concerns, and opportunities associated with invasive species in the watershed, recreational opportunities and access, cultural resources protection and inventory, and migratory fisheries restoration were also identified.

Management Options were developed to address each of the areas of concern or opportunities in the watershed. A summary of the Management options is presented in the following paragraphs. These options are presented in further detail in Chapter10 and Appendix G of the "Final" RCP document.

Project Area Characteristics

Raise the sensitivity and awareness of County, Local, and Municipal Planning Organizations (MPO’s) to farmland and habitat loss.
Work with local, county, and regional planning organizations to develop and carry out plans for the protection of environmental amenities in the watershed.
Complete a comprehensive examination the traffic conditions of the watershed. Identify areas of congestion, its causes, and impacts. Develop a strategy to address these problem areas utilizing alternative forms of transportation (mass transit, car-pooling, bike lanes) where possible.
Update comprehensive plans for the municipalities of the watershed that are over 10 years old. Include environmental resource inventories and protection of resources as part of the document. Complete multi- municipal/multi-county plans where prudent and feasible.
Support implementation of land conservation techniques in subdivision design.
Assess how increasing population is impacting the watershed. Explore establishing growth areas and rural areas within the municipalities of the watershed.
Update and implement Act 537 sewage management plans that are over 10 years old for the municipalities in the watershed. Replace on-lot septic systems in the established growth areas. Assist in upgrading older on lot systems in the established rural areas.
Actively enforce land uses controls for areas along waterways in the watershed. Especially keeping development out of floodplains. Develop strategies to protect riparian zones.
Partner with local universities to develop mutually beneficial programs for student education, and protection and enhancement of the watershed. Identify other volunteer and non-profit groups to coordinate activities and projects with to avoid duplication of effort.
Utilize the Rivers Conservation Plan as a tool in protecting, managing, and preserving the Swatara Creek watershed.

Land Resources

bulletExpand upon the partnership in place between the Lebanon County Conservation District and Ft. Indiantown Gap (FIG) for environmental resource and endangered species protection.
bulletContinue and expand watershed wide cleanup days.
bulletIdentify "Brownfield" areas within the watershed for possible assessment, cleanup, and redevelopment. Identify other potential hazard areas within the watershed.
bulletSupport current recycling efforts within the watershed. Consider expanding theses efforts as an alternative to further landfill development.
bulletDevelop an educational program for demonstrating and promoting riparian buffers, especially for use in FFA, 4H, scout groups, and secondary schools.
bulletSupport pollution control legislation (Bottle Bill)
bulletEncourage local farmers to enroll their property in agricultural security areas, set aside programs and conser- vation easements.

Water Resources

Implement the remaining projects for reclaiming AMD impacted streams in the upper Swatara Creek water- shed developed by Dan Koury in the Swatara Creek Reclamation Document.
Utilize the 1998 - Swatara Creek Watershed Rehabilitation Plan by Dan Koury as a model to develop reha- bilitation plans for agricultural and urban runoff problems in each of the major drainages in the watershed.
Develop a comprehensive plan to protect and monitor water quality and the results of improvements to streams in the major drainages of the watershed. Tailor the monitoring programs to sources of potential degradation in each drainage. Utilize this information to develop a database of information for the entire watershed.
Develop and implement streambank stabilization and habitat enhancement projects for the streams in the watershed.
Develop a comprehensive management plan for the Quittapahilla Creek watershed.
Develop an agreement for habitat and water quality improvement in Manada Creek with Ft. Indiantown Gap.
Develop a watershed organization for protection and enhancement of the Little Swatara Creek.
Develop storm water management plans for developed areas in the major drainages of the watershed. Identify new technologies for enhancing infiltration and groundwater recharge, especially in areas of urban develop- ment.
Make the stream corridor more user friendly.
Develop a plan of action to preserve and rehabilitate the infrastructure of the publicly owned lakes in the watershed, especially Sweet Arrow Lake and Stoevers Dam.
Develop areas for handicap access to Swatara Creek or other tributaries in the watershed.
Continue work to restore the fishery on the northern section of the watershed. Expand these efforts to assist with reestablishing the migratory fish population in the watershed and development of a stream habitat en- hancement plan for other stream sections in the watershed.
Support the development of the shad population into the watershed.
Develop an educational program for elementary and secondary schools on water quality and the responsible use of the watershed.
Inventory riparian buffers in the watershed. Identify areas that need to have riparian buffers established.
Inventory NPS pollution problems in the major drainages of the watershed, develop a hierarchy and imple- mentation plan for addressing these problem areas. Promote the development of conservation landscaping and management practices to reduce this sediment load.
Expand sewage capacity in the areas with the highest projected growth rates.
Work to ensure that development does not occur in floodplain areas.
Investigate possible uses for by-products of mining operations in the watershed.
Stay involved with the Swatara State Park Project. Support completion of a study to determine if a reservoir in the park is a preferred option for a supplementary water supply for Lebanon County and flow augmentation for the Susquehanna River.

Biological Resources

bulletPreserve ecological and visual amenities in the watershed. Utilize both voluntary protection and market pur- chase for preservation. Develop funding sources and a regional land trust organization to facilitate these actions.
bulletIdentify areas of significant invasive species populations. Develop an integrative management plan to control these species.
bulletEducate the public to the dangers and modes of transport of invasive species, including the zebra mussel, to reduce the chances of infestation in the watershed.
bulletIdentify riparian buffers in the major drainages of the watershed. Identify areas for further riparian buffers creation to assist wildlife travel corridors.
bulletConsider and if appropriate complete Natural Heritage Inventories for Lebanon and Schuylkill Counties. Assess the watershed for species of special concern. Develop and implement a plan for protection of these resources.
bulletInventory wetlands in stream corridors for protection and possible enhancement.
bulletLook into and if appropriate, establish a local chapter of PA Cleanways.

Cultural Resources

Encourage and develop educational programs on the environment in the watershed and especially Swatara State Park.
Develop better access to Swatara Creek and its tributaries for recreational use.
Develop rail trails from Swatara State Park Railroad Corridor to Lebanon and the Conewago Trail and in the Union Canal corridor from the Tulpehocken watershed boundary to Hershey and Middletown.
Expand upon the recently developed Swatara Creek Water Trail.
Increase recreational opportunities within the watershed, including park, recreational fields, stream accesses, etc.
Increase passive recreational opportunities in the watershed.
Complete proposed enhancements to Quittie Creek Nature Park.
Develop a plan for the preservation of historic resources in the watershed.
Complete a comprehensive park and recreation plan for the watershed. Address handicapped access as a portion of this report.

Swatara State Park

bulletMaximize the recreational potential of the state park.
bulletSupport any development of the state park to increase tourism as an economic presence in the region.

Swatara Creek Greenway

bulletImplement management options developed in the greenways plan.
bulletDevelop a trail and greenway master plan for the entire watershed.
bulletCreate an overlay zone for stream buffers in the watershed.
bulletIncrease partnerships with public and private entities to foster land stewardship.
bulletExpand greenway initiatives into Lebanon and Schuylkill Counties.