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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


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Legacy Giving


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Rivers Conservation Plan


What is a RCP?


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2004 Newsleters

EELS Books in Time for Holiday Giving

 December 2004

The Swatara Creek Watershed Association wishes you a happy holiday season.  
We wish you good health, happiness, and security.  May you have a new year that is peaceful like a river.  May you make pools out of puddles.  And, when you tackle problems, start inward, then move outward, like ripples in a pond.

We truly value our clean water.  It nourishes us, sustains our homes and businesses, cleanses us, and gives us new life through baptisms.  Completing the EELS book (Envisioning an Environmental Legacy for the Swatara) was a labor of love.  In this oral history project, SCWA interviewed 65 people, recording their experiences during the 1972 flood resulting from Hurricane Agnes, the 1979 TMI accident, as well as times of drought, ice jambs, and pollution incidents.  The Swatara Water Trail, lessons learned, maps, lots of pictures, chapters by subject matter, and abstracts of the interviews are all printed in the book.  You’re sure to know some of the people interviewed.  You’ll also learn about the native American eel (a fish, not a snake) that has all but disappeared from the Swatara Creek and its tributaries.  Here’s how to get your copy.  As you think about your gifts this holiday season, please consider the gift of water.  A Swatara Watershed membership not only entitles the membership holder to a quarterly newsletter, he or she is also eligible for an EELS book.  You can make arrangements to pick up the book, or to the $20 yearly or $200 lifetime memberships, add $4 for shipping and handling.  While they last, the lifetime membership also entitles you to a collectible book with signatures from many of the interviewees. As an additional incentive, lifetime members will receive both the book on a CD in a PDF file and another CD to listen to in your car--an abbreviated audio version.

For research and posterity, the next phase of the project will place DVD copies of all of the interviews into Historical Society libraries in the City of Lebanon, Pine Grove Township, and Derry Township.
Partners for this project came from multiple sources:  Canaan Valley Institute, Fort Indiantown Gap, the National Parks Service Gateways program, professional broadcaster Gordon Weise, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the PA Fish and Boat Commission.

Paul Swartz, Middletown PA.  Interviewed February 20, 2004 by Betty Conner.

Paul was born in Hershey, PA, but   resides in Hummelstown, PA. 

o       In 1786 Paul’s family settled in Dauphin County in what is now Lower Swatara

Township.    Farming was the main occupation in the early years.  Some of the Swartz

descendants settled on the east side of the Swatara Creek between Hummels-town and Middletown.  Their land contains Indian Echo Caverns which are still privately owned by the family. 

o       The Union Canal borders the farmland where Paul now lives.  A railroad was built along the same route connecting Middletown to Hummelstown, the M&H Railroad or the “Milk and Honey Line” as it was nicknamed.  The Agnes Flood of 1972 caused severe damage to the rail bed when high water washed out the ballast.  The flood destroyed two covered bridges and an iron bridge.  

o       The M.O. Swartz property contained a quarry and a lime kiln to produce lime for spreading on the fields.  The quarry later became a landfill. 

o       The changes that Paul has witnessed include the growth of Derry Township from a population of 5,000 to 20,000.  There has been much new development, especially along Middletown Road, and the conversion of open fields along 322 into the Hershey Medical Center.  Preservation of open space is a concern.  The area has become too popular, with good schools and easy access.  Planning for parks, trails and recreation is important.  A network of greenways and trails can, and probably will, happen.  

o       Paul has served as Executive Director of the Susquehanna River Basin Commis-sion since 1992.  The SRBC was created in 1971 by federal legislation as a special agency based on the principles of watershed sharing and coordination.  The SRBC is staffed by 35 members to oversee a geographic area comprising over ½ of Pennsylvania, parts of New York and Maryland, plus the District of Columbia.  The mission of the SRBC is,


 “Guardian of the River.”  From droughts to floods, its main task is coordination.  The SRBC’s goal is to produce the best possible flood forecasting.  The SRBC has a regulatory role over large water withdrawals and returns.  Other program areas include water quality monitoring, watershed assessments, GIS mapping, migratory fish passage restoration, pass-by flows and conservation releases, streamside cleanups, public outreach and strategic planning. 

o       The SRBC and the Delaware River Basin Commission are unique among river basin commissions in the US because they have regulatory authority.  The DRBC was formed in 1960 and became the model for the SRBC.  Creation of the SRBC, a book by William Voight, gives the details of the story.  Maurice Goddard was instru-mental in the creation of the SRBC. 

o       The SRBC, in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, DEP, and the Capital Region Water Board, completed a water supply study of the Swatara Watershed.  The study described recent and prospective growth rates, the history of droughts, including 1999 and 2002, and other conditions related to adequate water supply up to the year 2030.  A number of alternatives were presented for meeting the need for water during a “drought of record” by the year 2030. 

o       In December 2002, the Pennsylvania legislature passed the Water Resources Planning Act, creating a process to: update the State Water Plan, require registration of water withdrawals greater than 100 thousand gallons per day, establish a Statewide Planning Commit-tee and six Regional Planning Commit-tees, and identify critical water resource areas where demand may exceed supply. 

o       In conclusion, Paul said that the Swatara Creek corridor is remarkable for the amount of open space of farms, forest and riparian land in spite of the amount of development in the watershed over the past 200 years.  Paul has a desire to protect the Swatara because it has special meaning for his family.  “Do whatever is necessary to preserve it.”

o       He said that the Swatara Creek Watershed Association has done a good job, over the past decade, of raising public awareness of the values of this wonderful natural resource.

September 2004

Ed Keener with contributions from Mr. David Etter, president of the Lebanon Water Authority.  Interview on 9/13/04 by Jo Ellen Litz. 

Ed is a civil engineer whose service to the Lebanon Water Authority spans 38 years.  His profession placed him in charge of the water system for Lebanon.  Ed explained how water is drawn from both the Swatara Creek near Jonestown, Lebanon County and the Highbridge Reservoir in Schuylkill County.          

Originally coming to Philadelphia, then settling in Lebanon PA, Ed’s great grandparents came to the United States from Germany.  They ran a brewery industry where they were hooked to the public water supply in the town of Lebanon.

Effects of the Agnes flood of 1972 were harsh on the Lebanon Water Authority.  The old filtration plant, originally built by Fort Indiantown Gap and the army and given to the Authority, ended up seven feet under water.  Prior to the flood, 50% of the water was drawn from Swatara Creek and 50% from the Highbridge Reservoir.  Swatara Creek water was filtered, but Highbridge water went through the system unfiltered.

At any rate, the storm knocked out the intake on the Swatara, and the old filtration system was ruined.  All water was taken from Highbridge until intake repairs were completed.  A concerted effort completed the new filtration plant out of the flood plain, just north of Sandhill.  From this point in time, all water from both Highbridge and Swatara Creek is filtered.

Today, about 85% of the Authority’s water comes from Highbridge and 15% comes from the Swatara.  Even though a balloon type dam at the overflow of Highbridge can temporarily raise the water level of the Reservoir, the 30” line from Highbridge limits the amount of water that can be taken from Highbridge.  To meet demand, after five or six days of draw from Highbridge, supplemental water must be drawn from the Swatara Creek.

With $32 million in funding from five agencies, including the federal government and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the Hazel Dyke was also built as a result of Agnes.  The Dyke runs from the Quittapahilla Creek to Fourth Street, Brandywine runs from the Quittapahilla to Twelfth Street; then Hazel Street from Lincoln Avenue to State Drive; and four to five years ago, Senator Brightbill helped to secure funds to complete the last section.  The system is designed to withstand a 100-year storm.  The southern part of the City of Lebanon, where everything was under water, may be saved in another storm the magnitude of Agnes.  Even the Municipal Building at 400 South 8th Street had water in the basement. And the parking lot to the south west of the Municipal building was inundated.  It took three weeks to pump out the former low spot.

Ice jambs are also a concern when running the Lebanon Water Authority.  During Ed’s tenure, two or three jambs blocked the intake.  Highbridge must be used when blockage of the intake occurs.  Using long poles, personnel must manually push the ice blocks over the low-head dam, away from the intake.  Eventually, the ice melts or rain raises the water level so that the ice floats downstream.

Because both the intake on the Swatara Creek and the Highbridge Reservoir are outside of a ten-mile radius of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant, the TMI disaster had little impact on the Lebanon Water Authority.   However, the Authority was placed on alert.

After Highbridge Reservoir tripled its capacity from 400 million gallons to 1.1 billion gallons by building a second dam breast downstream of the original breast, droughts weren’t as hard on the Lebanon Water Authority.  The reservoir was renamed for Christian E. Siegrist.  Ironically, the new breast is at the site proposed for the original breast.  The location was moved upstream when the Lebanon Water Authority was unsuccessful in acquiring the old railroad bridge.  Six months after Highbridge was completed, the railroad closed.  By the way, the old dam breast stands in its original location, but is inundated by 32’ of water.  When a drought is expected, to conserve water in the Siegrist Reservoir, water is drawn from the Swatara Creek.  

We have come through the last eight or nine years pretty well, but if a drought lasts two to three years, we will come up short on water.  With increased demand, we must find a new supply of water within the next ten years.  Ed recommends a combination of the following:

  1. A dam on the Swatara Creek;
  2. Wells;
  3. Conservation—toilets and washing machines that use less water….  Some toilets use no water.  The waste passes through chemicals that stay in the toilet.

In Ed’s opinion, none of the other suggestions in the Susquehanna River Basin Commission study are feasible, including potential sources at Cornwall or Rexmont.

The Authority services nine municipalities.  Some of the largest users of water from the Authority include:

¨      PA American Water Company who purchases water from the Lebanon Water Authority;

¨      The Veteran’s Administration Hospital;

¨      The Good Samaritan Hospital;

¨      The County of Lebanon….

Fort Indiantown Gap can be a large user, but usage varies depending on activity at the Gap.  When Cuban and Vietnamese Refugees were housed at FIG, water usage was high.

Ed observes water wars in the west, and says that development will dictate when the water wars hit our area.  

The most significant pollution incident on the Swatara Creek involved a release of gasoline near Pine Grove.  The gasoline got into the filtration system, and the Authority had to shut down.  After flushing the system, Highbridge was used for a week or so.  Once again, Wengert’s trucked water into the County.  Conversely, the biggest threat of pollution to Highbridge was beavers near Jeff’s Swamp.  These small critters can produce a giardi cyst that can make humans violently ill.  The beavers were trapped and moved from the area.  Smaller pollution incidents were “caught” in time to switch to the Siegrist Reservoir before the filtration system became saturated.

June 2004


Watermelon at the Water Works

SCWA, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, and the PA Fish and Boat Commission have joined forces to cleanup the PA Fish and Boat Commission Launch at the Water Works, in East Hanover Township, Lebanon County--north of Annville. 

·        First we work, then we eat.  We may even have a ‘sit and spit’ contest.  Join us for a morning of community service combined with fun. 

·        This hands-on field event replaces SCWA’s regular meeting.   On July 28, meet at 9:30AM to help police the area and clean up litter.

From 934, turn right (NE) onto Ono Road.  Cross the Swatara Creek.  Turn left unto Swatara Road.  Go ½ mile to two scruffy pines at a parking area housing a Swatara Water Trail sign, which is on your left.


The Swatara Creek Watershed Association’s Susquehanna River Basin Commission map package/sample data created with PADEP Growing Greener funds.

Denise Donmoyer, Pine Grove, Schuylkill County President, Sweet Arrow Lake Conservation Association.  Sweet Arrow Lake was built in 1923 to supply 1,000,000 gallons of water/day to produce steam to turn turbines at a power plant to create electricity.

bulletIn 1979, DEP declared the dam at Sweet Arrow unsafe.  By 1998 DEP wanted the dam repaired or breached and the lake destroyed.  Sweet Arrow Lake Conservation Association formed to find solutions.
bullet                                                Eventually, ownership of Sweet Arrow Lake was transferred from                                         from Pine Grove Borough to Schuylkill County.
bullet                                                Utilizing $650,000 in Growing Greener Funds and matching funds       from                                          from a county bond issue, $1.2 million in repairs were completed.  The lake                                           lake is being developed as Schuylkill County’s first county park.




March 2004 - EELS Interview Teasers

Ed Chubb, Harrisburg (Dauphin County)

Ed Chubb is the Director of Dauphin County Parks and Recreation. He grew up along the Swatara in Middletown.
Ed caught his first fish in the Swatara Creek.
His passion is establishing a greenway along the Swatara Creek, which was first studied by Hershey Trust and the Natural Lands Trust in the mid 1990’s
Ed has vivid memories of the Agnes Flood. At the time, he was a volunteer fire fighter, and both life and property were threatened. He and his colleagues decided to pump out basements after the rain stopped. That was three days later.
New neighborhoods on East Main Street were flooded. There was water where it had never been before.
A rescue was taking place at the "Iron Bridge" near Swatara Park, but Ed decided to check out the new bridge near Hoffer Park. He saw the substation take on water and the electric go out all over Middletown. Electric was out for two to three days.
He went back to the Iron Bridge, and was told he just missed the Clifton covered bridge floating by. Clifton Bridge was huge, and had a mid-stream pier. Apparently, the Fiddler’s Elbo covered bridge gave way first and wiped out the Clifton Bridge. They both hit and collapsed the Iron Bridge. "It was pretty dramatic," he said. There were splinters and metal everywhere. He never saw anything else like it to this day.
Ed’s dream is to replace the Clifton covered bridge as a pedestrian walkway. It would connect numerous trails and recreation features like the M&H Railroad, a canoe launch, and Lower Swatara athletic fields.
Owning close to 90% of the land on the south side of Swatara Creek and almost 40% of the land on the north side in South and East Hanover Townships, Ed sees Hershey Trust Company as a major player in the Greenway. He’d like to see Hershey Trust manage a corridor (greenway and trails) as a conservation area for both Milton Hershey School students and the greater public benefit. (Note: Just as Ed did, how many Milton Hershey students can also catch their first fish in the Swatara Creek? I can see children dropping into the Swatara from ropes swinging out over the Swatara on a hot summer day, children catching minnows, salamanders, and tadpoles. These are memories that will last a lifetime.)
Finally, Ed points out that there is some liability protection to landowners who open their property at no charge.

Lt. Col. Chris Cleaver, Mt. Gretna, Lebanon

Chris has worked at Fort Indiantown Gap for thirteen years. As a public affairs officer, he’s visited 35 countries, and once worked for Norman Schwartzkov.
Chris reviewed Fort Indiantown Gap’s (FIG) 17,000-acre history. Founded in 1932, FIG survived the 1995 base realignment closure commission review. At that time, FIG doubled their environmental staff to six.
January 31, 2004 National Geographic filmed a reenactment of the Battle of the Bulge at FIG. Another recently produced clip encourages people to write letters to soldiers, not just email them. It means so much to touch a letter from home.
In Lebanon County, FIG is the largest employer and has the largest light bill, as well as a one-half billion-dollar budget, and trains 150,000 people annually.

Aging infrastructure was a priority of FIG’s EIS. A new sewer line and plant are now complete. In fact, East Hanover Township is considered for hookup onto FIG’s system.

bulletFIG is grateful for the community support.
bulletAnother addressed pollution problem was an old dump where FIG installed monitoring devices. Further, FIG cleaned up artillery impact areas.
bulletFIG spends $50,000 annually to monitor the Regal Fritillary butterfly on site.
bulletNot waiting for droughts to occur, FIG recycles water used to wash tanks and airplanes and has installed buffer zones along streams where trees can grow to shade and cool the water, thus reducing evaporation. This is on top of eliminating sewer line leaks.
bulletFIG uses water from the Lebanon Water Authority.
bulletChris saw a mature bald eagle hunting along the Swatara, donated land for a hawk watch, and also donated land to State Game Land 211—St. Anthony’s Wilderness area.
bulletWhile one water tower came down, there is another tower that holds hundreds of thousands of gallons of water for fighting fires.
bulletIn short, Chris believes it is important to balance initiatives between solders and the environment.
bulletTo prevent future forest fires, FIG uses controlled burns. They also remove asbestos from old buildings, then burn them down.
bulletIn addition to FIG’s rattlesnake and fish telemetry, Joe Hovis tagged 50 white-tailed dear for tracking. Amazingly, one buck traveled 35 miles from FIG past Interstate highways to Middlecreek Wildlife Refuge, which emphasized the positive impact that rail trails have on the wildlife in the Swatara Watershed.
bulletChris believes that sportsmen—fishermen and hunters--are the canaries in the mine for the Swatara Watershed. These outdoorsmen will spot fish kills or pollution running into our streams. He sites one incident on the Quittapahilla.
bulletLook how pristine it is here (at FIG)—no development at exit 85 of Route 81. That is because we (FIG) control that area. There are no neon lights.
bulletChris acknowledges that recently they did have a small oil spill, but contained it quickly.

2004 Meetings

bulletMeetings will take place at 9:30AM at the Swatara Creek Watershed office, 2501 Cumberland St.., Suite 4, Lebanon PA. Directions—Route 422 west, of the City of Lebanon, on the corner of 25th and Cumberland Streets—one block west of the Boscov’s Lebanon Valley Mall. All are welcome. Potential speakers, please contact Vice President Tom Embich (717)533-2047. Educational presentations should be 20 minutes with 10 minutes of question and answer.
March 31 – Dave McSurdy on Indians and Artifacts
April 28
May 1-2—Sojourn Canoe/Litter CleanUp (see insert)
May 26
June 30
July 28 – Water Works CleanUp
August 25
September 29
October 27
November 24
December 29

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