You are also welcome to join SWA on interactive sites:
Swatara QR Code. Save to your phone.
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
Planning a Swatara
Updated Map |
Swatara Water Trail map and guide 7MB 10.12.2017.pdf|
Public access points about every
For comparison, when the
Harpers gauge at our
launch @ 1929 Blacks Bridge Road, Annville reads the following
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;
10.56', only sites 26-35 do not flood.
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.
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
|Use 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.|
|U-Tow Canoes Available
Canoe Use agreement:
CANOE USE CONTRACT.pdf
Seasonal Primitive Camping
Camp/2018 Campsite Agreement.pdf
Fishing, hiking, picnicking
Visit the Bordner Cabin in Swatara
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
About the Swatara Watershed
Rivers Conservation Plan
Swatara on Great Nonprofits:
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
EELS Books in Time for Holiday Giving
The Swatara Creek Watershed Association wishes you a happy
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.
was born in Hershey, PA, but resides in Hummelstown, PA.
In 1786 Paul’s family settled in Dauphin County in what is now
Township. Farming was the main occupation in the early years. Some of the
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.”
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
- A dam on the Swatara
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
PA American Water Company who
purchases water from the Lebanon Water Authority;
The Veteran’s Administration
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
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.
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
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
The Swatara Creek Watershed Association’s Susquehanna
River Basin Commission map package/sample data created with PADEP Growing
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.
|In 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.|
Eventually, ownership of Sweet Arrow Lake was transferred from
from Pine Grove Borough to Schuylkill County.|
Utilizing $650,000 in Growing Greener Funds and matching funds
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|
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
||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
||Finally, Ed points out that there is some liability protection to
landowners who open their property at no charge.|
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
||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
||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
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 is grateful for the community support.|
|Another addressed pollution problem was an old dump where FIG installed
monitoring devices. Further, FIG cleaned up artillery impact areas.|
|FIG spends $50,000 annually to monitor the Regal Fritillary butterfly on
|Not 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.|
|FIG uses water from the Lebanon Water Authority.|
|Chris 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
|While one water tower came down, there is another tower that holds
hundreds of thousands of gallons of water for fighting fires.|
|In short, Chris believes it is important to balance initiatives between
solders and the environment.|
|To prevent future forest fires, FIG uses controlled burns. They also
remove asbestos from old buildings, then burn them down.|
|In 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
|Chris 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.|
|Look 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.|
|Chris acknowledges that recently they did have a small oil spill, but
contained it quickly.|
|Meetings 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 |
||May 1-2—Sojourn Canoe/Litter CleanUp (see insert)|
||July 28 – Water Works CleanUp|
Return to the SCWA home page