The Schuylkill River
, most often ("SKOO-kull"), is a river in the U.S. Commonwealth
. It is a designated Pennsylvania Scenic River
The river is about 130 miles (209 km) long. Its watershed of about 2000 square miles (5,000 km²) lies entirely within the state of Pennsylvania. The source of its eastern branch is in the Appalachian Mountains at Tuscarora Springs, near Tamaqua in Schuylkill County. The west branch starts near Minersville and joins the eastern branch at the town of Schuylkill Haven. The Tulpehocken Creek joins it at the western edge of Reading. Wissahickon Creek joins it in northwest Philadelphia. Other major tributaries include the Little Schuylkill River, Maiden Creek, Manatawny Creek, French Creek, and Perkiomen Creek. The Schuylkill joins the Delaware River, of which it is the largest tributary, at the site of the former Philadelphia Navy Yard, now the Philadelphia Naval Business Center, just northeast of Philadelphia International Airport.
Major towns and cities on the banks of the river
The river's history and the etymology of its names
The Delaware Indians
were the original settlers of the area around this river, which they called Ganshohawanee
, meaning "rushing and roaring waters," or "Manaiunk". The river was later named Schuylkill
by its European discoverer, Arendt Corssen
of the Dutch West India Company
. One explanation given for this name is that it translates to "hidden river" and refers to the river's confluence with the Delaware River at League Island
, which was nearly hidden by dense vegetation
. Another explanation is that the name properly translates to "hideout creek". Thomas Paine
tried in vain to interest the citizens in funding an iron bridge over this river, before abandoning "pontifical works" on account of the French revolution
The restoration of the river was funded by money left for that purpose in Benjamin Franklin's will.
Points of interest along the river
Transportation and recreation in the Schuylkill valley
The Schuylkill river valley was an important thoroughfare in the eras of canals and railroads. The river itself, the Schuylkill Navigation
(canal), the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad
(later the Reading Railroad
), and the Pennsylvania Railroad
were vital shipping conduits from the mid-19th century through the mid-20th century.
Rail freight still uses many of the same valley rights-of-way that the 19th-century railroads used. Passenger and commuter rail service is more limited. Today, the old railbed rights-of-way along the river between Philadelphia and Norristown contain SEPTA's R6 Norristown Regional Rail line (former Reading Railroad right-of-way) and the Schuylkill River Trail (former Pennsylvania Railroad right-of-way).
There are efforts to extend both rail and trail farther upriver than they currently reach. The Schuylkill River Trail continues upriver from Norristown to Valley Forge, and designers plan to extend it for scores of miles farther upriver. SEPTA Regional Rail service currently does not go farther upriver than Norristown. Visions of commuter rail service farther up the Schuylkill valley ("Schuylkill Valley Metro") have yet to become reality.
Roads associated with the river include the Schuylkill Expressway, the West Shore Bypass (on the west bank), the Kelly Drive (on the east bank, so also called the East River Drive), and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive (on the west bank, so also called the West River Drive).
The Schuylkill River Trail
, which generally follows the river bank, is a multi-use trail for walking, jogging, bicycling, rollerblading, and other outdoor activities. The trail presently runs from Philadelphia to the Perkiomen Creek
, just beyond Valley Forge Park. There is also a section of trail starting at Pottstown
and running upriver. Plans are underway to develop the trail between the existing sections.
The Schuylkill River is very popular with watersports enthusiasts. The Dad Vail Regatta, an annual rowing competition, is held on the river near Boathouse Row, as is the annual Bayada Regatta, featuring disabled rowers from all over the continent.
- U.S. Geological Survey: PA stream gaging stations
- Philly RiverCast
- Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service: Schuylkill River at Philadelphia
- Schuylkill Watershed Conservation Plan
- Schuylkill River National & State Heritage Area
- Delaware River Basin Commission Schuylkill River Maps
- Channel 6 Action News report: The Search for the Source of the Schuylkill River
- Ganshohawanee, meaning rushing and roaring waters, later called Schulen-kill, or as it is pronounced today, Schuylkill, “school kill.” The Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce
- Art by Thomas Birch (American, born England, 1779-1851), View of the Chain Bridge and Falls of Schuylkill, Five Miles from Philadelphia
- Art by Titian Ramsay Peale (American, 1799-1885), The Schuylkill River above Philadelphia, 1881
- Art by William Groombridge, Fairmount and Schuylkill River, 1800
- Schuylkill River views