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.
The restoration of the river was funded by money left for that purpose in Benjamin Franklin's will.
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 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.
Schuylkill River group opens section of recreation trail: The conversion of a 1.8-mile stretch of an old railroad right-of-way nearly completes the Schuylkill River Trail between Reading and Philadelphia.
Aug 24, 2006; Byline: Darrin Youker Aug. 24--Efforts to complete a recreation trail between Reading and Philadelphia just took a big step...