Schuylkill River

Coast Day: Free Boat Rides, LEGO Boats and New Storm Drain Mascots!

Kayakers enjoy a free trip on the Delaware during the 2014 Pa. Coast Day Celebration. Credit: Partnership for the Delaware Estuary.
Kayakers enjoy a free trip on the Delaware during the 2014 Pa. Coast Day Celebration. Credit: Partnership for the Delaware Estuary.

It's once again time for Pennsylvania Coast Day, and that means over 550 people will enjoy a free boat ride on Sept. 12, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Penn’s Landing.

The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE) will give away over 350 tickets for the RiverLink Ferry and 150 tickets for the Patriot during the event, which Philadelphia Water helps to sponsor. Both tours will be narrated, and guests can also enjoy free kayaking and pedal boating in Penn’s Landing Marina.

“Many people don’t realize the Delaware River is something they can experience and enjoy,” said Lisa Wool, program director at PDE. “This festival changes that by getting people on the water with their families, many for the first time.”

Philadelphia Water will also use Coast Day to roll out our new storm drain markers, which are now  customized to represent aquatic creatures from each of our city's seven watersheds. Here are two we made for storm drains that feed into the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers:
New storm drain markers for the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers.We'll be spreading the word about the new markers and giving out kits community groups can use to mark drains in their neighborhoods. To learn more and order a marking kit for your area, visit this page

Other attractions include free face painting, free arts and crafts, free prizes, exhibits and more. A shuttle will also take you to our Fairmount Water Works museum site, where programs showcasing the city’s other coast, the tidal Schuylkill River, are always free.

Visitors can also venture inside the Independence Seaport Museum, where admission ranges from $10 to $15. This will get them up close with TEACH FLEET, the world’s largest collection of LEGO model ships. Its centerpiece is the new RV Hugh Sharp, modeled after a research vessel owned by the University of Delaware.
The Philadelphia Ship Model Society will also race motorized models in Penn’s Landing Marina. And the oil-spill boat DELBAY will be open for tours.

Other sponsors for Pennsylvania Coast Day include the Pennsylvania Coastal Resources Management Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, Fairmount Water Works, and Independence Seaport Museum.
More information is available at DelawareEstuary.org/Coast-Day. and by calling (800) 445-4935, extension 112.

Fish Fest: Inspiring Life-Long Watershed Stewards


Watch our video to learn more about the Philly Fun Fishing Fest.

There’s something about fishing—the wonder, perhaps, that you inevitably experience when you cast your line into the water and hope that something will appear, alive and fighting, on the other end—that makes it an especially potent way of getting people hooked on "watershed stewardship."

Being a watershed steward is a fancy way of saying you care about the rivers, streams, creeks, wetlands, brooks and bays around us; Philadelphia alone has seven watersheds, all of them feeding into the much larger Delaware River watershed, stretching from the cold, wild trout-filled streams of the Catskill Mountains in New York all the way down to the salty Delaware Bay, where blue crab and flounder swim.

We want everyone in the Philadelphia region to think of themselves as watershed stewards because people who care about the source of their drinking water make our job—protecting and treating that water—that much easier. Whether it’s voting for elected officials who care about water quality or just picking up pet waste to keep it from washing into rivers and streams, we can count on watershed stewards to be on our side when it comes to making sure the Delaware watershed is in tip-top shape.

That’s the sentiment behind the Philly Fun Fishing Fest (Fish Fest for short), a Schuylkill River tradition now in its 11th year. It’s a day when anyone, old or young, fishing license or not, can come down to the banks of this amazing river and, we hope, make that special connection that leads to a life of watershed stewardship.

"Our source water protection efforts, from working with partners far upstream to reducing the amount of stormwater entering waterways from city streets, are all guided by our ‘One Water’ approach, which recognizes that everything we do comes back to the goal of having healthy rivers," says Tiffany Ledesma, a member of Philadelphia Water’s public engagement team. "Fish Fest is a great, fun way for people of all ages to experience what a healthy Schuylkill River has to offer in a hands-on way, and we want residents to have a direct stake in our efforts to take water quality to the next level."

This year’s Fish Fest, a totally free catch-and-release only event, will take place Saturday, September 12, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. (rain date: Oct. 3). Participants must register and fill out a quick form, which you can find by clicking here. The deadline for signups is Thursday, September 10. We’ll even have fishing poles available for loan and worms to use as bait. Experts will also be on hand to teach you how to cast and identify the fish species caught.
Prizes for a variety of categories, including the biggest (AND smallest!) fish, will be awarded during an 11:30 a.m. ceremony. To make the day even more fun, we’ll be holding the second annual Crazy Hat contest, open to all. Get creative with your head gear for the chance to reel in a prize!

What to Expect
Anglers during last year’s fest recorded nearly four dozen catches, and species identified included channel catfish, striped bass, bluegill, American eel, American shad, white perch, pumpkinseed sunfish, and red-breast sunfish.

Philly Fun Fishing Fest 2014: See Photos from Last Year, Including Fish Measuring and Crazy Hats

REMEMBER: Registration and Release of Liability are required to fish at the Fishing Fest. The registration must be completed ahead of time and the release form must be brought on the day of the event in order to participate. Register here and download the Release of Liability here. Questions? Call : 215-685-6300 or email us at StreetGreening@gmail.com.

Philadelphia Water’s partners for this event include Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, the Pa. Fish and Boat Commission, Schuylkill Banks, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Plano Tackle.

Want to Spread the Word? Download a Fish Fest Flyer by Clicking the Image Below:

Fish Fest Official Flyer 

See What a Healthier River Looks Like at INVISIBLE RIVER

Performers from INVISIBLE RIVER 2014 hang suspended from the Strawberry Mansion Bridge. Credit: INVISIBLE RIVER.
Performers from INVISIBLE RIVER 2014 hang suspended from the Strawberry Mansion Bridge. Credit: INVISIBLE RIVER.

We have lots of ways to measure the improving quality of Philadelphia's two rivers, but one of our favorite is simply seeing more and more people think of the Schuylkill and Delaware as beautiful, natural places to visit for recreation and relaxation. Since everything we do comes back to protecting and enchancing water quality, we see the change in the way people think about our rivers as a real metric of success.

But, as much as our rivers have improved, not everyone knows about it, and many people are still physically cut off from accessing these urban treasures.
Helping to nudge people to the scenic and natural beauty of the Schuylkill River is INVISIBLE RIVER, a nonprofit whose mission is "to use art, outdoor activities and dynamic programming to build wise stewardship of our rivers and waterways, to create unique and otherworldly artistic celebrations and to engage the public in art and environmental education."

We can get behind that!

Over the last few years, INVISIBLE RIVER has created a lot of buzz with stunning acrobatic performances featuring dancers suspended from the Strawberry Mansion Bridge, with the river acting as a breathtaking backdrop.
This year's big event will take place Saturday, August 29th from 2 to 8 p.m. and incorporates what Artistic and Executive Director Alie Vidich calls "a more open format than previous events."

Rather than just one big performance, this year will be more like a festival on the river that kicks off with an opening performance followed by lots of cool activities, with their trademark acrobatics as the grand finale.
A processional led by Positive Movement & Ecstatic Drill Team starts things off at Mander Recreation Center at 2140 N 33rd St. and Diamond Drive at 2 p.m., and a full day of activities will center around the festival area in the parking lot next to the St. Joseph’s University Boathouse, 2200 Kelly Drive. Participants are encourgaged to park at Mander take a walk to the river from there.

As one of the event sponsors, Philadelphia Water will be there too, partnering with Mural Arts to host some activities showing people how the green tools that make up Green City, Clean Waters are making the Schuylkill River even healthier. We'll also have members of our education team from the Fairmount Water Works there to provide some family fun.

Other INVISIBLE RIVER activities include free boating and paddling lessons, fishing lessons for kids, food trucks and vendors, and a beer garden.
Those who want to catch the Strawberry Mansion Bridge performance should be there at 5:30 p.m. There are lots of cool options for watching the performance, including "Bring Your Own Boat" and  a "Front Row Seats" program that lets people rent boats from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Check out the INVISIBLE RIVER website for more details, including transportation options like bike rentals and a special Phlash shuttle to help people get to the river.

"We have seen a change in the way people view the river, especially with the artists who interact with the river and the anglers who fish in the Schuylkill," says Vidich. "But for some people, there's still this cloud of past pollution hanging over the river, and we hope events like this can help change that."  

Join the Schuylkill Scrub!

Visit the Schuylkill River in the warmer months and you will find it teeming with life, both in the water and along its banks. It is hard to imagine that this scenic river, which provides drinking water to over 1.5 million people (that’s 12 out of every 100 Pennsylvanians!), was once considered the dirtiest river in the country.  The Schuylkill has come a long way and today boasts one quarter of the watershed designated as high quality or exceptional waters. But it still needs your help… and now is the time to do it—join the Schuylkill Scrub!

The Schuylkill Scrub, coordinated by the Schuylkill Action Network, is an annual clean-up initiative that happens every spring. This year’s Scrub started at the beginning of March and runs through May 31, so there’s still time to organize and register a clean-up event in you part of the watershed (or find one that already exists). You’ll be working alongside other partners and concerned citizens to clean as many miles of road, stream and parkland within the watershed. This coordinated effort will help keep our land and water litter-free (which is a good thing, remember, people drink that water).

The Schuylkill Scrub is now part of the Great American Cleanup of PA, so you’ll be part of a larger effort to clean and beautify our entire state and your cleanup can get free supplies like trash bags, gloves and vests, provided through Keep PA Beautiful and PennDOT. Additionally, during the Pick It Up PA Days, which is from April 11th to May 4th, registered events will have access to reduced or free trash disposal.

Last year, Keep America Beautiful logged over 52,000 volunteers who removed 1,300 tons of trash in over 1,200 neighborhoods in the five counties surrounding the Schuylkill River! Help make this year a success by signing up today and know that you‘re part of the effort to keep trash out of the Schuylkill, from the headwaters in Schuylkill County down to its confluence with the Delaware River in Philadelphia.

Click here for more information and to register your cleanup: http://www.schuylkillscrub.org/

If you don’t have time to organize your own cleanup, there may be one happening in your neighborhood already! Use this link to find existing cleanups http://www.schuylkillscrub.org/find-an-event.html.

Get Funding for Projects to Protect the Schuylkill River Watershed

Schuylkill River and Philadelphia skyline
Image courtesy of Ed Yakovich. 

PWD is one of several public and private funders of The Schuylkill River Restoration Fund

The Fund provides grants to government agencies and non-profit organizations for projects that improve the quality of water in the Schuylkill’s watershed. Since 2006, the Fund has collected more than $2 million and funded over 60 projects! Applications are now being accepted for the 2015 Schuylkill River Restoration Fund.

Does your community group, school or non-profit business have a project in the works that might qualify for funding? View the Fund guidelines here. And download the application here

Your organization may also qualify for a $4,000 Land Transaction Assistance Grant, which is intended to assist with transaction costs for permanent land protection projects (conservation easements, full fee acquisitions, donations). Download the Land Transaction Assistance Grant guidelines here.

While the grants also focus on agricultural pollution and abandoned mine drainage, here in Philadelphia, past recipients have used funding from the grants to pay for projects that manage stormwater run-off. 

In 2014 Grants totaling $337,465 were awarded to seven projects. Among them was a $37,961 award for a meadow at SDP’s Cook-Wissahickon School that resulted in 3,300 sq. ft. of new meadow installed and maintained, as well as an education for the neighbors in the difference between a meadow and an unkempt lawn

Want more information? Contact Tim Fenchel at tfenchel@schuylkillriver.org or call the Schuylkill River Heritage Area at 484-945-0200.

Resolve to know our rivers better in 2015

A River Runs Through It: Philadelphia Water Skiing + Skateboarding from Jon Graham on Vimeo.

With just a few more hours in 2014, it’s time to reflect back a little on all of the great things that we’ve experienced over the past year and make our plans for 2015. A few days ago we stumbled upon the video above created by local filmmaker Jon Graham and it’s so cool that we had to share! Seeing people enjoy the Schuylkill River—strolling on the new 2,000 foot long Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, skating at Paine’s Park, waterskiing, boating, kayaking and more—is very gratifying. At PWD, we’re proud of the role we played in helping to make 2014 such a successful year for our rivers, our water and our city.  

Whether it’s our own Schuylkill River being named Pennsylvania’s 2014 River of the Year or seeing the endangered shortnose sturgeon return to the Schuylkill, 2014 was a tremendously successful year for the health of our rivers. 

We were fortunate to be a part of a great collaboration with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and the Manayunk community that resulted in the opening of the Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center. This project showed how green storm water infrastructure and a PWD stormwater storage basin unit can be seamlessly interwoven into a great neighborhood and citywide amenity. We also named our first Stormwater Pioneer and gave $8.25 million to businesses for green stormwater management practices on private property through our SMIP and GARP programs. 

And we’re especially proud of award after award after award being brought home by many of PWD’s staff. And we have to give a shout out to our 2014 Philadelphia Water Department Spokesdog Winners who help us reduce the amount of pet waste that ends up in our rivers! 

As we look ahead to 2015 (here’s our spin on the common resolutions to eat better and exercise more), we suggest you resolve to: 

1. Get outside and experience every single one of the city’s waterways and the great things to do on their banks. Whether it’s waterskiing or kayaking on the Schuylkill or running and biking alongside it; taking in another pop-up park along the Delaware; or hiking along the Wissahickon, Pennypack, Poquessing, Cobbs, Tookany/Tacony-Frankford, you’ll get exercise and relieve stress by being near the water.  

2. Drink tap water! Philadelphia’s drinking water continues to be among the nation’s cleanest, safest and most reliable. We resolve to continue that in 2015 so you can resolve to get your 8 glasses (at least!) per day and at an affordable cost. The cost of 50 glasses of water here in Philadelphia is less than a penny!

3. Do your part to keep pollution out of Philadelphia's rivers and streams.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Endangered Shortnose Sturgeon Returns to the Schuylkill


Shortnose sturgeon
Shortnosed sturgeon, Acipenser brevirostrum. Author: Karen Couch, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Last summer, just below the Fairmount Dam on the Schuylkill River, an angler managed to catch a shortnose sturgeon, a species of fish that has been on the endangered species list since 1967! While sometimes found in the Delaware River, the shortnose sturgeon has never been found in the Schuylkill—at least not on record. PWD regularly samples fish in the Schuylkill and in their 14 years of sampling below the dam, they have not seen this species.

Spotting this shortnosed sturgeon not only indicates that the species could be coming back, it also indicates that the water quality of the Schuylkill is improving. Researchers have long used levels of dissolved oxygen to gauge water quality—oxygen deficient water is not good for aquatic life. The sturgeon is extremely sensitive to low levels of dissolved oxygen, so finding one in the Schuylkill indicates that the dissolved oxygen levels are on the rise.

If you’re lucky enough to catch a sturgeon, remember it is a protected species and that you should quickly return it to the water. To learn more about the shortnosed sturgeon and other species (not all good!) that inhabit the Schuylkill River, check out this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

INVISIBLE RIVER Brings a Live Performance to the Schuylkill River


Connect to the Schuylkill River this Saturday, July 12th and Sunday, July 13th by taking part in INVISIBLE RIVER, an event that combines dance, art, boating, and love of the environment- in a fantastic show open to the public. The show includes a musical ensemble, a freestanding abstract sculpture of native birds, and aerial dancers who fly beneath the Strawberry Mansion Bridge and sail on a boat that glides along the water. On the docks a chorus of dancers will build a landscape of running and flocking movement that ebbs and flows out of the landscape creating an ephemeral experience similar to nature.


PWD will be there to welcome people to the Schuylkill River and provide information on the health of our river and ways to learn more about our watersheds.
The public is invited to view the event from the shores of Kelly Drive for free. Tickets are available for those interested in taking a moving boat flotilla to see the show from the water.


For more information: http://www.invisibleriver.org/


Fish Food for Thought

PWD's Lance Butler and Joe Perillo were working last week and found this very large striped bass. Pretty amazing to see aquatic life like this from a river that was once too polluted to support it. Lance had this to say:

"Being a PWD scientist for over 15 years, very little surprises me when I'm out in the field performing assessments, surveys, etc. I've had the rare opportunity to witness first-hand the trending resurgence of many aquatic species in the Schuylkill and Delaware drainages within and around Philly.

In short, fifteen years ago, if anyone said to me that there are 40"+ striped bass, thousands of river herring (blueback and Alewife) and Shad, and over 50+ species of fish in the lower Schuylkill, I would have probably said that they were lying. Today, that "myth" is reality and this picture is one that exemplifies this.

And although we face many issues, both legacy and future, with regards to our urban ecosystems (ranging from acute and chronic pollution events, invasive species introductions, climate change and sea level rise, etc.), I firmly believe that we (i.e., PWD and its partners) are on the correct path to improving the health and integrity of our aquatic resources."

A Spectacular Green Week for Schools


Last week PWD picked up the pace of the green schools program with three fantastic events!


On Wednesday, judges gathered at the Fairmount Water Works to pick winners from the GreenSTEM Challenge.  Students from three schools: George W. Nebinger, Albert M. Greenfield and Cook-Wissahickon, designed creative containers to hold environmental sensors that measure factors like soil moisture. Judges based their selections on creativity, use of materials and constructability to choose thee winning designs: a sword in the stone, a spider and a futuristic light-up, disco-esk dome. Visit GreenStem Challenge for images of the imaginative designs.


On Thursday, George W. Nebinger School hosted representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary and PWD to celebrate the new green school yard. All three agencies helped fund and coordinate the project that removed pavement and replaced it with a rain garden. Music students welcomed the guests with a touching performance of “In the Jungle” and “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” before a discussion of the site and the Urban Watershed Curriculum.


To top off the week, students from Greenfield Elementary formed a human chain from Center City to the Schuylkill River in celebration of winning the Green Ribbon School Award. Awarded to Greenfield in 2013 by the US Department of Education, this award recognizes the school as a model educational community of green practices. The human chain of 500 people connected the city to the river through the outstretched arms of children, parents, teachers and everyone who took part!

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