In May of 2019, Luzerne County musician Don Shappelle received an invitation to develop a river song aboard the Hiawatha Paddleboat near Williamsport for the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Floating Classroom series.
“I went into it with a few ideas, but basically had about 45 minutes to write a song with about 40 to 50 kids and their parents,” he said. “We got a song out of it – ‘A Happy River is a Clean River’ – and it was so much fun.”
A 12-acre orange rectangle is hard to ignore when looking over Google Earth maps of Luzerne County between the towns of Plains and Swoyersville -- the bright iron-hued discharge visibly draining into the North Branch of the Susquehanna River.
The location is known as the Plainsville Borehole Discharge, and efforts to clean up the abandoned mine drainage that it produces continue to hit a variety of hurdles, according to Luzerne County Conservation District water specialist John Levitsky.
Two high-water incidents along Dry Run at the Hoagland Branch of Elk Creek near Hillsgrove, Pennsylvania, provided drastically different outcomes as recorded via a 10-year study by the Susquehanna University Freshwater Institute.
One triggered a drastic increase in young brook trout populations over the following five years – the second marked a stark drop in brook trout numbers.
The difference in the two flooding events was timing – one of many variables that dictate how impactful a high-water situation can be to the aquatic ecosystems along the network of tributaries within a watershed according to Susquehanna University’s Jon Niles and Matt Wilson.
Online voting remains open until Jan. 22 for the 2021 Pennsylvania River of the Year, and the Endless Mountain Heritage Region’s Cain Chamberlin is encouraging everyone to cast a vote for the Tunkhannock Creek.
“We have nominated the Tunkhannock the past two years, and this is the first time we’ve been able to get it in as a finalist,” he said. “We are very excited about that.”
John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.