Philadelphia Schuylkill River

The Schuylkill River is pronounced SKOOL-kil, locally a river running northwest to southeast in eastern Pennsylvania which means “hidden river,” was named by Dutch settlers who discovered the river’s mouth near the Delaware River’s League Island in the early 1600s. Where is the Philadelphia Schuylkill River?

The Philadelphia Schuylkill River begins in Tuscarora & Minersville Schuylkill County PA. meeting in southern Schuylkill County the river then flows southeast for 137 mi. through Schuylkill, Berks, Montgomery, Chester, & Philadelphia Counties in PA draining into the Delaware River at Philadelphia.

One of the jewels of the City of Brotherly Love Philadelphia is the Schuylkill River at Philadelphia where places like The Philadelphia Water Works, Boathouse Row, and the Schuylkill River Park Trail mix the beauty of nature in the midst of this historically modern city.


Schuylkill River Philadelphia


Navigating the Schuylkill River - Boathouse Row, Philadelphia Traveller Reviews - Tripadvisor
Philadelphia Schuylkill River Boathouse Row

The Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is a river that runs northwest to southeast in eastern Pennsylvania. The river was improved by navigations into the Schuylkill Canal, and several of its tributaries drain major parts of Pennsylvania’s Coal Region. It flows for 135 miles southeast from Pottsville to Philadelphia, where it joins the Delaware River as one of its largest tributaries. The Schuylkill River watershed is a source of drinking water for approximately 1.5 million people. 

Schuylkill River, a river of southeastern Pennsylvania, U.S. It rises in eastern Schuylkill County in an anthracite-coal region and receives the Little Schuylkill River while flowing through a gap in Blue Mountain at Port Clinton.

It then continues generally southeastward for a total length of 130 miles (210 km) to the Delaware River at Philadelphia. Other important communities along its banks include Pottsville, Reading, Pottstown, Phoenixville, and Norristown.

The Schuylkill along with the Delaware River is a tidal river, with strong undercurrents, and, at least around the city of Philadelphia’s perimeters, their water is too dirty for swimming or fishing. “In a lot of the area around Philadelphia, there are combined sewer overflows. Bacteria levels in the river can be very high and we don’t recommend swimming,” said Kate Schmidt, spokesperson for the Delaware River Basin Commission, who does not recommend even water-skiing in the river.

The tidal Schuylkill River is home to more than 40 species of fish. Common catches on Schuylkill Banks include catfish, perch, sunfish, carp, and bass. Depending on the season and river conditions, you may also catch shad, eel, and a wide variety of other marine life. The very first competitive rowing (and paddling) races in the United States began in Philadelphia on the Schuylkill River (around 1835!), and the Schuylkill River National Course has been playing host to many of the nation’s (and world’s) largest regattas ever since.



Where Does the Schuylkill River Start and End


The Schuylkill River’s headwaters begin in the mountains near the tiny coal-region town of Tuscarora, PA, and flows southeasterly for 137 miles through Schuylkill, Berks, Montgomery, Chester, and Philadelphia Counties on its way to its confluence with the Delaware River.

The East Branch Schuylkill River rises in an anthracite-coal region close to the town of Tuscarora, in the eastern part of Schuylkill County. The West Branch Schuylkill River rises close to the borough of Minersville in the central part of Schuylkill County.

The West Branch Schuylkill River flows southeast through many water gaps in the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians. The West Branch Schuylkill River meets the East Branch Schuylkill River at the borough of Schuylkill Haven in the southern part of Schuylkill County.

The West Branch Schuylkill River meets the East Branch Schuylkill River at the borough of Schuylkill Haven in the southern part of Schuylkill County. The Schuylkill River then combines with the Little Schuylkill River while flowing downstream through a gap in the Blue Mountain at the borough of Port Clinton.

Some of the other significant tributaries of the Schuylkill River include French Creek, Maiden Creek, Manatawny Creek, Perkiomen Creek, Tulpehocken Creek, and Wissahickon Creek. The Schuylkill River continues in the southeast direction and finally drains into the Delaware River at the Philadelphia Naval Business Center.


Schuylkill River Map


Digital Notebook: Vote to Make the Schuylkill the River of the Year


The Schuylkill River’s watershed drains portions of the western side of the Broad Ridge in the Ridge-and-valley Appalachian Mountains in the south-central part of the Coal Regions in the State of Pennsylvania.

  • Basin area: 2,000 sq miles
  • Length: 135 miles
  • Source elevation: 1,540 feet

The Schuylkill River drains an area of 5,180 sq. km and discharges an average of 81.4 cubic meters of water per second.  The Schuylkill River Watershed drains five counties: Berks, Chester, Montgomery, Philadelphia, and Schuylkill, and is the most densely-populated region in Pennsylvania, with approximately one-third of the state’s population living within its boundaries.

The deepest point on the river is located at the Schuylkill River At Norristown reporting a gauge stage of 9.38 ft. This river is monitored from 6 different stream gauging stations along the Schuylkill River, the highest being perched at an elevation of 472 ft, the Schuylkill River At Landingville.

The Schuylkill River flows entirely within Pennsylvania, and as per the Pennsylvania Scenic Rivers Act, the main stem of the Schuylkill River has been designated as a “Pennsylvania Scenic River.” 

Schuylkill River History


As far back as 10,000 years ago, native American Indians were present and living on the banks of the Schuylkill River. Archaeologists have discovered pottery and tools around the river and its floodplain.

The Lenape were the first indigenous Nation to treaty with the United States of America. It is a designated Pennsylvania Scenic River, and its whole length was once part of the Delaware people’s southern territories. The Penn Treaty Park on Delaware and Columbia Avenue in Kensington were listed officially on the National Register of Historic Places. This is the site where William Penn and the Lenni Lenape or Delaware Indians purportedly gathered under an elm tree and signed or at least worked out a mutual agreement.

Swedish, Dutch, and English settlers established farms beginning in the mid-1600s using the river for transporting their goods Farming would be the most prosperous industry in the 19th and 20th centuries. Remnants of some of those farms and locks still exist along the river’s trails.

In 1682, William Penn chose the left bank of the confluence when he founded the planned city of Philadelphia on lands purchased from the native Delaware nation. The Delaware Nation, whose aboriginal name is Lenape or Lenni-Lenape, also known as the Grandfathers, is the oldest known nation in the Northern Hemisphere, aboriginally inhabiting the Eastern Seaboard of North America.

The river played a key role during the American Revolution with American and British forces fighting for control of this area. The British army crossed the Schuylkill River in the fall of 1777 and went on to capture the city of Philadelphia.

It was 3 months later that George Washington and his troops camped along the banks using the river for transportation as a source of water and for a strategic defensive barrier for the Continental Army against the British.

The river served later in the Industrial Revolution when a series of canals and dams were built along the Schuykill to control the flow of transportation until the completion of railroads in the mid-20th century. The Reading Railroad operated as a passenger rail from the 1830s right up to the 1970s.

The transporting of coal and the growth of the population over the years from the upper counties and portions of the watershed polluted the Schuykill as time went on threatening Philadelphia’s water supply.

The state of Pennsylvania dredged the Schuylkill in the 1940s to improve the overall health of the river which was one of the first rivers to have environmental concerns attended to. The dredged coal dust that was clogging the river was dredged and piled along the river left to dry and made into charcoal briquets.

The De-silting project along with the passage of the Clean Streams Water Act in the 1970s lead to a restored Schuylkill and Pennsylvania’s first designated Scenic River and a National Heritage area.

Take a ride down the Schuylkill River from Pottstown to Philly!


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Schuylkill River Trail


Let's Celebrate the Schuylkill River! | Schuylkill Banks
Schuylkill River Trail

The Schuylkill River Trail is a 75-mile recreational path (19 miles of which are paved) that runs beside the Schuylkill River from Center City Philadelphia, through Valley Forge National Historical Park in Montgomery County and ends in Parker Ford, PA.

According to The Schuylkill River Greenways Interactive, Web SiteThere are currently about 75 completed miles of the Schuylkill River Trail in sections, including 30-plus miles between Philadelphia and Parker Ford.  The trail breaks off in Parker Ford and picks up again in Pottstown where it continues for about 20 miles to Reading.

From there, cyclists can follow a 20-mile signed on-road route just shy of Hamburg. In Hamburg, trail users can access a scenic seven-mile stretch to Auburn in Schuylkill County. The trail is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, exercise, or commute.

The Schuylkill River Greenway Association (SRGA) was formed, the name inspired by the successful Willamette River Greenway in Oregon. SRGA was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1977.

Through the early 1990s, SRGA staff worked closely with state officials, and on April 4, 1995, Governor Tom Ridge designated the Schuylkill Heritage Corridor as an official Pennsylvania Heritage Park. This state designation allowed SRGA to receive state funding that was then granted to the area and regional partners for projects throughout the region.

The mission of the Schuylkill River Greenways National Heritage Area is to connect residents, visitors, and communities to the Schuylkill River and the Schuylkill River Trail by serving as a catalyst for civic engagement and economic development in order to foster stewardship of the watershed and its heritage


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JimGalloway Author/Editor




World Atlas- The Schuylkill River

The Schuylkill River Greenways National Heritage Area



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