What is a wild and scenic river?
A river that has been designated a Wild and Scenic River is free-flowing and has outstandingly remarkable values.
- A free-flowing river has no dams or other impoundments.
- The river has outstandingly remarkable values that are unique, rare, or exemplary. They may be historic, cultural, natural, or recreational.
- A Wild and Scenic River is managed by a locally appointed council.
How does designation happen?
- The first step is a study approved by Congress and conducted by a locally comprised study committee and the National Park Service. Documented local support is essential for the study to be approved by Congress. We must first have the support of our U.S. Representative and one of our U.S. Senators.
- To be eligible, the Wild and Scenic River Study must not only ascertain the free-flowing character and at least one outstandingly remarkable value of the river, but the creation of a river management council and river management plan must also be in place. Eligibility is determined by the National Park Service.
- If the Study determines that the river is eligible, Congress acts again and determines if designation will be granted.
This video gives an overview of the Wild and Scenic River Program.
What are the benefits of being designated a Wild and Scenic River?
- National recognition and prestige.
- Economic boost
- Local control of the river through a locally appointed council
- Technical and financial support from NPS for the river management plan and projects
- Protection from federally-assisted and other projects that adversely affect the river
Is the Lackawaxen River eligible to be designated a Wild and Scenic River?
The Lackawaxen River flows freely from below Prompton Lake to the Delaware River. It receives a discharge from the hydroelectric plant at Lake Wallenpaupack, which adds to the flow. There are no impoundments on the river.
The outstandingly remarkable values are known to many.
- The historic Delaware and Hudson Canal follow the banks of the Lackawaxen with many portions of the canal and its locks still visible. Towpath Road runs along the path of the original towpath that accommodated the mules that towed the barges. Many lock houses have been preserved. Lockhouse 31 is being restored by the Wayne County Historical Society and the grounds surrounding the lockhouse include reclaimed portions of the canal. The area has been made into a scenic park, and the building of a canal barge replica is in progress. Lockhouse 31 is the site of the annual Canal Fest.
- The historic Stourbridge Railroad runs along the bank across from the canal.
- The Dorflinger Glass Factory Museum is located close to the river in the town of White Mills. Glass blowers’ cottages are part of the landscape including one that re-creates a home as it was when a glassblower and his family lived there.
- Zane Grey, the famous writer of western novels, lived at the confluence of the Lackawaxen and Delaware Rivers. His restored home is a museum and the site of the annual Zane Grey Fest.
- The Lackawaxen is a great source of recreation. It is a favorite of fishermen. During periods of high flow kayakers, canoeists and tubers find great enjoyment as they are carried along by the current. The Trails Project, of which the LRC is a part, is creating trails along the river providing great recreation for hikers.
Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers
The designation of Wild and Scenic River is the result of a federal law that dates back to 1968. Today, there are two categories of Wild and Scenic Rivers. The first is for rivers that are found on federal lands. The second category, called Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers, is for rivers that flow through lands with mixed local ownership including private property. The Lackawaxen River would fall into this second category. Control of the river remains in local hands. The designation requires that the river be managed by a coalition of local agencies, municipalities, and organizations. A cooperative relationship is established between a locally established council and the National Park Service. Gaining the W&SR designation requires the endorsement of our Congressional representative and one of Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senators. In short, the designation requires acts of Congress. The Study to determine if the Lackawaxen River is eligible for designation must be approved by Congress, and Congress must again act to approve the designation. But these challenges are doable. Many rivers have already received the Wild and Scenic River distinction. We seek this designation to preserve the Lackawaxen River in its free-flowing condition for the benefit of present and future generations.
Let’s Go for It!