What Are The Major Watersheds In Cambria County?
Cambria county is made up of the Chesapeake Bay and Ohio River watersheds, each with smaller watersheds within them. The major watersheds in Cambria county are the West Branch of Susquehanna River, Chest Creek, Clearfield Creek, Little Conemaugh, and Blacklick Creek. Each of these watersheds has unique characteristics and properties. Check them out below for more details.
West Branch of Susquehanna
This watershed drains approximately 4.466 million acres and encompassing numerous Pennsylvanian counties. While spanning nearly 7,000 square miles, it lays within nearly 29,000 acres of state park land. Hundreds of years of coal mining have left the watershed impacted in many areas, especially in the headwaters here in Cambria county. Agriculture related impairment is listed as the second largest source of impairment to the watershed. Many projects have been created to help remediate the issues inhabited by the waters in this basin.
A historically remembered area of Pennsylvania, siting directly in the center of the 1889 Johnstown Flood tragedy, is the Little Conemaugh watershed that faces tragic pollution still today. Starting in a large wetland near Cresson, PA and draining 190 square acres, this watershed carries immense recreational potential, yet is severely limited due to abandon mine drainage. Big steel companies drove massive mine operations within the county, which controlled several deep mines within this watershed. Most of the mines were interconnected, to avoid flooding problems water was routinely diverted to exhausted mines that adjoined. Unfortunately this lead to mine dischargers and their consequences being quite large within the watershed. In recent years, efforts have been made to improve the quality of water flowing through this basin, leading way to fish and other wildlife inhabiting several tributaries of the Little Conemaugh River.
Spanning two counties, Cambria and Clearfield, this watershed has a long history of logging, railroading, and mining. Trappers, traders, farmers, and loggers had originally settled the area, utilizing the waterways as means of sustaining their way of life. Several northern Cambria county towns such as Patton, Hastings, Carrolltown, and Winterset can be found with in the 129 square miles of this watershed. As with other waterways within western Pennsylvania, the repercussions left behind by the legacy of coal mining in the area, have left scars on the quality of water that flows through this watershed. With 66 tributaries flowing into the main stem of Chest Creek, many are impacted by huge concentrations of metals such as iron and aluminum, stemming from abandon mine drainage. Luckily, assessments of the watershed as well as remediation projects have been put into full swing in recent years.
420 square miles of drainage spanning both Cambria and Indiana counties, this watershed has seen great strives for improvement to remediate the effects brought on by a local history of agriculture and coal mining. While primarily situated within Indiana county, the watershed holds the mid-western side of the county and runs through towns such as Vintondale and Nanty-Glo. Several streams within the watershed are degraded by abandon mine discharges, coal refuse piles, or agriculture practices. Streams in the watershed have been able to sustain populations of breeding Wild Brook Trout and Wild Brown Trout, thanks to various passive and active treatment systems set up along discharges.
Embedded in an area rich with coal mining history, the Clearfield Creek watershed still experiences coal related problems. In its entirety, Clearfield Creek is classified as a warm water fishery. Draining 393 square miles in Cambria and Clearfield counties, and offering many recreational opportunities. This watershed is no exception to the legacy left behind by generations of coal mining. Abandoned mine draining discharges have added many metals such as iron and aluminum, which have greatly contributed to the decline in aquatic life able to maintain life in the streams of the watershed. In recent years, many projects along with very active volunteer work have helped to boost the health of the waters in the watershed.