© Chesapeake Bay Program (Chesapeake)

Lower Susquehanna

Pennsylvania’s Lower Susquehanna River is a crossroads of history, wildlife habitat, and recreational beauty comprising more than 2,000 acres of publicly accessible protected areas. Framed by the forested rocky cliffs and rolling hills of York and Lancaster counties, the Lower Susquehanna runs through a rural landscape dotted with small shoreline towns.

The Susquehanna River provides half the freshwater flowing into the Chesapeake Bay, and Native Americans have occupied its lower reaches for over 12,000 years. Early explorers noted stockaded settlements as early as 1550, well before John Smith’s epic journeys of the Bay‘s upper reaches. Today, the corridor contains American Indian sites and petroglyphs, water and land trails, state parks, two state heritage areas, wildlife habitat, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, four National Recreation Trails and a National Natural Landmark.

The corridor is also the focus of an innovative conservation partnership coordinated by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCNR). Designation of the Lower Susquehanna Conservation Landscape Initiative—one of Pennsylvania’s seven CLIs—seeks to enhance this rich landscape through preservation of the forested river landscape (especially environmentally sensitive areas), better stewardship of natural and cultural resources, improved public access to the river, and sustainable economic revitalization strategies keyed to heritage and ecotourism in communities like Marietta, Columbia, and Wrightsville.

DCNR and other partners, including the Lancaster and York County Planning Commissions, the Lancaster County Conservancy, The Conservation Fund, and the Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area, are also working to implement protection strategies with the regional utilities that own many lands in the corridor.

Projects currently under development include

  • Lancaster County Northwest River Trail-20 mile trail along the Susquehanna River between Bainbridge and Columbia Borough.
  • East Donegal Riverfront Park/ North West River Trailhead Rehabilitation
  • Wrightsville Riverfront Park Master Site Plan
  • Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area’s enhancements to the Zimmerman Center for Heritage and development of Lower Susquehanna River Water Trail
  • Floating dock, paddle craft launch and pedestrian walkways across Route 624 from the river to Kline’s Run Park and Zimmerman Center, linking Water Trail to Native Lands County Park and Mason Dixon Trail.
  • Manor Township’s 5 mile section of the Low Grade Rail Trail with views of the Susquehanna River on both Lancaster and York counties
  • Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area/County of York -comprehensive planning, interpretation, and enhancement of the Susquehanna Heritage Park
  • Columbia - Wrightsville Bridge Lighting Project 

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