This January, Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly voted in the Clarion River as the state’s 2019 River of the Year. The Clarion River meanders through the narrow valleys and hardwood forests of the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region for 110 miles, flowing from Johnsonburg through Cook Forest to Clarion and ultimately joining the Allegheny River near Foxburg.

Over the last 200 years, the story of the river has been one of resource exploitation, degradation, resilience, and recovery. Strip mining and lumber businesses dominated the landscape along the river during the late 1800s and early 1900s, and the runoff and effects of area industry heavily polluted its waters. However, a massive effort to restore it to its natural pristine condition ensued, and in time, it has experienced a tremendous recovery. Today, forested mountain slopes teeming with wildlife, intermittent ripples on the water, and rock outcrops along its edge provide a picturesque backdrop for outdoor recreation.
The 52 miles of the Clarion River and adjacent public lands along its shores provide abundant opportunities for camping, hunting, hiking, bicycling, wildlife watching, birding, and swimming, sightseeing, and picnicking.

The scenery, the feeling of remoteness, accessibility and the variety of recreation activities possible and ease of canoeing of the Clarion River combine to provide a significant recreation experience. This river has a longer floating (canoeing and tubing) season than other rivers in the area and is the perfect location for paddling adventures. It is also famous for fantastic brown trout fishing and is relatively accessible to the public. A variety of recreational facilities in the Allegheny National Forest, Cook Forest State Park and Clear Creek State Park, support the river-based recreation.

“Having just observed the 2018 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by hailing the conservation of nearly 52 miles of the Clarion River protected under that designation, we are elated to continue to honor the Clarion as the 2019 Pennsylvania River of the Year to celebrate its remarkable recovery and pay tribute to it as a treasured resource of the state,” said Kylie Maland of the Allegheny Watershed Improvement Needs (WINs) Coalition.

In store for 2019

This year, the U.S. Postal Service is recognizing the exceptional nature of this river by issuing a Forever stamp showcasing a colorful spring photo of the waterway with mist rising off its surface.

Along the Clarion River, in Cook Forest State Park, a new Park office is projected to open in the Fall of 2019. The new building will be much larger and will feature more room for park visitors as well as employees. It will have restrooms that will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The lobby will also feature interactive exhibits that will illustrate everything the park has to offer. In addition, the new office will have a meeting room that will seat between 40 and 50 people.

In addition to the introduction of the stamp and the opening of the new office in Cook Forest State Park, many other events are being planned for the celebration including a 2-day overnight canoe sojourn June 22 & 23, Clarion River Days in Clarion June 8 and 9, and Walk on the Wild Side at Clarion Little Toby Trail June 8. More events are being planned to celebrate this prestigious honor. For more information, check out VisitPAGO.com/events or ClarionRiver2019PaRiveroftheYear.weebly.com.

Plan Your Trip…

A version of this article originally appeared in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau 2019 Welcome Guide, which contains feature articles, photos, travel tips, upcoming events, and listing information on lodging, attractions, restaurants, and more throughout Jefferson, Elk, Clarion, Forest, and Cameron Counties.

Maps are available for the Upper Section and the Middle Section of the Clarion River at visitpago.com/watertrails/clarion-river-water-trail. While you’re visiting the site, check out other interesting places to visit in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region.

Order your FREE print copy of the Welcome Guide, the Clarion River maps and other publications at VisitPAGO.com/free-information, or call (814) 849-5197.

Photos courtesy of Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau. Main photo by Mountain Man Photography. Eagle photo by Photo by Timothy Rudisille.

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Beth Exley is the Marketing and Member Services Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau. She is a graduate of Clarion University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Communication. Beth has also been employed over the years in radio sales, print sales and as a marketing director for a small chain of furniture stores. She has been with the PA Great Outdoors since 2017 starting as Group Tours and Events Coordinator. Beth was promoted to Marketing and Member Services Coordinator in April 2019.