Kayaking on the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg. Photo credit © Miguel Angel de la Cueva/iLCPA kayaker enjoys the Susquehanna near Harrisburg. Photo © Miguel Angel de la Cueva/iLCP

The Susquehanna River

The Chesapeake Bay is essentially the Susquehanna River's valley floor. It is the tidal portion of the Susquehanna. The river and the Bay are two integral parts of one ecosystem. continued below

Map of the Susquehanna River drainage basin

Before There Was A Chesapeake Bay

Twenty thousand years ago, during the last Ice Age, sea level was about 330 ft. lower than it is today. At that time, the Susquehanna flowed from the edge of the polar ice cap (in what is now north central Pennsylvania) down to the Atlantic. All of the rivers in what is now the Chesapeake drainage basin flowed into it.

As the earth warmed up and sea level rose, the Atlantic backed up into the Susquehanna's valley floor, forming the Chesapeake Bay and the tidal portions of rivers like the Potomac and the Nanticoke.

The Susquehanna's large drainage basin, or watershed, means the pollution that flows into Pennsylvania rivers and streams ultimately finds its way to the Chesapeake Bay. 

The Mighty Susquehanna Is Ailing

Many of Pennsylvania's waterways suffer from an overload of pollution from many different sources, including agriculture and stormwater. In 2010, a study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey reported that 90 percent of male smallmouth bass in a sampling from the Lower Susquehanna contained immature egg cells. The findings continue. In fact, fishermen and scientists alike have been finding sores and lesions on smallmouth bass for more than a decade.

One intervention that could be instrumental in improving the river's health is including it in the Environmental Protection Agency's 303(d) Impaired Waters List. This list includes rivers and streams across the country that are significantly impaired and designates them for additional study and superior restoration investments and ensures that each of these waterways will have a recovery plan.

CBF has been petitioning Pennsylvania's governors and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to include the Lower Susquehanna in its 303(d) recommendations for several years. Although DEP has increased study of the river's impairment, it still has not recommended inclusion on the Impaired Waters List. Meanwhile, the health of the smallmouth bass fishery continues to suffer.

The Susquehanna River is the source of drinking water for millions of Pennsylvanians and is an economic engine for tourism and recreation. Though the river's health is making progress under Pennsylvania's Clean Water Blueprint, agricultural runoff, acid mine drainage, and polluted urban runoff continue to contaminate the Susquehanna, its tributaries, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Baltimore Law Firm Urges Counties to Delay Local Cleanup Efforts

Local water quality is at risk of continuing to suffer in some rural Maryland counties. Claiming pollution coming down the Susquehanna River from New York and Pennsylvania and trapped behind the Conowingo dam needs to be addressed first, several counties on the eastern and western shores of Maryland are considering not moving forward with their part of the Clean Water Blueprint and protecting their local water quality. 

The Baltimore law firm Funk & Bolton is urging them to delay. 

Read More

NASA image shows high level of high levels of contaminants to the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay delivered by Tropical Storm Lee. Image: NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response

Rains from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee delivered high levels of contaminants to the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay. Find out more about the impact upstream stormwater has on water quality in the Bay.

NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response

Questions that require an answer are marked with  *
* Please take a moment to provide the following information so that we may keep you updated on issues and events near you.
 E-Mail Address
 First Name
 Last Name
 Zip Code
* Timestamp

You will begin to receive Bay updates from CBF soon.

In the meantime, join the Bay-friendly conversation on Facebook and Twitter!


1-888-SAVEBAY / 1-888-728-3229

BBB Accredited Charity
GuideStar Exchange Gold Participant Seal

Bids & ProposalsPrivacy Policy

© 2017 Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
All Rights Reserved.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is a nonprofit,
tax-exempt charitable organization under
Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law.