Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area

People walk on grass next to the Carrie Blast Furnaces.
Visitors on a tour of the Carrie Blast Furnace organized by Rivers of Steel NHA

Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area / Courtesy Primetime Shots, Inc.

Quick Facts

The southwestern Pennsylvania counties of Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Washington, and Westmoreland.
From 1875 to 1980, southwestern Pennsylvania was the Steel Making Capital of the World, producing the steel for some of America's greatest icons such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building. During World War I and II, its steel workers carried the nation's defense on their backs, producing more steel, armor and armaments in a single year than entire countries. While many of the region's legendary mill sites have been dismantled, and decades have passed since the mills belched fire and smoke over Pittsburgh's skyline, the enormity of the region's steel-making contributions and its historical significance to the nation demand its story be told and its sites preserved.
National Heritage Area

Created over eons, as water carved away layers of the Allegheny Plateau, southwestern Pennsylvania’s hilly topography set the stage for entrepreneurs. Over time, this land and the local economy continued to transform. Colonial agriculture gave way to boat building and river trade. Business shifted from commerce to industry, making use of the region’s natural resources for glassmaking, coal mining, and small scale iron production, which laid the groundwork for the “Big Steel” era of the 20th century. Industries waxed and waned – each innovating and building upon the one that preceded it – before evolving into today’s dynamic landscape.

The Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area celebrates the region’s industrial history, the landscape that fueled it and the hardworking men and women who made it possible, linking the communities of the region through their shared cultural and industrial heritage.

The eight-county region is one of 49 National Heritage Areas and one of 12 State Heritage Areas in Pennsylvania. It is managed by the Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation, a nonprofit which works in partnership with the National Park Service and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Through these public-private partnerships, Rivers of Steel supports heritage conservation, heritage tourism and outdoor recreation as a means to foster economic redevelopment and enhance cultural engagement.

Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area is home to the following NPS sites:

Last updated: July 6, 2018