Last updated: August 27, 2019
The Susquehanna River flows through the historic and scenic landscape shared by Lancaster and York Counties in south-central Pennsylvania. Together these two counties make up the Susquehanna National Heritage Area, designated by the US Congress in early 2019 as America’s 55th National Heritage Area.
Throughout American history, Lancaster and York Counties, the Susquehanna River, and the area’s people, places, and enterprises have played key roles in our national story. The Susquehanna River was an early gateway to America’s frontier and has served the nation as a major fishery, transportation corridor, and power generator. At a critical turning point of the Revolutionary War, the area hosted the Continental Congress and witnessed approval of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union—America’s first Constitution. Before, during, and after the Civil War, the region was at the center of the conflict over slavery and its aftermath, serving as a major route for the Underground Railroad and home to national leaders like James Buchanan and Thaddeus Stevens. The area is known for its Amish and other Plain People and the rich agricultural landscape and unique way of life they established here. Innovations in farming, transportation, and industry all originated in the area and continue today, even as the area’s natural wonders, parks, preserves, and trails attract outdoor adventurers from across the nation and the world.
Susquehanna Heritage Corporation, doing business as Susquehanna National Heritage Area, is the regional non-profit organization designated to manage the National Heritage Area’s programs, projects, and activities. The organization collaborates with local, state, and national partners to protect, enhance, and connect people to the nationally important cultural and natural heritage of Lancaster and York Counties and the Susquehanna River.
The Susquehanna National Heritage Area’s two riverside visitor centers are ideal starting points to begin exploring the area’s history, culture, and natural beauty. River art and history programs and exhibits, including seasonal boat tours on the Susquehanna, are offered at the historic Zimmerman Center for Heritage, south of Wrightsville in York County. The Zimmerman Center is also Pennsylvania’s official visitor contact and passport station for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail as well as the primary trailhead for the adjacent Native Lands County Park. Across the river in Columbia, Lancaster County, the Columbia Crossing River Trails Center provides visitor information, educational programs, and rotating exhibits. It also serves as southern trailhead for the Northwest River Trail, a 14-mile paved, multiuse trail along the Susquehanna River.