Last updated: September 1, 2022
The Susquehanna River is the longest river in the Eastern United States and the 16th longest in the country at 444 miles long. The Susquehanna forms from two branches that meet in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. The North Branch comes from Cooperstown, New York and the West Branch that rises from the borough of Carrolltown, Pennsylvania.
The river has played a very important role throughout American history from colonial times, through the industrial revolution, to today. Through the early 19th century, the West Branch Susquehanna provided the main canoe route that connects the Susquehanna and Ohio valleys.
With the start of the industrial revolution, many factories sprung up around the banks of the River to make use of its moving water to power mills and coal machinery. It also made transportation of raw and manufactured easier and more convenient.
The Susquehanna has played an important role in the transportation history of the United States. Prior to the construction of the Port Deposit Bridge in 1818, the only way to cross the north, south barrier was by ferry. The earliest dams were constructed to help ferry companies in times of low water so they continue to operate.
Canals where constructed in the 1820s and 30s to help with navigations and to bypass rapids. The canals required more dams so sufficient water could be provided for their use. As industry improved, bridges replaceds ferries, and railroads replaced canals.
The railroads were generally constructed over where canals used to be, running along the water. Today, most of the canals have been filled in, but you can still see remnants of a few throughout the river.
- The main stem of the Susquehanna River stretches 444 miles from Cooperstown, New York to where it empties into the Chesapeake Bay at Havre de Grace, Maryland. The Western Branch of the Susquehanna is 242 miles long, winding from Carrolltown, Pennsylvania, to where it empties into the main body of the Susquehanna in Sunbury, Pennsylvania.
- An average rush of 18 million gallons of freshwater empties at the river's mouth at Havre de Grace every minute, supplying roughly half of the freshwater to the Chesapeake Bay.
- The Susquehanna River flows through five ridges with four of them being in the Poconos and one being in the Blue Mountains. The ridges from north to south are Manhantango Mountain, Berry Mountain, Peters Mountain, Second Mountain, and Blue Mountain.
- The Susquehanna River watershed ‒ the area of land that drains to the river ‒ covers 27,100 square miles across three states (New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland).
- The Susquehanna River Basin contains approximately 49,000 miles of waterways, all emptying into the Susquehanna and into the Bay.
- Over 6.1 million people receive their drinking water from the Susquehanna River Basin.
The Suquehanna River Water Trail is managed by various organizations throughout Pennsylvania. To learn more about the trail and its paddle trips, visit these sites:
North Branch - Endless Mountains Heritage Region