Ohio River Watershed Celebration – Eleven Years of Good Stuff

The Ohio River is a Working River

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Rivers are vital to our lives. For decades, as we grew into an industrialized nation, we gave little regard to what we put into those rivers. Now, we understand we cannot destroy what gives us life. As a result, many of our rivers are slowly improving as we balance the needs of industry with the need for clean water.

I was heartened recently to attend the eleventh annual Ohio River Watershed Celebration  (ORWC) in Pittsburgh. ORWC is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Stream Restoration, Inc.Funding for the ORWC is provided by generous donations from private businesses, industries, foundations, and citizens.

Consol Energy was one of the major sponsors for the event.

The event’s goals are

  • To promote watershed stewardship, energy conservation, environmental education, and outreach.
  • To provide networking opportunities that form lasting partnerships among diverse community interests.
  • To celebrate and encourage environmental initiatives that support the continual recovery of the Ohio River Watershed in Western Pennsylvania and neighboring states through an enjoyable experience on the rivers.

This year’s event in late September brought out hundreds of students, parents, teachers, environmentalists, government officials, and business partners on a rainy Thursday afternoon. They gathered at the docks in downtown Pittsburgh, and without complaint about the soggy weather, boarded two cruise ships bound for the three rivers of the Steel City.

A rainy day in Pittsburgh

Ron Schwartz with Pennsylvania DEP told the crowd, “This rain is nature’s way of purifying the waterways.”

Nowhere is it clearer why a city exists where it does than in Pittsburgh. The Monongahela River flows from south to north to meet up with the south flowing Allegheny River. The two rivers meet at the Point in downtown, and the Ohio River forms and flows almost 1,000 miles westward to the Mississippi River. This year’s theme “Our Rivers – let’s get to the point” focused on how those three rivers shaped the course of the region.

The Point where three rivers converge

When coal was discovered in the hills above the convergence of the three rivers, the city was poised to become a giant during the Industrial Revolution. However, giants leave large footprints and within a few years of steel mills spewing out poisons into the air and water, Pittsburgh was a coughing and sputtering mess. The once bucolic journey of the rivers changed to an industrial highway.

Pittsburgh is home to the most bridges of any city in the world.

Thankfully, with deliberate consideration, the city has been reborn, and the rivers are testament to the rebirth. Fish and wildlife have returned.

Two cruise ships set sail from the docks. The Imagination Cruise overflowed with students waving from the upper decks of the Gateway Clipper fleet ship despite the pouring rain.

Imagination Cruise

Adults boarded the other ship for the Networking Cruise.

Networking Cruise Ship

Booths and presentations for both cruises provided information on how to protect watersheds. Other booths celebrated the joys of paddling the rivers and enjoying their recreational value. Yet others passed out literature on how to best maintain gardens and lawns while not harming the watershed. Before walking down the ramp to the docks, several vehicles in the parking lot showed visitors how gas guzzlers can become fuel efficient vehicles.

school bus


Mr. Rogers’ statute watched over the ships from the banks of the Allegheny River on the north shore. The man who made Pittsburgh his home taught us all to love our communities. It’s a great day in the neighborhood, rain or shine.


Published by P. C. Zick

I write. It's as simple and as complicated as that. Storytelling creates our cultural legacy.

6 thoughts on “Ohio River Watershed Celebration – Eleven Years of Good Stuff

  1. Thank you so much for writing about the Ohio River Watershed Celebration. I have been on the ORWC committee for years and this is one of the most rewarding events that I plan each year. If you or anyone reading your blog have suggestions on how we can improve the event…I’m all ears! Thanks again, Sandie


    1. Sandie – Thank you for all you do. I always enjoy myself immensely – this was my third one. I like the speakers so I try and sit close – it’s sometimes hard to hear. This year’s event was made even more special by the rain. It felt cozier and more intimate. Please feel free to use this post.


  2. I couldnt agree more. I felt like the rain was an unexpect friend stopping by ..that after they leave, you say to yourself…That visit did me good! I wish I knew you were on board, I am the photographer, I think because I come cheap. But I am so busy do that, I miss the oppertunity to socialize. After I read this, i passed it along to a lot of my contacts. I hope you get to meet some of them!


  3. I’m a little slow, but I wanted to respond to your post. On our recent road trip, we crossed the Ohio River at Cave-in-Rock, Illinois into Kentucky on a free ferry! This was after feasting on catfish at a restaurant on a boat in Elizabethtown, Illinois. We sat and watched barges go by on the river while we ate. I kept saying, “I love the Ohio River!” Besides being beautiful, there is so much history with the river. And as you said, it is a working river. It is full of life and activity.
    Let’s celebrate rivers!


    1. Absolutely. I love the Ohio as well. We keep our boat on the Beaver River just feet away from the Ohio. We must be able to balance the industry on its banks while still maintaining its environmental integrity. Tough balancing act, but progress has been made. It’s a dream of ours to travel the river from Pittsburgh all the way to the Mississippi. I bet I could get a book out of that!


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