Clarion River, PA’s 2019 River of the Year

Head to Pennsylvania’s Great Outdoors region to paddle the award-winning Clarion River.

photos provided by Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau


This January, Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly voted the Clarion River as the state’s 2019 River of the Year. Meandering through the narrow valleys and hardwood forests of the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region for 110 miles, the river flows from Johnsonburg, through Ridgway into Cook Forest and then Clarion and to join the Allegheny River near Foxburg.

Over the last 200 years, the story of the river has been one of resource exploitation, degradation, resilience and recovery. Strip mining and lumber businesses dominated the landscape along the river during the late 1800s and early 1900s, and the runoff and effects of area industry heavily polluted its waters. A massive effort to restore it to its natural pristine condition ensued, and in time, it has experienced a tremendous recovery. Today, forested mountain slopes teeming with wildlife, intermittent ripples on the water and rock outcrops along its edge provide a picturesque backdrop for outdoor recreation.

“Having just observed the 2018 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by hailing the conservation of nearly 52 miles of the Clarion River protected under that designation, we are elated to continue to honor the Clarion as the 2019 Pennsylvania River of the Year to celebrate its remarkable recovery and pay tribute to it as a treasured resource of the state,” said Kylie Maland of the Allegheny Watershed Improvement Needs (WINs) Coalition.


The protected river and adjacent public lands provide abundant opportunities for camping, hunting, hiking, bicycling, wildlife watching and picnicking. The scenery, feeling of remoteness, accessibility, variety of recreation activities possible and ease of canoeing the river combine to provide an enjoyable recreation experience. The Clarion River has a longer floating (kayaking, canoeing and tubing) season than other rivers in the area and is the perfect location for paddling adventures. The river is relatively accessible to the public and is now famous for fantastic brown trout fishing. It is also an attraction for sightseeing, camping, birding and swimming. A variety of recreational facilities in the Allegheny National Forest, Cook Forest State Park and Clear Creek State Park support the river-based recreation.

This year, the U.S. Postal Service is recognizing the exceptional nature of this river by issuing a Forever stamp showcasing a colorful spring photo of the waterway with mist rising off its surface. Along the Clarion River in Cook Forest State Park, a new park office is projected to open in the fall of 2019. The new building will be larger and will feature more room for park visitors and employees. It will have restrooms that will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and a lobby that will feature interactive exhibits illustrating everything the park has to offer. In addition, the new office will have a meeting room that will seat between 40 and 50 people.


Many other events are being planned, including a two-day overnight canoe sojourn on June 22 and 23, Clarion River Days in Clarion on June 8 and 9 and Walk on the Wild Side at Clarion Little Toby Trail on June 8.

For free water trail maps of the upper and middle sections of the Clarion River, as well as information about other interesting places in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region, visit or call 814/849-5197.

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