Wissahickon

Overview

From its headwater tributaries in Montgomery County to its confluence with the Schuylkill River in Manayunk, Wissahickon Creek Watershed offers a variety of recreational, historical, and stewardship experiences. The Wissahickon Gorge in the lower watershed has been long preserved as part of Fairmount Park, drawing visitors to its trails, interesting geology, and historic mill dams. The suburban portion of the watershed has rapidly developed over the last decades causing strain on the water resources, mostly from increased stormwater runoff and discharge of treated wastewater. Despite these impacts, the watershed still retains several attractive town centers and numerous historic buildings.

There have been many efforts to preserve and restore the Wissahickon Watershed, and a broad swath of preserves, parks, and protected lands includes the Green Ribbon Trail along much of the Upper Wissahickon Creek, Forbidden Drive within Wissahickon Valley Park, Fort Washington State Park, and other smaller municipally-owned and private open spaces. These parks offer a range of activities including hiking, biking, golfing, leisurely strolls, fishing, camping, wildlife viewing, and bird and hawk watching.

Fast Facts

Area

drains approximately 64 square miles

Stream Miles

approximately 134 linear miles

Population

approximately 160,000 residents

Impervious Cover

approximately 24% impervious

Counties / Municipalities

encompasses areas of Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties, with all or parts of 15 municipalities, including Abington, Ambler, Cheltenham, Horsham, Lansdale, Lower Gwynedd, Montgomery, North Wales, Springfield, Upper Dublin, Upper Gwynedd, Upper Moreland, Whitemarsh, Whitpain, and Worcester

Partnerships

Within the Wissahickon Watershed exists a myriad of spirited residents, community groups, businesses, and institutions that advocate partnership opportunities to protect and enhance watershed and waterway resources. Learn more about these stewards, their initiatives, and how you can make a difference within the Wissahickon Watershed.

Watershed Resources

Interactive Map

This dynamic map will enable you to see the specific locations of featured projects and PWD initiatives within this watershed.

Virtual Tours

Take our Watershed Tour to see notable landmarks and hidden treasures that define the character of this watershed's past, present and future. Or get a glimpse of the creek itself through our Waterway Tour.

History

Source water protection and the development of water and stormwater infrastructure helped shape the character of our watersheds. Understanding this history is fundamental to stormwater management strategies and other site development regulations we implement today.

Key Documents/Maps

These core documents and maps reflect the research and planning we've conducted in order to assess the condition of this watershed and strategize future improvements.

Data

A wealth of data is available for you to learn more about the health and quality of this watershed's waterways.

Watershed Issues

The Wissahickon Creek Watershed Comprehensive Characterization Report (2007) identified the following watershed issues based on thorough assessments of water quality, physical habitat, and biological data:

  • Water quality impairments (Bacteria and nutrients, DO and pH fluctuations)
  • Urbanization and flow modification
  • Deficient base flow from increased impervious surface leading to the domination of baseflow by wastewater effluent
  • Erosion of streambanks and disconnection of historical floodplains
  • Invasive species, especially Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum)
  • Sedimentation in streambeds, especially in important habitat areas of runs and pools
  • Loss of headwater wetland areas
  • Excessive algae growth

What We're Doing

  • PWD has supported a number of watershed-wide data gathering and stormwater management projects along tributaries to Wissahickon Creek, including Cathedral Run, Wises Mill Run, and Bells Mill Run.
  • PWD completed a stormwater basin inventory for the Wissahickon Creek Watershed. Information about existing stormwater management facilities was made available to municipalities within the Wissahickon Creek Watershed through an informational DVD and website.
  • Based partially on the information gathered during the Wissahickon Creek Watershed stormwater basin inventory, several retrofit projects are in varying stages of planning, permitting, or construction.
  • PWD is assembling an implementation commitment to address the City's requirements of the siltation TMDL.
  • PWD is currently developing an Integrated Watershed Management Plan to guide restoration and preservation within the City portion of the Wissahickon Creek Watershed.
  • PWD Aquatic Biologists completed the Wissahickon Creek Watershed Comprehensive Characterization Report in 2007. This report contains detailed monitoring and modeling results, including hydrology, water quality, biology, physical habitat, and pollutant loadings.
  • In the spring of 2006, PWD designed and constructed a 0.70 acre stormwater treatment wetland in Saylor Grove to address the impact of urban runoff and bank erosion along the Monoshone Creek.
  • The Model Neighborhoods Initiative includes the East Falls neighborhood in the Wissahickon Watershed.

What's In It For You

  • Children and families can enjoy a variety of outdoor learning experiences, from forest ecology and watershed science with the Wissahickon Environmental Center to sugar mapling with the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association.
  • The Wissahickon Environmental Center (associated with the Fairmount Park Commission), offers walks and outdoor educational events, as well as student learning ranging from classroom education to camps and outdoor school programs.
  • The Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association provides opportunities for local residents to Serve the Preserve through clean-ups, invasive plant removals and plantings. Association staff and volunteers are taking on Wissahickon from the Top restoration projects, ranging from wetlands restoration to stormwater management projects. The Association also offers a Life Long Learning Educational Series.
  • The Wissahickon Watershed Partnership is a network of public, private, and non-profit partners working to create and implement a watershed management plan that addresses water quality and quantity issues. They are taking on stormwater management projects, municipal ordinance revisions, and public education and outreach events.
  • The Wissahickon Restoration Volunteers work in the Fairmount Park section of the watershed. Their restoration projects address clean ups, hydrology and stormwater management, invasive plant removal, reforestation, trail maintenance, and wildlife management. You can volunteer as an individual or with your favorite group; internships may also be available.
  • Friends of Wissahickon (FOW) work in the Fairmount Park section of the watershed. They restore and maintain trails; regulate trail use; eliminate invasive plants and replace them with native plants; control storm water runoff, and restore and build park structures. They have acquired land and easements to expand and protect park. You can train and be deployed as a FOW Trail Ambassador, and educate park users on watershed, natural history, and park management topics.
  • The Sisters of Saint Josephs (SSJ) are initiating an Earth Center at Chestnut Hill College to promote educational programs with watershed stakeholders, while investigating stewardship and restoration opportunities on SSJ properties.