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Allegheny River watershed

The Allegheny River is a principal tributary of the Ohio River; it is located in the Eastern United Statesmarker. The Allegheny River joins with the Monongahela River to form the Ohio River at the "Point" of Point State Parkmarker in Downtownmarker Pittsburghmarker, Pennsylvania.

The river is approximately long, running through the U.S. states of New Yorkmarker and Pennsylvaniamarker. It drains a rural dissected plateau of in the northern Allegheny Plateau, providing the northeastern most drainage in the watershed of the Mississippi River. Its tributaries reach to within of Lake Eriemarker in southwestern New York.

The valley of the river has been one of the most productive areas of energy extraction in U.S. history; with extensive deposits of coal, petroleum, and natural gas.


The word Allegheny comes from the Lenape (Delaware) Indians. Although it is usually translated as "fine river", the meaning is not definitively known. There is a Lenape legend of a tribe called "Allegewi" who used to live along the river.

The following account of the naming of the Allegheny River was given by Moravian missionary David Zeisberger in 1780: All this land and region, stretching as far as the creeks and waters that flow into the Alleghene the Delawares called Alligewinenk, which means "a land into which they came from distant parts." The river itself, however, is called Alligewi Sipo. The whites have made Alleghene out of this, the Six Nations calling the river the Ohio.

Other Indians, such as the Iroquois, considered the Allegheny and Ohio rivers as the same, as is suggested by a New York State road sign on Interstate 86 that refers to the Allegheny river secondarily as O Hi Yo. In New York, areas around the river are often named with the alternate spelling Allegany in reference to the river; for example, the Village of Alleganymarker and Allegany State Parkmarker.


Much of the Allegheny River's course is through hilly woodlands.

The Allegheny rises in north central Pennsylvania, in central Potter Countymarker, approximately 10 miles (16 km) south of the New York border. It flows west past Coudersportmarker then turns north into western New York State, looping westward across southern Cattaraugus Countymarker for approximately 30 miles (48 km), past Portville, Oleanmarker, St. Bonaventure University and Salamanca and flowing through Seneca Indian Nation lands close to the northern boundary of Allegany State Parkmarker before re-entering northwestern Pennsylvania approximately 20 miles (32 km) southeast of Jamestown, New Yorkmarker.

It flows in a broad zigzag course generally southward across Western Pennsylvania; first flowing southwest past Warrenmarker, Tidioutemarker, Tionesta, Oil Citymarker, and Franklinmarker, forming much of the northwestern boundary of Allegheny National Forestmarker. South of Franklin it turns southeast across Clarion Countymarker in a meandering course, then turns again southwest across Armstrong Countymarker, flowing past Kittanningmarker, Ford Citymarker, Clinton and Freeportmarker.

The river enters Allegheny Countymarker, the Pittsburghmarker suburbs, and the City of Pittsburgh from the northeast. It passes Sligo, Karnsmarker, and Natronamarker in Harrison Townshipmarker; Metcalf, Braeburn, Lower Burrellmarker, and New Kensingtonmarker in Westmoreland Countymarker; Brackenridge, Tarentum, Creighton, Clyde, Springdale, Harmarville, Blawnox, Fox Chapel, Sharpsburg, Etna, Millvale, Lawrenceville, Highland Park, The North Side, Downtown Pittsburgh, Point State Park and joins with the Monongahela River at "The Point" in Downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to form the Ohio River.

Water from the Allegheny River eventually flows into the Gulf of Mexicomarker via the Ohio River and the Mississippi River.


In its upper reaches, the Allegheny is joined from the south by Potato Creek in McKean Countymarker, Pennsylvania and from the north by Olean Creek at Oleanmarker, New York. The Great Valley Creekmarker and Little Valley Creek join the river from the north in Salamanca, New York before becoming the Allegheny Reservoir.

After re-entering Pennsylvania, the river is joined from the east by Kinzua Creek upstream of Warren; from the north by Conewango Creek at Warren; from the west by Brokenstraw Creek; from the north by Oil Creek at Oil City; from the west by French Creekmarker at Franklin; from the east by the Clarion Rivermarker in Parkermarker, one of its principal tributaries, in eastern Clarion County; from the east by Crooked Creek southeast of Kittanning; and from the east by the Kiskiminetas River, another principal tributary, at Schenleymarker. Buffalo Creek enters at Freeport, Chartiers Run enters at Lower Burrell, Bull Creek enters at Tarentum, Pucketa Creek enters near New Kensington, and Riddle Run enters at Springdale. Many other creeks, runs, and streams enter or join with the Allegheny River.


In the 16th century, control of the river valley passed back-and-forth between Algonquian-speaking Shawnee and the Iroquois. By the time of the arrival of the Frenchmarker in the early 18th century, the Shawnee were once again in control and formed an alliance with the French against the incursion of Britishmarker settlement across the Allegheny Mountains. The conflict over the expansion of British settlement into the Allegheny Valley and the surrounding Ohio Country was a primary cause of the French and Indian War in the 1750s. During the war, the village of Kittaning, the principal Shawnee settlement on the river, was completely destroyed by British reprisal raids from Central Pennsylvania.

Nevertheless, the British, after gaining control of the area in the 1763 Treaty of Paris, kept the area closed to white settlement, in part to repair and maintain relations with the Native Americans. The pressure to open the river valley and the surrounding area to settlement is considered by historians to be one of the root causes of the American Revolutionary War in the following decade.

During the 19th century, the river became a principal means of navigation in the upper Ohio valley, especially for the transport of coal. Although the building of the railroads lessened the importance of the river somewhat, the lower river (navigable as far as East Bradymarker, Pennsylvania through locks) has continued to serve as route of commercial transportation until the present day. In 1859, the first U.S. petroleum was drilled north of the river at Titusvillemarker.

One of the underlying premises of the Genesee Valley Canal was its connection to the river, opening a trade route from Rochestermarker, New York to the west. The advent of the railroads destroyed any interest that Pennsylvania might have had in participating by improving navigation on the river.

In 1965, the completion of the federally-sponsored Kinzua Dammarker for flood-control in northwestern Pennsylvania east of Warren created the long Allegheny Reservoir, part of which is included in the Allegheny National Recreation Areamarker. The dam flooded parts of lands deeded "forever" to the Seneca Nation of Indians by the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua, and to lands given to Cornplanter and his descendants. The event is described in the Johnny Cash song "As Long as the Grass Shall Grow" from the 1964 album Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian, which focuses on the history of and problems facing Native Americans in the United States.

The construction of the dam and the filling of the Allegheny Reservoir also necessitated the elimination of the small town of Corydon, which was located at the confluence of Willow Creek with the Allegheny River; and the small town of Kinzua, which was located at the confluence of Kinzua Creek with the Allegheny River. All residents of both towns were forced to move.

Many prominent individuals opposed the construction of the dam at that time because of the damage it would do to Seneca lands, including Pennsylvania Congressman John P. Saylor of Johnstownmarker, and Howard Zahniser, executive director of The Wilderness Society and native of Tionestamarker – a small town located on the Allegheny River several miles downstream from Warren. During the campaign for the 1960 United States presidential election, John F. Kennedy assured the Seneca Nation that he would oppose the dam if elected. However, he failed to follow through on his pledge upon becoming president.

In 1992, of the Allegheny was designated Wild and Scenic. This designation comprises three segments of the river located in Warrenmarker, Forestmarker, and Venangomarker Counties.

In 2008, Katie Spotz became the first person to swim the entire of the Allegheny River; she was accompanied by safety kayaker, James Hendershott. The team began at the river's source in Raymond, Pennsylvania on July 22 and finished at the "Point" in Downtown Pittsburgh on August 21.

Cities and towns along the river

New York


See also

Notes and references

  1. Zeisberger, David: David Zeisberger's History of the Northern American Indians in 18th Century Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania, p. 33. Wennawoods Publishing, 1999, ISBN 1-889037-17-6
  2. Allegheny Wild and Scenic River – Allegheny National Forest

Further reading

  • The Allegheny River: Watershed of the Nation, by Jim Schafer and Mike Sajna (Pennsylvania State University Press; October 1992) ISBN 978-0271008363

External links

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