The Little Conemaugh

The Little Conemaugh

The Little Conemaugh River is 29 miles long and drains 190 square miles. It joins the Stonycreek River in Johnstown to form the Conemaugh River, which flows 52 miles before emptying into the Kiskiminetas River at Saltsburg.

Shortly after its formation at “The Point” in Johnstown, the Conemaugh River flows through the Conemaugh Gap, the second deepest river gorge in Pennsylvania at 1,560 feet. As it passes through the gap, it also passes out of SCRIP’s area.

The Little Conemaugh begins in the Cresson wetlands, off the west slope of the Allegheny Front, in northeastern Cambria County and is impacted by abandoned mine drainage almost from its source. However, it manages to support fish life downstream to a point near Lilly, where the infamous Hughes Borehole abandoned mine drainage enters.

The Little Conemaugh has a long history of industrial pollution, beginning with clay mines and continuing with coal mine discharges and waste from steel making. As a result, it may be the most polluted waterway in Pennsylvania. Yet, it is also a river on the edge of recovery. It runs orange, turbid and ugly, an indicator that it is near the tipping point where a slight increase in pH could cause its acidic flow to release the heavy metals it carries and make its waters more hospitable to fish and recreation.

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