The Susquehanna River: The Main Street of Western Lancaster and Eastern York Counties

Thanks to the development of recreational trails on both sides of the Susquehanna, river towns such as Columbia, Marietta and Wrightsville are experiencing a revitalization that extends to a growing interest in residential real estate, a resurgence of downtown businesses, the arrival of outfitters that cater to the needs of those using land and water trails and entrepreneurs repurposing buildings for such uses as art, dining, events and lodging.  

The Susquehanna is one of the oldest rivers in the world and is the fourth-oldest in the United States. At 444 miles in length, it is the longest river on the East Coast. It drains 27,500 square miles, including nearly half of Pennsylvania. No doubt, the word “Susquehanna” is derived from a Native word, as many of the tribes living along its banks had words to describe its attributes. One word, from the Lenapes, is “siskewahane,” which means “muddy river.” Captain John Smith attempted to venture up the river in 1615, but the rocky terrain proved problematic and he had to terminate the expedition.

In the opinion of Mark Platts, who heads the Susquehanna National Heritage Area, the combined efforts of government, the business community, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, philanthropists and those who love and respect the area’s natural environs have helped to “put us on the map.”    

On the cover: Jordan Bush photographed the Susquehanna River as the sun traveled across Columbia’s Veterans Memorial Bridge, which opened to the public in 1930.

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