Allegheny and Ohio River Tributaries

Ultimately, a river’s quality is only as good as the water it receives from its tributaries. Any particular reach of the Ohio or Allegheny rivers, for example, is greatly influenced by thousands of miles of tributary watersheds that congregate to influence larger streams. Therefore, conservation planning for river ecosystems must incorporate research and planned actions, from headwaters to the largest tributary basins.

Conservation strategies for the Allegheny and Ohio River tributaries include protection and improvement of the largest river tributaries. Both the character and the size of these streams must be recognized and addressed.

The landscapes drained by the major tributaries of the Allegheny River can be divided into three types.

  1. Western tributaries of the upper river drain glaciated landscapes whose soils provide plentiful groundwater and rich sources of calcium that are important to some aquatic life.  Examples of these streams include Brokenstraw, French and Sandy creeks. These streams are rich in aquatic life – as indicated by high diversity and rare species – but are also challenged by the expanse of agriculture and its resulting sedimentation.
  2. The watersheds of high plateau streams are founded on calcium poor sandstone bedrocks, but flow from some of the most densely forested landscapes in the northeastern U.S. For these reason, these watersheds have the potential to provide some of the purest waters the river will receive.  Such streams include Tionesta and Hickory creeks and the Clarion River
  3. The river’s lower tributaries emanate from the more intensely working landscape of the Pittsburgh Plateaus region, an area distinct for its vast coal mining and resulting landscape and water-quality impacts. Streams draining this area include Mahoning, Redbank and Buffalo creeks and the large Kiskiminetas River.

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