The Little Mahoning Creek watershed, in northern Indiana County, is a unique and valuable resource in southwestern Pennsylvania. Despite its location in the heart of the bituminous coal region, Little Mahoning Creek largely dodged the devastating impacts of abandoned mine drainage.
Because of this—and the area’s rural nature—the stream is home to an impressive list of freshwater mussels, fish, and aquatic insect species. It is also home to the eastern hellbender salamander. Little Mahoning Creek is classified by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection as a High Quality Cold Water Fishery.
The Little Mahoning watershed is located in the Pittsburgh low plateau section, which is dominated by low-level upland features with elevations ranging from 660 – 1,700 feet. The mainstem flows into Mahoning Creek, which ultimately empties into the Allegheny River near Templeton, PA. Land uses in the watershed are dominated by agriculture and deciduous forests, comprising over 86.9% of the available land area. The remaining 13% is a combination of light industrial and residential uses. This is a sparsely populated region with the largest centers being Marion Center Borough (pop. 2,945); Smicksburg Borough (pop. 1,743); and Dayton Borough (pop. 2,302) based on 2000 U.S. census data.
A 25.5” 3.7 lb. eastern hellbender salamander found in Little Mahoning Creek
Recreational and Economic Value
In addition to its ecological significance, Little Mahoning Creek and the surrounding watershed exert measurable influences on the local economy – particularly in the area of tourism. The stream boasts one of the Commonwealth’s most popular special-regulation, fly-fishing-only areas. This 4.3 mile stretch of stream is regularly visited by anglers from across the country. The rest of the stream is a popular trout fishery open to all types of fishing tackle. It is heavily stocked with brown and brook trout by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and native brook trout populations exist within some headwater tributaries. Several other species of game fish live in the stream, and are sought by anglers throughout the year.