ALLEGHENY RIVER HISTORY

Location: A river rising in north-central Pennsylvania and flowing about 523 km (325 mi) northwest into New York then southwest into Pennsylvania again, where it joins the Monongahela River at Pittsburgh to form the Ohio River.

Word History: The Iroquois who inhabited western Pennsylvania considered the Allegheny to be the upper part of the Ohio River. Iroquois Ohio means "beautiful river" (oh-, "river" -io, "good, fine, beautiful"). When the Delaware, an Algonquian people, moved to western Pennsylvania in the 18th century and displaced the Iroquois, they translated Iroquoian Ohio into Delaware, yielding welhik-heny, "most beautiful stream" (welhik, "most beautiful" heny, "stream"). The name Welhik-heny was then anglicized as Allegheny.

The Allegheny River watershed in western New York State comprises 1879 mi2 (4867 km2) just north of the state line between Pennsylvania and New York. Historically the land in the Allegheny River watershed consisted almost entirely of beech-maple, northern hardwoods, white pine and hemlock forest. Drought, fire and severe storms caused major damage in the 18th century, and exploitation in the 19th and 20th centuries depleted the remaining virgin and second growth forest (Ohio River Basin Commission 1980).

The climate in the Allegheny River watershed is characterized by cold snowy winters and cool wet summers (Smith 1985). Mean annual temperatures range between 2.25 degrees C and 13.47 degres C and mean annual precipitation ranges between 85.95 and 124.71 cm (Northeast Regional Climate Center 1999). The Allegheny Hills inside the bend in the Allegheny River are the only part of the state not covered by the last glacial ice sheet from the Wisconsin glacial period. However, the entire Allegheny River watershed was covered by the earlier Illinoian ice sheet which extended farther south than the Wisconsin ice sheet. Due to this glacial action, there are no endemic fish in New York State (Smith 1985).

The Allegheny River itself has its origins in Pennsylvania. It enters New York State at the Cattaraugus-Allegheny county borderline, meanders westward for approximately 88 km and returns to Pennsylvania where it drains into the Ohio River and eventually into the Mississippi River. The New York portion of the Allegheny River decreases in elevation by approximately 46 m (New York State Water Pollution Control Board 1955). Streams and rivers account for most of the aquatic habitat (393 km of warm water streams, 425 km of cold water streams) but the watershed also includes extensive wetlands, some large lakes, natural ponds and a reservoir which all combined cover an area of 62.5 km2 (Ohio River Basin Commission 1980). The region sustains a diversity of wildlife including 288 species of birds, 38 mammals, 114 fish, and 64 reptiles and amphibians (Ohio River Basin Commission 1980).

The Allegheny River watershed was chosen for its high diversity of fish species. It supports the most diverse stream fish assemblages in New York State. In addition, six of the Allegheny River watershed species are listed as New York State protected species. The bluebreast and gilt darters are listed as endangered while the gravel chub, blackchin shiner, black redhorse, and longhead darter are on a list of species of special concern.

The region has a mix of agricultural farming (crop and dairy 28%), residential and urban area (1.5%), water and wetlands (3.4%), barren land (.1%) and forest (67%). As land use changes, urban areas are expected to develop primarily on agricultural land (Ohio River Basin Commission 1980).

Protection of land within the watershed is in the form of New York State parks (5.3% of stream kilometers), New York State Regulated Freshwater Wetlands (4.2%), or New York State Wildlife Management Areas (.2%). The New York State water quality management regulations provide protection for the stream channels. Approximately 3.6% of the length of stream segments are protected. Management of the stream segments is accomplished through stocking (18.6%), stream segments regulated for public fishing (13.5%), and public fishing easements (2.5%).]

Related Information:

History of Allegany Recreation on the River

Other Sites of Interest

Allegheny River Watershed Photos of the River throughout the year