|Origin||Southwestern Luzerne County, Pennsylvania|
|Etymology||Corruption of the Algonquin word Gattawisi, meaning "Growing fat"|
|Length||67.3 km (41.8 mi)|
|Left tributaries||Dark Run, Little Catawissa Creek, Crooked Run|
|Right tributaries||Tomhicken Creek, Scotch Run|
Catawissa Creek (colloquially known as The Cat) is a 41.8-mile-long (67.3 km) tributary of the Susquehanna River in east-central Pennsylvania in the United States. Its watershed has an area of 153 square miles (400 km2).
The waters of Catawissa Creek are highly acidic, with a pH of 4.5, due to runoff from an abandoned mine in the creek's watershed. Catawissa Creek is smaller than the nearby Fishing Creek due to a lack of major tributaries.
Catawissa Creek starts in Luzerne County, not far from Hazleton. It flows west and slightly south into Schuylkill County before flowing north into Columbia County and then west to the Susquehanna River, which it flows into at Catawissa. It parallels Catawissa Mountain for a significant portion of its course.
The surface rock in Catawissa Creek largely consists of sedimentary rock, such as sandstone and shale. However, there is also coal in the watershed. Major soils in the creek's watershed include the Leck Kill soil and the Albrights series. Most of the steeper hills in the watershed are situated near the headwaters of the creek.
Coal mining was once a major industry in the Catawissa Creek watershed, but this is no longer the case. Major tributaries of Catawissa Creek include Little Catawissa Creek and Tomhicken Creek. The president of the Catawissa Creek Watershed Restoration Association, Ed Wytovich, called Catawissa Creek "probably the most beautiful screwed-up stream east of the Mississippi".
At the Audenried Tunnel, the concentration of iron in the waters of Catawissa Creek is 0.7 milligrams per liter. The daily load of iron is 71.3 pounds (32.3 kg), which is 1.24 times the total maximum daily load. The concentration of magnesium in the creek is 2.28 milligrams per liter. The daily load of magnesium is 232.4 pounds (105.4 kg) per day, which is 3.73 times the total maximum daily load. The concentration of aluminum is 7.93 milligrams per liter. The daily load of aluminum is 808.2 pounds (366.6 kg) per day, which is 19.8 times the total maximum daily load. The total concentration of acidity in the creek is 68.08 milligrams per liter. The daily load of acidity is 6,938.4 pounds (3,147.2 kg), which is 100 times the total maximum daily load. The total concentration of alkalinity is 2.31 milligrams per liter, which equates to 235.4 pounds (106.8 kg) per day.
At the Green Mountain Tunnel, the concentration of iron in the waters of Catawissa Creek is 0.44 milligrams per liter, which equates to a load of 5.3 pounds (2.4 kg) per day. The concentration of manganese is 0.64 milligrams per liter, which equates to a load of 7.7 pounds (3.5 kg) per day. The concentration of aluminum is 2.97 milligrams per liter, which equates to a load 35.7 pounds (16.2 kg) per day. The concentration of acidity is 28.06 milligrams per liter, which equates to a load of 337 pounds (153 kg) per day. The concentration of alkalinity is 3.29 milligrams per liter, which equates to a load of 39.5 pounds (17.9 kg) per day.
At the Catawissa Tunnel, the concentration of iron in the waters of Catawissa Creek is 1.01 milligrams per liter, which equates to a load of 6.9 pounds (3.1 kg) per day. The concentration of manganese is 0.31 milligrams per liter, which equates to a load of 2.1 pounds (0.95 kg) per day. The concentration of aluminum is 1.27 milligrams per liter, which equates to a load of 8.7 pounds (3.9 kg) per day. The concentration of acidity is 18.44 milligrams per liter, which equates to a load of 126.1 pounds (57.2 kg) per day. The concentration of alkalinity is 4.11 milligrams per liter, which equates to a load of 28.1 pounds (12.7 kg) per day.
At Catawissa Creek's headwaters, the concentration of iron in the water is 0.34 milligrams per liter. The concentration of manganese is 1.74 milligrams per liter. The concentration of aluminum is 3.2 milligrams per liter. The concentration of acidity is 34.5 milligrams per liter. The concentration of alkalinity is 0.17 milligrams per liter.
At the mouth of Catawissa Creek, the concentration of iron in the water is 0.11 milligrams per liter, which equates to a load of 82.2 pounds (37.3 kg) per day. The concentration of manganese is 0.33 milligrams per liter, which equates to a load of 246.6 pounds (111.9 kg) per day. The concentration of aluminum is 0.85 milligrams per liter, which equates to a load of 635.2 pounds (288.1 kg) per day. The concentration of acidity is 12.8 milligrams per liter, which equates to a load of 9,565 pounds (4,339 kg) per day. The concentration of alkalinity is 18.16 milligrams per liter, which equates to a load of 13,570.3 pounds (6,155.4 kg) per day.
At a point shortly downstream of the confluence of Catawissa Creek with Messers Run, the pH of Catawissa Creek ranges between 4.1 and 6.2, with an average of 4.5. Further downstream, at Davis Run, the pH changes to 4.5 to 4.9, and averages 4.64. After picking up Rattling Run, Dark Run, and Little Catawissa Creek, but before picking up Tomhicken Creek, Catawissa Creek's pH ranges from 3.2 to 6.4 and averages 4.96. After the confluence with Tomhicken Creek, Catawissa Creek's pH ranges from 4.7 to 5.4.
Despite the presence of acid mine drainage in Catawissa Creek, its waters are largely clear.
93% of the surface rock in the Catawissa Creek watershed is interbedded sedimentary, while the remaining 7% is sandstone. South of Mainville, the Catawissa Creek river valley is made of red shale. There is also conglomerate, greenish-gray sandstone, olive-colored shale, and anthracite coal near Catawissa Creek.
The geological features near the headwaters of Catawissa Creek primarily include anthracite and ridges of sandstone. The valleys in this part of the watershed are narrow and steep. Elsewhere in the watershed, the topography consists mostly of less steep valleys and some hills.
McCauley Mountain and Green Mountain form the sides of the Catawissa Creek valley in Beaver Township, Columbia County. McCauley Mountain has a gradual slope near the creek.
At the location where Catawissa Creek flows past Nescopeck Mountain in Main Township, there is a 580 feet (180 m) layer of rock known as the Pocono Formation. Below it, there is a 375 feet (114 m) layer of rock called the Pocono-Catskill Formation. Below the Pocono-Catskill Formation is a layer of red shale that is 100 feet (30 m) thick.
A formation of greenish-gray sandstone near Catawissa Creek has been quarried for use in building. Below this layer is an olive colored sandstone that is home to Spirifer fossils. This layer is 40 feet (12 m) to 50 feet (15 m) thick. In a layer of red shale that is at least 100 feet (30 m) thick, there are fucoid fossils.
A type of soil known as the Leck Kill soil occurs along Catawissa Creek. Usually, cultivated Leck Kill soils are topped with an 8-inch (200 mm) thick layer of dark brown silt loam, with a subsoil of reddish-brown silt loam that extends to a depth of 32 inches (810 mm). Below the subsoil is a 6-inch (150 mm) thick layer of clay loam. The bedrock below this type of soil is red shale.
A type of soil known as the Albrights series also occurs along Catawissa Creek. This type of soil is topped by a 7-inch (180 mm) thick layer of reddish-brown gravelly silt loam. Below this layer, there is a subsoil of yellowish-red silty clay loam. Below the subsoil is a layer of mixed gravel and silty clay loam. Bedrock occurs several feet underground.
Catawissa Creek rises in strip mines in southern Luzerne County near Audenried and McAdoo, a few miles southwest of the city of Hazleton. However, it quickly becomes lost in the strip mines of the area. The creek resurfaces in an iron-filled pool west of Interstate 81. It runs west through another strip mine before passing into Schuylkill County.
Upon entering Schuylkill County in East Union Township, Catawissa Creek flows approximately west-southwest into a valley. In the valley, it goes past the geographical features Round Head and Blue Head, picking up a tributary near Blue Head. Beyond Blue Head, the creek flows past Sheppton and then Brandonville. It picks up a tributary called Rattling Run at the edge of the township, shortly before entering Union Township. As the creek enters Union Township, its valley briefly becomes very deep before becoming shallower again. It picks up Dark Run in the township. The creek flows along the East Union Township/Union Township border before entering North Union Township. Upon entering North Union Township, Catawissa Creek flows northwards until it reaches the community of Zion Grove, where it takes a sharp turn northwest. At Zion Grove, the walls of the creek's valley again become considerably higher and steeper. As it exits Zion Grove, it picks up Tomhicken Creek. Catawissa Creek takes a sharp turn to the west and flows under Red Ridge. At the western edge of Red Ridge, the creek takes a sharp turn northwards, followed shortly afterwards by a gentle turn westwards. It picks up Crooked Run at the edge of North Union Township, and then flows into Columbia County.
Catawissa Creek enters Columbia County in Beaver Township. It immediately passes by Bunker Hill and makes several meanders and passes by Beaver Valley. An old Conrail railroad starts paralleling Catawissa Creek at this point. In the southern part of Beaver Township, the creek is situated between Buck Mountain to the east and Catawissa Mountain to the west. The takes a sharp turn westwards as it passes by Shumans, where Pennsylvania Route 339 crosses the creek and Beaver Run flows into it. The creek closely follows Catawissa Mountain for a short distance before turning northwards and passing close to McCauley Mountain. It meanders past Dry Ridge and then Full Mill Hill, where Pennsylvania Route 339 crosses it again. The creek makes a hairpin turn northwards and picks up Gap Run before exiting Beaver Township. Upon leaving Beaver Township, the creek enters Main Township. It continues following Catawissa Mountain, and, for a shorter distance, Full Mill Hill. It picks up Gap Run and Fisher Run from the left, Scotch Run from the right, and Furnace Run from the left in quick succession. After picking up Furnace Run, Catawissa Creek flows between Catawissa Mountain and Nescopeck Mountain in a high, narrow gorge. As the creek leaves the gorge, it passes Mainville and enters a plain. The creek turns west-southwest and the plain narrows slightly. On the south side of the plain is Catawissa Mountain and on the north side are lower hills. After a few miles, the creek flows out of Main Township and into Catawissa Township. In Catawissa Township, the creek flows southwest to Catawissa. It follows the southern border of Catawissa until it reaches its edge and turns northwards, following the western border of Catawissa. Pennsylvania Route 487 crosses over the creek at this point. At the western edge of Catawissa, the creek empties into the Susquehanna River.
Settlers of European descent arrived on or near Catawissa Creek before 1776. The settlers included Alexander McCauley and Andrew Harger. McCauley left the area in 1776 and Harger was abducted by Indians. The Englishman Thomas Wilson was another early settler in the area. He lived in a cave on Catawissa Creek. The first mill in Columbia County was built on Catawissa Creek in 1774. Two other mills were built on the Creek in 1789 and 1799.
In 1826, a forge was built on Catawissa Creek for making bar iron. By the late 1820s, there were plans to build a railroad paralleling Catawissa Creek and connecting Catawissa and Pottsville. The Catawissa Railroad, which was built in the 1830s, paralleled Catawissa Creek for part of its course. Another railroad that historically paralleled Catawissa Creek was the Danville, Hazleton, and Wilkes-Barre Railroad, which was built in 1870. Historically, there was a paper mill existed on Catawissa Creek near Mainville. In the late 19th century a dam was built on Catawissa Creek in Beaver Township.
In 1886, a bridge known as the Catawissa Creek Bridge was built over Catawissa Creek by Columbia County. It was located at what was then Reichard's switch on the Philadelphia and Reading Railway. The bridge was destroyed by a flood in 1902, but later rebuilt. It was again carried away about 200 feet (61 m) downstream by ice and flooding on March 7, 1904, although it remained intact despite being carried away. The bridge, however, was not rebuilt again in that location.
From the middle of the 19th century until the early part of the 1970s, coal was mined in the eastern portion of the Catawissa Creek watershed. The coal was primarily mined in the Jeansville Coal Basin and the Green Mountain Coal Basin. Historically, the Catawissa Water Company used water from Catawissa Creek. Five drainage tunnels were built in the watershed in the 1930s, and they still discharge acid mine drainage in the 21st century. Strip mining has occurred in parts of the watershed, mainly the Catawissa Creek headwaters and the Little Tomhicken Creek sub-watershed.
While deep mining of coal in the Catawissa Creek watershed ceased in the 1970s, strip mining still continued for some time. However, in the 21st century, there are still five mining permits in the watershed and some coal is still extracted from refuse banks.
Several surveys of Catawissa Creek have been performed by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. The first one was in 1957. There were two more surveys of chemical hydrology in 1966 and 1976. In 1997, the commission assessed the creek and its tributaries for usability as fisheries for the first time.
There have been several attempts in the late 20th and 21st centuries to raise the pH of Catawissa Creek. Between 1998 and 2000, the Catawissa Creek Restoration Association added limestone sand into the creek, but were not successful in raising the pH. However, in 2001, the Oneida #1 treatment system successfully neutralized the tributary Sugarloaf Creek. As of 2000, there have been plans to reroute Catawissa Creek away from the Audenried Tunnel and the Green Mountain Tunnel. The Catawissa Creek Watershed Restoration Association was established in 1997.
Catawissa Creek's watershed ranges through four counties. They are Columbia County, Schuylkill County, Luzerne County, and Carbon County. The area of the watershed in Columbia and Schuylkill Counties are both large, with the area in Luzerne County being considerably smaller. The area in Carbon County consists of only a few square miles Tresckow.
Pennsylvania Route 339 and Pennsylvania Route 924 are the main highways in the Catawissa Creek watershed. They both run along the creek for some distance. However, Interstate 81 passes by the creek's headwaters and there are many township roads throughout the watershed. The communities of McAdoo and Kelayres are on the extreme eastern edge of the watershed. The communities Sheppton and Oneida are also in the watershed.
There are five drainage tunnels in the Catawissa Creek watershed. They are called Audenried, Onedia #1, Onedia #3, Catawissa, and Green Mountain. The first one of these drains the Jeansville Coal Basin on the eastern edge of the watershed. The second tunnel empties into, Sugarloaf Creek, a tributary of Catawissa Creek. The third of these empties into Tomhicken Creek, another tributary of Catawissa Creek. The other three empty into Catawissa Creek itself, relatively close to each other. The Audenried Tunnel is responsible for 80% of the acid mine drainage flowing into Catawissa Creek.
78.4% of the land in Catawissa Creek's watershed is forested, 17.4% is agricultural, and 1% is developed. 2% of the land in the watershed is former coal-mining land, such as old coal mines and quarries.
Fauna and flora
Some of Catawissa Creek's tributaries are known to contain trout, but the creek itself does not contain any fish due to pollution from acidic mine drainage. In 1966, some woodcocks were observed to live along Catawissa Creek.
Rhododendrons and hemlocks typically grow close to Catawissa Creek, while hardwood trees grow higher up in Catawissa Creek's river valley. Historically there were a large number of plants resembling fucoids along Catawissa Creek near the border of Main and Catawissa Townships.
In the late 1950s, Catawissa Creek was found by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to have good temperatures for trout habitation, but there was no aquatic life in the creek due to acid mine drainage. This situation continued through the 1960s and 1970s. However, by 1997, large populations of wild trout were found on some tributaries of Catawissa Creek. As of 2003, Catawissa Creek is considered to be a cold-water fishery between its headwaters and its confluence with Rattling Run. Several other tributaries, namely Dark Run, Davis Run, Little Catawissa Creek, and Messers Run are designated as high-quality cold water fisheries.
Aquatic macroinvertebrates are not common in and around Catawissa Creek, as of 2003. However, some adult members of the Allocapnia and Taeniopteryx genera have been observed. Large numbers of Amphinmeura and Leuctra have also been observed on the creek between its headwaters and the Audenried and Green Mountain tunnels.
Spies Run and Davis Run are two tributaries that flow into Catawissa Creek within a few miles of its headwaters. Spies Run is about one mile long and joins Catawissa Creek from the south. Davis Run is slightly longer, about 1.5 miles (2.4 km). It also joins Catawissa Creek from the south, near Brandonville. Rattling Run, a 2.3 miles (3.7 km) tributary, also flows into Catawissa Creek from the south near Brandonville.
The next tributaries of Catawissa Creek going downstream are Dark Run and Little Catawissa Creek. Dark Run is close to four miles long and flows into Catawissa Creek from the southwest. Little Catawissa Creek is approximately ten miles long and flows into Catawissa Creek from the west, less than a mile downstream from Dark Run. Little Catawissa Creek starts near Centralia and passes by Ringtown.
Tomhicken Creek is the next tributary of Catawissa Creek flowing downstream. It has a few tributaries, including Raccoon Creek and Sugarloaf Creek. Approximately two miles downstream of Tomhicken Creek, Crooked Run, Cranberry Run and Klingerman's Run join Catawissa Creek from the south about 2 to 3 miles apart.
In addition to Klingerman's Run, Fisher Run and Furnace Run flow down Catawissa Mountain to Catawissa Creek. Scotch Run flows into the creek from the east.
It is possible to paddle on much of Catawissa Creek for parts of the year. However, it is not usually possible to paddle on the creek during the summer. Upstream of Mainville, there are some riffles and small rapids. There is larger rapid downstream of a lowdam in the lower reaches of the creek.
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