Darby Creek (Pennsylvania)

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Coordinates: 39°53′30″N 75°19′59″W / 39.89167°N 75.33306°W / 39.89167; -75.33306
Darby Creek
River
Darby Creek.jpg
Darby Creek where it crosses Route 320 in Marple Township
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
Counties Philadelphia, Montgomery, Delaware, Chester
Source Darby Creek (Pennsylvania)
 - location Tredyffrin Township, Pennsylvania, Chester County, Pennsylvania, USA
 - elevation 557 ft (170 m) [1]
 - coordinates 40°03′48″N 75°22′14″W / 40.06333°N 75.37056°W / 40.06333; -75.37056
Mouth Delaware River
 - location Ridley Township, Pennsylvania, USA
 - elevation 0 ft (0 m) [2]
 - coordinates 39°53′30″N 75°19′59″W / 39.89167°N 75.33306°W / 39.89167; -75.33306
Length 26.1 mi (42 km)
Basin 77.2 sq mi (200 km2)
Location of the mouth of Delaware Creek in Pennsylvania

Darby Creek is a creek in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. It rises in Chester County in Tredyffrin and Easttown townships and in Delaware County in Radnor township and forms the western border of Haverford Township. The Darby Creek watershed courses through many of the townships of Delaware County and the Borough of Ridley Park before it empties into the Delaware River 2 miles (3 km) from the Philadelphia city line, near Philadelphia International Airport. The total length of the creek is 26.1 miles (42.0 km).[3]

For a brief stretch in its lower course, the creek coincides with the city limits of Philadelphia when it joins with Cobbs Creek and begins meandering southwesterly. In the Borough of Norwood, just prior to connecting with the Delaware, the Muckinipattis Creek joins. The mouth of the creek forms the eastern property line of a helicopter factory operated by Boeing in Ridley Township. The lower creek contains an interesting mix of freshwater and estuarine fish and fish that migrate between fresh and salt water including American eels. The recent removal of three dams on the lower Darby will allow freer passage by migratory fishes.

The lower course, often termed the Lower Darby Creek Area, includes an area classified as a Superfund site due to contamination from a landfill in Darby Township.[4] Just before entering the Delaware River the Darby Creek flows through the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum. A vast marsh once occupied this area and the remaining marsh found in and around the refuge is very rich with wildlife. Fishing, birding, walking, bicycling, and boating are all enjoyed in the refuge and the surrounding area.

Course[edit]

Darby Creek in Radnor Township

Darby Creek rises in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County, at an elevation of 557 feet (170 m)[1] The creek's river channel is relatively sinuous.[5]

For two miles in its lower course, the creek coincides with the city limits of Philadelphia when it joins with Cobbs Creek and begins meandering southwesterly.[5] In the Borough of Norwood, just prior to connecting with the Delaware, the Muckinipattis Creek joins. The mouth of the creek forms the eastern property line of the Boeing Helicopter plant in Ridley Park. The lower creek contains an interesting mix of freshwater and estuarine fish and fish that migrate between fresh and salt water including American eels. The recent removal of three dams on the lower Darby will allow freer passage by migratory fishes.

It empties into the Delaware River in Ridley Township, at an elevation of 0 feet (0 m).[2] The total length of the creek is 26.1 miles (42.0 km).[3]

Geology[edit]

The northern section of Darby Creek is within the Piedmont Uplands physiographic province, while the southern section is part of the Atlantic Coastal Plain province. The Piedmont Uplands section has generally old, hard upland rocks that eroded from the Appalachian Mountains.[6] The rocks from the northern portion of the watershed date to the Precambrian Era and Lower Paleozoic Era. The rocks from the southern portion of the watershed are newer, dating from the Tertiary and Quaternary Periods.[7] Atlantic Coastal Plain rock is generally softer than Piedmont Uplands rock and was deposited in the area about 1.6 million years ago through glacial erosion.[6] Several geologic formations can be found within the creek's watershed. Derived from sandstones as well as mudstones, the Wissahickon Formation is the most prevalent formation and is composed of mica schist. Metamorphic felsic gneiss and mafic gneiss formations are common in the northern parts of the watershed. The Bryn Mawr Formation and the Bridgeton Formation are also present and are unconsolidated deposits of rock that rest on top of the dense crystalline bedrock.[8]

Soil[edit]

Three soil associations exist in the Darby Creek watershed. The Neshaminy-Lehigh-Glenlg soil association is prevalent in the northwest part of the watershed. It consists of silty, well drained, gravelly, and deep soil that rests on grabbo and granodiorite bedrock.[1] The Chester-Glenlg-Manor soil association is prevalent throughout the watershed except in its lower reaches. It consists of silty, channery, and shallow to deep soil that rests on brown schist and gneiss bedrock. The Urban Land-Wetbrook-Pitts soil association is prevalent in the southern part of the watershed. It consists of silty, sandy, and deep soil that rests on coastal sediments. Roughly 53% of the land in the Darby Creek watershed is classified as having slightly erodible soil.[9]

Watershed[edit]

The Darby Creek watershed has a total area of 77.2 square miles (200 km2), with 6.5 square miles (17 km2) in Chester County, 4.2 square miles (11 km2) in Montgomery County, 60 square miles (160 km2) in Delaware County, and 6.5 square miles (17 km2) in Philadelphia. Darby Creek’s watershed is often referred to as the “Darby-Cobbs watershed” since its largest tributary, Cobbs Creek, drains a total area of 22.2 square miles (57 km2), or approximately one third of the Darby Creek watershed.[10] Neighboring major watersheds are Crum Creek to the west and the Schuylkill River to the east.[11]

Most of the municipalities in the Darby Creek drainage basin are developed. The majority (61%) of the land use is considered residential, while 11% is undeveloped and 10% is open space. Of the remaining land, most of it is considered industrial, commercial, and institutional, with 2.45% classified as paved.[12] Estimates for the population of the watershed range from 484,000 to 500,000.[13]

The major tributaries of Darby Creek:

History[edit]

The Lenni Lenape tribe was the first Native American tribe to inhabit the area. They fished, hunted, and used the creek for transportation via canoe. At the time, the area was forested, so they burned clearings in the forest in order to farm and for security purposes.[14]

The first Europeans to come to the area were the Dutch, though they did not establish any permanent settlements. Swedish colonists established New Sweden near the confluence of Darby Creek and the Delaware River. Dutch settlers conquered the Swedish villages in 1655. In 1664, the Dutch surrendered the Darby Creek drainage basin to the English, who began settling the area after William Penn was issued a charter in 1681.[14]

Early English colonists utilized Darby Creek as a source of water power. Lumber, grist, and textile mills were established along the banks of the creek. Most of these mills have been demolished, although some of the tenement structures are currently in use as housing.[14] At the end of the 19th century, industrial advances such as engine-driven machinery had made these mills obsolete.[15]

The advent of railroads in the late 19th century led to further development in the watershed. Stops along the Reading Railroad and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad such as Darby, Prospect Park, and Ridley Park increased in population greatly.[15] Concern for the health of the creek led Lansdowne residents to raise funds to preserve a stretch of the creek in 1910.[16] After World War II, residential development continued to expand in the watershed. The automobile replaced railroads as the dominant form of transportation, and it allowed workers to live farther from their places of employment. As a result, the population of Springfield Township more than doubled between 1950 and 1960.[15]

On September 16, 1999, Hurricane Floyd struck Pennsylvania. Upper Darby Township received seven inches of rainfall, causing massive flooding in Darby Creek. Forty-three homes were deemed uninhabitable in Darby and were purchased by the Borough.[17] They were demolished in 2000 and the open space was converted into John Bartram Memorial Park in honor of the botanist and Darby native.[18] In Springfield Township, Rolling Green Park was expanded when six homes were ravaged by the hurricane and had to be demolished.[19]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Delaware County Planning Department 2005, p. 39
  2. ^ a b "Geographic Names Information System Feature Detail Report: Darby Creek". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. August 2, 1979. Retrieved 24 December 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "The National Map". National Hydrography Dataset. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 24 December 2013. 
  4. ^ US-EPA Region 3 Superfund Site: Lower Darby Creek Area
  5. ^ a b Pennsylvania Water Supply Commission 1917, p. 328
  6. ^ a b Cahill Associates 2004, p. 78
  7. ^ Cahill Associates 2004, p. 76
  8. ^ Cahill Associates 2004, p. 80
  9. ^ Delaware County Planning Department 2005, p. 40
  10. ^ Delaware County Planning Department 2005, p. 32
  11. ^ "Major Watersheds of Delaware County". Delaware County Conservation District. Retrieved 28 December 2013. 
  12. ^ Delaware County Planning Department 2005, p. 56
  13. ^ Cahill Associates 2004, p. 22
  14. ^ a b c Delaware County Planning Department 2010, p. 40
  15. ^ a b c Delaware County Planning Department 2010, p. 41
  16. ^ Delaware County Planning Department 2010, p. 35
  17. ^ Delaware County Planning Department 2005, p. 71
  18. ^ Bolling, Deborah (25 July 2000). "Awash In Memories Amid Razing: Ex-residents Say Goodbye To Darby Borough Houses Damaged By Hurricane Floyd.". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  19. ^ Delaware County Planning Department 2010, p. 47

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