Swatara Creek

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Coordinates: 40°11′5″N 76°43′56″W / 40.18472°N 76.73222°W / 40.18472; -76.73222

Swatara Creek (nicknamed the Swattie) is a 72-mile-long (116 km)[1] tributary of the Susquehanna River in east central Pennsylvania in the United States. It rises in the Appalachian Mountains in central Schuylkill County and passes through northwest Lebanon Valley before draining into the Susquehanna at Middletown.

The name Swatara is said to derive from a Susquehannock word, Swahadowry or Schaha-dawa, which means 'where we feed on eels'.[2]

Drinking Water[edit]

Further, three water companies—United Water [1] , American Water [2], and the Lebanon Water Authority [www.lebanonauthority.org/] draw drinking water for hundreds of thousands of residents of the Swatara Watershed.


Swatara Creek rises in the Appalachian Mountains in central Schuylkill County, north of the Sharp Mountain ridge, approximately 5 mi (8.0 km) west of Minersville. It then flows southwest in a winding course, passing south of Tremont, then cutting south through Second Mountain ridge. It passes through Swatara State Park then turns south to pass through Swatara Gap in the Blue Mountain ridge northwest of Lebanon. After emerging from the ridge it flows southwest, north of Hershey, past Hummelstown, and joins the Susquehanna at Middletown. It receives Quittapahilla Creek from the east 3 mi (4.8 km) north of Palmyra.


The creek was a significant transportation route in the colonial period of North America up through the middle 19th century. The Union Canal, an early public works project conceived by William Penn in the 1690s and begun in 1792 to connect the Susquehanna and Delaware rivers, followed the lower course of the river below Union Water Works. The upper course above Union Water Works into the mountains provided the route of a feeder to the main canal, as well as providing a route to ship anthracite from the mountains to Philadelphia.

On September 8, 2011, The creek reached a record height of 26.8 feet near Hershey, following devastating rains from Tropical Storm Lee and remnants of Hurricane Irene, the highest since measurements began in 1975. Farther upstream at the Harpers Tavern gauge, 24.60' was recorded, making it the worst flooding since 1889. The flooding caused thousands of people to be evacuated from their homes throughout Central Pennsylvania, and at least one death.[3]


Today, the Swatara Creek [3] is part of a national and statewide water trail system, providing outdoor recreation and a wellness activity for families canoeing and kayaking a 60-mile segment that connects to the Susquehanna River [www.susquehannawatertrail.org/] and Captain John Smith [4] Water Trails.



Two ships in the United States Navy have been named USS Swatara after the creek:

  • The first USS Swatara (1865) was a wooden, screw sloop, launched in 1865 and dismantled in 1872 to become the second ship of this name.
  • The second USS Swatara (1873) was a screw sloop, launched in 1873 and decommissioned in 1891.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed August 8, 2011
  2. ^ Kelker, Luther Reily (1907). History of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. New York: Lewis Publishing. p. 14. Retrieved 2012-10-10. 
  3. ^ Swatara Creek's record-setting rise Penn Live, September 08, 2011