Moshannon Creek is a major tributary of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River in west central Pennsylvania. The stream meanders considerably but generally flows from Southwest to Northeast. Moshannon Creek forms the border between Clearfield County and Centre County over most of its length. The watershed is approximately 274 square miles, and it measures 30.4 miles in length in the flow direction and is 14.4 miles wide at its widest point. All of the above measurements were made using ArcGIS and the watershed boundary calculated by the USGS StreamStats database on July 7, 2019 (USGS,2019). The watershed includes land in Clearfield County, Centre County, and small parts of Cambria and Blair County in its headwaters area.
In this map, the healthy streams are blue, and the streams that are impaired by mine drainage are red, and the streams that are impaired for other reasons are green.
Moshannon Creek flows through a valley it has eroded into the Allegheny Plateau as do its major tributaries. The elevation varies from 2656 feet in its headwaters area to less than 880 feet at its junction with the West Branch of the Susquehanna River (USGS National Map, accessed 7/07/2019). The water that drains from the watershed eventually finds its way into the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay.
The Moshannon Creek watershed contains three moderately sized towns, Houtzdale, Osceola Mills, and the Phillipsburg/Chester Hill area. There are several times as many smaller towns scattered throughout the watershed. The majority of the watershed is forested, with many of the trees growing on recovering (or not) mined land that has ongoing impacts from coal and clay mining.
In the map above, the blue streams are not trout habitat, and the colored streams are different categories of trout habitat listed in the legend. Comparing this map with the one to its left you can see the effect of the mine water impairment on the fish population. Trout also need cold water, so some clean streams are too warm for them but may support fish that prefer warmer water.
In the northern part of the Moshannon Creek watershed, Moshannon Creek runs through a progressively deeper gorge as it approaches the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. The creek flows through beautiful, wild country. This part of the stream is popular for canoe and kayak trips despite its water quality problems.
Moshannon Creek has class II rapids and connects with the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. For these reasons, it is popular with canoeists and kayakers, despite its water quality problems. Every year, usually early in the Spring, there is a canoe and kayak race held on Moshannon Creek. This race has been held for more than fifty years!
Black Moshannon Creek, a major tributary, has class III rapids and is popular with expert kayakers.
The above photograph is courtesy of the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau. It depicts someone fishing in Black Moshannon Creek, which is well known for its trout fishery. As indicated by the trout fishing map earlier in this section, there are multiple streams in the Moshannon Creek watershed that have wild or stocked trout populations. Protecting these streams is one of the roles the MCWA is taking on.