The headwaters of the Lehigh River and all of its lakes and streams that feed it are considered special protection waters because of their high water quality1. Recently, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection awarded the upper Lehigh River basin, from the source in Wayne County to the River’s confluence with Tobyhanna Creek in Monroe County, Exceptional Value status. This gave over 219 steam miles the highest classification and level of protection provided by law2.
Many of the waters are also great trout fisheries, popular with both residents and visitors. The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission has recognized several streams for their wild brook trout habitat and two streams (Sand Spring Creek and Ash Creek) have been classified as Class A wild trout waters for brook trout.
Over 40% of the watershed is owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and managed as State Forest, Park or Game Lands. These include the Lackawanna State Forest, Gouldsboro State Park, Game Land 135, and portions of State Game Lands 91, 127 and 312.
In 1993, The Nature Conservancy named the Pocono Plateau and surrounding mountaintop ridges one of the world’s “Last Great Places.” The area, which includes the headwaters of the Lehigh River, harbors the highest concentration of globally rare plants, animals and habitats in Pennsylvania. This designation makes the Pocono Plateau 1 of less than 100 sites worldwide to receive such a distinction.
The land area that drains into the headwaters of the Lehigh River, known as its watershed, covers more than 90 square miles. It is located in 9 townships in 4 different counties. This includes parts of Clifton, Covington and Thornhurst townships in Lackawanna County, Coolbaugh and Tobyhanna townships in Monroe County, Lehigh and Sterling townships in Wayne County and Bear Creek and Buck townships in Luzerne County.