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Protecting the Headwaters of the Lehigh River

Popular Waterways Flow Through One of the World's Last Great Places

The headwaters of the Lehigh River and all lakes and streams that feed it are considered special protection waters because of their high water quality. 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 stream miles the highest classification and level of protection provided by law.

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 one of fewer 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 nine townships in four 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.