at The David L. Lawrence Convention Center

Exhibit: "Rivers of Life"
June 3, 2010

Southwestern Pennsylvania is a region of rivers. Our waterways have improved life and increased prosperity through their roles as industrial highways and recreational spots. The story of the rivers is our story, too. Conserving and improving these vital assets is critical to the region's future.

Dollar Bank wishes to thank all those who contributed to this project:

Full written transcript of this video provided below.

The names evoke an ancient land, a frontier: Allegheny. Monongahela. Ohio. Beaver. Youghiogheny.

The names are everyday magic, full of turns and syllables. Like old friends, some of them have acquired nicknames: The Mon, The Yough, The Kiski, The Connie.

Together, they spell water -- rivers and creeks, the life of our region. They are the original travelers, the first witnesses to the land, the first highways. They are history, and they are future.

Southwestern Pennsylvania is a region of rivers. From the beginning, they have been the vital ties binding our course, building our destiny. Everywhere we have been and are, from frontier outpost to industrial power to natural jewel, the rivers have taken us. Their story is our story.


The rivers of Southwestern Pennsylvania have always been working rivers.

For the Native Americans, they enabled trade and transport. They were fishing grounds, and travel guides.

Early European settlers took advantage of the abundance of timber near the rivers and established important boat-building centers.

In the early 1800s, the Beaver River supplied enough power to support five hundred mills. Beaver County’s waterways made it a transportation hub both north and south, from Erie to Pittsburgh, and east and west, from Pennsylvania to Ohio.

Pittsburgh’s South Side was the center of the glass industry in America in the early to mid 1800s. Sand, an important glass-making ingredient, was dredged from the river bottoms.

If any river deserves the title of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s working champ, it would be the Monongahela. Some of the world’s largest coal deposits are in the Mon’s back yard. Coal barges of epic size have been pushed up and down the Monongahela for nearly 200 years.

Out of this cradle, Southwestern Pennsylvania’s steel industry was born. Riverfront steel mills became a signature in many Pittsburgh communities. Pittsburgh’s rivers helped forge the steel that built a nation.

Today, the Port of Pittsburgh is the 2nd busiest inland port in the United States.

The region’s rivers are hard workers, and they aren’t done yet.


Flexing its muscles as an industrial giant for more than two centuries did not come without cost to the Pittsburgh region.

Air and water pollution from steelmaking and other industries, and the coal that residents used to heat their homes, produced substantial wounds on the natural landscape. Industrial waste and raw sewage were discharged directly into the rivers.

In the 1940s and 1950s, however, official attitudes towards the natural environment began to change. Mayor David L. Lawrence partnered with business leaders to push for clean air and smoke abatement.

Point State Park was built, reconnecting Pittsburgh’s residents with the three rivers at their confluence. One of the central features of the Park is the fountain, a reminder of the life-giving water that makes Pittsburgh possible.

Reviving our riverfronts as places to play, relax, and enjoy nature, has been a revival of our heritage.

Life here comes from the rivers. How fitting, then, to return that gift.


When it comes to fun and family time, people in Southwestern Pennsylvania head for the rivers. Fishing, boating, kayaking, jet-skiing, whitewater rafting, sightseeing and cruising -- our rivers are playgrounds and fields of adventure.

The region has plenty of waters for fishermen. You can find them angling for trout at Pine Creek, Laurel Hill Creek, the Youghiogheny River, and Slippery Rock Creek.

On a summer day in Downtown Pittsburgh, lunchtime is fishing time for TriAnglers, who gather at the foot of the Clemente Bridge hoping to reel in walleye and bass.

Fishing tournaments like the Bassmaster Classic and the Forrest Wood Cup have together drawn more than one hundred thousand fans, and fishermen from all over the United States.

Downtown Pittsburgh alone has more than 38 miles of shoreline that attracts kayakers, rowing teams, and the Three Rivers Regatta every summer.

Whitewater rafters who are feeling especially daring can find Class III and Class IV rapids at Ohiopyle State Park.

And for those who just like to look, the region’s riverfront trail system is an oasis. Riverfront tourists can enjoy a picnic, or strap on a pair of skates and take a glide, waterside.


Improving and preserving our rivers is vital to the region’s future.

Reducing storm water run-off, abandoned mine drainage and persistent toxins is an ongoing challenge. Local municipalities are mapping and repairing their sewer systems to reduce overflow.

Allegheny County has plans for a rooftop garden on the County Office Building to capture and channel rainwater, keeping run-off out of the wastewater system.

Toxin-absorbing sands are being engineered by local university researchers. Spreading these sands on river bottoms would help neutralize dangerous PCBs.

Responsible development of the region’s abundant energy sources, including Marcellus shale natural gas, has brought citizens and scientists, farmers and businessmen, into an ongoing discussion: how best to preserve the integrity of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s waterways.

We know where our rivers flow. They flow into the future -- a future that’s cleaner, brighter, better for all.