Life is resurging all throughout the Youghiogheny River watershed! Spring has sprung as evident by the sounds of birds chirping, squirrel frolicking, while plants and trees bloom. That can mean only one thing: The summer season is soon to be upon us. Another school year is wrapping up and people are beginning to plan their summer adventures. Is the Youghiogheny River one of your summer destinations in 2021?
Mountain Watershed Association (MWA) hopes so. The Youghiogheny River provides a variety of water contact recreational opportunities from fishing to paddling, swimming, and whitewater rafting just to name a few. But how do you know when it’s safe for water contact recreation? Throughout the swim season, designated as May 1 through September 30th in Pennsylvania, MWA conducts weekly monitoring of popular swimming holes in the Youghiogheny River watershed and post the results on their website and to theswimguide.org.
What are we monitoring? Bacteria and more specifically the presence or absence of E. coli. When concentrations of E. coli in the stream get to be above 126 colonies per 100 mL of water swimming is not recommended. E. coli infections can lead to gastrointestinal issues such as abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. It can also cause any open wounds to become infected.
On our website and on theswimguide.org we make it very easy for users to know if it conditions are okay for swimming. Green means go! Red means STOP or that swimming is not recommended. If you see gray then sampling at that particular site was not conducted that particular week for some reason. Obtaining information on the Swim Guide can be done by downloading the mobile app for apple or android phones through your phones app store and it is free to download. If you don’t have a smart phone, data can be accessed through the website www.theswimguide.org. The data is also available on MWA website at Swimmable Waters | Mountain Watershed Association (mtwatershed.com).
Both theswimguide.org and MWA’s website are updated weekly with the new sampling results. Samples are typically collected on Wednesday or Thursday so the new results can be posted on Friday just for the start of the weekend.
Another great feature on the Swim Guide is the ability to report a pollution event. If you are out enjoying the Youghiogheny and you see something that doesn’t seem right you can take a picture of it, describe the issue and submit a pollution report right through the app.
River users are the eyes and ears to what’s going on and the greatest ambassadors to the watershed. There are many ways for river users to report pollution. In addition to Swim Guide MWA uses another app called Water Reporter where anyone can report a pollution event. Using this app, you can add GPS coordinates, a photo and description of the issue. It can also be used to highlight positive things too like otter or hellbender sightings. Just like the Swim Guide its available for both apple and android on your phone store and there is a website (www.waterreporter.org). If technology isn’t your thing a phone call or email to the office with a description of the activity and location will also work.
Whether you are a seasoned veteran or a rookie we hope you get out to the Youghiogheny River to splash around and have some fun. The data we provide is to help you make the best educated decision for you and your family. We don’t manage any of these sites therefore we do not have the authority to close any sites. We just make recommendations based on the E. coli concentrations in the water. Remember swimming in the river is at your own risk!