For over 60 years, Wissahickon Trails has worked to engage diverse communities of people to protect, steward, and enjoy the land and waterways of the Wissahickon Valley. Our partnerships with neighbors, activists, and local governments are essential to our work. Together, we use preservation and scientific innovation to strengthen our local ecosystems.
We work in the Wissahickon watershed, the 64 square miles of land that drains into the Wissahickon Creek. We focus on the Montgomery County portion of the watershed. Our downstream partners, Friends of the Wissahickon, work in the Philadelphia portion of the watershed.
It is our responsibility as a land conservation organization to recognize the history of the land we steward and to acknowledge that it is the traditional and ancestral territory of the Lenape people. Our watershed name carries part of that history: the word “Wissahickon” is derived from the Lenape word “wisameckham” meaning “catfish stream.” (Source: Philly Mag) But it's not just in the past - as the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape say on their website, history is ongoing and they are a living culture. The Lenape are active in this region; to learn more and get involved, visit their websites: Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware, Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation, Delaware Tribe of Indians, and Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania.
On April 20, 1955, nine community members met to address flooding issues in the Wissahickon Valley. In 1957, these individuals formed the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association, now Wissahickon Trails. Our work began with the preservation of properties along the Wissahickon Creek to manage stormwater runoff. In the late 1960s, we started our public education program. In 1971, we began to develop public trails along the creek. The Green Ribbon Trail, now 12.6 miles long, first opened in 1977.
Imagine, for a moment, what the Wissahickon Creek might look like today if community members had not organized more than 60 years ago to protect it.
We work with individuals and communities to preserve open space. Together we’ve preserved nearly 1,300 acres and created over 24 miles of trails for public enjoyment. Our preserves are private property that we have made accessible and open to the public year-round.
Once land is preserved, we restore and manage habitats to care for local ecosystems. Our team works with dedicated volunteers to band and study dozens of species of birds, and monitor other species, like migrating monarch butterflies. By collecting data with community members, we are able to better protect local habitats.
Clean creeks and streams are essential for community health. Wissahickon Trails works on a local level, monitoring creek chemistry, biology, and habitats to understand water quality. We are part of the Wissahickon Clean Water Partnership, working with local municipalities to improve the health of the Wissahickon Creek. We are also part of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative, working towards a healthy Delaware River Basin with regional partners across four states.
The people of the Wissahickon Valley are at the heart of our work. They are essential partners in our efforts to protect and steward our local land and waterways. Through our Community Science program, we train dozens of community members each year to do scientific fieldwork alongside our staff. Community scientists monitor wildlife on our preserves to help ensure that our habitat improvement work is successful. Our Conservation Crew is made up of community members who help us care for our preserves and trails. Creek Watch volunteers monitor the Wissahickon Creek and its tributaries. Each year, we welcome over 2000 students to the watershed and the Evans-Mumbower Mill to participate in classes about wetlands, water quality, and water-powered mills. We also host hikes, birding programs, races, and community socials throughout the year so that our neighbors can spend time in nature and with each other. Through the generous support of our community, we are able to fund this work.
People need nature and nature needs people - people like you.