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The three Pittsburgh rivers

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The three Pittsburgh rivers make the Port of Pittsburgh the second busiest inland port in the nation. Along with commercial shipping enterprises, you’ll also find plenty of passenger boating, and private boating, too. These three rivers use a system of 23 locks and dams to aid navigation of this otherwise broad, shallow convergence of rivers.

The Allegheny River and the Monongahela River join at the Point in downtown Pittsburgh, to form the Ohio River, providing a substantial network of river transportation for our entire region. Ever wonder what it costs to ship goods by barge? The average cost is $.97 per ton mile – a fraction of the cost of moving the same goods by truck or rail. When you add in all the raw goods shipped via the waterways of Pittsburgh annually, you’ll come to an average figure of about 41 million tons. Multiply that by the per ton mile cost, and you’ll begin to realize what an important source of revenue our Pittsburgh rivers are for us.

The Monongahela River:

The Monongahela River, with its murky, muddy waters, is the only Pittsburgh river that flows north. This river is referred to by locals as “The Mon” and has, along its banks, the remnants of many steels mills from Pittsburgh’s Steel City past.

The three Pittsburgh rivers

There is a famous local legend regarding the Mon – that there is an airplane resting somewhere along the bottom. It is said (and there are witnesses to this event) that in January of 1956 a B25 bomber ditched into the river leaving four survivors. The plane itself, however, supposedly still lies somewhere at the bottom of the river. Theories regarding the location of this elusive missing relic include the drifting of the craft downstream, the stealth-salvaging of the plane by the government, and the possibility that it lies embedded in many feet of silt, or has mostly dissolved due to poor water quality at the time of the accident.

Every once in a while, a team organizes another search of the area’s waters but, so far, with no luck. Perhaps the next search crews will finally uncover the famous Ghost Bomber of the Mon.

The Allegheny River:

This river begins in Raymond, PA and runs approximately 325 miles up into New York and down again into PA. From there the Allegheny joins with the Monongahela to form the Ohio River at the Point. From the north, the Allegheny travels through Pennsylvania’s only national forest, Allegheny National Forest, providing camping, fishing and boating opportunities.

This river has a long history of transporting coal from the north, down-river. Of course, that was long after the conflicts between Native Americans and settlers had been resolved and the Treaty of Paris had been put in place to help reestablish better Native American/Settler relationships.

Many of the islands near the Point on the Allegheny – Sixmile, Island, Ninemile Island, Twelvemile Island and Fourteenmile Island – are named to reflect their distance from the Point.

The Ohio River:

The Ohio is largely regarded as the natural extension of the Mason-Dixon line, continuing from the border of Pennsylvania and West Virginia and traveling west.

This Pittsburgh river was of major importance to Native Americans, serving as a source of transport from the Pittsburgh area, across and down to the southern-most tip of Illinois, and emptying into the Mississippi River. When you consider the territory covered by the south-flowing Allegheny, the north-flowing Monongahela and the southwestern flow of the Ohio, it’s easy to see how important the Pittsburgh region became in regards to travel from this area to the surrounding regions and beyond.