THE BUSHKILL CREEK WATERSHED
The Bushkill Creek watershed encompasses 80 square miles of Northampton County, PA, stretching from Blue Mountain to the Delaware River in Easton, PA (not to be confused with the other Bushkill Creek of neighboring Monroe County). Most of the creek is classified as a HQ-CWF stream for High Quality Cold Water Fishery. BSC is currently working to upgrade portions of Sobers Run in Bushkill Township to EV (exception value) status. Groundwater recharge along the wooded slopes of Blue Mountain provides a critical source of high quality baseflow to the headwaters of the Creek in Bushkill, Plainfield, and Moore townships. Wetlands along the foot of the mountain also help to buffer these headwater streams from storm runoff while providing important wildlife habitat. Most of the upper half of the basin is located in shale and slate geology, and is dominated by woodlands, agriculture, and low-density residential development. The wooded areas generally follow the streams (mainstem, Sobers Run, Engler Run, and Little Bushkill Creek), forming "greenways" from Blue Mountain to Jacobsburg State Park. These riparian corridors absorb rainfall and runoff, keep the streams shaded and cool, and provide important habitat for flora and fauna. It is critical that these areas are not over-developed.
High quality riparian woodland along Little Bushkill Creek near the Plainfield Bike Path
The lower half of the basin has a decidedly different character, consisting of gently undulating hills underlain by carbonate geology (limestone and dolomite). The many carbonate springs help maintain cool water temperatures throughout the summer, providing an excellent brown trout fishery. Shoeneck Creek drains the western portion of the watershed from Nazareth, and a small, unnamed tributary follows Route 22 and joins the Bushkill in Easton. Agricultural areas in the lower watershed are experiencing rapid commercial and residential development, while the southernmost area of the watershed in and around Easton has been suburban/urban/industrial for over a century. Several large cement rock quarries are located near the center of the watershed in the Nazareth/Stockertown area, and numerous abandoned dams from former water-powered mills are present along the lowest 3 miles of the stream.
Enjoying a hot day near Penn Pump Park; The exquisite Wood Duck can occasionally be seen on the lower Bushkill
Public Access & Recreation
There are several areas of public access to the Bushkill Creek watershed:
Jacobsburg State Park and Environmental Education Center: near Belfast, the park has an extensive network of streamside and upland trails open to hiking, biking, and horseback riding
Plainfield Township Bike Path: former rail line that follows the Little Bushkill Creek Stockertown to Pen Argyl, with entry points off the Sullivan Trail in Stockertown, Gall Road in Belfast, and Route 191 at Edelman, among others
Palmer Rails-to-Trails: a former Conrail line along the mainstem, Edgewood Avenue to the Borough of Tatamy, with a side trail along the lower portion of Schoeneck Creek
Catch-and-Release Fishing Area: off Bushkill Drive, from Edgewood Avenue to the 13th Street bridge in Easton, much of it accessible from the Palmer Trail; parking available off the Forks township end of the Edgewood Avenue bridge
Bushkill Drive opposite Easton Cemetery: A future public access is planned for this site, given to the Conservancy by Lafayette College
The Appalachian Trail: along the crest of Blue Mountain in State Game Lands 168, the trail marks the northern boundary of the Bushkill Watershed. Access from Smith Gap Road, about a mile northwest of the stream's headwaters near Bender's Junction, and off Rt 33 at Wind Gap
Additional access points: Road rights-of-way provide access to the Bushkill at a number of locations, including Bushkill Drive in Forks Township, Tatamy Road near Bushkill Park in Palmer Township, and an abandoned section of Filetown Road near Belfast, among others. Penn Pump Park in Forks and Palmer is the site of an unsupervised "swimming hole" in hot weather; the area of Penn Pump downstream from the dam is popular with anglers. Metz Park in Tatamy Borough is located on the Bushkill. In the Borough of Stockertown the Little Bushkill Creek flows through Newhart Park.
Sobers Run, Jacobsburg State Park; Trail at Appalachian Park near the stream headwaters