"To know the wilderness is to know a profound humility, to recognize one's littleness, to sense dependence and interdependence, indebtedness and responsibility."
- Howard Zahniser, February 25, 1906 - May 5, 1964.
Howard Zahniser, who wrote the text of the precedent-setting Wilderness Act of 1964, was a native of Tionesta. Zahniser would be proud to know that some of the very same islands he camped and picnicked on in the Allegheny River are now included in this Wilderness Preservation System, now known as the Allegheny Islands Wilderness.
About the River
The upper Allegheny River begins as a spring in a farmer’s field in northern
Pennsylvania’s PotterCounty, near Coudersport. The river loops north into
New York state, eventually returning to Pennsylvania via the Allegheny
Reservoir. The Allegheny Wild & Scenic River Water Trail is 107 river miles
long, starting at Kinzua Dam above Warren and ending at the community of
Emlenton. Over 300 miles from its beginning, at Pittsburgh’s Point State
Park the Allegheny River joins the Monongahela River forming the Ohio
Congress passed this landmark legislation on Oct. 2, 1968, to preserve selected rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations.
Of the approximately 3.6 million miles of streams in the U.S., less than one-quarter of one percent – 12,734 miles – are protected by the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. These miles include some of the most primitive and breathtaking landscapes in North America. The names of the streams, many of Native American and pioneer origin, roll off the tongue.
The Wild & Scenic Rivers Act safeguards the free-flowing character of rivers by precluding them from being dammed, while allowing for the public to enjoy them. It encourages river management that crosses political boundaries, and promotes public participation to develop goals for protecting streams. www.wildandscenicrivers50.us.
The Allegheny: A National Wild and Scenic River
In 1992, Congress designated three sections of the Allegheny, totaling 86.6 miles, as part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers System. This exclusive list of rivers was established to recognize outstanding examples of the nation’s free-flowing rivers and to raise public awareness of how important and fragile America’s river resources are. The Allegheny was given a “recreational” classification under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to reflect the relatively high level of accessibility and development compared to other rivers in the Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Despite the recreational status, this part of the Allegheny is still considered a primitive river.
Allegheny Islands Wilderness
In 1964, the Wilderness Act established a wilderness preservation system for the nation. Since the signing of this Act, over 105 million acres nationally have been added to the system: four percent of the entire U.S. land area. In 1984, Congress designated seven National Forest islands between Buckaloons and Tionesta as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, with the goal of preserving vestiges of unique riverine forests. The islands are mostly vegetated with sycamore, silver maple, shagbark hickory, and green ash trees.
The Allegheny River Islands Wilderness, totaling 368 acres, is one of the smallest components of the Wilderness System in the United States. The USDA Forest Service in the Allegheny National Forest is the federal agency responsible for managing both the Wild and Scenic River and the Wilderness Islands. Motorized equipment and transports are not permitted in Wilderness areas; a “drift on, drift off” method of access is suggested for power boats. Camping, hiking, fishing, and nature-watching are permitted on the islands.
“Leave No Trace” minimum impact techniques should be used when visiting these islands.