The Susquehanna

Rivers offer the perfect framework for a storyteller. They provide a beginning and an end with an obvious flow from one to the other. They neatly link people and events in history. They serve as paths of discovery and arteries of commerce. Not only can rivers be counted on for moments of great drama, but the also invariably attract their share of eccentric characters. So it is with the Susquehanna.

This then is the Susquehanna’s story. It also is the story of people who struggled mightily to transform the river into something nature never intended, often at a terrible price. Indeed, the history of the Susquehanna is one of repeated assaults–by humans and the river.

The early race to control the riches of the Susquehanna extracted a toll. Canal builders diverted water and erected obstacles that impeded those who once traveled the river freely. Waves of loggers and miners laid bare the hillsides and opened veins of coal. The river retaliated with rampaging floods, but ultimately descended into squalor, choked with filth from the towns and industries that grew along its banks.

Today’s problems appear more subtle, but nevertheless pose daunting challenges to the Susquehanna. Even such a seemingly benign neighbor as farming has inflicted serious harm. Experts are only beginning to understand the mysterious synergies that operate in the fragile ecosystem dominated by the Susquehanna.

One thing has become obvious, however. The focus of responsibility has shifted. No longer is it a simple matter of pointing to someone else and affixing blame. Rather, the mundane daily decisions made by all who live within its vast watershed will determine the future of this beautiful river.

Susan Stranahan
Susquehanna, River of Dreams
Used with permission


RiverStewards is comprised of two parts that work together to advance the protection and understanding of the Susquehanna River: RiverStewards Collaborative, which is the nonprofit arm and RiverStewards Benefit Corporation, which is the for-profit side that will generate profits to fund the work of the Collaborative. To learn more about the organization as a whole, click here.



RiverStewards Collaborative Initiatives

One Water Planning Process White Paper for Spring Creek Watershed – This white paper describes what the One Water concept entails, provides a case study of the process from the Spring Creek watershed in Centre County, Pennsylvania, and provides guidance on how other municipalities in Pennsylvania and beyond can use the experiences from Spring Creek to shape their own One Water planning process. Download white paper here.

River Economic Curation – This involves tracking the total economic return on investment of the Susquehanna River and providing that data and analyses to other interested parties to provide support for continued protection and restoration of the watershed and the greater Chesapeake Bay. Learn more here.

Data Repository – As much data as possible (from colleges, government agencies, nonprofits) on the health of the Susquehanna River and the plants and animals that call it home will be contained in a centralized, publicly-accessible database so that all stakeholders will have access to the same beneficial data resources. This will reduce duplication of effort, encourage collaboration, and identify data gaps that can then be filled. Learn more here.

Outreach & Engagement – RiverStewards will enhance what we know and appreciate about the Susquehanna River through a variety of education, research, and outreach efforts, such as:

RiverStewards Benefit Corporation Initiatives

Product Commercialization – This involves finding inventions created at higher education institutions that benefit water quality/quantity in some way, purchasing the intellectual property rights to them, and then scaling them up for sale in the public market.

Collaborative Process Management – This involves helping municipalities and other organizations make collective impact toward water quality/quantity challenges through facilitated charrette and other services. RiverStewards will provide consulting services to organizations wishing to work together to be more effective than they would be working alone.


RiverStewards' Blog

Click here for a list of the twenty most recent blog posts.

Susquehanna Stories – Millersville Students Kayak the River to Write about It

“Every time I take a class on this trip, one person falls in the river.” That was the line our […]

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In "The Restorers," the Susquehanna River Takes on a Life of its Own

Brook Lenker grew-up exploring Pennsylvania’s waters, and has spent his career educating, protecting, and advocating for the state’s natural resources. […]

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The One Water Planning Process Can Save Money While Improving Water Quality: A New RiverStewards White Paper Shows How

What is One Water? The One Water concept was developed by the Water Research Foundation – a nonprofit, educational organization […]

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Elizabethtown College Honors Students Work with RiverStewards to Promote River Towns Like Marietta

Photo above: Senior History and Anthropology double major and class TA (teaching assistant), Benjamin Erickson, shares his findings on the […]

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Schaeffer Says Cooperation is Essential for Conservation

This article is part 4 of a 4-part series on the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s current and most recently […]

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Schaeffer: Securing Financial Stability for the Commission Is Key

This article is part 3 of a 4-part series on the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s current and most recently […]

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Arway: Do Your Duty and Fear No One

An Interview with John Arway (Part 2) Today, the biggest threat is no longer the simpler point source discharges, but […]

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Arway: Conservation Is about Talking to and Working with Others

An Interview with John Arway (Part 1) “I often say there are only two seasons in Pennsylvania: hunting season and […]

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Bringing the Environment into Classrooms other than Biology Is Vital for Our Future

Photo above: Dr.Justin Mando instills his passion for the outdoors into his Environmental Advocacy Writing class at Millersville University – […]

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Susquehanna Heritage Drums Up Support for National Heritage Area Designation for the Susquehanna River

Photo Above: The Zimmerman Center is one of two locations Susquehanna Heritage operates along the river as centers for education and […]

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Making Data More Accessible to Enhance Protection of the Susquehanna

Photo above: John Quigley, Director of Harrisburg University’s Center for Environment, Energy and Economy discusses what a shared database might […]

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The Susquehanna Heartland Coalition and Geisinger Health System Make Medication Disposal Safer and Easier

In the past, someone with leftover medications had few choices for disposal. Flush it and harm water quality? Throw it […]

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Who We Are

RiverStewards is a consortium of educational institutions, private sector companies, non-profit organizations, communities, government agencies and individuals working to conserve one of our most significant ecological, economic and recreational resources in central Pennsylvania, the Susquehanna River.

What We Do

RiverStewards achieves its conservation goals by convening the institutional, scientific and economic resources necessary to solve specific problems that affect the health of the Susquehanna River. Our operating process is to identify a problem then bring together those who can be a part of the solution.

At the core of the RiverStewards concept is that no one sector can, on its own, solve the myriad challenges facing the River. It will take concerted, coordinated efforts by all that have a stake in the River to assure its future health.

To help educate individuals and organizations on the River and its contributions to ecological services, the economy, and recreational opportunities, RiverStewards has numerous initiatives, which can be found here.

RiverStewards’ intention is to gather input from subject matter experts on many topics. We will provide references so the reader can independently research further based on their interest level.

As a start, we recommend a great work by Susan Q. Stranahan, “Susquehanna, River of Dreams.”  This book was a catalyst for the founding of RiverStewards.

In doing our work, RiverStewards will follow the following principles:

  • Gain an understanding of functional natural systems through professional observations.
  • Apply science through empirical data collection and processing.
  • Draw conclusions based upon objective, verifiable data.

RiverStewards will use the social change model as an essential component of our business model, linking to our mission and vision. The social change model differentiates us as a social enterprise rather than a commercial business.


Mark Gutshall


Mark Gutshall is the Founder and Chair of the RiverStewards Benefit Corporation. He is a professional wetland scientist (PWS), a licensed Pennsylvania charter boat/fishing guide (permit #767) and founder and vice president of LandStudies, Inc. a recognized leader in the field of environmental restoration and land planning. He has more than 33 years’ professional experience in designing, permitting, and constructing ecological restoration projects in the mid‐Atlantic region. During that time, he also founded Octoraro Native Plant Nursery, a wholesale source of native woody plants (1990).


His diverse professional background emphasizes land stewardship and community‐based planning, which he has applied to numerous projects in watershed planning, open space planning, stream corridor restoration, flood reduction and stormwater management, habitat improvement, and wetland creation.

Mark researches and advocates pioneering land management techniques that are functional, cost effective, and environmentally beneficial. He has been a leading voice in the acceptance of “legacy sediments” along stream corridors as a major contributor of sediment and nutrient pollution in waterways throughout Pennsylvania.

Regional Approach

He also has been a groundbreaker in adopting regional or watershed‐wide natural resource management as an effective way to create partnerships among private, public, regulatory, non‐profit, and educational interests. Both he and LandStudies have earned accolades for his innovative approaches to natural resource management and land planning.

Professional Affiliations

A few of Mark’s appointments and professional affiliations include:

  • Pennsylvania Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force – Governor Appointee
  • Lancaster County Clean Water Consortium Steering Committee;
  • Friends of the Upper Delaware River (FUDR) Board Member;
  • Pennsylvania Natural Resource Leadership Institute (NRLI) Advisory Committee;
  • Lancaster County Water Week Advisory Committee

Mark is a featured speaker and author of numerous publications. One of his most recent publications is “Economic EcologyTM”.

Scott Weidner

Scott Weidner is the executive director of the RiverStewards Collaborative, the nonprofit arm of the RiverStewards initiative. Scott is also a senior fellow with the Social Enterprise Group.

Scott has academic and professional experiences that include the University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Millersville University’s Three-Mile Island environmental study, Hershey Medical Center Department of Physiology, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, and President and CEO of an international faith-based non-profit.


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