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, provide a case study of the process from the Spring Creek watershed in Centre County, Pennsylvania, and provide guidance on how other municipalities in Pennsylvania and beyond can use the experiences from Spring Creek to shape their own One Water planning process. While each One Water process is unique and should be tailored to the individual conditions, stakeholders, challenges, and opportunities within a given watershed, this is a great starting point for those new to the concept or those who have considered it in the past and are looking for a new reason to give it a try. Download white paper here.

River Economic Curation – This involves tracking the total economic benefits generated because 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.

Research & Education – 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. Because of the nature of this endeavor, we cannot go into too many specifics until the products are patented, but generally these inventions will benefit farmers, municipalities dealing with stormwater issues, and others trying to restore river and stream systems.

Investment Funding Advisory Services – Through our partnership with the Social Enterprise Institute @ Elizabethtown College (SEI), this involves helping organizations find funding for solutions to their water quality/quantity challenges through family foundation support, revenue participation notes, and other investment strategies.

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. Examples include:



To help educate individuals, companies and organizations on the River and its contribution to ecological services, the economy and recreational opportunities, RiverStewards conducts custom guided tours of various parts of the river and tributaries.

These tours are led by RiverStewards’ founder Mark Gutshall, a Pennsylvania licensed river guide and professional wetland scientist (PWS). Tour itineraries are developed based upon client interests, be they the river’s ecological systems, the river’s economic contributions or simply a morning of fly or spin-reel fishing.

RiverStewards specializes in acquainting those unfamiliar with the river with its opportunities for learning and recreation. For example:

  • Student’s studying environmental sciences,
  • Companies interested in learning about sustainable development,
  • Organizations desiring to learn more about river health and connected ecological systems

These are but a few of the groups which could benefit from a custom RiverStewards tour.

Tours will be conducted by 18′ jet boat, kayaks and/or wading depending on the interests and preferences of the clients.






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.

In addition, RiverStewards’ founder and licensed river guide Mark Gutshall conducts custom guided tours of various parts of the River. These tours are led by RiverStewards’ founder Mark Gutshall, a licensed river guide. Tour itineraries are developed based upon client interests, be they the River’s ecological systems, the River’s economic contributions or simply a morning of fly or spin-reel fishing.Learn More

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. To learn about the components of the social change model, click here.

To download an overview of RiverStewards’ mission, click here.

RiverStewards is composed of two separate organizations that work in concert with one another – RiverStewards Collaborative, a non-profit, and RiverStewards Benefit Corporation, which funds the work of the non-profit. To learn more about these two entities, click here.

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”.

Jessica Aiello

Scott Weidner is the executive director of the RiverStewards Collaborative, the nonprofit arm of the RiverStewards initiative.


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