History of the Lackawanna River

Watch a brief historical video of the Lackawanna River featuring the LRCA's Executive Director, Bernie McGurl.

Video notes


- Mining industry moved in to this area in the 1820s

- Coal and iron mining became a major source of income

- Dramatic increase in settling and a boom in entrepreneurial mining operations.

- Excavating coal put bedrock of the Lackawanna River valley under immense stress

- Rock strata began cracking

- Lackawanna River and its tributary streams began leaking into the cracks and mines below.

- Mining operations utilized water pumps to release water from the mines


- Most mining companies were shut down by 1961

- Water pumps no longer operating.

- Water began filling the mines and rock strata cracks again

- Eventually, the amount of water in the ground below Scranton was twice the size of Lake Wallenpaupak

- This lead to water bursting from underground up into the city, causing a lot of property damage from broken pipes and flooded properties.

- The Commonwealth came up with a Bore Hole solution to relieve water pressure from underground

- 1960s was the collapse of the Coal Industry - leading to an increase in pollution and a depressed economy

Old Forge Bore Hole

- A Bore Hole was drilled into the ground at the Union St. bridge in Old Forge

- The Bore Hole is 107 feet deep, 42" in diameter

- Allows water to be released from underground back out into the River

- The gate control valve on the Bore Hole is not longer functional - This is problematic

- The Bore Hole now spews roughly 60.7 million gallons of Acid Mine Drainage PER DAY into the River

- This pollutes the River with Iron Oxide and other heavy minerals

- Iron Oxide interacts with oxygen in the Lackawanna River and turns into an orange colored sludge

- Iron Oxide makes the River uninhabitable for plants and aquatic animals in this part


The LRCA was created in 1987 by local citizens with the goal of cleaning up the River environment and inspiring individuals to become more connected to the River again. Learn more about us by clicking here.