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DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE: 
Names of Pennsylvania's Rivers and Creeks

Surely, one of the most musical names for in river in North America is the Susquehanna. Such a lilting name deserves a poetic meaning, and attempts have been made to interpret it as "the river of the winding shore" or "the great bay river." But its most likely derivation is "muddy river," from the Delaware wordssisku "mud," and hanne, "stream." 

A good many names of rivers and creeks in Pennsylvania come from its earliest settlers. The same Delaware word, hanne,  shows up, in altered form, in Lackawanna, "stream that forks," Moshannon, "moose stream," and even in Allegheny,"stream of the Alligewi people." 

The native American term for a river or creek often notes features which are still apparent. If you've been canoeing on the Conodoguinet Creek on the West Shore, you won't argue with its meaning--"for a long way nothing but bends." Codorus Creek in York County means "rapid water."

The meaning of Conestoga Creek in Lancaster County is uncertain, but it may mean "crooked stream." The creek gave its name to the town, which became famous for the large, broad-wheeled covered wagons built there--Conestoga wagons. If you can imagine a wagon driver puffing a rude cigar as he trudges along beside his team, you also get the derivation of "stogie," a shortened form of Conestoga. 

Europeans settlers often gave new names to the rivers and creeks they encountered. The Schuylkill River in Eastern Pennsylvania means "hidden stream," so named by Dutch explorers who passed by its mouth at first without seeing it. (The same root word is used in skulker, "someone who hides.")

In early pioneer days, a river in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania was called simply Stump Creek, or sometimes Toby's Creek. But when three road surveyors passed by its shores in 1817, they were impressed by the silvery, rippling note of its waters. So they renamed it the Clarion River, now in Clarion County. 

The Yellow Breeches, which flows into the Susquehanna, is probably not named after someone wearing an outrageous pair of trousers. More likely, it is a corruption of "Yellow Beeches," since many such trees may be found along its banks.
 
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  • DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE: Names of Pennsylvania's Rivers and Creeks 
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