A greenway is a corridor of open space.  Greenways vary greatly in scale, from narrow ribbons of green that run through urban, suburban and rural areas to wide corridors that incorporate diverse natural, cultural and scenic features.  Greenways can be land-based or water-based, running along stream corridors, shorelines or wetlands.  Some follow old railways, canals, ridge-tops or other features.  They can incorporate both public and private property.  Some greenways are primarily recreational corridors, while others function almost exclusively for environmental protection.  Greenways differ in their location and function, but overall, a greenway network will protect natural, cultural and scenic resources, provide recreational benefits, enhance the natural beauty and the quality of life in neighborhoods and communities and stimulate economic development opportunities (Ramey, 1995 & the Pennsylvania Greenways Partnership, 1998).

The undeveloped meadows and woodlands of the Chartiers Valley are a precious commodity.  Wildlife abounds in these undisturbed natural areas, forming a greenway along Chartiers Creek and the numerous, smaller tributary streams that flow into it.  Broad sycamores line the creek banks while stately old oak, maple, ash and cherry blanket the steep slopes.  What a treasure for local residents to discover this hidden natural resource nestled in the urban Pittsburgh area. Many surrounding southwestern Pennsylvania communities have declared their support for the greenway idea.  By designating it as a Greenway, we can preserve our Chartiers Valley so that people of all ages can enjoy its beauty and wildlife forever. Right in our own backyard. 

Behold the natural, unspoiled beauty of Chartiers Creek right in the heart of urban Pittsburgh

The Chartiers Greenway could become the centerpiece of the entire Chartiers Watershed, connecting over 184,919 urban residents in the lower watershed and 77,122 rural residents in the upper watershed with recreational outdoor activities.  Boating, hiking, bird-watching, picnics & camping are all within easy access.

An important wildlife corridor, it would provide 29 urban communities in the lower watershed and 19 rural municipalities in the upper watershed with a continuous natural green and blue recreational thread.   . . 

The benefits of greenways have been well known and documented.  These benefits can be thought of as functions. The functions help to attract people and businesses to an area because it is an attractive place to live and work.  The natural functions of a greenway can also assist in reducing community infrastructure expenditures, thus reducing maintenance to facilities.  As a result, greenways also improve the economic conditions in an area that has an established greenway.

  • Economic functions of greenways

real property values
expenditures by residents
corporate relocation
public cost reduction
intrinsic value

  • Natural functions of greenways


These functions help to maintain the environmental health of an area by creating habitat for organisms, travel corridors for wildlife, barriers that prevent migration, filters that purify water quality, sources of purified water and food for organisms and sinks to trap sediments, nutrients and toxins.  Greenways, like the Chartiers, which are associated with stream corridors, help to connect fragmented habitats and reduce flood water impacts.


The term watershed describes an area of land that drains downslope to the lowest point. Water moves through a network of drainage pathways, both underground and on the surface. These pathways converge into streams and rivers, which become progressively larger as the water moves on downstream, eventually reaching the ocean. Other terms used interchangeably with watershed include drainage basin or catchment basin.

Upper & Lower portions of the Chartiers Watershed as outlined in orange.  Red line is division between Washington & Allegheny counties.  Downtown Pittsburgh is at the top right corner of the map.

The Chartiers Watershed is the total area that is drained by the network of tributaries that feed the main channel of Chartiers Creek.  Located in southwestern Pennsylvania, Chartiers Creek flows north through Washington and Allegheny Counties, discharging into the Ohio River at McKees Rocks, three miles downstream from Pittsburgh, PA.  Chartiers Creek runs for a length of 52.4 miles, draining a watershed area of  277 square miles . 

We are all familiar with squirrels, rabbits, raccoons and groundhogs but take a walk through the urban, suburban and rural forest and you might just see turkey, pheasant, opossum, ruffed grouse, deer, fox, blue heron, green heron, beavers, muskrats, kingfishers, bats, osprey, red tail hawks, geese, ducks, woodpeckers and owls. They live here, too.

The Lower Chartiers Watershed encompasses the area downstream of the confluence of Little Chartiers Creek and Chartiers Creek. This urban portion of the watershed is approximately 139 square miles in size, flowing through heavily developed Allegheny County.

The lower watershed is heavily impacted by urban runoff, abandoned mine drainage, sewage and development.  This makes it all the more critical to preserve the undeveloped natural floodplain greenway of the main channel of Chartiers Creek and the steep slopes leading down to it.  The creek's tributaries also need to be protected to improve water quality in the Chartiers Watershed. 

The Upper Chartiers Watershed contains 282 stream miles and encompasses  88,886 acres in the central and north-central portion of rural Washington County. Flowing thru a scenic area dominated by farms and forest (green), Chartiers Creek meanders 38.5 miles from the headwaters to the confluence with Little Chartiers Creek.   Canonsburg and Washington are the main municipalities (red) but this area is under development pressure, so preservation through green municipal ordinances is important now. 


Lower Chartiers Creek watershed.  Digital elevation model overlays the Pittsburgh area as seen by the LandSat 5 Thematic Mapper (TM)

Upper Chartiers Watershed.  Land Use map shows dark green forest, light green farmland, red high density residential and pink low density residential areas.


Planning is key to unlock the Lower Chartiers Watershed's potential

Unlocks the Chartiers Watershed's potential by identifying issues that impact watershed health and opportunities that promote recreational enjoyment.  

The Chartiers Creek watershed has been impacted for many years because its most valuable natural resource, the Pittsburgh coal seam, has been mined since 1760..Employment created by the mining industry was one of the main reasons people settled in the Chartiers Creek valley. 

More recently, sprawl created by the suburbanization of former farmland and forest has posed new threats of flooding and landslides.. Yet, recreational enjoyment in the preservation of nature can be found along the steeply wooded hillsides, riparian corridors and streams. 

Track the progress on solving problems and exploring opportunities in the Rivers Conservation Plans for the Lower and Upper Chartiers Watershed. Click on the links at left for a summary of the plan's goals, land use in the Chartiers Watershed, and an outline of the watershed's biological, cultural and  water resources.