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Water, water everywhere

On my third day of walking west to east across Susquehanna County toward the town of Dimock, known for early gas drilling and a case of 18 water wells contaminated by it, in 2009, I followed a gravel road downhill into a hollow. There, on the left, a wide creek flowed through the forest.

The presence of that particular creek is notable to make a broader point: This wooded terrain at the northern edge of Pennsylvania is among the wettest I have ever seen. (One more wet, perhaps: The Amazon, upstream of Manaus.) In the Endless Mountains of Susquehanna County, water defines the landscape. Springs lead to marshes to creeks to rivers. Nearly every cleared farm seems to have, somewhere in a field, a pond, once for cattle to drink, now for sitting next to on a summer evening.

A recently built tank holds 15 million gallons of fresh water that will be used to frack gas wells near Little Meadows, Pennsylvania

People have been noticing for a long time the defining impact that water has in this landscape. As one example, some excerpts from “History of Susquehanna County,” written by Emily Blackman and published in 1873:

• ‘Little Meadows, a locality so named to distinguish it from the marsh mentioned above [Big Meadows], is two and a half miles lower on the Apolacon Creek, across which, at this point, the beavers once built a dam…’

• Apolacon Township: ‘It took its name from the creek which is the principal drain of the township. Bear Swamp, not far from the head of the creek, is one of several marshes, almost amounting to lakes, within the boundaries of Apolacon.’

A pond near Meshoppen Creek
• ‘With the exception of the outlet of Elk Lake and near tributaries, (Dimock) township is wholly drained by the Meshoppen, or Mawshapi, in Indian language, signifying cord or reed stream.’

• A cabin built in Dimock in 1802 ‘stood in a beautiful valley, nearly surrounded by hills, beside a brook of pure water which ran through, and gave name to the valley…’

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