100 Best: Lackawanna River

Location: Northeastern Pennsylvania
Type of stream: Freestone
Angling methods: All tackle
Species: Brown, Brook
Access: Moderate
Season: Year-round
Supporting Services: Scranton 
Short take: Ugly urban river with great wild browns
Handicapped Access: Limited
Closest TU Chapter: Lackawanna Valley
You gotta be kidding! That was my reaction when I learned that the Lackawanna River had made the rankings as one of TU’s 100 Best. How could it be? This is hard core Pennsylvania rust belt, a land of anthracite coal mines, derelict mills, abandoned rail lines, failed strip malls, and urban blight. Sure, the run of river between Forest City and Simpson is fairly bucolic, but on the surface, charming the rest of it ain’t. 
Rivers have a way of healing themselves with a little help from their friends, in this case the Lackawanna River Corridor Association and, beginning in 2008, the Lackawanna Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Though some of the 39.5 miles of trout water are floored with silt, scores of runs—particularly between Carbondale and Olyphant—contain spawning gravel. 
That’s the run where you’re most likely to encounter wild brown trout. You read me right. Wild trout, just like you’d find on the West Branch of the Delaware. And they’re of similar size. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has declared a 10 mile stretch of the river from Archibald to down town Scranton as catch and release trophy trout water. 


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