How Deep Is Philly’s Schuylkill River?

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: August 6, 2023
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Key Points:

  • The Schuylkill River is a 135-mile-long body of water that flows entirely through Pennsylvania and empties into the Delaware River.
  • Multiple cities sit along the banks of the Schuylkill River including Pottstown, Phoenixville, Reading, and the state capital of Philadelphia.
  • The depth of the river averages 10 feet, with at maximum depth of 31 feet at Gray’s Ferry Avenue in Philly.

Although the Delaware River is arguably the most famous river in Pennsylvania, it is certainly not the only one that flows in the state. The Schuylkill River, despite its atrocious spelling, is an important river that flows directly through Philadelphia. So, how deep is Philly’s Schuylkill River and what makes this river significant in the region? Discover how deep the river is, where it flows, how to find it on a map, and more.

Where Does the Schuylkill River Start and End?

Dam on the Schuylkill River, seen from Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Schuylkill River runs through Philadelphia.

©ESB Professional/Shutterstock.com

The Schuylkill River is a 135-mile-long body of water. The entire river flows in Pennsylvania. The river has two major sources, the East and West Branch Schuylkill River. These rivers join at Schuylkill Haven in Schuylkill County and become a river that thousands of people cross and mispronounce every day. The river has several other tributaries along its flow.

The river flows generally southeast through several counties and cities before reaching its mouth, the Delaware River. The body of water is more than an obstacle for vehicular traffic, though. The Schuylkill River provides drinking water for about 1.5 million people in the area. Many towns and cities also thrive along the river’s banks, making use of the water. Some of the cities built along the river include:

  • Pottstown,
  • Phoenixville
  • Reading
  • Philadelphia

Although the drinking water for over a million people comes from the river, it is not known for being a recreational paradise. Instead, the river has ongoing problems with pollution in parts. Also, many areas of the river are too dangerous for swimming and boating. People often go fishing in the waters, but it’s recommended that they only eat fish from the river once a month due to the pollutants in them.

How Deep is Philly’s Schuylkill River?

The Philadelphia skyline and Schuylkill River at night, seen from the South Street Bridge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Schuylkill River is deepest in the City of Brotherly Love.

©ESB Professional/Shutterstock.com

Philly’s Schuylkill River is 31 feet deep, and it reaches that depth just upriver of Gray’s Ferry Avenue in Philadelphia. The river is not very deep for most of its run. The water is usually 10 feet deep or less when traveling upriver of the Pennsylvania Turnpike crossing. However, a few places within Philadelphia are a bit deeper because of dredging projects in the area.

Most recently, the federal government provided $13 million for a dredging operation in the river. The project’s goal is to help improve navigability through the river. As a result, some river channels could be over 30 feet throughout a long stretch of the river, between Passyunk Avenue Bridge and University Avenue Bridge.

Still, the majority of the river continues to be rather shallow.

Where is the Schuylkill River on a Map?

The Schuylkill River is located in the southeastern part of Pennsylvania. Finding the river on a map is as easy as finding Philadelphia. The Schuylkill River flows into the city from the northwest. The river passes many famous landmarks along its run.

As the river enters the city, it flows past the Philadelphia Zoo as well as the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Market Street Bridge crosses the water not long after, and the Philadelphia City Hall is less than a mile directly east along that roadway.

From there, the river runs through South Philadelphia, passing the local sports stadiums to the west before running out into the Delaware River. This river is hard to miss on any map!

What Lives in the River?

A young girl holding the fish she caught, bluegill

Bluegill fish are in various parts of the river.

©iStock.com/woogies1

The Schuylkill River has had problems with pollution in the past. However, the water is getting better all the time. As a result, increased numbers of fish, reptiles, and amphibians are starting to thrive in the water. Currently, 40 species of fish live in the water, including:

  • Channel catfish
  • Bluegill
  • Shiners
  • Perch
  • Carp
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Flathead catfish
  • Striped bass

These are just a few of the fish that live in this river. Anglers fish up and down the river. Sometimes, they go way outside of Philadelphia to catch them. Other times, they fish right off of local bridges or from their kayaks.

Fish are not the only creatures that live in this area. The area is known to have many different species of snakes living along its banks. Some of the snakes that a person can see while traveling the length of the river include:

  • Garter snakes
  • Timber rattlesnakes
  • Eastern rat snakes
  • Northern copperheads
  • Eastern hog-nosed snakes

People hiking in this region will want to pay extra attention to the northern copperhead as well as the timber rattlesnake. Both snakes are venomous and can deliver fatal bites to humans.

It is not all fish and snakes along the riverbanks, though. A whole assortment of reptiles and amphibians live along the river as well, such as:

The Schuylkill River supports a vast number of animals along its course.

How to Pronounce Schuylkill River

The way to pronounce Schuylkill River is so that it sounds like [SKOO-kill], but locals have a habit of calling it the [SKOO-kull] like they’re saying “Skookle”. The river’s name sounds nothing like the spelling suggests. However, nothing makes native Philadelphians chuckle harder than someone pronouncing the river [SHOYL-kill].

All in all, Philly’s Schuylkill River is about 31 feet deep at its maximum depth. However, dredging projects on the river could increase the water’s depth. This river is neither the longest nor deepest in the state. Nevertheless, it is an important tributary of the Delaware River and a vital body of water in the state. The waters from this river support vast numbers of people throughout the region. Not only does the Schuylkill River provide drinking water, but it contributes to the economy in the area.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Scenic Corner/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

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