How Deep Is the Susquehanna River?

Written by Jaydee Williams
Updated: July 21, 2023
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At 444 miles long, the Susquehanna River is the longest river on the East Coast of the United States. How deep is it? At its deepest point in Marietta, PA, the river is 33.41 feet deep. It flows through the states of New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. The river has a rich history that has seen it become important in wars and for trade purposes.

Susquehanna River Is the largest tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, providing 50 percent of its freshwater flows

Where Did the Susquehanna River Get Its Name?

There are a few different stories about how the Susquehanna River got its name. The name came from the Algonquian language, and there are a few translations because of different dialects. One translation of Susquehanna gives it the meaning “Muddy River.” It may also mean “Oyster River” or “the stream that falls toward the south.” The Len’api people lived on and around the Susquehanna River. They used the river as a water source and ate the oysters that they collected from beds in the river.

Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge on US Route 40 spanning the Susquehanna River between Havre de Grace and Perryville in Maryland was opened in 1940

There are a few different meanings for the name of the Susquehanna River.

©Rosemarie Mosteller/

History of the Susquehanna River

The Susquehanna is one of the oldest rivers in the world. It was formed three hundred million years ago during the Carboniferous Period. At this time in history, covered the world over were forests that became peat, which eventually became coal. In fact, there is still coal in parts of the Susquehanna River.

In 1608, Captain John Smith explored the Susquehanna and met some of the local people who lived beside it. English adventurer Edward Palmer created in 1622 a post on an island at the mouth of the river. He hoped that the post would become a place for trading with the Native American people. However, Lord Baltimore took over the island in 1637. It eventually became a part of Maryland when settlers founded it, becoming today’s city of Havre de Grace.

The river helped with commerce and the growth of an economy when America was just getting started. In the 1800s, many lumber rafts used the river for travel. This helped communities to make money and grow through trade and sales that the river made easy. It also led to some disagreements over which counties could use the river for different purposes. One big spat that occurred over the river was between the cities of Williamsport and Lock Haven. Williamsport got a court-ordered injunction against Lock Haven. The order stated that Lock Haven could only use the south side of the river for transporting lumber. Eventually, attornies for Lock Haven were able to overturn the order in court after over a decade of fighting it.

Aerial sunset panorama of Havre De Grace Harford County, Maryland, and the railroad bridge over the mouth of the Susquehanna River and the head of Chesapeake Bay one of the best American small towns

An aerial view of today’s city of Havre de Grace.


Susquehanna State Park

At the Maryland stretch of the Susquehanna, conservationists acquired land for the Susquehanna State Park in the 1960s. It has now grown into a 2,753-acre park with tons of walking trails and historical buildings. The buildings are all restored, and they’re open to the public for viewing.

Rock Run Grist Mill

John Stump, a businessman who owned multiple mills in the area, built Rock Run Grist Mill in 1794. It is a three-story building of stone, the operation of which was to grind grain and sell flour to the market. Since its restoration, the mill has been fully operational, and it operates a few times a year. The park gives demonstrations of the mill on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day to Labor Day from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. During the demonstration, visitors can watch as corn is ground into a meal. The meal is then bagged and given away for free.

Carter-Archer House

Also known as the Rock Run Mansion, the Carter-Archer House is a 14-room stone building. John Carter, a partner of John Stump’s, built the house in 1804. Many of the rooms in the house have been restored and furnished with items from the era when it was built. There is also a large barn outside of the house that houses early farm equipment. 

Ecology of the Susquehanna River

The river has a vast population of fish species that live in it. The most popular species are smallmouth bass and muskies. There are also mussels and eastern oysters along the floor of the river. 

One draw that brings tourists to the river is the many populations of elk that live on its banks. Kayaking or paddleboarding along the river is a great way to see these animals up close without scaring them. You can also spot gulls, swallows, and other birds that migrate along the path of the river. Because the river flows in a north-to-south pattern, many species use it for navigation during migration. One other beautiful species that follows the river is butterflies. Because the river is such an ancient water source, many species have traveled along it during migration for many centuries. 

Smallmouth Bass

The river has a steady population of smallmouth bass.

©K Steve Cope/

What to Do on the Susquehanna River

In 2003, Pennsylvania created a program called the Pennsylvania Wilds to bring tourism to the state. The Susquehanna River is a highlight as one of the best attractions in the state, and Pennsylvania Wilds promotes it heavily. This is because there are so many things to see and do on the river and lots of history to view. Tourists can see lumber rafting sites and other historical areas while traveling down the river.

If you’re wondering if it’s safe to swim in the Susquehanna River, it is pretty safe. However, the river is full of silt and isn’t very clean, so most swimmers do not choose to swim there. If you do swim in the Susquehanna, it’s advisable to swim in the West Branch of the river. In recent years, the river has had issues with pollution and contamination by E. Coli bacteria. If you are looking to go swimming in the river, it’s best to research the area you’ll be swimming.

Though the Susquehanna River isn’t the most popular choice for swimming, it’s great for fishing. This is mainly because of its large population of smallmouth bass. There are also walleye, catfish, panfish, musky, pike, pickerel, American shad, and many more fish that can be found in the river. The river is best fished around sunrise or sunset, but smallmouth bass will bite at any time of the day. Anglers use live bait like minnows or artificial bait like worms or crayfish imitations. Some anglers also use fly rods for fishing the river. 

Pennsylvania Route 487

Swimming, fishing, and sightseeing are all popular activities to do on the river.

©Jakec/ CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

Kayaking, Picnicking, Hiking, and More

Besides swimming and fishing, there are a few other activities to do on the Susquehanna. The Harrisburg, PA, riverboat, the Pride of the Susquehanna, offers daily tours of the river. It goes around the island of Harrisburg and along the banks of the river. The cruise also has live music, cocktails, and meals for tourists to enjoy. Visitors can have their weddings or other private events on the riverboat. The boat is only available during the warmer months and is off the water from November through April. This protects it from the icy winter waters of the river.

If you’re looking for a more private adventure, consider kayaking on the Susquehanna. There are many different access points along the river to put in a kayak. You can also fish out of the kayak or stop along the bank for a picnic.

Where Is the Susquehanna River Located on a Map?

The Susquehanna River flows through New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Throughout the three states, it’s 444 miles long. The Susquehanna State Park is in Maryland and is located along the river. Its location on a map is featured below.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Jayce Wyatt Photography/

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About the Author

Jaydee Williams is a writer at AZ Animals where her primary focus is on gardening, mammals, and travel. She has over 5 years of experience in writing and researching and holds a Master's Degree in English from the American College of Education, which she earned in 2019. A central Florida native, Jaydee loves being on the water, playing music, and petting her cat, Beans.

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