River Guide: Charting the location of the Conestoga’s headwaters

“Sic Parvis Magna.”
Translation: “Greatness From Small Beginnings.”

Headwaters of the Conestoga

It might not look like much but the outflow from this humble pond is the Conestoga’s headwaters. Water from here will travel 64 miles before reaching Safe Harbor, where it empties into the Susquehanna.

Here’s the rub. This pond is not the commonly held starting point for the Conestoga. In 2017, LNP Staff Writer Ad Crable along with two longtime farmers and amateur historians from Caernarvon Township, Paul Brubacher and Frank Weaver Jr., set out to find the Conestoga’s mysterious source. You can read about that expedition here.

Crable believed that the water emerging from beneath the boulder pictured above was water’s source. The map below has the boulder’s exact spot marked inside State Game Lands 52.

However, local Conestoga River expert Benton Webber wasn’t convinced after visiting the boulder himself. Webber’s visit was in March as opposed to Crable’s June visit. With considerably less vegetation to obscure his view, Webber found water flowing to the boulder. He followed it as far as he could until private property signs blocked his path.

After referencing Google Maps, it became Webber’s belief that the water was coming from a pair of ponds, slightly across the county line in Berks County northwest of the boulder. See the map below. Webber wrote about his visit to the boulder and his finding on this website. Click here to read the full account.

That brings us to yesterday. Webber, along with myself, Don Kautz, and Sheldon Esch, rolled the dice that the property owner would not only be home but also permit us to explore the property. We lucked out on both!

Here’s one of the two ponds that form the headwaters of the Conestoga.

After inspection, the river experts on hand believed that the ponds were likely the Conestoga’s headwaters. It appeared that at some point these ponds were once marshy springs and the land around them built up to collect the water.

It’s not every day that you get to participate in what feels like a true discovery in our modern world. What an amazing way to finish the year!

The Conestoga as it starts its 64-mile journey to Safe Harbor. It is so small I could step over the water without breaking my stride.

Please note that the pond is on private property, and we secured permission before visiting. You would be unable to get any close than the boundaries of the State Game Lands 52 that border the property.


6 thoughts on “River Guide: Charting the location of the Conestoga’s headwaters

  1. You have traced only the one branch of the Conestoga. On Mill road just south of Morgantown the river divides with one branch flowing from the west end of Morgantown to where you were at. You did not however follow the east branch which flows under 23 to the east side of Morgantown then past Morgan Corp and eventually to the swamp just west and north of Elverson – in Chester county. A third branch flows east and can be traced to springs in the valley below TVHS. You did not read the 2nd article Ad Crable wrote when several of us showed him these branches and teh springs and swamp. Would be glad to show you also.

  2. Unfortunately you made the same mistake that Ad did in his original article. Near Mill road just south of Morgantown the Conestoga divides into an east and west branch. You followed only the west branch to its origin. The east branch flows under route 23 in Morgantown, past Morgan Corp and continues east to a swamp just west and north of Elverson in Chester County. A 3rd branch flows under mill road and east through the Conestoga Valley to several springs south of route 23 and west of Elverson. If you would like to see these spots, let me know, I and others would be glad to show you. This was all shown in Ad’s 2nd article.

  3. Take 10 south over mountains just a mile north of Honey Brook you have the headwaters of the W. Branch of Brandywine. Make a right on Reservoir Road. Its origins appear to be from a spring. E. Branch of Brandywine originates up 282 on Conestoga Road. However, like Ronald illustrates there are so many small tributaries feeding into these larger waterways that it would be inaccurate to say that a specific one is the source. That stretch on each side of the Welsh Mountains from Elverson to New Holland must hold a lot of ground water. I recall as a child that we would stop at the many roadside springs along 10 and 82. All but one, the one on 897, that I know of have been closed down.

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