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Monongahela River

Monongahela River

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The Monongahela River (icon; also known locally as the Mon ˈ) is a 130 miles (209.2 km) river
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

 on the Allegheny Plateau
Allegheny Plateau
The Allegheny Plateau is a large dissected plateau area in western and central New York, northern and western Pennsylvania, northern and western West Virginia, and eastern Ohio...

 in north-central
North-Central West Virginia
North-Central West Virginia is a region of the U.S. State of West Virginia. The region's largest city is Morgantown.- Counties :*Monongalia County*Marion County*Harrison County*Taylor County*Doddridge County...

 West Virginia
West Virginia
West Virginia is a state in the Appalachian and Southeastern regions of the United States, bordered by Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, Ohio to the northwest, Pennsylvania to the northeast and Maryland to the east...

 and southwestern
Western Pennsylvania
Western Pennsylvania consists of the western third of the state of Pennsylvania in the United States. Pittsburgh is the largest city in the region, with a metropolitan area population of about 2.4 million people, and serves as its economic and cultural center. Erie, Altoona, and Johnstown are its...

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

 in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. The Monongahela joins with the Allegheny River
Allegheny River
The Allegheny River is a principal tributary of the Ohio River; it is located in the Eastern United States. The Allegheny River joins with the Monongahela River to form the Ohio River at the "Point" of Point State Park in Downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania...

 to form the Ohio River
Ohio River
The Ohio River is the largest tributary, by volume, of the Mississippi River. At the confluence, the Ohio is even bigger than the Mississippi and, thus, is hydrologically the main stream of the whole river system, including the Allegheny River further upstream...

 at Pittsburgh.


The word Monongalia is a Latinized version of the Native American word Monongahela, which means "falling banks", in reference to the geological instability of the river's banks. Moravian missionary David Zeisberger
David Zeisberger
David Zeisberger was a Moravian clergyman and missionary among the Native Americans in the Thirteen Colonies...

 gave this account of the naming: "In the Indian tongue
Lenape language
The Delaware languages, also known as the Lenape languages, are Munsee and Unami, two closely related languages of the Eastern Algonquian subgroup of the Algonquian language family...

 the name of this river was Mechmenawungihilla (alternatively spelled Menawngihella), which signifies a high bank, which is ever washed out and therefore collapses."

The Lenape Language Project renders the word as Mënaonkihëla , translated "where banks cave in or erode", from the verbs mënaonkihële "the dirt caves off" (such as the bank of a river or creek, or in a landslide) and mënaonke , "it has a loose bank" (where one might fall in).

Monongalia County
Monongalia County, West Virginia
As of the census of 2000, there were 81,866 people, 33,446 households, and 18,495 families residing in the county. The population density was 227 people per square mile . There were 36,695 housing units at an average density of 102 per square mile...

 and the town of Monongah
Monongah, West Virginia
Monongah is a town in Marion County, West Virginia along the West Fork River. The population was 939 at the 2000 census. Monongah was incorporated in 1891 by Circuit Court...

 in West Virginia, and Monongahela
Monongahela, Pennsylvania
Monongahela, colloquially called "Mon City," is a Third Class City in Washington County, Pennsylvania, United States and is part of the Pittsburgh Metro Area, located approximately south of the city proper. The population was 4,761 at the 2000 census...

 in Pennsylvania are named after the river.

Variant names

According to the Geographic Names Information System
Geographic Names Information System
The Geographic Names Information System is a database that contains name and locative information about more than two million physical and cultural features located throughout the United States of America and its territories. It is a type of gazetteer...

, the Monongahela River has also been known historically as:
  • Malangueulé
  • Manaungahela River
  • Me-nan-gi-hil-li
  • Meh-non-au-au-ge-hel-al
  • Mehmannaunringgehlau
  • Mehmannauwinggehla
  • Mo-hon-ga-ly River
  • Mo-hon-galy River
  • Mo-hon-gey-e-la River
  • Mo-hong-gey-e-la River
  • Mohungahala River
  • Mohunghala River
  • Monaung River
  • Monaungahela River
  • Monna River
  • Monnyahela River
  • Monona River
  • Mononga River
  • Monongahalia River
  • Monongahaly River
  • Monongaheley River
  • Monongahelia River
  • Monongalia River
  • Monongalo River
  • Mononguhela River
  • Mononyahela River
  • Muddy River

  • Geography

    The Monongahela is formed by the confluence
    Confluence, in geography, describes the meeting of two or more bodies of water.Confluence may also refer to:* Confluence , a property of term rewriting systems...

     of the West Fork River
    West Fork River
    The West Fork River is a principal tributary of the Monongahela River, 103 miles long, in north-central West Virginia in the United States...

     and its "East Fork" — the Tygart Valley River
    Tygart Valley River
    The Tygart Valley River — also known as the Tygart River — is a principal tributary of the Monongahela River, approximately long, in east-central West Virginia, USA...

     — at Fairmont, West Virginia
    Fairmont, West Virginia
    Fairmont is a city in Marion County, West Virginia, United States. Nicknamed "The Friendly City". The population was 18,704 at the 2010 census...

    . The river is navigable its entire length with a series of locks and dams that maintain a minimum depth of 9 feet (2.7 m) to accommodate coal-laden barges. In Pennsylvania, the Monongahela is met by two major tributaries
    A tributary or affluent is a stream or river that flows into a main stem river or a lake. A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean...

    : the Cheat River
    Cheat River
    The Cheat River is a tributary of the Monongahela River in eastern West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania in the United States. Via the Monongahela and Ohio rivers, it is part of the Mississippi River watershed, ultimately draining into the Gulf of Mexico.-Geography:The Cheat is formed at...

    , which joins at Point Marion
    Point Marion, Pennsylvania
    Point Marion is a borough in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 1,333 at the 2000 census. It is served by the Albert Gallatin Area School District.Point Marion is located at the confluence of the Monongahela and Cheat Rivers...

    , and the Youghiogheny River
    Youghiogheny River
    The Youghiogheny River , or the Yough for short, is a tributary of the Monongahela River in the U.S. states of West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania...

    , which joins at McKeesport
    McKeesport, Pennsylvania
    McKeesport is a city in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, in the United States; it is located at the confluence of the Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers and is part of the Pittsburgh Metro Area. The population was 19,731 at the 2010 census...



    The Monongahela River valley was the site of a famous, if small, battle that was one of the first in the French and Indian War
    French and Indian War
    The French and Indian War is the common American name for the war between Great Britain and France in North America from 1754 to 1763. In 1756, the war erupted into the world-wide conflict known as the Seven Years' War and thus came to be regarded as the North American theater of that war...

     (Braddock Expedition
    Braddock expedition
    The Braddock expedition, also called Braddock's campaign or, more commonly, Braddock's Defeat, was a failed British military expedition which attempted to capture the French Fort Duquesne in the summer of 1755 during the French and Indian War. It was defeated at the Battle of the Monongahela on...

    ). It resulted in a sharp defeat for British
    British Empire
    The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

     and Colonial
    Thirteen Colonies
    The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...

     forces against those of the French
    The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

     and their Native American
    Native Americans in the United States
    Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...


    In 1817, the Pennsylvania legislature authorized the Monongahela Navigation Company to build 16 dams with bypass locks
    Lock (water transport)
    A lock is a device for raising and lowering boats between stretches of water of different levels on river and canal waterways. The distinguishing feature of a lock is a fixed chamber in which the water level can be varied; whereas in a caisson lock, a boat lift, or on a canal inclined plane, it is...

     to create a river transportation system between Pittsburgh and West Virginia. Originally planned to run as far south as the Cheat River, the system was extended to Fairmont, and bituminous coal
    Bituminous coal
    Bituminous coal or black coal is a relatively soft coal containing a tarlike substance called bitumen. It is of higher quality than lignite coal but of poorer quality than Anthracite...

     from West Virginia was the chief product transported downstream. After a canal tunnel through Grant's Hill
    Pennsylvania Canal Tunnel
    The Pennsylvania Canal Tunnel was the Pittsburgh terminusof the Pennsylvania Main Line of Public Works, a transportation system that involved other early tunnels. Construction was authorized February 8, 1827, and the tunnel was completed November 10, 1829. The canal crossed the Allegheny River on...

     in Pittsburgh was completed in 1832, boats could travel between the Monongahela River and the Western Division Canal of Pennsylvania's principal east-west canal and railroad system, the Main Line of Public Works
    Main Line of Public Works
    The Main Line of Public Works was a railroad and canal system built by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the 19th century. It ran from Philadelphia west through Harrisburg and across the state to Pittsburgh and connected with other divisions of the Pennsylvania Canal...

    . In 1897, the federal government took possession of the Monongahela Navigation through condemnation
    Eminent domain
    Eminent domain , compulsory purchase , resumption/compulsory acquisition , or expropriation is an action of the state to seize a citizen's private property, expropriate property, or seize a citizen's rights in property with due monetary compensation, but without the owner's consent...

     proceedings. Later, the dam-lock combinations were increased in size and reduced in number. In 2006, the navigation system, operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, had nine dam-locks along 128.7 miles (207.1 km) of waterway. The locks overcame a change in elevation of about 147 feet (44.8 m).

    Briefly linked to the Monongahela Navigation was the Youghiogheny Navigation, a slack water system of 18.5 miles (29.8 km) between McKeesport and West Newton
    West Newton, Pennsylvania
    West Newton, located southeast of Pittsburgh, is a borough in Westmoreland County in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. Formerly, the manufacture of radiators and boilers were the chief industries. In 1900, the people living there numbered 2,467. In 1910, 2,880 people lived there...

    . It had two dam-locks overcoming a change in elevation of about 27 feet (8.2 m). Opening in 1850, it was destroyed by a flood in 1865.

    During the 19th century, the Monongahela was heavily used by industry
    Industry refers to the production of an economic good or service within an economy.-Industrial sectors:There are four key industrial economic sectors: the primary sector, largely raw material extraction industries such as mining and farming; the secondary sector, involving refining, construction,...

    , and several U.S. Steel
    U.S. Steel
    The United States Steel Corporation , more commonly known as U.S. Steel, is an integrated steel producer with major production operations in the United States, Canada, and Central Europe. The company is the world's tenth largest steel producer ranked by sales...

     plants, including the Homestead
    Homestead, Pennsylvania
    Homestead is a borough in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA, in the "Mon Valley," southeast of downtown Pittsburgh and directly across the river from the city limit line. The borough is known for the Homestead Strike of 1892, an important event in the history of labor relations in the United...

     Works, site of the Homestead Strike
    Homestead Strike
    The Homestead Strike was an industrial lockout and strike which began on June 30, 1892, culminating in a battle between strikers and private security agents on July 6, 1892. It was one of the most serious disputes in U.S. labor history...

     of 1892, were built along its banks. Following the killing of several workers in the course of the strike, anarchist Emma Goldman
    Emma Goldman
    Emma Goldman was an anarchist known for her political activism, writing and speeches. She played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the twentieth century....

     wrote: "Words had lost their meaning in the face of the innocent blood spilled on the banks of the Monongahela."

    Two ship
    Since the end of the age of sail a ship has been any large buoyant marine vessel. Ships are generally distinguished from boats based on size and cargo or passenger capacity. Ships are used on lakes, seas, and rivers for a variety of activities, such as the transport of people or goods, fishing,...

    s in the United States Navy
    United States Navy
    The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

     have been named Monongahela
    USS Monongahela
    USS Monongahela may refer to:, was launched in 1862 and served during the American Civil War, was an oiler acquired by the US Navy in July 1942 and decommissioned August 1957, was an oiler launched in 1979 and decommissioned in 1999...

     for the river.

    The river was the site of a famous airplane crash that has become the subject of numerous urban legend
    Urban legend
    An urban legend, urban myth, urban tale, or contemporary legend, is a form of modern folklore consisting of stories that may or may not have been believed by their tellers to be true...

    s and conspiracy theories. Early in the morning of January 31, 1956, a B-25 bomber en route from Nellis Air Force Base
    Nellis Air Force Base
    Nellis Air Force Base is a United States Air Force Base, located approximately northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada. It is under the jurisdiction of Air Combat Command .-Overview:...

     in Nevada
    Nevada is a state in the western, mountain west, and southwestern regions of the United States. With an area of and a population of about 2.7 million, it is the 7th-largest and 35th-most populous state. Over two-thirds of Nevada's people live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which contains its...

     to Olmsted Air Force Base
    Olmsted Air Force Base
    Harrisburg Air National Guard Base is a United States Air Force base, located at Harrisburg International Airport, Pennsylvania. It is located west-southwest of Middletown, Pennsylvania....

     in Pennsylvania crashed into the river near the Glenwood Bridge
    Glenwood Bridge
    The Glenwood Bridge is a cantilever bridge in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which carries Pennsylvania Route 885 over the Monongahela River. It started construction on June 3, 1958 and was completed in 1966 to replace an old decayed unsafe iron bridge built in 1894 which carried Pittsburgh Railways...

     in Homestead, Pennsylvania
    Homestead, Pennsylvania
    Homestead is a borough in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA, in the "Mon Valley," southeast of downtown Pittsburgh and directly across the river from the city limit line. The borough is known for the Homestead Strike of 1892, an important event in the history of labor relations in the United...

    . All six crewmen survived the crash, but two later succumbed to exposure
    Hypothermia is a condition in which core temperature drops below the required temperature for normal metabolism and body functions which is defined as . Body temperature is usually maintained near a constant level of through biologic homeostasis or thermoregulation...

     and drowned. Despite the relative shallowness of the water, the aircraft was never recovered. http://pittsburgh.about.com/library/weekly/aa071800a.htm#

    Popular culture references

    • William Attaway
      William Attaway
      William Alexander Attaway was an African American novelist, short story writer, essayist, songwriter, playwright, and screenwriter.-Early Life:...

      's novel Blood on the Forge
      Blood on the Forge
      Blood on the Forge is a migration novel by the African American writer William Attaway set in the steel valley of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during the 1920s. The novel follows the Moss brothers as they escape the inequality of sharecropping in the South for the inequality of mill working in the...

      (1941) is set, in part, on the Monongahela River.
    • The Monongahela River was immortalized in the spoken introduction to actor/comedian Guy Marks
      Guy Marks
      Guy Marks was an American actor, comedian and impressionist.He was born Mario Scarpa in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania...

      ' parody hit "Loving You Has Made Me Bananas
      Loving You Has Made Me Bananas
      "Loving You Has Made Me Bananas" is a song composed and performed by Guy Marks. It parodied music of the big band era with absurd lyrics: It was first released in 1968 on ABC Records reaching #51 in the charts and again in 1978 reaching #25....

      " of 1968.
    • The Monongahela is mentioned in the choruses of The Oak Ridge Boys
      The Oak Ridge Boys
      The Oak Ridge Boys are an American country and gospel vocal quartet.The group was founded in the 1940s as the Oak Ridge Quartet. They became popular in southern gospel during the 1950s...

      ' 1988 song "Gonna Take a Lot of River (Mississippi, Monongahela, Ohio)
      Gonna Take a Lot of River (Mississippi, Monongahela, Ohio)
      "Gonna Take a Lot of River" — often known as "Gonna Take a Lot of River " — is a song made famous by the country music group The Oak Ridge Boys. Originally released in 1988, the song was the lead-off single to the band's 1988 album Monongahela.In October 1988, the song ascended to No. 1 on the...

      ", along with the Mississippi and the Ohio.
    • The Monongahela Valley is referenced in the Bruce Springsteen
      Bruce Springsteen
      Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen , nicknamed "The Boss," is an American singer-songwriter who records and tours with the E Street Band...

       song "Youngstown
      Youngstown (song)
      "Youngstown" is a song by Bruce Springsteen from his 1995 album The Ghost of Tom Joad. Although many of the songs on the album were performed by Springsteen solo, the lineup for the "Youngstown" includes Soozie Tyrell on violin, Jim Hanson on bass, Gary Mallaber on drums, co-producer Chuck Plotkin...

      " on his 1995 album The Ghost of Tom Joad
      The Ghost of Tom Joad
      The Ghost of Tom Joad is the eleventh studio album by Bruce Springsteen, released in 1995 . The album was recorded and mixed at Thrill Hill during the spring and summer of 1995. Musically and lyrically reminiscent of Springsteen's 1982 critically acclaimed album Nebraska, The Ghost of Tom Joad...

    • "Monongahela" is uttered in 1995 on the television show Seinfeld
      Seinfeld is an American television sitcom that originally aired on NBC from July 5, 1989, to May 14, 1998, lasting nine seasons, and is now in syndication. It was created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, the latter starring as a fictionalized version of himself...

      as one of Kramer's
      Cosmo Kramer
      Cosmo Kramer, usually referred to as simply "Kramer", is a fictional character on the American television sitcom Seinfeld , played by Michael Richards...

       famous random expressions. The episode is the 23rd of the 6th season, "The Face Painter
      The Face Painter
      "The Face Painter" is the 109th episode of NBC sitcom Seinfeld. This was the 23rd episode for the 6th season. It aired on May 11, 1995. The table reading for "The Face Painter" was held on March 26,1995.-Plot:...

      ". The reference occurs around the 4th-5th minute of the show.
    • The Monongahela River was mentioned a number of times in the late 1990s series Remember WENN
      Remember WENN
      Remember WENN is a comedy-drama television series that aired from 1996 to 1998 on the cable channel American Movie Classics. Created and written by Rupert Holmes and set at the fictional Pittsburgh radio station WENN in the early 1940s, it depicted events in the personal and professional lives of...

      , which was set in Pittsburgh, particularly in the season 3 episode "And How" when the world premier of the fictional film Drums Along the Monongahela is taking place in that city.
    • It is also credited (incorrectly) by Michael Douglas in the 2000 film Wonder Boys
      Wonder Boys (film)
      Wonder Boys is a dark comedy film based on the 1995 novel of the same title by Michael Chabon. Directed by Curtis Hanson, it stars Michael Douglas as professor Grady Tripp, a novelist who teaches creative writing at an unnamed Pittsburgh university...

      for washing away his unsaved book manuscript after Robert Downey Jr. crashes his car into a bowling alley. (This scene actually took place northwest of the Monongahela River along the Ohio River in Rochester, Pennsylvania
      Rochester, Pennsylvania
      Rochester is a borough in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, United States. Located northwest of Pittsburgh, it is part of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. The population was 4,014 at the 2000 census....

    • Montana Diaz Herrera/Sally Lerner (Ayda Field) of the 2007–2008 television show Back to You
      Back to You
      Back to You is an American situation comedy series, which aired on Fox from September 19, 2007 to May 14, 2008. The creators and executive producers were Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan, and the director was James Burrows. The series starred Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton as squabbling...

      has trouble pronouncing the name "Monongahela" when she has to mention it in her weather forecast.
    • It is featured in the downloadable content pack for Fallout 3
      Fallout 3
      Fallout 3 is an action role-playing game released by Bethesda Game Studios, and the third major installment in the Fallout series. The game was released in North America, Europe and Australia in October 2008, and in Japan in December 2008 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360...

      , The Pitt, albeit with highly irradiated waters.
    • "Flames Along the Monongahela" was a track on Peter Lang's
      Peter Lang (guitarist)
      Peter Lang is an accomplished acoustic guitarist, from the same genre, American Primitivism, as the better-known guitarists Leo Kottke and John Fahey. All three artists shared the Takoma Records label, and a joint-titled album released in 1974 features a selection of songs from...

       album Lycurgus.

    See also

    • List of crossings of the Monongahela River
    • List of rivers of Pennsylvania
    • List of rivers of West Virginia
    • Geography of Pennsylvania
      Geography of Pennsylvania
      The Geography of Pennsylvania varies from sea level marine estuary to mountainous plateau, is significant for its natural resources and ports, and is notable for its role in the history of the United States.- Major features :...

    External links