About Friends of the Wissahickon and Wissahickon Valley Park
What does FOW do?
FOW is a 94-year-old nonprofit membership organization that protects and enhances Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Valley Park. The park, popularly known as “the Wissahickon,” is an 1,800-acre urban oasis of dramatic scenery, dense forests, rugged trails, and free-flowing streams. over 50 miles of wooded biking, hiking, and equestrian trails wind through a deep gorge surrounding the Wissahickon Creek. the region’s rich history is represented in the park’s many beautiful historic structures, from Valley Green Inn to beloved sculptures, like Toleration, and Philadelphia’s only remaining covered bridge. The park’s watershed protects the drinking water of 350,000 Philadelphians.
Does FOW receive city funding?
No. FOW receives no cash or direct funding from the city or Philadelphia Parks & Recreation.
Who owns the Wissahickon and who is in charge of the park?
Wissahickon Valley Park, including the three public stables and Valley Green Inn, is owned by the City of Philadelphia. Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR) is directly responsible for all conservation, maintenance, and preservation efforts except those formally delegated to others (such as the stables and the Valley Green Inn). FOW is in partnership with PPR and is a long-standing steward of the park.
Visiting the Park
How do I get to the park?
Because Wissahickon Valley Park is so large, there is not a single street address for it. There are several entrances with free parking throughout the park, which can be seen on this Google Map.
To use a landmark in order to find your way to the park, search for “Valley Green Inn.” The Inn is in the center of the park and has parking nearby.
How can I get a map of the park?
FOW publishes a detailed fold-out map of the valley that shows trails, landmarks, entrances, parking, and other points of interest.
How many miles of trails are there in the Wissahickon?
Wissahickon Valley Park has approximately 50 miles of trails.
Do cell phones work in the Wissahickon?
The Wissahickon is a steep, wooded gorge, so it can be difficult for cell signals to get through in many places. Do not count on having cell service in the park.
What about access for disabled people who want to visit the Wissahickon?
There is parking for the disabled at Valley Green Inn and in one or two other parking areas in the Wissahickon. The Inn also allows people to drop off disabled passengers in front of the ramps leading to the Inn. However, except for Forbidden Drive, the Wissahickon trails are not wheelchair-accessible. We recommend either Forbidden Drive or Kelly Drive along the Schuylkill River for disabled visitors.
About the Wissahickon Creek
Where does the Wissahickon Creek begin?
The Wissahickon Creek starts in a spring in the parking lot of the Montgomery Mall in Montgomeryville. It is channeled under the parking lot and fed by a variety of smaller tributaries throughout its 64-square mile watershed until it reaches the last seven miles of its length in Philadelphia
What pollutes the creek?
In late summer of a dry year, as much as 95% of the water in the creek is treated sewage from the seven treatment plants upstream in Montgomery County. Every rainstorm washes a variety of animal waste, lawn and garden chemicals, household cleaners, and more into the creek. Sometimes even industrial and commercial pollutants from Montgomery County and Philadelphia get into the creek. Heavy rainstorms overload Philadelphia’s aging sewer system and force cross connections between sanitary and storm sewers.
What kind of fish are in the Wissahickon?
The Fish and Boat Commission stocks the creek with trout several times a year. There are also largemouth and smallmouth bass, sunfish, and some small catfish in the creek, as well as a variety of minnows and other panfish.
Rules & Regulations (View full list)
Where can I find a list of park rules and regulations?
You can find a list of rules and regulations on the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation website.
Are motor vehicles permitted on the Wissahickon trails?
No. With the exception of vehicles operated by PPR, police, fire, ambulance, and specially-permitted vehicles, no motor vehicles are allowed on the trails. Specially-permitted vehicles include vehicles used by FOW to get supplies and other important equipment to work sites.
Is it OK to swim in the creek?
No. Swimming in any of Philadelphia’s rivers and streams is illegal and dangerous. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health states that swimming and wading is not permitted due to the risks of drowning, injury from submerged objects, strong currents, and other hazards.
Can I boat, canoe, or kayak in Wissahickon Creek?
There is no regulation forbidding it, but FOW discourages it. The park has no lifeguards on duty, and the creek has variable depths which can be dangerous.
Can I grill, cook, or barbeque in the park?
There are several areas throughout the park where grilling is permitted. You can identify these areas by the grills and picnic benches that are already there. However, grilling or starting campfires anywhere else in the park is extremely dangerous and not permitted.
Can I camp in the park?
No, camping is not allowed.
Can I keep plants or animals that I find in the park?
No. Please see the plants and wildlife FAQ section below.
Permits & Licenses
Where can I find information on park permits and licenses?
Visit the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation website for information on permits and forms.
Who needs a permit to use the trails?
Equestrians and bike riders. Hikers and those on skis, skates, or wheelchairs do not.
Do I need a license to fish in the Wissahickon Creek?
Yes. Any person 16 years of age or older needs to obtain a license from the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission. Licenses are also available at many sporting goods stores.
Do I need a permit for a family picnic in the park?
If your picnic is for 5-10 people who only take up one or two picnic tables or blankets, the answer is no. If you’re talking about 25 to 50 people, you need to get a special events permit here.
Do I need a permit to get married in the park?
If the wedding is held at Valley Green Inn, nothing more than the usual marriage license is required. If the wedding is held at another site in the park, you have to make arrangements with the organization that controls that site (e.g. Historic RittenhouseTown) and comply with whatever agreement they have with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation.
What if I want to serve alcohol at my event?
If you want to serve alcohol, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation requires that you obtain a special events permit from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (LCB). The LCB requires that you notify all police agencies in the area. PPR may also require additional security deposits and scrutinize your application more thoroughly.
Plants & Wildlife
What plants and animals are in the park?
The Wissahickon Valley is home to an incredibly diverse population of native plants and wildlife. To see which species you might encounter in the park, visit our Plants & Wildlife page.
Can I keep plants or animals that I find in the park?
N. PPR prohibits the removal of any plants or animals from the park system. Taking plants or animals out of the park can disrupt the delicate ecosystem of the park, undermine ongoing restoration projects, or expose you to hazards such as diseases, animal bites, and other dangers.
What do I do if I find an injured animal in the park?
Contact the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (215) 482-8217.
How to support the Wissahickon (Donate to FOW or become a Member here)
I want to volunteer to work in the Park. How do I do it?
What if I want a facility with my name on it?
Please contact FOW’s Deputy Director Ruffian Tittmann at email@example.com to discuss possible options.