Chartiers Creek

Al and I had so much fun driving the course of Saw Mill Run that we decided to take on a bigger challenge:  Chartiers Creek.  Saw Mill Run, with a watershed entirely within Allegheny County, is only about 9 miles long.  Chartiers Creek runs a 38-mile course in Washington County before it even flows into Allegheny County, where it empties into the Ohio River.

The creek and the former Chartiers Township, from which many western Allegheny County townships were formed, were named for Pierre (or Peter) Chartiers, a half-French, half-Shawnee trader who established a trading post on the creek in the early 1730s.  (Learn more about Peter Chartiers here).

Chartiers Creek in Rural Washington County

Al and I started our drive on a beautiful fall day that showed off rural Washington County at its best.  Those who can afford to do so build their homes on hilltops with huge banks of windows that look out on the rolling green hills of farmsteads, winding tar-and-chip country roads, and trees ablaze in gold, bronze and red. 

The creek is born as a tiny trickle along Route 18.  A couple of miles along, it is still a very tame little stream as it wanders through the golf course of the Lone Pine Country Club.  In North Franklin Township, it starts to gain steam, fed by another trickle from a large reservoir.  It then passes through the county seat of Washington, PA.

Al said the roads reminded him of Ireland: two lanes but only one car wide!
One stunning view in beautiful rural Washington County
Chartiers Creek’s humble beginnings
Nice and tame through Lone Pine golf course

Chartiers Creek in Washington, PA

Washington is one of the many medium-sized towns in western Pennsylvania that prospered in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but have since suffered from the decline of heavy industry, the rise of suburban sprawl and malls, and then the age of internet shopping.  For a while, the county offices and Washington & Jefferson College seemed to be all that kept it afloat.  But Washington is fighting back (see this recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).  They’re making the most of their Whiskey Rebellion and abolitionist heritage by maintaining the LeMoyne House and the Bradford House.  Wineries, breweries and distilleries have opened in the past few years.  Al and I toured the Liberty Pole Distillery a couple of months ago with our daughter and son-in-law, and I highly recommend the tour and tasting. 

During our Chartiers Creek drive, Al and I had lunch at the Union Grill in downtown Washington.  It has a bit of a speakeasy vibe, with its art-deco stained glass, and the entrance at below street level.  Pictures of Washington County history hang on the walls.  Al’s steak sandwich and my chicken & artichoke pizza were very good, and their house-made chips were the best we’ve ever had:  super-crisp with just the right amount of salt. Our server, Debbie, was personable and friendly, and sent us home with an extra box of chips at no charge!

Union Grill in Washington. If you go, definitely order a sandwich so you can get some of their amazing house-made chips!

The creek itself is still shallow and kind of lazy in Washington, but it starts gaining some muscle near Houston, PA, where it is fed by Plum Run and Chartiers Run.  By the time we left it in Canonsburg, it looked like a real-grown-up river.  It was mid-afternoon when we drove through Canonsburg, and we’d started our drive at mid-morning, so we decided to call it a day and head for Route 79.  After our meander down the country roads of Washington County, we were ready for the express route home. 

Chartiers Run before it merges into Chartiers Creek
Plum Run
Our little creek is more of a river when it reaches Houston, PA. Look how beautifully it reflects the sky and trees above!
Also: ducks!
In western PA, where there is a stream, there will be a coal patch. Here’s a big one outside Houston.

But we’ll be back to drive the rest of the creek’s route through northern Washington County and Allegheny County, all the way to my birthplace, McKees Rocks, where it joins the Ohio River.  Stay tuned! 

Sources

http://www.co.washington.pa.us/233/County-History

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Chartier


Copyright 2014 Kathryn Bashaar | Design by | Adapted from PureType