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Our History

The Christina Conservancy – Our History!


Cooch’s Bridge Historic District

One cannot relate the history of the Christina River without noting that Delaware’s only Revolutionary War battle took place on its banks at Cooch’s Bridge, just south of Newark, on September 3, 1777.  Before the opening of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, the Christina River was part of an important trade route linking the Delaware and Chesapeake Bay via a portage near Iron Hill.  This waterway was so important to early settlement and trade that without it, the communities of Newport, Christina and Wilmington may never have come into being.  But as communities grew from wilderness settlements to suburbia, the river gradually became less important, or, in the words of the late author C.A. Weslager, “Forgotten.”

The Christina Conservancy, a non-profit member organization, was formed in 1982, to reclaim this river, which has enormous potential for preservation, recreation and simple relaxation.  We are committed to preserving, restoring and conserving the resources of this valuable natural resource.  The two branches of the 31-mile long Christina River begin modestly as small trickles just across the Delaware border north in Pennsylvania and south in Maryland, gradually widening and flowing south and west past rural, suburban and urban areas, and finally emptying into the Delaware River.

For over 30 years, the Conservancy has worked tirelessly with private citizens, state and local governments, industry, landowners and various organizations to provide the framework for preserving and managing the natural resources, educating landowners on ways to improve the beauty and value of their land and the public in general on the river’s recreational value and the part we can play in caring for this precious resource.

The late Edward W. Cooch, Jr., (“Ned”) served as president of the Conservancy for almost 20 years.  His passion for restoring the Christina to its former glory inspired others to help in projects that have had a positive impact on the health and beauty of the river.  In his honor, the Edward W. Cooch, Jr. Environmental Scholarship was established in 2011. The scholarship is sponsored by the Conservancy and its affiliate, the Christina River Watershed Cleanup Committee.  The first scholarship was awarded in June 2012.  It seems a fitting tribute to a man who has done so much for our river and for Delaware’s natural resources.

In celebration of Earth Day 1992 the Christina Conservancy, together with the State of Delaware Department of Natural Resources (DNREC), New Castle County, Cities of Wilmington, Newark, and Newport and sponsors such as Artesian Water and Delmarva held the first Christina River Cleanup.  Over 500 volunteers helped to remove some 15 tons of trash along its route that year.  Since then the work area has expanded to include sites on the Brandywine River, Red Clay Creek and White Clay Creek; and the annual event is now known as  the Christina River Watershed Clean-up (CRWC).   On average we have removed more than 20 tons of trash a year with the help of over 800 volunteers.  In appreciation for the work accomplished, the CRWC received the Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Award in the area of Environment in 2010.  Visit www.christinarivercleanup.org for the date of the next Christina River Watershed Cleanup and learn how and where you can volunteer!


Since the first Christina River Cleanup the Conservancy has played either a major role, partnered with other organizations, raised funds to accomplish projects such as:


  • The removal of sunken barges, tugs and boats from the river
  • Removal of log jams along the river and its tributaries
  • Conducted surveys of point and non-point pollution along the river’s 31-mile stretch
  • Implementing remedies for the combined sewer overflow problems in the City of Wilmington
  • Worked with the City of Newark to bring about the repair of a sewer line crossing of the river near Rittenhouse Park
  • For 10 years the Conservancy led a citizens’ advisory committee and made a grant which helped pave the way for the restoration of the Russell W. Peterson Wildlife Refuge at the Christina Riverfront in Wilmington and played an important role in advocating for the establishment of the DuPont Environmental Education Center
  • Provided support for New Castle County Special Services Department’s public acquisition of parklands in the watershed corridor
  • Collaborated with the Delaware Nature Society to reach out to landowners along the Christina and provided education on important topics to protect and improve the river.  Over the years it has advocated tirelessly to reduce Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL’s), erosion and sedimentation
  • Assisted the State of Delaware Division of Historic and Cultural Affairs by providing funds and administrating those funds being used for the preservation of Cooch-Dayett Mill in Newark
  • Partnered with organizations to hold “Out With Invasives” events where volunteers removed invasive species that negatively impact the natural ecosystem and wildlife in the Peterson Marsh


The Christina Conservancy has been a strong voice in supporting and urging the work done by other organizations and agencies to improve water quality.  These efforts have resulted in improved water quality and health of the watershed, and our successes have inspired us to strategically plan for even more improvements in the Christina.  We cordially invite you to join us in making the Christina River a place for future generations to enjoy for years to come.