Red Clay Creek

Watersheds of the Piedmont
Brandywine Creek | Christina River | Naamans’ Creek | Red Clay Creek | Shellpot Creek | White Clay Creek

The Red Clay Creek watershed is one of four major watersheds in the 565 sq. mi. Christina Basin. The Christina Basin is part of the 13,000 sq. mi. Delaware River Basin. The Red Clay Creek watershed is located in southern Chester County (PA) and northern New Castle County (DE). It flows into the White Clay Creek (in the vicinity of Stanton, DE) and the combined flow empties into the tidal Christina near Churchmans Marsh. Except for the very lower reaches, which are tidal, the Red Clay Creek is a free-flowing stream. Six municipalities of Pennsylvania and unincorporated areas of New Castle County, Delaware are located within the watershed. The watershed was the recipient of the Red Clay Valley Scenic Byway designation in April 2005 which recognizes that the quality of the remaining natural and scenic resources in this area is extremely significant.
Land Uses
Land use within the Red Clay Creek watershed is split approximately evenly among three major land use categories: agriculture (39%), forest/wetland (33%), and urban/suburban (27%). Collectively the White Clay, Red Clay, Brandywine and upper Christina are used to supply drinking water to more than 50% of New Castle County's population.

The Red Clay Creek watershed serves as a source of drinking water supplies with one reservoir (Hoopes) and several public water supply wells that provide water supply to parts of Chester and New Castle Counties. Four surface water intakes and numerous wells are located within the watershed for commercial and community water supplies. There are two community public water-supply systems. The Lower Snuff Mill well is located near the Cockeysville Formation in the northwestern corner of the basin. A second system, composed of three wells, is located within the Hoopes Reservoir subwatershed located along the northeastern boundary of the Red Clay Creek watershed. United Water Delaware maintains two water-supply intakes at the confluence of the Red Cay and White Clay Creeks at the southern extreme of these watersheds. United Water relies on these surface-water intakes to supply drinking water to its customers. Hoopes Reservoir, a regional public drinking water supply reservoir for Northern New Castle County, and its drainage area are located in the northern half of the basin. This reservoir is used by the City of Wilmington to store water which is pumped from the Brandywine Creek to Hoopes Reservoir for storage.
Wildlife and Fisheries
Burrows Run, a subwatershed of the Red Clay Creek, is designated as cold water fish waters.
Nutrients and Bacteria
The nutrient and bacteria TMDLs for the Delaware portion of the Red Clay Creek requires varied reductions based on the stream segment of between 0-62% reduction in nitrogen, between 0-77% reduction in phosphorus and between 29-95% reduction in bacteria. The zinc TMDL for the Delaware portion of the Red Clay Creek Watershed requires a cap on zinc at 55.93 pounds/day.
The Red Clay Creek Watershed has eleven sites listed in the Site Investigation and Restoration Section database. There are seven state-fund lead (HSCA) sites, two sites in the Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) and two Brownfield program sites.

Each of the sites is sampled through the programs listed above for a consistent suite of environmental contaminants. These contaminants are broadly classified as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs), Pesticides, Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and Metals as listed using USEPA and DNREC defined standards. When sites are adjacent to water bodies sediment samples are collected to assess potential impact from a site on the health of the waters.

In water bodies of the Red Clay Creek Watershed, samples have indicated that PCBs, zinc, chlorinated pesticides and dioxin are present in the environment at levels requiring further attention under the Clean Water Act (1972). The Red Clay Creek Watershed is on the 303d list of impaired waters as well as having State of Delaware Fish Consumption Advisories for PCBs, dioxin and chlorinated pesticides.

If you would like to view reports for any of the sites in the SIRS program please follow the link the DNREC Environmental Navigator to search by map for the Red Clay Creek Watershed.
Geology and Soils
Almost the entire Red Clay Creek watershed is found within the Piedmont geologic province, composed of rocks of the Wissahickon Formation in the northern half and the Wilmington Complex in the south. The extreme southern portion, near Stanton, lies within the Atlantic Coastal Plain. A small portion of the Cockeysville formation occurs in the northern portion of the watershed in the Yorklyn area. The Cockeysville Formation is an important aquifer, with major public water-supply wells owned by the Artesian Water Company.
Cultural Resources
A number of historic and cultural resources have been identified in the Red Clay Creek watershed. Longwood Gardens is located in the watershed. Additionally there are historic structures (South Brook Farm and Joseph Gregg House), historic districts (Unionville Village Historic District, Longwood Gardens Historic District, and Kennett Square Historic District), and a historic landmark (Bayard Taylor House in Cedarcroft).

The Wilmington and Western Railroad, which winds through the valley following the Red Clay creek, once brought goods from the mills to the ports in Wilmington and is a living example of the industrial history of the watershed.
Further Resources