The designation was delivered by American Rivers, a national conservation organization whose mission is the protection and restoration of rivers.
In deciding to recognize the Delaware, the organization cited its remarkable comeback from decades of pollution and abuse.
"You really wouldn’t want to be along the river back in the 1950s or early 1960s, especially in the Philadelphia area. The river smelled, it was toxic and people were sickened by it,” said Kate Schmidt from the Delaware River Basin Commission, an organization created nearly 60 years ago to clean up the river.
Schmidt says the federal Clean Water Act passed in 1972 helped to curb pollution and led to clean up efforts funded by public funds and private groups and communities along its banks.
Today, Schmidt says, the river’s rebirth has made it an economic engine for development, a drinkable water supply, and a source of tourism and recreation.
"Throughout the years the Delaware has really allowed Philadelphia to become the great city that it is. And, today, its restoration is a huge success story, not just for Philadelphia but for all points along the river,” she said.
Fish and wildlife have rebounded in and along the river, and bald eagles are once again a thriving part of the ecosystem.