Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Highlights from Ride for the River

On September 24, we teamed up with Sly Fox Brewing Company to host Ride for the River, a bike ride that took place on the Schuylkill River Trail while also benefiting the Schuylkill River Trail and gets people out on the trail. We had an amazing turnout, with over 300 cyclists participating in either a 16 or 40 mile ride. In addition to riding along a beautiful section of the trail, participants ended the day at  the Sly Fox Can Jam Festival with free live music, great food and, of course, Sly Fox beer! Here are some of the highlights.

We had great volunteers:
We assembled an incredible team of volunteers who kept the ride running smoothly all day long. They managed to keep check-in lines moving quickly, assisted with parking, helped cyclists through road crossings and refilled snacks at rest stops. We also had cyclists from the Bike Sport/Sly Fox racing team providing ride support throughout the day, and we were fortunate to have Tri County Bicycles offering free bike safety checks before the rides.

A rainy start but a pleasant ride:
Not sure if you can see the rain drops in the photo below, but I hope you can see the smiles. Just as participants lined up for the first ride (the 40-mile round trip ride to Reading and back) they were caught up in a sudden cloud burst. Fortunately, the rain stopped fairly quickly, but not before many riders were drenched. No matter, people maintained their good spirits and enjoyed the ride.  

A beautiful trail:
Many of the participants told us how much they enjoyed riding on the Pottstown-to-Reading section of the the Schuylkill River Trail. We were pleased to hear that. This is a section of the Schuylkill River Trail that our organization--the Schuylkill River Heritage Area--owns and maintains. We know it is among the most scenic sections of the trail, and we were happy to be able to introduce more people to it through Ride for the River.

It supported the Schuylkill River Trail:
In 2015 the SRT was named the Best Urban Trail in America by USA Today.  The proceeds from Ride for the River will enable us to make the trail even better.

The fun continued at the Sly Fox Can Jam Festival: All participants received a voucher for free Sly Fox beer and food at the Can Jam Festival. Many stayed to listen to the terrific live bands that played throughout the day.

We accepted a check from Sly Fox Brewery: A portion of the proceeds from Sly Fox's seasonal SRT Ale goes to support the Schuylkill River Trail. At the Can Jam Festival, Brew Master Brian O'Reilly presented our Executive Director Silas Chamberlin with a check for $4,711. We are grateful to Sly Fox for this very generous donation and we extend our thanks to everyone who drank SRT Ale this summer! This marks the second year in a row that Sly Fox Brewery has presented us with over $4,000 for the trail. That money goes toward our Safe Crossing program to make road crossings along the trail safer for trail users.

We raffled off a kayak!
Our goal in organizing Ride for the River is to help connect people to the Schuylkill River. A bike ride along the river is a great way to experience the beauty of this region. And so is kayaking! We raffled off a bright-red Emotion kayak throughout the Can Jam Festival. Congratulations to Rose Walters, whose name was chosen randomly from hundreds of raffle tickets at the festival. We wish her many happy hours paddling on the river!

We can't wait to do it again next year.
We surveyed ride participants and asked them if they would be likely to participate in Ride for the River next year. The vast majority, 95 percent, answered affirmatively. Many of them also gave us tips on what they'd like to see us add in coming years. We intend to take that advice to heart, and make this an even better ride next year!

Visit our website to learn more.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Highlights from the 18th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn

The annual Schuylkill River Sojourn is, hands down, the most popular event we host. Our 18th Sojourn, held from June 4-10, 2016, was no exception. We had a great group of paddlers, a record number (79) of whom made the full 112-mile, week long journey from rural Schuylkill Haven to the urban waters of Philadelphia. For the 2nd consecutive year, we also filled each day with the maximum number of boats on the river (about 100-120). All together, 205 people signed on to do all or part of the trip. Virtually all of them left with a greater appreciation for the river, and a new group of paddling friends. It was an adventure filled week. We were fortunate to be accompanied by Sojourn Steward Bradley Maule. Check out his blog here at 

Here are a few of the highlights from the 18th Annual Sojourn:

Friday June 3

The fun starts before the sojourn even begins. Sojourners check in at Schuylkill Haven Island Park and many camp out there the evening before the event begins. Once again this year restored steam Locomotive 113 arrived on the tracks behind the park. Campers were invited to climb aboard and learn more about this impressive engine that was fired with anthracite coal.

Day 1, Saturday June 4:  

Boats lined up before the launch
Going through the Chutes
When120 colorful kayaks hit the water, it's impressive. That's why people line up along bridges and roadsides around Schuylkill Haven to watch and wave--a truly welcome sight for the sojourners. The river along this early part of the trip is windy and narrow, with a very different character than it has in Philadelphia. Luckily, we have great guides and safety boaters who can help out novice paddlers when they get stuck in shallow areas (like me maybe).  Our program theme for the trip celebrated the Centennial of the National Park Service.We were joined on the water by Frank Hays, NPS associate regional director for resources, who gave a brief overview of the NPS Centennial at lunch. After lunch, we headed for the thrill of the day: paddling The Chutes--a bridge abutment that forms a rush of white water. Only four people fell in and, I'm happy to report, I wasn't one of them. The day ended in Port Clinton, where fellow sojourner John Lysaght spoke to a standing room only crowd about his adventures as a thru hiker on the Appalachian Trail.
Frank Hays' lunch presentation
Thru hiker John Lysaght





Day 2, Sunday June 5: 

Paddling from Port Clinton to Muhlenberg Township is among the longest sojourn days, totaling 18.5 miles. At the lunch stop, sojourners were happy to kick back and listen to singer, songwriter  Haley Sheeler, whose music has become an annual highlight. Sojourners then paddled to the beautiful Jim Dietrich Park, in Muhlenberg Twp., where a drenching downpour struck just as they were coming off the water. After drying off and eating a delicious Mexican dinner, they set up camp around the park's scenic barn and ended the evening with an informative talk by Independence National Park Ranger Matt Ifill on NPS history.

Day 3, Monday June 6 

Not all the fun on the sojourn happens on the water. Monday has been designated Crazy Hat Day by the sojourners and each year we have more crazy hats. The sojourners like to wear their hats while navigating Kelly's Rapids, located just outside of reading--one of the most popular river features. At lunch, we heard a presentation on river snorkeling, by snorkeling enthusiast Kieth Williams of Northbay Adventure. The evening campsite, at Allegheny Aqueduct Park, featured a Dutch Oven cooking demonstration by Randy "Splatterdab" Brown. The lemon cake and biscuits he and his wife baked were the perfect end of day snacks.

 Day 4, Tuesday June 7:

Pottstown's Riverfront Park

Leaving Gibraltar
This day is short and sweet--only 13.8 miles, with some striking scenery. The lunch stop is at Historic Morlatton Village, with fried chicken on the menu--a guilty pleasure for the the hard paddling sojourners. While they enjoyed Rita's water ice for dessert, they heard a presentation on the region's iron and steel heritage. The second half of the day went quickly and they arrived at Pottstown's Riverfront Park with plenty of time to shower in our offices before dinner. The evening ended with a band playing music by the river and a selection of short films from Pottstown's In Focus Film Festival.
Morlatton Village lunch stop

Day 5, Wednesday June 8:  

Leaving Pottstown
 Unfortunately, we had to forego the annual tradition of locking through the restored Lock 60 because the lock was undergoing repairs. But Wednesday turned out to be an eventful day anyway.  For one thing, a sudden, violent storm overtook the sojourners just after they pulled into a water stop in Linfield. They crammed together for cover under a small pavilion. At lunch they were welcomed at Royersford's Victory Park where they listened to an entertaining talk about Valley Forge National Historical Park by Ranger Bill Troppman. They finished the long 17.8 mile paddle at Lock 60, where they ate a spaghetti dinner and watched a slideshow on the NPS Centennial-themed Philadelphia Flower Show. While they settled in at the park, three of our staff members went to the Union League in Philadelphia where our former Executive Director Kurt Zwikl was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. Earlier that day, our Executive Director Silas Chamberlin gave the keynote address for the Pennsylvania Statewide Heritage Conference in Lewisburg.
Waiting out the storm under a pavilion
At the Union League

Day 6, Thursday June 9: 

Sojourners paused for a group photo in the canal before their journey to West Conshohocken. Here's what it looked like when the 112 boats launched down the canal:

Sojourners stopped at Valley Forge National Historical Park for lunch, where Interim Park Superintendent Patrick Madden spoke about the park's centennial programs.Once again this year, we were accompanied on the water by the fun-loving Norristown Boat Club. In the evening, after a delicious dinner of barbeque ribs and chicken, sojourners heard a talk from our terrific Sojourn Steward Brad Maule, who spent the week photo documenting litter issues, and produced excellent nightly blogs that gave a great recap of each day of the sojourn. Check out his website phillyskyline.com to read about the sojourn and see his beautiful pictures.

Day 7, Friday June 10:  

The last of the sojourners pose for a final photo in Philadelphia
 The 17th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn ended as always at Boathouse Row. Paddlers stopped for lunch at the historic Philadelphia Canoe Club where they got to gaze at some beautiful wooden canoes and hear a presentation from Fairmount Water. Back on the water, they were joined by the Philadelphia Flying Phoenix Dragon Boat Team.
To learn more about the sojourn or to sign up for our email updates visit our website at 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Highlights from the SRT Spreekend

SRT Ale is back! And once again Sly Fox Brewery has generously agreed to donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this "Ale for the Trail" to the Schuylkill River Heritage Area to maintain, expand and improve the Schuylkill River Trail. Sly Fox helped us celebrate the beer's Earth Day release with a weekend of trail activities dubbed the SRT Spreekend.

Friday April 22

The Spreekend got underway on Friday April 22 with an evening trail cleanup in Riverfront Park in Pottstown. Over 20 volunteers turned out, collecting about 20 bags of litter, six tires and a collection of interesting trash that included a ceiling fan blade, vacuum part, broken bicycle pedal, rug and a tent.

After the cleanup, volunteer and our staff helped Sly Fox celebrate the first tapping of SRT Ale.

Saturday, April 23

The day began early with a morning kayak launch as 40 paddlers left Riverfront Park to enjoy a day on the river and make their way to Lock 60 of the Schuylkill Canal in time for the Spreekend Festival which began at 3:00.
While they paddled, a 50K Spreekend Relay Race also got underway on the Schuylkill River Trail, beginning and ending at Schuylkill Canal Park. And the Schuylkill River Heritage Area led a group of 30 volunteers in a cleanup of another section of the trail in Douglassville. They collected 20 bags of trash and helped with a trail-widening project.

All volunteers were given Spreekend T-shirts and vouchers to try the new SRT Ale at the Spreekend Festival which featured Sly Fox Beer, Food and live music throughout the evening.Some people took advantage of the opportunity to camp out in the park and help with our final Spreekend cleanup Sunday morning.

Sunday, April 24

On Sunday, another 25 volunteers showed up for a cleanup at Lock 60. They cleared another 20 bags of trash from along the river and trail. Altogether, we had 66 volunteers at three cleanups remove over 60 bags of litter, in addition to some other large items--numerous tires, a child's plastic swimming pool, a lawn chair, tent, blanket and rug. They worked a combined total of 132 hours! And two other Spreekend cleanups were held in Phoenixville and Norristown in which another 80 volunteers participated.

Overall, the Spreekend was a great way to celebrate, clean and enjoy the trail and the Schuylkill River!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Why Not Sign Up for the Schuylkill River Sojourn's Mid-week Days?

It's happened again. Only hours after we opened up registration for individual days on the annual Schuylkill River Sojourn the first three days of the seven-day guided canoe/kayak tour (June 4-10) are sold out. Sure, everybody wants to paddle on the weekend. But, to keep things safe we allow only about 100 boats per day. That means we wind up turning people away on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, while Tuesday through Friday fill up more slowly--or sometimes don't fill up at all.

If you are one of those who hesitated a bit too long to get on the sojourn's weekend days, don't despair! Here's a day-by-day guide to the sojourn's mid-week days. All have openings so you can sign up for one or all four! As always the sojourn will begin in Schuylkill Haven and end at Philadelphia's Boathouse Row with participants paddling 14-18 miles per day. The program theme celebrates the Centennial of the National Park Service.

 Tuesday June 7 (13.9 miles: Gibraltar to Pottstown)
Riverfront Park, Pottstown
This is a great day for Sojourn newcomers!  It's an easy paddle featuring beautiful scenery with the opportunity to spot interesting wildlife. The lunch stop is at Historic Morlatton Village, one of our region's best kept historic secrets. There, we'll have a presentation about the region's fascinating iron history. And the evening stop, at Riverfront Park in Pottstown, includes arguably the best dinner on the trip, catered by Bause Catering. We're teaming up with Pottstown Borough this year for an entertaining evening featuring a live band followed by screenings from Pottstown's first film festival.

Wednesday June 8. (17.8 miles: Pottstown to Mont Clare Lock 60) 
Lock 60

One of the major highlights of the week-long sojourn happens on this day. Sojourners end the day by "locking through" the restored Lock 60 on the former Schuylkill Canal (see photo on left).. But, there's also some nice scenery and an enjoyable lunch setting  at Victory Park, in Royersford, where the Borough officials welcome sojourners with a delicious cake.  In the evening, paddlers can camp out near the canal, eat spaghetti dinner at nearby St. Micheal's Pavilion, and watch a slideshow about the Philadelphia Flower Show's National Park Service displays.

Thursday June 9 (14 miles: Mont Clare to West Conshohocken)
The river features a nice mix of scenery through this area. Paddlers begin the day in the canal and make their way into the river and through some wooded areas. The sojourn lunch will be at Valley Forge National Historic Park where a park ranger will give sojourners a rundown on how the park is celebrating the Centennial.  This stop always features an entertaining free raffle by Stony Creek Anglers. Later in the day sojourners encounter some interesting bridges and urban settings. At dinner, in West Conshohocken, they'll eat an amazing barbecue dinner served up by the Rib House.

Friday June 10 (16 miles: West Conshohocken to Philadelphia).

This may be the final day, but it's also one of the best days of the sojourn! Sojourners love having the opportunity to paddle with the Philadelphia skyline as their backdrop and alongside the iconic Boathouse Row. If you need another reason to paddle on Friday, lunch is at the historic Philadelphia Canoe Club, where you eat surrounded by some amazing antique boats. You'll also hear a brief presentation about the Washington Rochambeau National Historic Route.  The final takeout is Lloyd Hall on Boathouse Row. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A Look at What We Have Planned for 2016

We expect 2016 to be another year chock full of events and programs that improve the Schuylkill River, expand the Schuylkill River Trail, and make this region a better place to live, work and play.

Improve the Schuylkill River Trail
We are always working with partners to improve, promote, expand and maintain the Schuylkill River Trail. Our Safe Crossings Program is one of the trail projects we will address in 2016, making areas where trails and roads intersect safer for trail users.

Organize a Ride for the River
Ride for the River is a new 40-mile bike ride that will take cyclists from Pottstown to Reading along the Schuylkill River Trail on September 24, 2016. We're holding this event in partnership with Sly Fox Brewery, beginning and ending at the Sly Fox Can Jam festival in Pottstown, which features 8 hours of free, live music.

Promote River Recreation with the 18th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn
The18th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn will be held from June 4-10, 2016 and will incorporate special National Park Service programming at lunch and evening stops in recognition of the NPS Centennial. Since it was first initiated in 1999, the annual Schuylkill River Sojourn has grown increasingly popular. Over the years the 112-mile, seven-day guided canoe/kayak tour has introduced over 3,000 participants from 25 states, Canada, France and Switzerland to paddling the river. 

Complete the Pottstown RiverWalk 
We will cut the ribbon on  the new Pottstown RiverWalk this spring. This new addition to Riverfront Park in Pottstown will connect to the Schuylkill River Trail, creating a one-mile loop through a wooded area and along the river. The RiverWalk will be enhanced by interpretive signs offering information about area wildlife, watersheds, plant life and more. Located behind our offices, it will provide a new amenity for trail users and visitors to our River of Revolutions Interpretive Center.
 Support a Cleaner River with the Schuylkill River Restoration Fund
The 2016 grant round of the Schuylkill River Restoration Fund opened in January. Since 2006, the fund has collected over $2.5 million and awarded grants to 73 projects that improve water quality in the river and its tributaries by reducing pollution from stormwater runoff, agricultural contaminants and abandoned mine drainage.
Host an Evening for the Schuylkill River
On March 12, we will host a dinner and awards ceremony at the Historic Sunnybrook Ballroom in Pottstown. This first-time event will celebrate our work and recognize some of our key partners. Attendees will enjoy an evening of delicious food, live music basket raffles and silent auction items. 
Hold Six Pedal & Paddle Events
Our popular Pedal & Paddles take people on a round trip adventure in Pottstown that includes a 4.5 mile bike ride along the Schuylkill River Trail, a tour of Historic Morlatton Village in Douglassville, and a return trip via kayak on the river. This year, one of our Pedal and Paddles will be held at Schuylkill Canal Park in Mont Clare. Since Pedal & Paddles were first initiated in 2011, they have proven so popular that nearly each event has sold out. Over the years we have introduced hundreds of people to paddling the river and biking the trail through this program. 

Support the Arts through Scenes of the Schuylkill
We recently expanded the reach of our annual Scenes of the Schuylkill Art Show by displaying a selection of 16 pieces of art from last fall’s show at Valley Forge National Historical Park Visitors Center. That exhibit is on display from January 13 to February 26, 2016.  Scenes of the Schuylkill will enter its 13th year next November. Each year, the shown has grown and consistently attracted talented artists whose work celebrates the beauty and character of the Schuylkill River region.
Partner on the SRT SPREE
Last April, we partnered with Sly Fox Brewery to introduce the new SRT Ale, a seasonal beer that celebrates and benefits the Schuylkill River Trail. The beer was launched through a unique event dubbed the SRT SPREE, which took a two-man team on a 110-mile journey along the river and trail. This year, a shorter, weekend SPREE is planned when the next round of SRT Ale becomes available again on Earth Day. In 2015, the sales of the beer yielded over $4,000 for the Schuylkill River Trail.
Introduce a New Water Trail Guide
We are working with a designer on the development of a new Schuylkill River Water Trail guide that includes detailed maps of the river and information on access points, hazards, parks, amenities and notable sites along the river. The guide will be published later this year, replacing our popular but outdated and far less detailed existing guides, and making the river safer and more accessible for recreational boaters.