Thursday, April 25, 2013

Volunteers from Penn State Schuylkill Clean the Schuylkill River Trail in Landingville

About 14 volunteers came out to clean up the Schuylkill River Trail Bartram Section, near Landingville in Schuylkill County  last Saturday, in honor of Earth Day. While their numbers were small, the task they performed was not. Among the items they pulled out of the area surrounding the trail were: 90 tires, a refrigerator and other appliances, scrap metal, and piles of plastic bottles and other debris.

The Schuylkill River Heritage Area organized the cleanup with the assistance Penn State Schuylkill, the Schuylkill Headwaters Association, and RETTEW Associates Inc.’s Schuylkill Haven office.  Support was provided by the Black Rock Motorsports Club, whose members used winches to haul out the tires , and CJ’s Tires, in Orwigsburg, which graciously volunteered to accept the tires from the site. Clean It Supply, based out of Jeffersonville, also assisted with the cleanup effort by donating 150 56-gallon trash bags, while the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation donated vests, work gloves and an additional 100 trash bags.

The trail cleanup was held in conjunction with the Schuylkill Scrub, a watershed-wide event that takes place over several weeks every spring. The Schuylkill Scrub is an effort of many partners who share the common goal of cleaning roads, streams and park to prevent trash from making its way into drinking water sources.

The Landingville section of the Schuylkill River Trail was in particular need of attention. It was an easy dump site before the trail was built and has been the focus of clean-ups in the past. To give an idea of the magnitude of the problem, during an earlier cleanup 120 tires were removed. Schuylkill River Heritage Area Trails Project Manager Robert Folwell said more tires and other debris remain in that area, and additional cleanups will be held in the future.

In addition to the Landingville cleanup, volunteers were also out on the Thun Section of the Schuylkill River Trail, near Squirrel Hollow Road in Berks County. The Schuylkill River Trailkeepers and the Berks Bicycle Club cut back branches and pruned overgrowth in that area, getting the trail ready for spring trail users. See photos of that cleanup in The Mercury.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Reasons to Sign Up for the Schuylkill River Sojourn's Mid-Week Days

Photo by Dan Creighton
Every year it happens. The first few days of our annual week-long Schuylkill River Sojourn fill up as soon as registration opens, but registrations trickle in more slowly for the other days. The reason for this is simple: the first two days happen on the weekend.  And Monday, which also fills up quickly, includes an area of rapids that many paddlers enjoy. But, with only about 100 boats allowed on the water per day (for safety reasons) not everyone who wants to participate on those days can get in. However, Tuesday through Friday of the annual sojourn all offer great paddling opportunities and they are much easier to get into. Here are few reasons to sign up for days other than Saturday, Sunday and Monday for this year's 15th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn, which takes place from June 1-7. As always the sojourn will begin in Schuylkill Haven and end at Philadelphia's Boathouse Row with participants paddling 14-18 miles per day, and choosing all or part of the trip. The program theme is A Civil War Odyssey.

 Tuesday June 4. (13.9 miles: Gibraltar to Pottstown)
If you have never done the sojourn before, and want to test out a day, this is the day to try. This is a somewhat shorter paddling day, with only 13.9 miles of paddling and a lot of beautiful scenery. Despite passing near some urban areas, when you're on the river you truly feel like you are in the wilderness. Paddlers in this area have reported seeing bald eagles and other interesting wildlife, including the swan pictured on the left. Another reason to consider Tuesday? We have great programming planned. The lunch stop at Historic Morlatton Village includes great food in a beautiful and historic setting. Schuylkill River Heritage Area Executive Director Kurt Zwikl will provide an interesting program on Abraham Lincoln's connection to the Schuylkill River Region. And the evening stop, at Riverfront Park in Pottstown, includes arguably the best dinner on the trip, catered by Bause Catering. The evening program will feature an entertaining and educational performance on Civil War buglers by History Alive's Rich Pawling.

Sojourners come through Lock 60
Wednesday June 5. (17.8 miles: Pottstown to Mont Clare Lock 60) Paddlers again encounter pleasant scenery and one of the highlights of the weeklong sojourn: they end at the restored Lock 60 on the former Schuylkill Canal. Lock 60 is the only operating lock remaining of the canal, and one of the only canal sections still watered. Sojourners end the day by "locking through" the lock (see photo on left) so they not only get to experience a bit of history, but some interesting paddling, as well. Wednesday's lunch setting is also enjoyable, at Victory Park, in Royersford, where the speaker will talk about the Griffin Gun, which was produced in Phoenixville and used by the Union Army during the Civil War. In the evening, paddlers can camp out near the canal, eat spaghetti dinner at nearby St. Micheal's Pavilion, and learn about the Underground Railroad in the region from presenter Chris Densmore, curator of Friend's Historical Library at Swarthmore College.

Thursday June 6. (14 miles: Mont Clare to West Conshohocken) This is a great day to paddle for several reasons. For one thing, it contains a nice mix of scenery. Paddlers begin the day in the canal and make their way into the river and through some wooded areas, then make a rest stop at Valley Forge National Historic Park. Later in the day they encounter some interesting bridges and urban settings. From a programming perspective, this is "General's Day" where both programs focus on Civil War generals. Lunch is at Upper Merion Boathouse, where Bruck Hocking, President of the W.S. Hancock Society will talk about Norristown native General Hancock. At dinner, in West Conshohocken, Professor Andy Waskie will give a living history performance of Gen. George Meade. Both presentations promise to be entertaining.

Friday June 7 (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 surrounding by some amazing antique boats. The final takeout is Lloyd Hall on Boathouse Row, but before that the sojourners always organize for everyone's favorite sojourn photo, the Sojourn Salute (see photo above).

Click here to register for any of the above days.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Preparing for the 15th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn

2011 Sojourn photo by Dan Creighton
On April 1 we opened registration for the 15th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn which will take place from Saturday June 1 through Friday June 7 this year. For the first time, we are providing a two-week registration period that is exclusive to full-trip registrants only. Those wishing to participate in only part of the trip can sign up beginning April 15. This is being done because of the increasing popularity of the first few days of the trip, which fill up so quickly (for safety reasons only 100 boats are permitted on the water each day) that full-trip hopefuls often miss out on the weekend.

Photo by Jeremy Quant
At the Schuylkill River Heritage Area, we've been organizing the sojourn for the past 15 years. The Schuylkill River Sojourn is a 112-mile, seven day guided paddle that begins each year in rural Schuylkill Haven and ends a week later at Philadelphia's Boathouse Row. Participants can register for as little as one day, or the entire trip. Typically, the first three days are the most popular--the first two because the occur on the weekend, and the third because it includes "Kelly's Rapids," a fun section of fast moving water.

2012 Sojourn Performance
Paddlers travel 14-18 miles per day, taking occasional  water breaks and stopping for lunch and overnight campsites at parks along the river. All lunch and evening stops feature musical entertainment or programs on such topics as local culture, history or the natural environment. This year's program theme is A Civil War
Odyssey. It will feature experts speaking on topics such as the Underground Railroad, the role of Schuylkill County Miners in the war, a bugling performance, and a discussion on the commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg by Gettysburg National Park Superintendent Bob Kirby. Click here to learn more about the daily itinerary and programs for 2013.

Each year, the sojourn's popularity grows.  A survey of 2012 sojourners found that over 90 percent of participants rated their overall experience on the sojourn as either good or excellent. What do people like
most about the sojourn? Camaraderie, fun, and days on the river. Here's what some of our sojourners from last year had to say about their experience:
  • " I come away with a good feeling that there are wonderful, friendly people in the world!"
  • " Learned a few river paddling techniques, made a lot of new friends, and had a fantastic time!"
  • "Everyone who attended had high praise for the event and it was justified."
  •    "I learned that an amazing group of river guides can take a nervous newbie and teach her to have a fabulous and safe time on the river." 

Visit our website to learn more about the sojourn's costs, deadlines, programs and more.