Monday, June 22, 2015

Highlights from the 17th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn

The 17th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn was one for the record books. We had 73 paddlers make the full 112-mile journey. That's more full-trippers than we've ever had in the event's 17-year history. We also filled each day with the maximum number of boats on the river (about 100-120), something we haven't done since the sojourn's 10th anniversary in 2008. All those people on the water made for a particularly fun seven days, filled with friendship, laughter, a few water fights and, oh yeah, paddling. Lots of paddling. Overall, it was an amazing week. Here are some of the highlights.

Friday June 5

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. Paddlers were invited to climb aboard or just look at and learn more about the anthracite coal fired engine is an important piece of Schuylkill County's history. Several of our staff members climbed aboard and, yeah, we pulled the whistle.

Day 1, Saturday June 6:  

Before the launch
The Chutes
Sojourners launched from Schuylkill Haven and paddled to Port Clinton. Rain earlier in the week made for absolutely perfect water levels. Watching over 100 kayaks launch on their 112-mile journey is always an impressive site. Check out this video on YouTube taken by our photographer Ted Danforth. See his photos here.
Our program theme this year was Schuylkill Canal: Legacy & Landmarks. At Saturday's lunch, Schuylkill Haven Historian Rick Nagle gave a presentation about the Early Days of the Canal.  After lunch, sojourners took an exhilarating paddle through "The Chutes."

Day 2, Sunday June 7: 

As they paddled from Port Clinton to Muhlenberg Township, sojourners portaged Kernsville Dam. Shortly before the portage, the flotilla of kayaks as filmed by this drone video taken by Al Kershner.  Haley Sheeler, long popular with sojourners, entertained with her original music. Sojourners then paddled to the beautiful Jim Dietrich Park, in Muhlenberg Twp., where they set up camp and heard an entertaining presentation about Women on the Canal by re-enactor Nancy Bossler from the Berks County Heritage Center.

Day 3, Monday June 8:   

Crazy Hat Day!

Monday of the sojourn is always one of the most popular days of this seven day adventure.  For one thing it features Kelly's Rapids, just outside of Reading, and for another it's Crazy Hat Day!. This year, there were more crazy hats than ever! Sojourners also learned about the canal in Reading at lunch, and, in the evening, about the Allegheny Aqueduct that served to carry canal boats over the creek. While camping in Allegheny Aqueduct Park, sojourners braved a severe thunderstorm. Some took refuge in the historic Beidler House on the property, even though we were told it is "definitely haunted!"

Pottstown Dragon Warriors

Day 4, Tuesday June 9

Sojourners paddled from Gibraltar to Pottstown. They lunched at Morlatton Village, where they heard a presentation by fellow paddler Dave Kohler about the Irish contribution to the Canal. Afterward paddlers were joined on the water by the Pottstown Dragon Warriors, who traveled with them to Pottstown's Riverfront Park and offered sojourners an opportunity to test out dragon boating. Another highlight of the day: we were joined on the water by our new Executive Director Silas Chamberlin (left). And Reading Eagle reporter Paige Cooperstein also joined us and wrote this first person account of her journey. The evening ended with a band playing music by the river.

A Group Shot at Lock 60

Day 5, Wednesday June 10:  

Sojourners capped off one of the longest paddling days (17.8 miles) with an annual tradition of
locking through the restored Lock 60, the only operating lock remaining of the former Schuylkill Navigation System.  At lunch they were welcomed at Royersford's Victory Park with some delicious local foods, including a fun box of Schuylkill Mud candy from Sweet Ashley's. In the evening, sojourners were entertained by author Charlie Adams who talked about the Schuylkill Rangers, a group of pirates who once terrorized canal boats.

Norristown Dragon Boat Club

Day 6, Thursday June 11: 

Sojourners continued on to West Conshohocken. They stopped at Valley Forge National Historical Park for lunch, where park Ranger Deirdre Gibson talked about the desilting basing  in the park. Once again this year, the Norristown Boat Club accompanied us for part of the trip and allowed some kayakers to take a turn in the Dragon Boat. In the evening, after a delicious dinner of barbeque ribs and chicken, Kay Sykora of Destination Schuylkill River talked about the Manayunk Canal.

Heading to the final take out in Philly (Photo: Gene Miller)

Day 7, Friday June 12:  

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 on INVISIBLE RIVER'S performances that celebrate the river. A reporter from Billy Penn joined us for this leg of the journey. You can read her excellent first person account here.

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