Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Sojourn Has Begun!

Greetings from the 19th annual Schuylkill River Sojourn! Sarah here, Sojourn Steward for the week! As the Steward, I'll be blogging all week as we make our way down the river. I am from Shillington, Berks County, PA, just a few miles away from where the Angelica Creek meets the Schuylkill. But, working in and studying environmental conservation has taken me to a few different places- the greater Boston area, out west to the Cascades, and to Bhutan in Southeast Asia. Most recently, I spent 15 months in western Uganda, where I worked on environmental conservation programs with communities next to a tropical rainforest.

Now that I am back home in PA, I am so excited for the chance to paddle all the way through the landscape that I grew up in: the Schuylkill River Heritage Area. I am especially excited to join as the Sojourn Steward and spend the whole week exploring water quality and our theme of I Protect the Schuylkill! I am testing the water quality, and will be sharing what we find along the way on social media.

Here are some highlights from our first day, Saturday!

Paddling through the mountainous, forested headwaters in Schuylkill County! The biggest challenge to water quality up here has been polluted acid water from when rain flows through abandoned coal mines, and carries out heavy metals into the river. But, much work has been done to build treatment systems! Testing the pH of the river water in Schuylkill Haven and Port Clinton, we were happy to see that the pH level stayed in the neutral range. Now that the river can support more aquatic life again, a lot of work has moved onto repairing wildlife habitat.

 Sojourner collecting litter in her canoe!

At lunch, we heard from Virginia Vassalotti, Senior Schuylkill Action Network Specialist. The Schuylkill Action Network (SAN) "is a collaborative network with over 150 partner organizations all working together to protect and restore the Schuylkill River and its tributaties." Check out the SAN website for more info! And all of this week, I'll be posting on SAN's facebook page, @schuylkillwaters!

Also at lunch, we were welcomed by the Schuylkill Lodge No. 83....and a pet skunk!!

Back in the river after our first portage, around Auburn Dam.

As a first time Sojourner, the group chatter building up to "the chutes" felt like a 
good introduction to the traditions and lore that make up half the fun of the Sojourn. 

Group gathering to watch and cheer everyone traveling through the chutes!

Spaghetti dinner at the Port Clinton Fire Company, after completing day 1 on the river.

We ended the day with a talk by Master Gardener Steve Daderko on gardening and landscaping practices that protect rivers and streams. Stay tuned to hear more about that topic as the week goes on!

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