Saturday, June 2, 2012

Hurry up and wait

By Brandie Kessler
Sojourners who have been itching to get on the water for months had to wait a little while longer Saturday, after Mother Nature dumped two inches of rain on the region Friday night.
Photo by Jeremy Quant

Although the sunshine beckoned, “Come on in, the water’s fine,” Kurt D. Zwikl, executive director of the Schuylkill River Heritage Area said the beautiful day was a bit deceiving, evident to anyone who took a look at the river.
“The water was very high and very fast,” Zwikl said, explaining why the itinerary for the first day of the Schuylkill River Sojourn was adjusted for safety. Although kayakers and canoeists were scheduled to make the trip from Schuylkill Haven to Auburn Dam before lunch Saturday and then continue on to Port Clinton for the night rest stop, the river conditions made launching unsafe, especially for most of the beginners on the trip.
Zwikl said guides Alan and Betsy Quant (from Canoe Susquehanna), assessed the river Saturday morning and said “we should not paddle today, it’s just not safe.”
Zwikl pointed out that the Schuylkill River in Schuylkill Haven, Schuylkill County, is very different from the Schuylkill River people see in Montgomery County. In Schuylkill Haven, where the sojourners would have launched from Saturday morning had they gone on the river, the river itself is “about half” the width of the river in Pottstown, Zwikl said. With less width and more water from the heavy rain Friday night, the water level was high.

Photo by Jeremy Quant
“So, we made the decision we should have our normal opening remarks in Schuylkill Haven,” then we loaded up the boats and went to the lunch spot in Landingville where sojourners were able to get some paddling in at a pool near Auburn Dam.
Zwikl said behind the dam “it kind of opens up like a lake,” so although sojourners didn’t get onto the river, they got plenty of paddling in. “We kept on schedule but just didn’t paddle the first stretch,” he said. “Same with the afternoon session. That was equally dangerous from Landingville to Port Clinton, so we parked” loaded the boats and headed to Port Clinton. There, sojourners were able to get to know a little about the attractions that surround the river, Zwikl said, and were given the option to stop out to Cabela’s, one of the sojourn sponsors this year, or head to Hawk Mountain.
Zwikl said the plan is to check the water Sunday and see how it looks.
“You can see the water going down,” he said, optimistic that sojourners should get their first day on the river Sunday.
Zwikl noted that Saturday marked just the second time since 2003 that part of the trip on the river had to be canceled.
“Everybody was rearing to go, it was a beautiful day today, it’s hard to hold back,” but safety is the first consideration, he said.
Zwikl said the objective of the sojourn is to educate people on the river both as a source of drinking water – 1.5 million people get their drinking water from the river – and also as a source of recreation.
Photo by Jeremy Quant

He said it’s fun for new faces to come out each year and learn about the river and enjoy their time on the water.
“Since we started the sojourn in 1999, we’ve had people from 20 different states and the District of Columbia” on the trip, Zwikl said. This year, the trip officially became and international event, with the participation of a Canadian.
“We’re excited about that,” Zwikl said. “We can add that to the list.
The sojourn “has become a special event for the region and it’s the only one of its kind,” he said.


  1. It must have killed you Brandie not to go in. Not to worry, you'll have plenty of time to get sore arms.! (Sent from Gettysburg)

  2. Evan,
    I don't start my paddling until Tuesday, but I can tell you it would have been tough to have a gorgeous day and not be able to get on the river. However, being safe is better, I suppose, than being swept away. I think it's great that the organizers have alternate plans so people still get time to paddle and enjoy the landscape that surrounds the river. Hopefully conditions improve and sojourners enjoy the rest of their trip spending time on the river.