Schuylkill Sojourn Day 1: A Drink at the Chutes

Pretty little Schuylkill
Pretty little Schuylkill

Schuylkill River Sojourn 2016 is officially under way. Last night my girlfriend Liz and I got a pre-Sojourn look at the UPPER upper headwaters of the Schuylkill River, exploring the 12-15 miles of the river above the Sojourn launch point at Schuylkill Haven.

As nearly as I could tell, the highest source of the main stem of the river is off of “Mining Trail” off of US-209 (adjacent to which the unpaved Schuylkill Valley Heritage Trail follows)… turns out it’s on private land owned by an explosives company that works with the coal companies nearby. A mile or so down 209, the wee Schuylkill passes under the road for the first time unceremoniously through a culvert without so much as a PennDOT sign reading “Schuylkill River.” The photo above is just off the road, the nascent Schuylkill surrounded by ferns and rhododendrons.

The river winds its way through small towns like Port Carbon and New Philadelphia (there’s a New Philadelphia?!?) on its way to Pottsville. We spent the night at the Pottsville Ramada after filling our bellies on Roma’s wood-fired pizza and, obviously, Yuengling beer brewed with Schuylkill River headwaters. (Lord Chesterfield Ale for me.)

Enough of the intro; on to the Sojourn.

And we're off: putting in at Schuylkill Haven
And we’re off: putting in at Schuylkill Haven

Four miles below Pottsville, the river enters Schuylkill Haven, all of it in Schuylkill County. Between all of this and the hashtags #schuylkillriver #schuylkillsojourn and such, I’m starting to experience semantic satiation: the repetition of a word to a point it loses its meaning.

Here in Schuylkill Schuylkill Schuylkill Haven, the Schuylkill Sojourn began with intros, breakfast, a greeting from the town’s mayor, the (very important) safety instructions, and at last, put-in. The early morning fog began to burn off by the time several of us saw a bald eagle perched in a tree, not 20 minutes after launch. Within the same timeframe, I started noticing trash.

Typical post-storm trash eddy
Typical post-storm trash eddy

But it wasn’t horrible. The Schuylkill Scrub must have done a nice job on the upper river, because all told, it was pretty clean. The day’s ~16-mile paddle was split in half, lunch held above the Auburn Dam. Below the dam all the way to take-out at Port Clinton, there was next to no trash. But above the dam, some samples included…

• 35 tires (those were just what I could see – certainly more were submerged)
• 3 shopping carts
• and at least one each of: cooler, large rusted appliance (fridge? washer or dryer?), yoga ball, bowling pin

There were of course several plastic bottles, and big sheets of plastic or synthetic burlap wrapped on exposed roots. But all told, pretty clean.

In these upriver towns, folks really enjoy the Sojourn, coming out to the river banks and bridges to see the spectacle. Tomorrow, we’ll hope to see some more on Day Two to Jim Dietrich Park in Muhlenberg Township.

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Some additional pics from Day One…

Standard view
Standard view
Two of 35 total tires
Two of 35 total tires
Above Auburn Dam
Above Auburn Dam
Below Auburn Dam
Below Auburn Dam
Approaching "The Chutes," a legendary rapid passing under a disused railroad bridge. I may or may not have dunked here.
Approaching “The Chutes,” a legendary rapid passing under a disused railroad bridge. I may or may not have dunked here.
Take-out in Port Clinton, just before spaghetti dinner and $1.25 Chesterfields at the Port Clinton Fire Company
Take-out in Port Clinton, just before spaghetti dinner and $1.25 Chesterfields at the Port Clinton Fire Company

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