Schuylkill River So­journ to mark 20 years

The Community Connection - - FRONT PAGE -

When the first Schuylkill River So­journ launched in 1999, most par­tic­i­pants had ca­noes, and pad­dling on the river was a nov­elty to many.

On Satur­day, June 2, the an­nual 7-day, 112-mile guided pad­dle will cel­e­brate the 20th an­niver­sary of that first launch. It will fea­ture pad­dlers of all ex­pe­ri­ence lev­els, most of whom will travel by kayak, and nearly all have ei­ther pad­dled on the Schuylkill or dreamed of do­ing so.

The an­nual Schuylkill River

So­journ be­gins each year in Schuylkill Haven and ends a week later at Philadel­phia’s Boathouse Row. Or­ga­nized by the Schuylkill River Greenways NHA, it has evolved into a pop­u­lar pad­dling event that has in­tro­duced over 4,000 peo­ple from 25 states and four for­eign coun­tries to pad­dling the river.

This year, par­tic­i­pants hear­ken from 11 dif­fer­ent states, some from as far away as Wash­ing­ton and New Mex­ico. A to­tal of 70 pad­dlers will make the full 112-mile jour­ney, and over 100 more will join for one or more days. Two full-trip pad­dlers, Carl Rar­ing, of Pottsville, and Jim Showal­ter, of Read­ing, have par­tic­i­pated in ev­ery so­journ since 1999.

“The 20th an­niver­sary of the Schuylkill River So­journ is truly a mile­stone worth cel­e­brat­ing. This is an event that is fun, pop­u­lar, and has grown to be a bucket list item for many,” said Schuylkill River Greenways NHA Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Elaine Paul Schaefer. “But more im­por­tantly, the so­journ draws at­ten­tion to

the river as a valu­able nat­u­ral and recre­ational re­source. Re­search shows that peo­ple who recre­ate on a river are more likely to pro­tect it. The so­journ has in­spired thou­sands to have a greater ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the river.”

Over­all, daily at­ten­dance num­bers are high for the so­journ. For safety rea­sons, only about 110 to 120 boats are al­lowed on the wa­ter each day, and most days are at or near ca­pac­ity.

As dozens of col­or­ful kayaks float down the river, the so­journ cre­ates a spec­tac­u­lar scene. In river com­mu­ni­ties all along the way, peo­ple gather on bridges and over­looks to watch the so­journ pass.

Each year, to en­cour­age par­tic­i­pants to bet­ter un­der­stand

the river, ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams are pro­vided at all lunch and evening stops. This year’s pro­gram theme, “Cel­e­brat­ing 20 Years,” will fea­ture pre­sen­ta­tions that give a 20-year per­spec­tive on the river cor­ri­dor. Top­ics will in­clude the Schuylkill River Trail, in­va­sive plants, dams, river health and more. For the third year, the Schuylkill River Greenways NHA has teamed up with the Schuylkill Ac­tion Net­work to hire a So­journ Ste­ward who will help iden­tify an­i­mals and birds, and post pho­tos and sto­ries to a

blog and so­cial me­dia.

Al­though the Schuylkill River So­journ is a recre­ational en­deavor, its pri­mary pur­pose is to draw at­ten­tion

to the river as this re­gion’s most crit­i­cal nat­u­ral re­source, and as a source of drink­ing wa­ter for over 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple.

A de­tailed day-by-day itin­er­ary for the So­journ can be found by vis­it­ing www. schuylkill­river.org/so­journ. aspx.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF SCHUYLKILL RIVER GREENWAYS NA­TIONAL HER­ITAGE AREA

So­journ­ers raise their pad­dles in salute on the river dur­ing last year’s Schuylkill River So­journ.

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