Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Few noteworthy river trips...

I have kept a River Journal since 1992 when I came to Lambertville to work for Delaware Riverkeeper Network. Journal entries are short and cover basics such as the river segment paddled, mileage, wildlife, weather, river conditions and paddling companions. I have since logged about 2,800 miles canoeing creeks and rivers, almost all in the Delaware River watershed, with occasional forays to places like Assateague, MD, West Virginia (Cheat River), Pine Barrens, Susquehanna River, and Raritan River. Almost all the paddling is on local waterways.

So far this month I have done two noteworthy river trips. The first was last Friday (7-07) when Sherry and I accompanied Fred Stine and his son Chris (pictured above) who were on a mission to shuttle the Delaware Riverkeeper's motorboat from D&S Marina in Tullytown downriver to Penns Landing, just below Ben Franklin Bridge. The trip began in the shadow of the massive Waste Management Landfill. The marina had problems with floating piles of flotsam and trash that came down the river during the June flood. Plastic bottles, tree trunks and other floatables were swept down the non-tidal river from places like Delaware Water Gap, Easton, Belvidere, Lambertville. Much of that ends up in the tidal Delaware River, and on the Delaware Bay beaches.

From the marina we entered the main channel in the "Riverkeeper" and were treated to a 20-mile long panorama of the tidewater towns and shoreline until the Center City skyline came into view. It is such a different world from the familiar upland Delaware River that I have come to know so well. Bristol PA and Burlington NJ in particular had attractive riverfronts. The NJ shoreline in places was surprisingly natural with sandy beaches, drfitwood and dense vegetation. We bounced up and down through the wakes of several large vessels and made it to downtown Philly in less than two hours. A trip to Vietnam Palace capped an extraordinary day on the wide, wild and windy tidal Delaware River.

Yesterday I joined the Outdoor Club of South Jersey for a Delaware River run, upon the invitation of trip leaders George and Lenoa Fluck. It was my second time out with this club, the first being a several months ago on the Mullica River, it was an unusually warm day - for January. They have good turnouts for their paddling trips (14-30 paddlers), most in solo kayaks.

We did the 15-mile stretch through the heart of the Delaware River piedmont, which features the prominent geological feature know as "Devil's Tea Table." There are rock shelves across the river at the Tea Table, decent current and a few surfing spots.

This was my first trip out on the river since the June flood and I observed a great increase in erosion along river banks and the upstream ends of some islands, most notable was Hendricks Island, where one can see the bleached rocks of the scoured out upper end from a distance of 2 miles. Bulls Island State Park below the Wing Dam is even more eroded than before.

We stopped at Hendricks Is. to check out the giant piles of flotsam and trash, and found some had moved. I plan to visit again in August to develop a plan of attack for the September 16 Island Cleanup.

Bucks County River Country was festive looking and obviously ready for business with all its tubes piled up like so many lifesavers. We encountered the Hot Dog Man at the Kingwood access and stopped by his island eatery for the salty, obscenely overpriced dog w/sauerkraut (only about four bucks). I didn't feel great about patronizing this particular establishment for a number of reasons. But I did enjoy that salty dog, until the raging thirst set in a few minutes later.

The recently completed Delaware River Waterway Trail Concept Plan identified a need for a recreational user study for this stretch of river in particular, it was one of my pet recommendations. Of particular concern is the exploding livery business, mainly tubers (AKA River Potatoes), several thousand who use this part of the river on any given hot summer weekend. There are no toilet facilities available anywhere along the route used by the liveries, and we have a business providing beverages and food. One can't miss the Hot Dog Man because he places signs in the river directing traffic to his island hotdog stand. This occurs within a designated stretch of a National Wild and Scenic River.

Just how are the river potatoes responding to the inevitable call of nature?

Probably the same way I do, by discreetly anwering the call on an island or forested shore. But then I can cover that distance in a fraction of the time it takes a tuber.

For a copy of the aforementioned Water Trail plan, send me an email.

The river level was about 6.20 which made the slow sections go more quickly, but the hazards are greatly increased at the edge of the river where the trees and shrubs can flip and pin an unwary paddler. One member of the group flipped on a downed tree but did not get stuck for long.

On the other hand most of the rocks and shelves are covered and don't pose the usual hazard. But the strainers at the side of the river can be very dangerous. Fortunately the river continues to fall and is now near 5.62' at Riegelsville. I am hoping it falls to or below 5.0' by the time the Girl Scouts arrive for the week-long Rhythms of the River Sojourn, which begins July 17.


Anonymous said...

Re: Just how are the river potatoes responding to the inevitable call of nature? Probably the same way I do, by discreetly anwering the call on an island or forested shore. But then I can cover that distance in a fraction of the time it takes a tuber.

Comment: As someone who lives along the river I believe I'm qualified to provide some insight into this. Far too many of these river users, no matter what mode of transport they choose, simply leave their piles on the shoreline, unburied, in front of people's homes, on exposed rocks, or where ever. That can include the paper, if used, or even soiled shorts. It's rude, disrespectful, and it's filthy. These ignorant people are clueless to "leave no trace" ethics or even decent sanitary practices. They are encouraged to use the river or even dumped in the river as if it is an amusement park. How would decent people like it if the public was passing through their neighborhood, or parked there for a weekend, and leaving these piles scattered about?

Experienced river users and outdoor travelers know to bury this byproduct in a wooded area away from the water, and certainly not to drop their drawers in front of someone's home. Portable facilities are too often tipped over, pushed over hillsides, or otherwise vandalized by a certain portion of our society that has nothing better to do. It's required to pack out human waste on many rivers in the western U.S. and then properly disposed of. That requirement should be a consideration in a populated river valley such as the Delaware.

Fines are imposed on treatment facilities when they dump untreated sewage on the land or in our water, aren't they?

rivergeek said...

Well, your points are well taken. I was referring to #1 calls to nature in my case. I carry a special CampMor trowel that has toilet paper in the handle. And I can easily make a 6-mile trip without the #2 problem.

The point of my comment about that particular section of the river had to do with the fact that tubers travel very slowly down the river and the potential for the #2 call is all that much greater.

Your comment that potapotties won't work is so very wrong and naive. The kind of river users I am talking about would never use anything other than a conventional hopper, unless they were compelled beyond all human possibility to crap on the ground.

How exactly do you propose to educate people who are probably one time users of the river to do the "leave no trace" ethic thing?

It is not a realistic response to the problem. If you are who i think you are, I doubt you have ever experienced the kind of traffic I am talking about between Kingwood and Byram (90% tubers).

Anonymous said...

Looks like my reply has been lost. I wanted to compliment John and respond further, but it would take too much time to reconstruct. Maybe this will bump it back into existence, but I doubt it.