Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fly Ash Spill...

Back in in August 2005 we suffered a coal ash slurry spill of about 100 million gallons from a breached lagoon at the PP&L Martins Creek power plant, located on the PA side of the Delaware River. It was horrible. The river turned gray all the way to the bay. The worst of the fly ash settled into the pools and eddies between Martins Creek and Sandts Eddy, only to be swept down to the bay and Atlantic Ocean by the three major floods that ocurred after the spill.

This toxic ash spill in the Emory River is about five times worse and is occurring in a smaller stream. It's truly sickening.

Wikipedia has this to say
about the Emory River, and it's quite a legacy.

The Knoxvillebiz.com says:

HARRIMAN — Emory River is impassable between mile markers 0.0 to 4.2 because of a mudslide from Monday’s breach of TVA’s Kingston steam plant ash retention pond.

The U.S. Coast Guard this afternoon advised all boaters that the debris is blocking the channel in Roane County.

“This creates a hazardous condition, and all boaters and maritime interests should not transit this area,” the Coast Guard said in a press release.

Monday, December 22, 2008

End of the Year...

A Chinese Mennonite Church? This unusual congregation is located on Broad Street between Tasker and Morris, South Philly - the land of cheesesteaks.

Good riddance 2008. Not that is was bad year - it wasn't. I had little to lose as far as investment and no mortgage to worry about.

How about you?

The rivers and creeks are falling despite all the precipitation, most of it being in the form of snow and ice. The ground is saturated and that will be frozen and locked in for what could become an impressive spring thaw.

Well then - Merry Christmas to all you Christians out there and hope Santa Claus brings you a new paddle or boat.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Waters cresting and falling...

Looking upriver from River Road in Yardley, PA - the Delaware River was in the road Friday night. Yardley is one of the most flood prone communities in the 13,000+ square mile watershed.

A few streams made it to flood stage, most notably my dear old friend the Perkiomen Creek rose to nearly 2 feet above the 11 foot flood. I once lived in a log cabin in the heart of that creek's flood plain and eye-witnessed the 6th all time flood. The Perky flows to the Schuylkill River right through the heart of the Triassic Shale country.

In the Pocono Mountains the Lackawaxen is still rising and the Brodhead came out of its banks. On the New Jersey side none of the Delaware River tribs above Trenton were particularly high. Below Trenton the Crosswicks and North Branch Rancocas are running high and still rising. The Musconetcong only came up to 3 feetplus, but the limestone watershed is nicely recharged so it should stay up for some time.

On the Delaware River the gage at Belvidere is just at 11 ft. or about halfway to flood stage, but showing sides of ebbing.

However, the Riegelsville gage is just over 15 ft and rising towards the dreaded 22 ft stage. Normally these two river gages read roughly the same in terms of height, so clearly the big difference is the Lehigh River which comes in between, and the Lehigh is cranking out the CFS at Bethlehem. The Lehigh is still rising and some of its tribs like Jordan Creek in Allentown are continuing to rise. That means the Delaware below Easton has a ways to go before falling and it will likely approach bank full.

The Tohickon Creek was absolutely ripping at nearly 7 feet early this morning. We paddled the creek at 2.48 ft. a week ago or so and it's a challenge to think of it being nearly 5 feet above that.

Like I said - it looks like we'll have a great paddling winter and spring in terms of water levels. The groundwater will have a chance to recharge before the ground freezes over. All that is needed are a bunch of mild days above 40 deg.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Waters on the rise...

An active Flood Watch Advisory is on for all but the largest rivers due to predicted 2-3 inches of rain. Right now many of the direct tribs to the lower Delaware River are running at or slightly below normal. The Musconetcong at Bloomsbury is running at 1.94 ft. (223 CFS) and the Tohickon Creek at Pipersville is right at normal flow. On the other hand, further up the watershed the Flatbrook at Flatbrookville is well above normal, so they're received more precip in extreme northwest NJ.

Then too some of the higher elevations may be having significant snow melt and that could explain the huge spike on the big Pocono stream. Brodhead Creek at Minisink has risen a foot this afternoon. PP&L is releasing water from Lake Wallenpaupack as evidenced by the big spikes on the Lackawaxen River.

The most important influence for those of us who live along the Delaware River below Easton is the Lehigh River and it's at a normal level (2280 CFS). The ground is wet, perhaps not quite saturated but that won't take too long. If 3 inches of rain falls in the Poconos and Catskills the Lehigh and Schuylkill and even the
Delaware could all rise to near bank full.

I seems likely that many of the creeks and smaller rivers will flood. This will be a good paddling winter. Hopefully there won't be too much water. This river valley has had enough.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Subverting the EPA...

Brunner Island in the Susquehanna River, where they burn a few hundred thousand tons of coal each week.

The Inquirer had one of the nation's very best investigative reporting departments, as recently as twenty years ago. These days the 'Inky' does investigative journalism maybe once in a blue moon. Must be a blue moon on the horizon.

Smoke and Mirrors is a four part series about how Bush subverted the EPA. It's long but it is worth the time. Check it out.

Most people assume the Bushmen were just terribly incompetent and that was often the case. But they set out from the very start to subvert all aspects of government at every possible level. Much of what passed for ordinary incompetence was intentional and cleverly designed to produce chaos, disaster, fear, and mayhem -- conditions which in turn allowed the Bush Crowd to fleece every last one of us and leave our republic in ruins. That remains the goal of many conservatives of the Grover Norquist school who want to "reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." The 'shrink the government' crowd also brought us "Disaster capitalism" and it will take more than a generation to clean up the mess.

Unspoken in that "drown it in the bathtub" credo is that conservatives really want to drown you and me in the bathtub; that's if you still believe in the quaint "government of the people, by the people, and for the people." Lincoln's famous line from the Gettysburg Address sounds positively socialist today.

Iraq, Katrina, the economic meltdown and the constitutional crisis all have that common thread as the handiwork of our venal, greedy, devious rulers. Hey - they're burning the midnight oil to do all the damage they can as you read this - it ain't over yet. Hope may be on the horizon, but dastardly deeds are still being done and will be committed right up until midnight on January 19, and beyond if you consider all the land mines that are being planted for 'O'.
What's this got to do with rivers you ask? Everything has to do with rivers.
The aforementioned series includes an article ("EPA Court follies") that tells a story about federal air quality regs and how the Bushmen craftily gamed the system to the detriment of the entire planet and all whom dwell therein. It cites the specific point that led Christy Whitman to resign. It's difficult for me to feel any sympathy for her despite our special relationship while she served as governor. That's a story for another post that will be told if someone will volunteer to digitize my special videotape and convert it to a ewetube thingy.

Some folks are itching to go canoeing with all the rain coming this week. It's a crazy weather pattern coming up and I have a feeling the creeks and rivers will be running high this coming winter so as to allow maximum opportunities to grab a paddle when the mild day presents itself. Not many days left in 2008, but hoping to carve the water with the paddle at least once more before the year expires. SYOTW!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Back to "Church"...

Shooting a pic with the cell phone while paddling one-handed is always a thrill.

'Spin awhile since I've visited a place of worship, so to speak. Getting out on the water is my idea of a spiritual experience.

The Tohickon Creek is a lovely stream, even at 2.50 ft. and 300 CFS. Red shale cliffs, deep woods, colonial era barns, mills and houses and mostly swift moving water make this one of my favorite paddling destinations.

Chris Meyers and I did the 8-mile run in 2.5 hours including lunch break. We both enjoyed the creek at this level, not as pushy as it can be during the official dam releases.

The weather will turn sharply colder and I'll be hanging up the canoe paddles for a while, or until we get another spate of 40 degree plus weather.

Monday, December 01, 2008


So much rain and so little impact. The Musconetcong only rose about 5 inches and is already dropping.

The thirsty watershed sucked most of the precipitation down into the ground so the level may hold steady above 1.90 once the springs begin to percolate. Or I could just be kidding myself once again.

The Warren Reporter ran a nice story about the restoration project along the Musky Trout Hatchery property. Follow this link.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Rising Rivers...

Patching a leak with duct tape prior to a Musky trip.

Sure wish we had this kind of storm in early November, that would have ensured superb paddling conditions instead of the wimpy flows we saw all month.

This storm hit this morning with the Musconetcong River around 1.72' (160 CFS) and the Delaware at just over 4 feet. Looks like both will rise at least a foot if not more.

If the daytime temps remain in the 40's there might be a mid-week trip down the Musky if I can find another willing paddling partner or three.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


The Finesville dam pictured above is the first dam of consequence in the Musconetcong River upstream from the Delaware River confluence. Photo taken today with cell phone camera.

We almost did a trip on the Delaware River today between Riegelsville and Upper Black Eddy, but Fred had to stay home with an ill child, and that was probably a good thing as there was a wicked cold wind blowing out of the north. Tailwind yes...but temps would have felt like 18 deg.

I took a 40-mile ride up River Road to drop off the Howler at Wally's barn and found the nation's most beautiful road to be open above the Indian Rock in BOTH directions for the first time in years (since the 2nd flood). PennDot and the contractor did a 'heckuva job' restoring the canal wall and roadway along the Nockamixon Bluffs. They're making progress on the heavily damaged canal path below Easton and the stretch below New Hope. Now that we live along the canal I'd love to have water flowing in it again for some local lazy addling...make that Paddling.

The Musconetcong Watershed Association and partners will be having a public meeting on the Finesville Dam Removal on December 2. Just might attend as I started the Musky dam removal ball rolling 6 years ago - they just completed the first project with the removal and restoration at the Gruendyke dam, a project that was absent any controversy.

In terms of controversy this one will be different, but the bottom line is that the landowner (dam owner) wants to take it down so he can sell his property to NJ Green Acres. The dam is next to an historic mill, the mill owner is a historian, and the locals generally don't want any pubic access. The state doesn't want the property with the medium hazard dam in place. And that dam is a killer for sure. Stay tuned.

I will sit in back of room wearing a disguise.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Boney River Trip

Led another Musconetcong Watershed Association group of about 14 paddlers from Point Mountain Bridge to Hampton Borough Park.

The water level was only about 2.07 cfs (1.89') at Bloomsbury and I don't believe that I've ever done this stretch at this low of a level. It looked completely different in places and that is one of the nice aspects of paddling. You can do the same section repeatedly but at different levels it can present different challenges and looks. The 200-300 cfs level is a good place for novice paddlers who want to shorten the learning curve for river reading skills. Only downside is that this time of year the westward flowing Musky presents severe glare problems - it's difficult to read the nuances of rocky shoals and gravelly shallows in the blinding sunlight.

This as a great group of paddlers, most of whom have never paddled this part of the river and a few have never been on the Musky. We had but two impromptu swimmers, one of whom had an encounter with a rock while turned broadside to it, the other just suddenly fell in for no apparent reason, which is usually how I do my "swimming." (we fortunately had Chris & Sue running sweep and they made the first swimmer's experience much less traumatizing)

This was a relatively warm day and surely the cold weather will set in and make for fewer paddling opportunities. This time of year we take what we can get and with elevated river levels likely as we enter the wet season I expect that there some of us will be carving the water at least once or twice each of the upcoming winter months.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Excellent fall river trip...

Sunny blue skies and a perked up river made for the ultimate fall colors river trip.

The much needed rain overlain upon the lake release gave us perfect conditions for the Hampton to Bloomsbury stretch of the Musconetcong River. The brilliant sunshine and warm temps made for a memorable day with a dozen paddlers who came out for the second Musconetcong Watershed Association canoe trip.

The river level was dropping all day but was at 2.38' when we paddled by the USGS Stream Gage at Bloomsbury (it was 2.85' early in the morning and 2.45' when we launched).

We had two sets of tandem canoeists, one solo canoe (me) and and seven solo kayakers.

Highlight of the trip was a brief tour of the Musconetcong WA's River Resource Center, which is under construction. President Bill Leavens filled everyone in on the many hoops involved with obtaining a LEEDS certification - the ultimate blessing from the Gods of Green.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Delaware down and running....

Lucky souls pose in front of Pohatcong Mountain during a Delaware River trip between Phillipsburg and Riegelsville.

The Musconetcong River is running low (around 1.54 cfs) and so the Musconetcong Watershed Association river trip was switched to the Delaware River, which always has enough water. A really nice of group of folks joined me for the Phillipsburg to Riegelsville run on a spectacularly beautiful day.

We had the river mostly to ourselves except for a few other paddlers and a few motorboats. This stretch of the river passes three New Jersey trout streams, Lopatcong Creek, Pohatcong Creek and Musconetcong River. At the end of the trip we found a fine surfing wave at the mouth of the Musky. I demonstrated the basic surfing technique and a few of the others got their first taste of facing upstream perched on a wave with swift current flowing by.

The trip scheduled for next week will likely be changed to the Delaware River as well since there is no significant precipitation predicted for the coming week. Loos like we'll have to wait until November rains to paddle the Musky.

Muchas gracias to Chris and Sue for running sweep and keeping me from being the only canoe amongst the ubiquitous kayakers.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Musky Up and Running

To sign up for the Musconetcong Watershed Association sponsored river trips and indoor class that I will be teaching this Saturday visit the MWA Website.

Finally, the release from Lake Hopatcong has begun (a few days ago) and we got a close up look at it yesterday during the Musconetcong Watershed Association's Annual Wine Tasting, which was held at the Musky Hatchery. Yes the wine was flowing nicely as well as the river.

It was a great time to catch up with folks from the river valley, many of whom worked with me on the Wild and Scenic Study and several other projects.

I was introduced to the guy who hired by the Warren Rod & Gun Club to remove all the fish weirs from that stretch of the river. A lot of seasoned paddlers of the Musky will be surprised to see these singular features missing from the river, unless of course they read this blog post.

I've mentioned this topic a few times and will do it one more time:

The Deadline to Stop the Bush Administration's Gutting of the Endangered Species Act Is:

October 15th To Take Action visit the Center for Biological Diversity

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


OK...it's not to be a tropical storm but a nor'easter will soak us and the region could use a good soaking.

Taking a train trip to Philly to eat at the Vietnam Palace and see a great art show. Carol Wisker (my brother's babe) is a super painter. We had planned to watch the great debate after the show, but McSame has bailed out -- for noble reasons of course. How did the Straight Talk Express morph into the Lying Circus and now into to this Cowards Retreat?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Parched but chance for tropical storm...

Paddled the Delaware River in a tandem canoe with Sharon last Sunday with 20+ other paddlers as a Delaware Valley Division -American Canoe Association outing at Tinicum Park. Tinicum to Point Pleasant is a really pretty stretch of the river. There were plenty of other people out there including a group from Mohawk Canoe Club, and lots of livery boats and tubers.

The gage at Rieglesville read about 2.68' and that might be the lowest level that I've ever paddled the Delaware River, but even then we only scraped a few gravel bars, at least one of those occasions only because I chose the boniest course, much to the chagrin of the unfortunates following me.

The Musconetcong is stuck at 1.68' Bloomsbury and it will stay there as long as the release from Lake Hopatcong remains at a paltry 68 CFS. They should be cranking about 200 CFS.

We do stand a chance of getting some rain with a little flow off the Atlantic. We might even have Tropical Storm Kyle visit somewhere between Thursday through Saturday morning. We need it badly.

The National Weather Service says:
A less circumspect call comes from AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center "the system over the next couple of days will move through an area that will allow it to become better organized and take on tropical characteristics, possibly become a tropical depression.

All interests along the East Coast should closely monitor the progress and development of the disturbance.

Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski says it is too early to determine if the disturbance will make landfall on the Eastern Seaboard, or if it will skirt up the coast while remaining over the open water of the Atlantic.

"The steering currents at this time of year usually direct a system in this position in the Atlantic to the north and northeast, along the East Coast," says Sosnowski.

"The danger here is the system develops rapidly into a hurricane and is then forced to the northwest at increasing speed toward the New England or mid-Atlantic coast Friday into Saturday."

To paraphrase the great War President: "Bring it on!"

And we could get the same results that Bush did. Afterall, 105 years ago we had a similar scenario that eventually became the Pumpkin Flood of 1903.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Save our lakes and rivers!

The bottom of the Delaware River with photographer's shadow.

Poorly planned sprawl development in the form of box stores and strip malls has ruined a once pristine lake. Sound familiar?

New Jersey? Pennsylvania? North Carolina?

Try Alaska.

Sarah Palin, religious fundamentalist and great outdoorswoman has quite a legacy as the former Mayor of Wasilla, AK.

If you're looking for intelligence, sound judgment and prudent planning in our next administration be aware, and beware.

Read about it here.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Day on the Delaware

Looking upstream at the railroad bridge just below Yardley, PA. It's a very active line, and the bridge pier from an early rail line appears just upstream.

Did a local trip today, paddled in the 'hood between Scudders Falls and Calhoun Street Bridge, the very bottom of the non-tidal river, where the cormorants gather on the rocks to air out their armpits.

I'm ashamed to admit it's the first time I've paddled down here since we moved to Yardley, that lovely flood capital of the Delaware River Basin.

It was enjoyable although not so scenic like places upstream. The ugliest stretch the river is not here, or even down by the refineries, it's the stretch of river in Harmony Township. That's anther story.

It was nice to escape the campaign for the day, speaking of which:

Would someone please tell Senator John McSame: 'Senator, I worked with John McCain; I knew John McCain. Senator, you're no John McCain.'

The man has suddenly blossomed into a raging populist, railing against the greed and lack of regulations, a situation that he actively helped to create over the past dozen years.

Quote of the week: "It gives me comfort just to think that after eight years of George W. Bush we will have a president who has actually read the Federalist Papers."
Read why a true conservative will vote for Obama.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Tidal Trip...

I befriended an aquatic Giraffe that has been living in Crosswicks Creek since the 1930's. Thanks to Herb Melhman for capturing this rare sighting.

I've been on too many organized paddling trips where the leaders and participants showed little enthusiasm for ecology, environment, or history. Too many paddlers treat the on-the-water experience as an amusement ride with little consideration given for the health of the waterway, or any other aspect beyond the actual paddling experience.

George and Leona Fluck are great trip leaders. They lead kayakers and canoers on the water but also help the followers better understand and appreciate the natural and man made environment along the way. An so it as with the Crosswicks Creek trip last Thursday, co-sponsored by the Outdoor Club of South Jersey and the NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club.

I hadn't paddled the Crosswicks for at least ten years and seldom visit tidal waters so it was a nice change of pace to be able to paddle up with the tide and paddle back down with the tide without the usual complications of the shuttle. This was an enjoyable and engaged group of paddlers and we were treated to the tidal marsh and some interesting layers of history in this area.

The release from Lake Hopat has been cut back to 75 CFS and not surprisingly the Musconetcong River has fallen back below 2.00' at the Bloomsbury gage (1.86). I've been told that complaints from recreational boaters have forestalled the big 5' drawdown, which is OK, that just guarantees that it will last into November. The lake boaters want a few more weekends of speeding across the water in their gas guzzling power boats. We'll wait patiently for the release toramp up to 200 CFS.

Check out this obit...a real loss for humankind.

Read about the fundamentalist Christian freak who could be the next Republican VP. Frightening.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Endangered Species Act imperiled

I sent out a personal email alert a few weeks ago about the Bush administration's most recent attempt to undermine the federal Endangered Species Act.

Here is a much more in depth and nuanced explanation about the proposed changes to the Act. It's all about the definitions. And it's about the never-ending efforts by Republican politicians to dismantle environmental laws at the behest of their corporate sponsors.

Instructions for taking action can be found at the end of the article.

I've admired the curmudgeonly writer Jim Kuntsler for several years. His recent post on Clusterfuck Nation is a sobering take on where our nation is headed (downhill fast). I don't understand much about Fannie and Freddie but agree with his take on the confluence of peak oil and the end of the suburban American Dream (which is a nightmare for the Planet now that the Chinese and Indians want to be like us).

Looking forward to a Thursday on the Crosswicks Creek - riding the tide back and forth through Hamilton Marsh.

The Musconetcong River has riven to a nice level for paddling, thanks to Hannah and Hopatcong lake, which is dumping at 148 CFS.


What is the difference between Palin and Cheney?


Sunday, September 07, 2008

A Gentle Storm..

Hannah turned out to be just what was needed to perk up the creeks, rivers and vegetation. The Delaware River at Riegelsville rose almost two feet and is already headingback down to a seasonably low flow. Most non-tidal tributaries were not significantly impacted despite predictions of small stream flooding.

As expected the storm (and dire forecasts) repressed turnout at the first ever Northeast Canoe and Kayak Symposium held at Spruce Run State Park near Clinton, NJ. The rain held off long enough for events to take place. Hopefully the turnout will surge today.

The Lake Hopatcong drawdown is underway and will help keep the Musconetcong until the end of October, depending on how much precipitation comes our way. Hurricane Ike will probably hammer the Gulf Coast, but we could get some rain out of it later this month.

Type your zip code into the widget and you will have instant access to all manner of info about water quality and environmental organzations courtesy of EPA.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Hannah cross is coming to town...

It looks like we'll receive at least a few inches of rain this weekend if Hurricane Hannah proceeds as expected. Although anything can happen - there is universal agreement among various models that it will roll up the coast and move through pretty quickly once the high collapses. The Outer Banks is the projected landfall location at this hour. That line keeps moving north?

The Tropical Wave Train foretells what could become a troublesome hurricane season. Fay-Gustav-Hannah-Ike-Josephine it's a veritable Conga Line and forecasters think most of the action will be in the Atlantic instead of the Gulf. As stated below, we need rain, but a few droughts have been alleviated by wicked storms that resulted in flooding for various watersheds from Bound Brook to New Hope.

This time next week we will probably have a good idea of what to expect at the tail end of the Conga line.

This weekend is the first Northeast Canoe & Kayak Symposium to be held at Spruce Run Reservoir. I'll be at the American Canoe Association booth on Saturday (during the monsoon?).

The Lake Hopatcong release has not started as of today. The Delaware River and Musconetcong River are both about as low as can be. I love paddling the Delaware at this level, but if I don't get out there befroe the weekend the river may never be that low again until the next dry summer.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Gustav and Hannah (and Ike?) (and Josephine?)

Be careful for what you wish for? Yes, we need a soaking rain.

But we've seen too many situations over the past few years where an extended dry period ends with a ripping tropical storm, like Floyd for instance.

Gustav is set to whack the Gulf Coast and possibly continue northeast. Hannah may become a hurricane and slam the southeast Atlantic coast. A wave train of tropical depressions may follow.

For now it's Gustav and Hannah, the former to possibly upstage the Republican National Convention where John McSame will be asked to carry the torch for the Oligarchs.

Gustav could develop into a Category 3, 4 or even 5 Hurricane.

Next tropical wave will become Ike and some forecasters project that this one could be the east coast storm we have all been waiting for.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Taste of Fay?

A view of the Delaware River as seen from Bowmans Hill Tower. The river cuts through the hard diabase rock of Sourland Mountain, which looms above the river on the Jersey side. The Lambertville-New Hope wing dam and diabase boulders create the best whitewater on the main stem Delaware River. The tower offers spectacular views of the heart of the piedmont Delaware River watersheds in Bucks, Hunterdon and Mercer Counties.

Looks like we're in for a little rain thanks to the long-lived Fay; perhaps just enough to water the lawns and late summer vegetables. But we might end up with zero precip since the center of this thing seems to be west of the mountains.

Maybe Gustav will kick more rain our way late next week? It's headed somewhere along the Gulf Coast.

The Lake Hopatcong release is scheduled to start September 2, that will bring the Musconetcong River back up to near canoeable levels.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Delaware River in August...

Two tandem canoes on an unseasonably perfect August weekend. We paddled Bushkill to Smithfield Beach and shared the river with quite of few other paddlers, almost all in livery kayaks and canoes.

We didn't need to share the river with the Jet Skiers...they are not allowed anywhere upstream of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area and that is a beautiful thing.

Had the unusual experience of witnessing two inebriated canoers be "assisted" by NPS Rangers after they rolled over their heavily loaded canoe for no apparent reason. Apparently they were heavily loaded too, for we later learned they were charged with charged with DUI's, and indeed we saw one of the rangers bring the red livery canoe downriver on his motorboat - absent the pickled paddlers.

We had an uneventful trip, but it was a swell day on the river, and it was great to see so many people enjoying the river, many campers and many more paddlers. And no jet skis makes the 2 hour drive all the more worth it. How to get them banned on the rest of the river?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dry days...

I led a group of Heritage Conservancy staff down the Musconetcong River. It was an interesting trip as I have never been on the river at that low of a level, and saw things that are usually underwater. The gage was around 1.30' at Bloomsbury, but fortunately the 2-mile stretch of the river we paddled is atypically narrow and devoid of the broad shallow areas found along most of the river below Beattystown.

Rolling out a new blog that gives voice to political issues and will keep this river journal free from the politics.

Welcome to Blithering Idiots

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fay Update...

A swell Canadian high will push in Wednesday and might be strong enough to block Fay from heading our way. Check the latest speculation.

The watershed can absorb a major rainstorm as dry as it's been this summer. Torrential rain could cause flooding in first and second order streams. The Delaware River at Belvidere is a few hundred cfs higher than normal for this time of year (which is normally low). Based on the stream gauges along upper Delaware tribs, more rain has fallen up there. In the lower Delaware watersheds of NJ/PA the tributaries are all running low, some below normal

This Wednesday I'll be leading staff members from the Heritage Conservancy on a short trip down the Musconetcong River, and this will be the lowest flow I've ever done on that happy river. I expect to be dragging the canoe through the riffles.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Ominous warning...

Meteorologists are raising the possibility of a significant hurricane coming our way next week, based on a system coming together near the Virgin Islands. If it develops we''ll have Tropical Storm Fay.

From AccuWeather's Joe Bastardi (not the most coherent post I've seen - he's absolutely agitated by this potential storm)

"The system continues to improve, and I will keep this short. I believe a major, perhaps devastating (worst, southeast U.S. hurricane is in the making and, while the track will be close to the coast of Hispaniola, a turn to the north through the Bahamas by Monday, just east of Florida, with a hit midweek in the Carolinas, is where I am going with this. The track after the Carolinas... well, the the [sic] of it breaking the ridge and coming all the way to New England is there, and the blocking and turn west-northwest into the Carolinas is also."

He goes on to say that it's much too early to tell, but what the hell. And he says they were wrong about the last prediction.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Out of touch...

What river? Well, the above picture was shot during the Delaware River Sojourn, where I served as sort of an honorary safety. That was months ago.

Here it is late August and the paddling life lies dormant, but soon to pick up with a few trips here and there on the Delaware. In October I'm leading a series of river trips on the Musconetcong for my former employer Musconetcong Watershed Association. That starts off October 4 with an indoor class at Merrill Creek Nature Center featuring my "virtual tour" of the river and all manner of issues to be discussed concerning the river as a destination for paddlers.

Meanwhile, world events and the countdown to the end of the Bush Fourth Reich have taken a toll on my spirit. Republicans need to shut the fuck up and get out of the way. Slither back to your suburban enclaves and gated communities, or defect to some other party if you have even an ounce of integrity. It doesn't mater where or who, just do it.

You're leaders have lied, plundered, raped, stolen and murdered their way through the past 8 years. Time to give Planet Earth and your fellow countrymen-women a break. Not that I am so confident that Obama and the Dems will be able to undue the massive damage inflicted upon us by Republicans. They could not do worse, that is for sure.

God's Own Party must perish for the rest of us to survive. Prez Wannabee Senator John McBush (Idiot, AZ) is such a sorry-assed NeoCon jerk - desperately trying to get traction with the war hysteria surrounding Georgia and Russia, a situation that was orchestrated by one of his own handlers. The bogus "Maverick" and "Straight Talk" bullshit artist is a loyal soldier of the Military Industrial Complex. DDE, the last decent Republican president warned us and here we are: an Empire of Knuckleheads on the Verge of Collapse.

Here is an entertaining presentation on McBush's voting record (he doesn't show up to vote very often).

How much money did McBush's chief foreign policy advisor earn as a lobbyist and consultant for Georgia's President? (nearly a million).

Check this out.

I am working on the Manifesto for a swell new political party and also my new blog, the later titled "As the Empire Crumbles." The party? Ron Paul meets Ralph Nader. I'm not joshing. More later.

Back to the river...
I've failed to deliver on my promise to write the definitive essay about the Delaware River flood histrionics. I repeat: any day now. If only someone would pay me I'd do it. That's where it's at.

Quote of the day (from last century):


Thursday, July 31, 2008

Land of Canaan...

Went on the yearly pilgrimage to the high country of West Virginia for the Parsons Family Reunion. Crossed many rivers along the way and stopped to linger by the Cheat River in Holly Meadows, where the Parsons family settled centuries ago.

Most of the action was in Canaan Valley and the nation's 500th National Wildlife Refuge, where my 96 year old Aunt Virginia and cousin Sharon still reside. It's been the site of the reunion for decades. The reunion has always been a study in eating disorders, although the quality of the food has improved radically with the generational shift. No more multiple versions of meatloaf, fried chicken and baked beans. Those days are gone, thankfully.

We hiked some wonderful wilderness areas along the Blackwater River, which is one of the headwater tribs to the Monongahela River (via the Cheat). Canaan Valley is the largest alpine valley east of the Rockies.

Returned home to a muddy Delaware River that also spiked up several feet while we were away. August is the time for some local paddling and relaxation before an insanely busy September and October, where nearly every weekend will be consumed by various river-related activities including two courses I am developing and will be teaching for the Musconetcong Watershed Association and Delaware River Greenway Partnership. More to follow on that.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Great Blue Morning

A ride along the towpath at 6am is a peaceful and solitary experience. Carp, turtles and the occasional heron. This pic was shot with the cell while sitting on my bicycle.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A cleaner 6 miles...

Photos by Leona Fluck

Forty-five volunteers pitched in on a hot and humid day to remove over a ton of trash from the Delaware River during Operation River Bright, which was held Saturday, June 28 and covered a 6-mile stretch of the river between Easton/Phillipsburg, NJ and Raubsville, PA.

Unfortunately, this stretch of the river receives a steady supply of trash and litter of every imaginable type from local residents who frequent favorite fishing spots, as well as in-flow from the Lehigh River and upstream urban areas.

Cleanup participants used canoes and kayaks to transport the trash to the Delaware Canal State Park Locks 22-23. A baby stroller, rugs, mattresses, tires, a lawnmower and bicycle, and thousands of unsightly plastic beverage containers, tarps and bags were removed from the river banks and islands.

Operation River Bright was sponsored by the Delaware River Greenway Partnership and the Lower Delaware Wild & Scenic River Management Committee. Participating organizations included the New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (Delaware Canal State Park), National Canoe Safety Patrol – Lower Delaware Chapter, and the Delaware Valley Division of the American Canoe Association. Lazy River Adventures of Phillipsburg provided canoes for the NJ Youth Corps volunteers, and ShopRite of Flemington generously donated supplies including trash bags, gloves, water and snacks.

A special thanks to the National Canoe Safety Patrol - Lower Delaware Chapter for providing a safer and more efficient day on the water, and for shepherding and mentoring the New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg. And kudos to the New Jersey Youth Corps whose members worked hard, learned something about the river, and made their own community a better place.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Clean it up...


Volunteer boaters are needed for Saturday, June 28 to help remove litter from the river accesses, shorelines and islands along targeted sections of the Lower Delaware River between Easton-Phillipsburg and Riegelsville.

Operation RiverBright offers a wonderful opportunity for recreational paddlers, fishermen, local residents, and organizations to give something back to the river by helping clean-up unsightly trash and debris.

To register and/or learn more about RiverBright
please contact me at rivergeek@verizon.net

Further details about meeting time and place, shuttle arrangements and other details will be provided to registered volunteers.

Delaware River Greenway Partnership began sponsoring river cleanups in 1998 and continues to serve as the main sponsor. Other event participants and/or sponsors include the Lower Delaware Wild & Scenic River Management Committee, Delaware Valley Division of the American Canoe Association, New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg, and National Canoe Safety Patrol - Lower Delaware Chapter.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Trying Trip...

A group of paddlers "raft-up" to wait for the stragglers who struggled with a relentless headwind.

The 17th Annual United Nations International School canoe/camp trip took place last week during the coldest and windiest weather of the entire spring.

This class of 110 fourteen year old students representing thirty-some nationalities were tested like no other. Tuesday featured a steady rain during most of the 13 miles between Dingmans Ferry Bridge and Walpack Bend. Wednesday was mostly sunny but we fought a stiff and steady headwind for all of the 10 miles down to Worthington. Thursday featured periods of sun punctuated by heavy rain showers with 40 mph tailwind gusts. At one point I saw an Old Town Discovery canoe flip underneath the Portland RR Bridge, and while broadside to the wind it blew down the river like tumbleweed.

Despite the extra-challenging conditions I suspect this class will carry fond memories back to school for the next group. The weather was kind during the campground activities and everyone made the most of these rain free moments along the Delaware River.

The twenty river safeties had plenty of action with a total of 6 or 7 boats capsizing during days 2 & 3. That's one of the main reasons we're on the trip.

Resting on the beach below Mary Rift while the unfortunate "swimmers" dry off and change clothes.

It was March 1992 that I moved to Lambertville to work for the Delaware Riverkeeper. My first project was to organize the UNIS trip. At that point in time I was an avid hack paddler. But I knew enough about the potential hazards involved to worry about how to safely lead 85 teens and several teachers from Manhattan down a 38 mile stretch of the river, with two nights camping involved.

The quest to make this trip work safely and still be enjoyable led me to the National Canoe Safety Patrol training weekend in Barryville, NY. Ultimately it led me to American Canoe Association courses, river rescue training and ACA Instructor Certification. Over the years the safety planning and running of the trip has evolved to become the single most important aspect of this "right-of-passage" for 9th grade UNIS students. A few of us have done safety for nearly all of the 17 trips. The first students that paddled down the Delaware with Gene Berliner and me are now about 31 years old. I have a photo of Fred Stine of Riverkeeper and me from year #2 and we both had dark brown hair, now turned thoroughly gray and white.

That's a long time running an annual canoe trip.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Lovely Rain...

Pictured above plunging through Skinners Falls, the new Howler looks just like the old one, except its beautifully restored and there is no hole on the hull. I'll need to find another use for the duct tape.

A nice soaker keeps the river and its tributaries running strong, a welcome condition in advance of the impending UN School trip. This helps to ensure that we'll have some current to carry us through the headwinds, speaking of which, last Sunday the headwinds were brutal on the Delaware River with gusts over 30 mph.

The Howler can buck a stiff headwind so long as the boat is facing into it. Turn sideways and there's a good chance of being flipped over.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

High Season...

Above: ACA members from the Delaware Valley Division enjoy surfing despite a persistent headwind.

Below: A pickerel frog poses during lunch break. This was shot with the cell phone.

May is the primary paddling season thanks to the annual United Nations International School canoe/camp trip, this will mark the 17th annual! Also, this year the Delaware Valley Division of the American Canoe Association reconstituted the Upper Delaware River Camping Trip at Landers Campground, locate in Narrowsburg, NY.

The UNIS trip took me to Manhattan to present a River Safety course to 110 thirteen-year old students representing thirty-some countries. I traveled up there by train a day early to stay over with my older brother Howie's son Jake who is finishing his Junior year at Columbia U.

I wanted to visit Jake and experience the dorm life, and the trip to the UNIS campus presented a great excuse. Jake is an incredibly intelligent and talented kid. Great writer and musician, like his Uncle John? His father is a major fine arts photographer and his mother a writer in her own right (and phD in English). Jake is also unspeakably undomesticated.

He and his six roommates presented the most depraved kind of dorm environment in terms of biological hazards found proliferating in the bathroom, kitchen and most of the bedrooms, especially Jake's bedroom, where I had to sleep. First step was to go out and purchase two pillows as Jake's brown little spittle-stained rags appeared to be slithering across the bed.

I can't describe all the activities that I either observed or joined, but it was an eye-opening, albeit nostril closing experience. I got at least 5 hours sleep -- these guys don't start partying until after my bedtime, around 10:30 PM. I left with the distinct impression that these students are determined to live to the fullest what remains of their surreal, teenage lives. These are Obama fans and their reasons definitely resonate.

The UNIS safety presentation went well enough, once I established my "rapport" with the estudientes. That was established with growls and threats. My main goal was to leave them with a sense of what a three day canoe trip will look and feel like, and to be completely prepared for three days on the river; rain-or-shine they will be paddling through the mountains. It's a formidable physical challenge for these kids to paddle nearly forty miles and camp-out a few nights. Most have never seen a canoe or been in a tent. Yet this event has become a right-of-passage for the incoming freshman class. I'll be joining Delaware Riverkeeper and over twenty other safety officers, all of whom have varying degrees of river rescue experience. Most are involved with the National Canoe Safety Patrol - Upper Delaware Chapter.

The Upper Delaware River camp-out was a much needed visit to "church" and an opportunity to hang out with some of the better paddlers in the region. We did the stretch between Callicoon and Lackawaxen. Twenty-four beautiful river miles, two campfires and a potluck dinner made for a nice "service." We did a little ACA business but mostly it was casual hanging out.

On the way up to the Upper Delaware I stopped at Hampton Park and met a guy who had a newly restored Mad River Howler for sale, just like my old one, but in perfect shape and beautifully restored in all its purple whitewater glory. This is huge because I was able to afford a few hundred dollars (a GREAT price and less than paid for the old beater). A new whitewater canoe that would be big enough for me would be over $1000. I'm set for another few years for solo river tripping and whitewater paddling.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

River Town #4

We're settling into the new abode in the Borough of Yardley, arguably the most flood-prone town in the 13,000 square mile Delaware River Basin. More on that later.

What? You say you can't wait to know? OK. Go here and then come back and read on.

Yardley Borough ranked Numero Uno for flood insurance claims in the Delaware River Basin after the 2005 floods -- that's #1 out of about 150 municipalities in total number of insurance claims; and they dwarf everyone else in total dollars. Yardley came in number 2 for total claims following both 2004 and 2006 respectively -- beat out by Trenton in total number, although Yardley still had higher total dollars.

Maybe this impressive history helps explain why the Mayor here has bought into the bogus "the reservoirs did it" explanation for the inexplicable. He and 10,000 maniacs are sure they know the simple answer to the impertinent question: How could a river flood three times in as many years? Flooding is what a river does when it's had too much to drink (FYI: I am drinking coffee this morning -- albeit a bit too much).

Why did Yardley take it so hard? It's clear to me why they rank so high. I've visited virtually every one of the 150 towns on DRBC's flood claim list. I've never seen any other town with such a high concentration of poorly sited buildings -- many of which were build AFTER the record flood of 1955. There are other contributing factors such as the canal , tributaries, the quaint mill pond, and Yardley is generally lower in elevation than the opposite shore.

So here we are: living in FLOOD CITY. The new apartment is in a massive building along the Delaware Canal, right in the heart of the Borough, well above the floodplain. It's a really pretty, historic canal town with bustling commerce and too much traffic. Just like New Hope and Lambertville, but not that bustling. There are plenty of quality WALKABLE destinations, and plenty of opportunities to spend money and get fat on beer, pastries and pizza. And there is the canal path, which is still in good shape down here. It is a popular place for hikers, dog-walkers and bicyclists. Lots of interesting 18th-19th-20th-century structures to check out. We'll be out there this weekend.

This is either the fourth or fifth Delaware River town that I've resided in depending on whether or not you count Kintnersville as a river town -- I don't. The others are Riegelsville, PA; Stockton, NJ; and Lambertville, NJ, which I consider to be home more than the others by virtue of number of years lived and partied therein. Now that I think about it...it's five river towns. I lived in Philly as a student in the 60's. That's 1960's. Philly is a serious river town since it also includes the Schuylkill River. And I lived for a brief period of time in Norristown...a Schuylkill River town. Then there was New Hampton on the Musconetcong River and Schwenksville along the Perkioment Creek. A life-time of creek and riverside living. Can't beat that with a stick.

I'm looking forward to canoeing this stretch of the river, which is generally flatter than the upriver sections usually frequented. There are some interesting looking islands and of course the falls at Trenton and Scudders Falls. Paddling local is a good thing.

Anyone care to join me?

It's kind of nice to be back in Pennsyltucky, despite all the New Yorkers who have settled around here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

On the Musconetcong in March...

How could we resist a 3.22' water level on the river at Bloomsbury? No trip would be complete without some fortifying duct tape on the Howler's old beat-up hull (above).

Eric S and Chris M joined JB on a 12-mile run between Beattystown and Hampton Borough Park. I'm keeping their last names secret so they won't be picked up by Homeland Security. This stretch of the Musconetcong is a perky class one & two stretch of the river that features a nice mix of national historic structures and mixed hemlock-hardwood forest.

The Point Mountain Section is incredibly secluded and scenic, but after that the riparian areas are punctuated by extraordinarily degraded farmland. Two farms in particular contribute an estimated 50% of all the fecal coliform in the river. They are the Mannon Farm in Mansfield Township and the Miller Farm in Washington Township (pictured below). Both are located in Warren Counnty. YeeHah!

This was a really relaxing canoe trip despite the last minute impromptu swim by one of our party. Bringing in the sunken cargo-laden canoe was a challenge. Truly, we followed that boat at least 400 yards before we could get it on the shore.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


How did we ever dodge that one? The NYC reservoirs must have saved the day. Oh wait, they're full. What the *?

Hopefully we'll be rain free for several days so the landscape can dry out a bit.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Look out....

If we get the predicted potential of 3" rain over Friday and Saturday the river may enter the dreaded realm of severe flood. So far only a moderate flood event is predicted (22.5 at Riegelsville). The river is out of its banks at 22' at that location.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Skinny on Floods...any day now

(photo Assateague Island November 2007)

How to shake this blogger from a state of dormancy? The issue of Delaware River floods and flooding in general will get me going. And now we have the threat of flooding with the predicted 2-inches of rain, which didn't happen -- just another spring freshet.

Meanwhile another rainstorm is approaching from the south. That can't be good.

I've been reluctant to wade into this uber complex issue, preferring instead to observe the never ending debate about flooding along the Delaware River. Debate is too kind a word for what I've witnessed.

Distilling this extremely complex subject into a few pages will take time. I'm still trying to figure out which hat to wear and which voice to use. If only it was as simple as certain simpleminded people think it is.

Speaking of which...one of the first chapters will deal with the myths and propaganda being spread around the watershed like so much horse manure by the Delaware Riverside Conservancy. This mob uses junk science and revisionist history to support their hysterical claims. The tragic result is that hundreds if not thousands of floodplain dwellers believe that a 20% void in the reservoirs will "stop the flooding." It wouldn't, although it could help reduce flooding in certain circumstances, to varying degrees. That's the rub. The river will flood no matter what; not every flood is reservoir inspired much less reservoir related. After all, there are at least three general categories (themes) of Delaware River floods and several possible meteorological and hydrological variations with each. Serious flooding can and has occurred without any influence from the reservoirs.

I predict that the river rednecks will soon be calling for a massive flood control project featuring a dam across one of the only free-flowing major rivers in the Nation. Not going to happen. A war would break out. I'd be on the side of the free-flowing river.

The answer? There are many. Best ones? Raze or raise. Buy-out and raze the more vulnerable homes, especially those that originally served as summer cottages. Raise up the rest. There are many other measures that can be taken to lessen the economic impact of floods.

My self-imposed deadline for the series is June 14. It will be a birthday present and a special gift for the Delaware River. That's my voice and that's my hat. Any day now. Any day now.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Canoeing in February...

Pic #1 Eric looks upstream at Rivergeek during a February trip down the Musky.
Pic #2 Chris shoots the last fish weir below the Musky Trout Hatchery.

Did an impromptu run down the Musconetcong between Hampton and Bloomsbury with Chris and Eric. I call this stretch the "same ol' same old" because it is generally deeper with only a few gravel bars. It was a chilly day but not bad for February, which is one of the best months to paddle for those who prefer sharing the river with only a few people and many ducks.

We portaged at the Musconetcong Watershed Association's future "River Resource Center" in Asbury. I came up with this simple name for a grant proposal while serving as MWA's Executive Director around the turn of the century. Ironically, one of the reasons I left MWA's employ, besides the fact that they weren't paying me, was because of the realization that the building and adjacent mill would necessarily become a primary fundraising focus, with no concern for maintaining professional staff (I couldn't take the competition). The other reason was that my work on behalf of the effort to secure National Wild and Scenic status for the river was finished. The Eligibility and Classification Report, and River Management Plan were done and designation legislation was pending. Funding dried up. Debt was acquired and many days were spent on the water.

Ironically, MWA just received an astounding $4o0,000 grant from Warren County to fulfill the dream of establishing the Musconetcong River Resource Center. Add in the recent W&S designation and these are exciting times for MWA.

Work at the vineyard has wound down. I helped out in the wine tasting room last weekend because they faced hundreds of thirsty customers doing the Wine Trail. It's unclear whether or not I'll be pruning this winter since they are in the process of changing ownership. When it warms up there may be more time for canoeing, although work with the Sourland Planning Council and volunteering with the American Canoe Association's National Board as well as the Delaware Valley Division leaves little time for carving the water with a canoe paddle.

I'll be dropping Sharon off in Pittsburgh and heading to Canaan Valley WVA to celebrate my Aunt Ginny's 96th b-day and party with cousin Doug Parsons and his frau. The Poconos Mountains have more snow than Canaan, which is amazing because the later averages over 120 inches per year. It was the same situation last year right up until we visited Canaan over President's Day, when
it snowed heavily and non-stop the entire weekend.

For a live view of Canaan Valley go to the US Forest Service Air Quality Station, which gives a view of the valley from Dolly Sods Wilderness Area.

Wikipedia has this to say about Canaan Valley:
"Canaan Valley was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1974. The National Park Service citation indicates that the Valley is "a splendid 'museum' of Pleistocene habitats ... contain[ing] ... an aggregation of these habitats seldom found in the eastern United States. It is unique as a northern boreal relict community at this latitude by virtue of its size, elevation and diversity." Since 1994, about 60% of the Valley has become the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, the nation's 500th. The local pronunciation of "Canaan" is Kuh-NANE', rather than the conventional KAY'-Nin for the Biblical region from which the area takes it's name."
That's right..Kuh-NANE. None of that biblical crap for us billhillies.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Balmy start to the paddling season...

Nappy Yew Hear!

Almost 60 deg. on January 7...couldn't resist a day on the water. Chris Meyers joined me for an 8-mile run down the Musconetcong River, the best winter paddling river in the region. Uneventful and relaxing day with perfect 2.50' level at the Bloomsbury gage. It was balm for the soul.