Monday, August 31, 2009

Twenty-five miles...

Upper Delaware River below Shohola Rapids

The last weekend of August was spent on the Upper Delaware River with a Mohawk Canoe Club trip. It's been years since I've paddled the 'Upper' on a summer weekend and now I remember why -- too many people.

Saturday and Sunday couldn't have been more different, weather and crowd wise. Saturday forecast was terrible (a good thing), and although there was no measurable amount of rain we had the river pretty much all to ourselves. The 9.5 mile run between Ten Mile River access and Lackawaxen was sweet as usual, and pretty easy with the flow being about a foot higher than normal. In fact the Coolang and Masthope rapids were mostly washed out (rocks covered up). The highlight of the day was at the very end when we watched a Bald Eagle and an Osprey warily circle each other at the confluence of the Lackawaxen and Delaware Rivers. The Osprey made three consecutive dives for a fish and came up empty-clawed making me think it was a young inexperienced bird.

Sunday the river was slightly higher washing out both the Shohola Rapids and Staircase Rapids. The canoe and raft liveries were fairly busy so we were treated to quite a show of people out to enjoy the whitewater, although there are some long pools in this section of the river as well. Conspicuously absent were National Park Service rangers (saw one on the shore) and no National Canoe Safety Patrol members on the sixteen mile run we did between Barryville and Sparrowbush. We waved to a few of those guys in the morning as they drove up Hwy. 97 and they probably decided to hang at Skinners Falls, which was probably a busy place for involuntary swimmers and floatable items.

Also conspicuous was the amount of trash and feces along the river at the popular lunch and public camping spots. Sparrowbush Access was atrocious with garbage strewn about and in piles all over the place. Shame on the New York DEC for failing to enforce the law and for allowing this place to become such a dump. The city people who come here (as in NYC) don't all act like slovenly humans (don't want to insult any other members of the animal kingdom), but enough of them are sleazy enough to make it a miserable sight to behold. Sadly, Sparrowbush overlooks one of the most beautiful and interesting natural features along the entire river - Elephant Rocks, which loom over the water in the PA side.

The other significant feature of the day was the number of motorcycles and other traffic on Rt. 97. At times the river experience was utterly destroyed by the noise. Still, there were other stretches of the river where the scenery was stunningly beautiful and peaceful as could be, particularly just below Barryville (Shohola Rapids), Mongaup and Butler Rift.

This trip was also a reminder to get back to the Upper Delaware River more often, just not on a warm sunny weekend. It's not that I don't enjoy seeing people out on the river, I do...from a distance. I enjoy the river in a different way than most casual visitors. Kind of like a Buddist in a temple, a Mormon in Church, or a shopper at Cabella's mega-store. One with the river. Ohhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

PS: Project River Bright is coming up October 10. The August 18 post incorrectly stated the annual river cleanup would be October 3, which is now the rescheduled date of Noel Rickerts' Wing Ding, which will be sort of a guided tour for those who want to know about the Lambertville-New Hope Wing Dam, one of the best Class II sections of the Delaware River. See the Delaware Valley Division - American Canoe Association website for more details.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Oh Danny...

If Danny becomes Danny we could have a soaker this weekend. Scenarios range from a hurricane hitting Long Island (or even New Jersey coast) to an easterly track that would just leave us with showers if anything. We should know by tomorrow evening.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

River Potatoes...

River Potatoes line up to pay dearly for a hot dog and a drink at the Hot Dog Man's island stand near Devil's Tea Table.

River potatoes (AKA tubers to most folks) are the most common recreational users of the Lower Delaware River during the summer. Like a 'couch potato' in front of the TV, river potatoes truly are "one with the river." Basically you soak your butt in the water and paddle with your hands, spinning like a top down the river.

We set off in our canoes on a hot Monday afternoon from the Kingwood access to Bulls Island State Park, through what could be called the "potato patch."

Tubing is not the best way to get down the river for anyone afraid of fish, snakes, snapping turtles, dragonflies or eels. Of course most people don't have a clue, or at least are in denial that such critters exist in the river. That is until I happen by and yell out: 'Look at the size of that water snake!"

Tubing is a time honored activity that was not too long ago limited to those who found their own truck tire innertubes. Some places along the river still sell them (Muellers Store).

It's become big business and on any given summer day when the river is not running too high, the river between Frenchtown and Point Pleasant is filled with river potatoes bobbing like so many brightly colored Lifesavers. Between the two primary livery services there can be thousands of tubers on a hot weekend day.

The masters of the river potato patch are a story unto themselves. The Hot Dog Man and the self-proclaimed King of the River (Bucks County River Country) keep busloads of tubers on the river. They also are former business partners who have been engaged in a low grade war that's has been mostly fought in the local press.

Much could be said about the potential impacts that these businesses have on the river in terms of trash, litter and fecal contamination. That will have to await further research. For sure this topic is not on the radar screen of any environmental agency or river advocacy group, but it should be. Meanwhile, thousands of people get their first look at the river as a river potato and that alone is a good thing. No doubt some river potatoes evolve and buy their own innertube or move up to a kayak.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rainy Day Trip...

We set off from Riegelsville in a steady rain and took out at Frenchtown in a steady rain. There was a break in the precipitation for at least 3 miles. Still, it was good to be on the water again, even though the river was muddy and contained many pieces of floating garbage (styofoam, plastic bottles etc.).

If the river gets back to normal by October 3 we'll have lots of litter to pick up on upcoming Project Riverbright..

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Long Time Coming: A river trip in the works

Excessive heat warning from the National Weather Service is in effect. Hey - we're due for a blast furnace day.

The river is still running quite a bit higher than normal, actually a few feet and several thousand cfs higher. I don't see this changing much between now and October. If the Delaware stays up I might decide to take on even more miles for a planned 7-day trip. More later.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Water levels up and down...

An intrepid group followed me down the Musconetcong River in July. The river was excruciatingly low and scratchy, but beautiful just the same.

The heavy rain sent all tributaries up and the Delaware is higher than normal and will stay that way for at least the next week. Beats a drought any day.