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.