Monday, December 27, 2010

Help the Musky!

Please consider sending your own version of the below letter to the following email addresses:,,,

Robert Martin, Commissioner

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

December 27, 2010

Dear Commissioner Martin,

As a long-time member and former Executive Director of the Musconetcong Watershed Association, I am writing to request that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection withdraw the “Low Water” paragraph from the DRAFT Lake Hopatcong Water Level Management Plan (LHWLMP). The state must carry out its duty protect vulnerable water resources for all citizens, even if that protection may sometimes come at the expense of commercial interests.

Please consider the following when making your decision in favor of protection of the Musconetcong River from potentially damaging low flow except in an emergency:

1) The Musconetcong River is a part of the National Wild and Scenic River System. This federal designation is conferred on the few rivers that can demonstrate “remarkably outstanding characteristics” and comes only after a rigorous eligibility study.

2) The Musconetcong River must be protected because it is a Category One waterbody under the N.J. Stormwater Regulations for most of its 42 miles. These antidegradation standards protect the river from measurable changes in water quality because of its Exceptional Ecological Significance.

3) The Musconetcong River is one of the premier trout streams in New Jersey and it is stocked by NJ Fish and Wildlife, reductions in the flow could devastate the fishery.

4) The Musconetcong River receives treated effluent from two municipal sewage treatment plants and adequate river flow is needed to handle such discharges.

Please do not put this outstanding river at risk by reducing outflows for the benefit of polluting powerboats, personal watercraft and a hand full of marina operators..


Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Fellow Rivergeeks..

I'm eagerly awaiting delivery of a Thule canoe rack system for my new (leased) car. This is the 'droughiest' period of no-paddling ever - haven't been out on the water since Labor Day weekend.

It's the time of year we love the small streams like the Musconetcong, Tohickon and Pine Barrens, assuming we continue to receive liquid precipitation, or at least some snow melt.

Any day now.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Drought Buster...

This has been a familiar pattern over the past ten years or so: an extended dry period or drought that is abruptly ended by a tropical storm, or hurricane.

We likely had enough extended soaking rain to break the drought warning, and more rain is on the way. My new hometown recorded over 8 inches.

It's important that this tropical precipitation occurs before the ground freezes so that some groundwater recharge can take place. Stream base flows and wetlands will be perky heading into next spring.

The Schuylkill River and Perkiomen Creek were two Delaware Basin streams that overflowed their banks. Most others like the Delaware itself and its other major tributaries merely flirted with flooding. The Delaware River at Riegelsville got up to 20+ feet, which is a few feet below flood stage.

The Musconetcong River came close and the Tohickon Creek was ripping. This is all good for those who like fall and winter paddling.

Friday, September 17, 2010


I've been too busy and way distracted to maintain this blog but will get back to it. Since the last post over a month ago I've moved to the Lehigh Valley, paddled just once on the Delaware River, began working for the Appalachian Mountain Club, visited the Lower Susquehanna in Lancaster and York counties, started a Feasibility Study for the 150 mile PA Highlands Trail, split up with Sharon, lost 5 pounds of useless ugly fat and an ounce of formerly useful...sanity.

Hey if you're a resident of Pennsyltucky consider going to the rally in Harrisburg. If you haven't been there for awhile it's a pretty nice town with great Susquehanna river front. Lobby the pols for a SEVERANCE TAX on gas drilling operations and more enviro protections.

Or give your reps a call or visit. If the legislation doesn't pass the state parks and open space protection will be in deep doodoo!

Tomorrow I'm heading up to the Mohican Center to hike the Appalachian Trail, look for rattlesnakes (will settle for copperheads), play the piano at the lodge and commune with the black bears. Hope to post some pics in a few days.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Gone Fishin'

I've been distracted by a new job and moving to a new home. Stay tuned...on hiatus until early September.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Power to the People?

The proposed Susquehanna-Roseland Transmission line was the focus of a July 12 trip down the Delaware River between Bushkill and Smithfield Beach.

We met at the National Park Service headquarters and received an overview of the project and how NPS is responding (with a 2-year study). Park Superintendant Donohue put it in perspective when he described a multitude of utility and resource extraction projects that threaten the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and the Delaware River itself.

The VIP’s in the group included township officials from Fredon Township, NJ and Lehman Township, PA, as well as a Monroe County Commissioner, and a congressional aide. There were representatives from the Appalachian Mountain Club (my new employer), Sierra Club (PA & NJ), New Jersey Conservation Foundation, National Parks Foundation, and Delaware Riverkeeper Network (apologies to those I missed).

The National Canoe Safety Patrol – Lower Delaware Chapter provided escort along with a handful of NPS employees.

We paddled the 10 mile stretch of the river on a hot sunny day through Walpack Bend (perfect for a swim break) down to the very spot where the proposed transmission line is proposed to cut through and destroy the character of one of the prettiest sections of the entire river. That was the lunch stop and we lingered there for awhile to contemplate how one of the nation’s busiest National Parks could ever be considered for such a project. Maybe that’s just the nature of the likes of PP&L and PSE&G.

Utility companies make money for their shareholders generating electricity for an insatiable public; electricity that is being generated by dirty coal-fired power plants using coal carved out of the landscape by what is known as ‘mountaintop removal coal mining.’ Is this project really needed?

The Susquehanna-Roseland Transmission line represents an antiquated, twentieth century approach and the project should be deep-sixed. But if it is to be built it can’t be allowed to destroy the public commons. This park belongs to the people, not to PP&L and PSE&G.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Floating Flotilla

July 3rd was hot and sunny – a perfect day to lead 25 boats down the Delaware River for the Musconetcong Watershed Association.

The river was running just above 3’ at the Riegelsville gage and after completing a complex car shuttle we set out down the river by 10am.

There were only 2 canoes in the flotilla, the rest were solo kayaks. This trip also included 4 teenage paddlers and at least a few among the group had little or no experience paddling in moving water. We only had one unplanned swimmer, one of the teens went over the rock shelf (sideways) at Raubsville and found himself floating downriver on his back. We performed the river rescue and the kid had a fine ‘baptism.’

It was a great relief to find not one jetski on this stretch of the river and only a few motor boats, and those were unusually courteous operators as far as honoring the ‘no wake zone.’

On my way back downriver to Yardley I was amazed by how many people were out on the river in all manner of watercraft, from tubes to pontoon boats. It’s clearly a “staycation” kind of summer.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Running Low…

Delaware River Sojurners at the Rieglesville boat ramp with Roebling Bridge in foreground.

A mid-week paddle trip between Phillipsburg and Riegelsville provided a much needed connection to the river and environs.

Highlights of the trip included a bald eagle sighting, a few osprey, blue heron, green heron and kingfishers. We didn’t see many boaters until the Raubsville lunch break where we encountered the seventy-some members of the annual Delaware River Sojourn. I visited with several members of that entourage, including members of the National Canoe Safety Patrol.

The other notable feature of the trip was the powerful wind gusts, which seemed to alternate between headwind and tailwind depending on the bend of the river.

The Delaware and its tributaries are down due to the lack of rain, which has come sparingly for most of us in the form of brief summer storms.

The Delaware is running at just over 3.50’ at the Riegelsville gage and that’s slightly below the median flow. The Lehigh @ Bethlehem is running several hundred cfs below the median. There isn’t much rain in the extended forecast so streams will continue to fall.

According to the Bucks County Herald the Delaware Canal will be filled with Lehigh River water (the usual source) on July 23. It’s been dry since a series of devastating floods destroyed several sections of the canal. It took over 3 years and several millions dollars to do all the repairs. One catastrophic flood is all it takes.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More On Gas Drilling…

Stover Mill on the Delaware River

The Delaware River Basin Commission has decided to include “exploratory drilling” in its temporary ban on new permits for natural gas drilling within the 13,000 + square mile river basin, pending the development of regulations for the activity. Read about it here.

Meanwhile the PA legislature is getting closer to passing a severance tax on Marcellus Shale gas extraction, although the pols are still haggling over how to split up revenues from the tax.

Last week the FRAC Act was introduced in Congress to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act exemptions for drilling and to give the EPA authority over hydraulic fracturing. The bills would also require gas drillers to disclose their "proprietary" toxic chemicals used in the fracking process. Senator(s) Bob Casey (D-PA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY introduced the bill in the Senate and a companion bill was introduced into the House by Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Diana DeJette and Jared Polis (both D's from Colorado, which is pockmarked by shale drilling operations). ProPublica maintains the most comprehensive coverage of the issue.

A good day of rain last Sunday perked up stream flows with the Delaware running a little higher than normal for this date. Most tributaries are running near or below the median flow.

We paddled the Frenchtown to Bulls Island stretch on Monday and had the river to ourselves until the last half mile when we ended up gagging on the stench of jetski exhaust.

Water quality appeared to be relatively poor, presumably due to polluted runoff from the recent rainstorm. The normally clear river was running brown from the sediment that was carried into it by its tributaries. Prior to the rain the water clarity was outstanding.

This could be the trend for this summer if extreme weather plagues us the way forecasters are predicting.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


The Upper Delaware River is America’s most endangered river according to American River’s list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers – 2010 Edition.

Read the report here.

The Upper Delaware made the list because of threats from Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling. I’m not sure how the Susquehanna River wasn’t included for the same reason.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Low Summer-like Flow

The Delaware River is running way below the median flow for this time of year, about 2000 cfs. below at the Belvidere gage. The river has that middle-of-summer look to it.

This is a nice level for paddlers who like to hang out along the shelves and rapids, with the rocks providing plenty of interesting play spots.

The tributaries are also low for late spring with the Musconetcong River at Bloomsbury running at a trickle (1.67’ or about 160 cfs.) and the Lehigh River at Bethlehem about 500 cfs. below the median.

I’ll be attending the award winning documentary GASLAND at the County Theater in Doylestown this coming Wednesday, June 2. It will also play EcoComplex in Bordentown on June 3. Don’t miss this opportunity to see an award winning documentary about natural gas drilling and hydrofracing in the Marcellus Shale formation (and other shale formations).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

USGS Water Alert

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has a handy new Water Alert tool for people who want to be automatically kept informed about stream levels, precipitation or really any water measurement data maintained by the agency.

I just signed up to receive stream flow alerts for the Delaware River, Musconetcong River and Tohickon Creek. Each user of the system gets to choose the frequency and parameters for each monitoring station. It can be used as a flood alert tool or to keep a paddler posted on when a particular creek is running at an ideal (or inadequate) level.

If periodic and automatic alerts via email or mobile phone doesn’t appeal, the Water Alert also serves as a useful single stop for surfing through the various stations and parameters.

Water Alert can provide updates on surface water flow and gage height, precipitation, groundwater level, and water quality.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Wild River Trip

Paddling through the Delaware Water Gap
he river itself wasn’t so wild, but the trip featured wildly variable weather and about 160 paddlers (representing thirty-some nations), and we ran it through a most scenic section of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and Middle Delaware Wild and Scenic River.

About 120 of the paddlers were 13—14 year old students with a dozen or so teachers, the rest of the paddlers being grizzled members of the National Canoe Safety Patrol.

The flotilla paddled the approximately 32 miles between Dingmans Ferry and the Portland Power Plant. Of course, that’s 32 miles for the most focused and competent paddlers, the rest having paddled many more miles of zigzags, ferries, eddy turns and circles.

This was the 18th year that we’ve run this trip, which is a sobering enough reality. The first students I guided down the river for this school are now over thirty years old (and I had brown hair back the early days). All told we’ve guided about 1,800 students from this school, logging at least 600 miles.

Day one this year was possibly the single most challenging of any of the other 54 days paddled over the history of this project. The students started out with the usual chaotic launch (picture 120 teens in 60 tandem canoes) in a light rain. By lunch break at the Eshbach access the wind and rain picked up in intensity and the air temp fell to 56 degrees, with about a 5-mile paddle down to the Rivers Bend campsite still remaining.

Even some of the Safety Patrol members were suffering from the cold, so we had to be vigilant for signs of hypothermia. Fortunately, nearly all the of the students paid attention to our repeated pleas to wear NO COTTON while on the water, and to pack extra clothing and a rain proof jacket. This helped mitigate the situation, as did our supply of Delaware Raincoats (a black trash bag with arm and head holes).

Once we got back on the water after fueling up the rain continued to intensify but everyone paddled onward to the end; some of the students were even singing (Beatles’ songs no less).

When we got to the take-out campsite the students seemed to perk up enough to set up their tents in the rain, and then the rain stopped in time for supper, only to start again by dark. Everyone slept soundly.

Day two was cloudy and ideal for paddling, especially since there was no headwind when we paddled the infamous two-mile “wind tunnel” between Poxono and Smithfield Beach. The river was smooth as glass. Last year we were faced with a steady 20 mph wind in this stretch (with 30 mph gusts), making for some extremely difficult paddling conditions.

Day three was exquisitely beautiful; it was sunny and with just a hint of a breeze. This class of students survived a brutal first day and they were rewarded with great weather for the remainder of the trip.

I camped at Worthington State Park for the rest of the week and enjoyed hikes to Sunfish Pond (Douglas Trail), Hornbeck Falls, Raymondskill Falls. I also drove up to Grey Towers in Milford PA; it was the estate of Gifford Pinchot and is one of the true "shrines" for the conservation movement.

Some noteworthy sightings: 1 bobcat and 4 black bears (each seen along the Old Mine Road), several bald eagles, an osprey and a mink (unfortunately the later was dead).

It appears that the cold and wet winter/spring may have benefitted the Eastern Hemlock. The trees showed vigorous growth. Could it be that the cold winter knocked back the wooly adelgid? I hope so.

Also noted: the sycamore trees are suffering greatly this year from the fungal disease known as anthracnose. I noticed this problem earlier in the spring here in Bucks County. The trees along the Delaware River across from Worthington State Park are in terrible shape. Fungal spores love to multiply in wet weather - tomato growers beware!

It was wonderful to get out for an entire week in the mountains and forests of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation area, and spend three days on the river.

Balm for the soul

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

2010: A remarkably stormy year?

We’ve already experienced an unusually prolific series of nor’easters during the late winter and early spring. Some were in the form of snowstorms while others brought minor flooding to a few creeks within the Delaware River Basin (most notably the Rancocas, which has quite a few intrepid floodplain dwellers along its banks).

The Delaware River itself did not reach flood stage.

Rapidly rising temps in the Gulf of Mexico and a collapsing El Nino are said to increase the potential for several hurricanes this season, or so says AccuWeather (they compared 2010 conditions to the 1998 and 2005 seasons).

Their article goes on to remind us how hurricanes can “cause major disruption to both oil and gas production.” Pffffffft!

How strange that they would say this and never mention the catastrophic oil disaster occurring right now in the Gulf of Mexico -- what will happen if there is an early hurricane in the Gulf?

Nothing good, that’s for sure. The oil slick is growing and moving.

Speaking of oil and hurricanes: In 1972 Hurricane Agnes brought the flood of record for the Schuylkill River (not so for the Delaware). The flood caused the greatest inland oil spill in history. Six million gallons of USED oil washed out of a series of nasty open air storage pits along the river, below Reading, PA. All the people and businesses downstream that were flooded had to deal with oil in addition to the usual silt and raw sewage mixture that is left behind by receding floodwaters.

Back then rivers were catching fire and raw sewage and industrial discharges ran untreated into rivers, lakes and estuaries. Now the Gulf of Mexico is catching fire and thousands of miles of coastline and our greatest fishery are at risk.

These days the Delaware River is running about 1000 cfs below normal at Belvidere. Most larger tributaries like the Lehigh River and Tohickon are running lower than normal, although the Musconetcong River is slightly above and holding its own. Nobody knows what kind of summer we’ll have, weather wise.

We do know that flooding is an important, desirable and inevitable part of the life of a river, and this is especially true for a free-flowing river like the Delaware.

Some people believe we've already reached our quota of Delaware River floods for the 21st century -- that's doubtful, but may we be spared for at least a few more years!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Hold that drill! (and tax it too)

The Delaware River Basin Commission has decided to put off reviewing all permits for drilling in the Marcellus Shale portion of the River Basin until new regulations are developed. This could take up to a year.

The Philadelphia Inquirer has the story.

Meanwhile, HB 2443 has been introduced by Rep. David Levdansky (D-Allegheny and Chair of the House Finance Committee Chair) that would impose an impact fee, or severance tax on Marcellus Shale gas drillers.

Severance Tax revenue would be widely dispersed to the Environmental Stewardship Fund, local municipalities and counties where drilling occurs, the Fish and Boat and Game Commissions, County Conservation Districts, and numerous other programs.

Visit the Delaware Riverkeeper Network for more information on this topic.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Tickled Green…

I'm kind of surprised and 'tickled green' that the Save the Forests bill (HB 2235) passed by such a wide margin (157 to 53). On to the state senate!

Click here for a press release from

Friday, April 30, 2010

Scoping Report…

The National Park Service has released its “Public Scoping Report.”

If you want to read the comments NPS received about the proposed Susquehanna to Roseland 500kV Electric Transmission Line go here and click on “Document List.”

If ‘Alternative B’ is constructed the power line would ruin one of the prettier sections of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area as well as the Appalachian Trail.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Tale of Two Rivers…

Batsto River

Last Friday we paddled an 8-mile stretch of the Musconetcong River (Hampton to Bloomsbury) and Saturday it was a 15-mile marathon run down the Batsto River, in the heart of the wild New Jersey Pine Barrens.

Two Jersey rivers of entirely different character.

The Musconetcong is a swift and rocky stream in the NJ Highlands.

The Batsto is a slow (though not sluggish) and entirely sandy-bottomed little river typical of the Pine Barrens.

The Musconetcong flows by mostly privately owned land: farms, historic hamlets and wooded slopes.

The Batsto meanders through state owned land that is primarily a mix of Atlantic Cedar forest and scrub pine. During the entire 15 mile trip we saw nary a house or barn and only a few bridges. The Batsto is a tributary to the Mullica -- another wild Piney river in Wharton State Forest.

Even though the Batsto flows through deep woods and swampland there is relatively little wildlife to be seen from the center of a Pine Barrens river. A trip down the Musky almost always features dramatic wildlife sightings such as osprey, red fox, and lots of fish.

The one thing these two beautiful rivers have in common is: when you fall in you’ll get wet. One of our group unexpectedly confirmed this on the Batsto, giving him a chilly last 6 miles on the river.

Another common theme is both offer a delightful experience for river trippers.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Looking upstream on the Delaware Canal a mile below Yardley PA. Portions of the canal are now holding water thanks to the extensive flood restoration that is nearing completion. When the Delaware Canal is operational it's primarily supplied with water from the Lehigh River, which joins the Delaware River at the Forks of the Delaware in the City of Easton. That's where the Lehigh Canal ends and the Delaware Canal begin

The Delaware River is back to a normal flow (long-term median); indeed at Belvidere it’s a little below normal for this date.

The weather has been streaky that way for many moons. Frequent and/or long lasting storms punctuated by glorious weather. Lately the glorious mode has been dominant.

And the reason for the Delaware’s long descent to somewhat below normal is the more sudden crash of many of the Pennsylvania tributaries like the Broadhead Creek, which is a few hundred cfs below the median. That’s the result of the unseasonably hot, dry windy weather we enjoyed.

The mighty Lehigh too is well below normal, a full 1000 cfs below at Bethlehem.

Down in the land of Triassic shale the Tohickon is at a summerlike trickle of 55 cfs, barely half the median flow for Tax Day.

On the Jersey side of the river, tributaries like the Flatbrook and Musconetcong River are near or slightly below the median.

The difference between the overall flow of the two states' tributaries is expressed in the rainfall distribution from the last nor’easter, which hammered the coast with up to 15 inches in some places, but only gave the Poconos and westernmost PA piedmont a paltry few inches by comparison.

And that’s the way it is. And as usual, changes are on the way.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Going down…

The Delaware River gage at Riegelsville shows the river is still surging up to 14’ (8’ short of flood stage).

It won’t crest and fall until most of the tributaries have done so, particularly the major streams like the Lehigh, Lackawaxen, and Musconetcong.

The Musconetcong River is still creeping up a bit but will fall far short of its 6’ flood stage. The Flatbrook, Paulinskill and Pequest have all flatlined or are falling.

The Lackawaxen has flatlined well below flood stage and most important of all, the Lehigh River at ‘O’ Little Town’ has turned the corner and crested. The Delaware River should soon crest near 14’.

It’s always interesting to note that – all things being equal – the Delaware River at Belvidere and Delaware River at Riegelsville typically run at the same level, and share the same flood stage number.

However, right now the river at Riegelsville is running 2’ higher than the upstream location. Most of that difference can be attributed to the Lehigh River, which joins the Delaware well below Belvidere and 9 miles upstream from Riegelsville. Note: The NYC reservoirs were full coming into the storm event.

As the second largest tributary to the Delaware River the Lehigh is the most important factor for both water quality and water quantity in the lower Delaware River below Easton.

We need a dry spell.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Nor’easter Express


Between two and four inches of rain with six inches in spots will make for some rip-roaring waterways.

The Delaware River at Riegelsville is already up to 10.21’ so a few more inches of rain could push it closer to flood stage than the last storm did (flood stage is 22’ @ Riegelsville). The Musconetcong River shot up to almost 4' overnight (1200 cfs) and while it's currently heading back down, another heavy dose of rain could take it out of its banks (6' is flood stage).

Last Saturday I spent the day staffing the DVD-ACA booth at The Jersey Paddler Expo, which was held at the the Garden State Expo Center. It was packed with people from all over the region (Lancaster, Dover, Cape May, NYC, etc.).

I fielded questions from folks interested in learning more about the Delaware River and other streams in the region, some wanted to know about camping opportunities, others about kayak instruction. The recent drowning in the Delaware River came up repeatedly. By the time the weekend ended I’m guessing we gave out several hundred copies of the Delaware River Water Trail Guide as well as ACA Safety brochures covering a variety of topics from cold water paddling to lowhead dams.

It’s clear that paddling (canoeing, kayaking and rafting) continues to grow in popularity and people are willing to spend money to pursue their passion. The potential constituency for river protection also continues to grow, although that will remain an untapped resource unless someone or some organization decides to reach out to this sleeping army of riverkeepers.

I am developing a mobilization and training program.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Toh Day…

Toh Rocks

Paddlers can help the Pennsylvania Environmental Council improve the future of paddling on the tidal Delaware River by filling out a river recreation survey. Go to my FaceBook profile for a link. It takes about 10 minutes, is interesting and anonymous.

We had a mellow day on the Upper Tohickon Creek (yesterday) and it was running at a lazy 2.50’ or about 300 cfs. Chris Meyers and I paddled solo canoes and dawdled of wildlife and emerging spring foliage. Most conspicuous was the presence of lesser celadine. It’s an insidious invasive species with a pretty yellow flower. We observed a red tailed hawk fly over the creek with a young black snake in its clutch (lunch!), several wood duck, mergansers, and a trio of great blue heron.

Toh Drops

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tripping on the river...

I led a trip on the Musconetcong River for Watershed Association last Saturday and it was great to be out on my favorite little river again; it was the first Musky trip this year. The weather was unseasonably warm and that was a good thing because three of the paddlers had five unplanned swims between them.

The river was running at 700 cfs or 3' at the Bloomsbury stream gage which is a slightly "pushy" level. We ran the Beattystown to Point Mountain section and observed wood ducks and a breeding pair of common mergansers.

I took a ride upriver from Yardley to Riegelsville earlier this week and saw an osprey flying around the Riegelsville Bank with a fish in its claws. They are back nesting on the cell phone tower behind the bank.

Coming back down the Bucks County side it appears that the canal repairs are almost completed, with the section below New Hope still under construction. We now have water in the canal in Yardley for the first time since we moved here tow years ago. Nice amenity...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Waters of March...

A quick look at the stream gages in the aftermath of a wicked nor'easter shows that several streams reached flood stage. Notable among these are the Flatbrook, Paulinskill, Pequest and Assunpink on the NJ side, and the Neshaminy and Brandywine on the PA side.

All the other usual suspects were ripping high but did not and will not flood this time (Musconetcong, Tohickon, Wickecheoke, etc.).

The Delaware River at Riegelsville is currently 15.18' or 7' below flood stage. It should crest tonight or tomorrow at around 18' (my unscientific estimate). The river is already nearing its crest point according to the Upper Delaware gages.

The Delaware River at Belvidere is only at 12.33' and it should be noted that - all things being equal - the gage usually reads about the same at both the Belvidere and R-ville locations and both have a 22' flood threshold. Why the three foot difference? Most likely the Lehigh River, which joins the Delaware below Belvidere, and influences the river below the confluence at Easton.

The Lehigh is already showing a drop at Lehighton, and it's just beginning to flatline at the Bethlehem gage. That's what we need to see before the Delaware River begins to level off.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Will we have a late winter flood on the Delaware this coming Monday? Maybe, but last Monday was a perfect winter day to be out on the river with paddling buddy Chris Meyers. We saw two powerboats and nobody else ventured out on the water. The river was running just above 5’, which is a nice level for winter paddling.


Delaware River near Devils Tea Table (March 1, 2010)

The river has steadily risen to over 6.75’ at the Riegelsville gage thanks to the warm weather and snow melt.

Next week is FLOOD SAFETY AWARENESS WEEK and if the impending storm acts as predicted floodplain dwellers will be acutely aware of flooding.

Rainfall in the amount of 2” to 4” is predicted for the Delaware River Basin and if it’s the higher amount many smaller streams could flood.Some locales could receive 5" or more.

Friends living along the Upper Delaware tell me that there isn’t much snow on the ground on the Catskill side of the river. I’m not sure if that applies to the Pocono Mountain side of the river. River ice appears to have disappeared. The three NYC reservoirs are down to 85% of capacity, which depending on where the rain falls, could help mitigate flooding on the Upper Delaware. NYC could lower the reservoirs to 50% and that would not necessarily eliminate the flood threat for those living below the confluence of the Delaware River and Lehigh River. The watershed of the Lehigh River alone is roughly equivalent in size to all three of the big reservoirs' watershed area combined.

Snow pack conditions in the East Branch Delaware and West Branch Delaware were “above normal” according to the National Weather Service Hydrologic Outlook report from Binghamton, NY (March 5). That has likely changed somewhat over the past several days, but this could still pose a major threat if heavy rain falls in the uppermost portion of the river basin.

There is probably some amount of snow left along the hemlock-shaded slopes of the tributary headwaters, and the ground is still fairly saturated; most of what falls on the watershed will rapidly runoff to the nearest waterway.

The Delaware River still has about 15’ to go to reach the top of its banks (at Riegelsville and Belvidere). I don’t expect that to happen unless rainfall amounts exceed what is predicted. Given that this storm will be a spinning nor’easter anything can happen. It’s certain that people will and should be nervous about the flooding potential.

It’s also certain that those of us who love to canoe and kayak will have lots of water for weeks to come.

Stay tuned, I’ll be updating the situation Saturday night or Sunday morning at the latest. In the meantime, visit the DRBC website for flood information.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Marcellus Threat to the River

If you care about the Delaware River – do something about it!

The Delaware River Basin Commission is considering the first permit applications for gas drilling (Stone Energy) in the Upper Delaware River Watershed.

This is a huge issue for the river and for the people who live within the Marcellus Shale formation. Drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus is going full-speed-ahead in PA in the absence of an adequate regulatory framework (state and federal regulations) and without an adequate state and local enforcement or monitoring presence.

Groundwater, drinking water, streams, forests, wetlands and aquatic life are threatened in part because of the successful efforts of an industry Dick to exempt natural gas drilling (and mountaintop mining for coal) from provisions of the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act.

Yes, that Dick, the former CEO of Halliburton and "We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators" VP for Bush II. Cheney's role in diminishing regulatory oversight is an amazing chapter in the saga of corporate pimping and congressional prostitution that has seized our government.

A good source of information on gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing is the website ProPublica.

If you care about the Delaware River please take the time to provide written comments directly to DRBC. You’ll find talking points and more information at the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

Email your comments by March 5 to:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Deep long winter…

I put out a contract on Punxsutawney Phil, although it may be too late to bother with groundhog stew with the predicted “monster storm” headed from the Gulf of Mexico to the Delaware River via the Atlantic Coast.

And just as I was thinking how fortunate that relatively little snow is on the ground in the upper portion of the river basin, we’re faced with a couple of feet of snow for Hancock, NY and the surrounding region.

The piedmont Delaware River will probably get six to twelve inches (on top of the remaining half-foot from prior storms).

The chances for flooding will almost certainly increase with this impending storm. Of course we could luck out and have an extended, mild and sunny thaw. Sunny and windy is what we expect of March.


Today the DRBC is holding a hearing on the first permit applications for gas drilling in the Upper Delaware Watershed. You can provide written comments directly to DRBC - check the Delaware Riverkeeper website for talking points.

Email your comments to:

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Save Walpack Bend!

Take action to save the Walpack Bend section of the Delaware River from the electric utilities.

Please stand up for the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and one of the premier paddling and camping spots in our region by letting the National Park Service know you oppose PSE&G and PPL's proposed Susquehanna-Roseland Transmission Line Alternative Route B, which would seriously impair a portion of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DWGNRA), particularly where it would cross the Delaware River, just below Walpack Bend. Send this along to your friends and fellow paddlers too!

This link will take you to a recent article that describes the different route alternatives.

This is not an easy issue in that advocating for or against a particular route (A, B, or C) just puts the thing in other folk's backyards. And after researching this issue I would argue that the expansions should not occur at all if one considers the bigger picture: increased generating capacity created by coal fired power plants, some of which would be using coal from mountaintop removal and more importantly, dubious and unsubstantiated claims that this is needed in the first place.

If you are interested in learning more about the issues behind this proposal visit this website. You can also watch a You Tube video that features a few township mayors in NJ. 

Please note there is an existing 85' power line crossing this part of the river, but it is relatively small and not very intrusive compared to what is being proposed.
The proposed expanded 500 kilovolt transmission lines would be 195 feet, more than double the size of the existing line. That would create an obscene intrusion for paddlers, hikers, fishermen, camper and tourists, as well as severely degrade the Park and the Delaware River.

The National Park Service (NPS) is conducting an environmental impact study to document the impact these power lines will have on the natural resources and "visitor experiences." NPS provides a summary of the proposed project here:

You can provide comments directly to the National Park Service here:

Please tell NPS how important it is to preserve the scenic beauty in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Let them know how much you value the quality paddling experience found in the Walpack Bend portion of the Delaware River. Urge the National Park Service to deny approval of the Right-of-way Permit for Route B and forbid its crossing through this National Park.

Deadline for comments is March 5, 2010.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Uh oh…

I was just thinking how fortunate it was that relatively little snow fell on the upland portions of the Delaware River watershed last weekend, until the most recent storm watch came through this morning.

If it comes to pass as predicted and eastern Pennsylvania is where the next storm converges and “explodes” then Philly will end up with three to four feet of snow on the ground and the rest of the watershed going north could have two to three feet.

Creeks and rivers in the lower watershed (Brandywine, Perkiomen, Rancocas, Assunpink, etc.) will face an extreme risk for flooding. The big rivers (Delaware, Lehigh, Schuylkill) will also be looking at a really dangerous situation if there is a rainstorm and rapid snow melt, coupled with the potential for ice jams.

Maybe this storm will miss us. And if it does hit perhaps we will enter a long dry warm-up that takes us safely into spring.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Compelling read…

Finally, I am reading the second edition of “DAMMING THE DELAWARE: The Rise and Fall of Tocks Island Dam.”

I have a signed copy from the author, Richard C. Albert, who wrote: “Best wishes to a fellow River Rat.” Dick passed away unexpectedly a few months ago.

I read the first edition about seventeen years ago when I just beginning to lay the foundation for my own knowledge base about the river.

This reading is being undertaken with a very different perspective. I’ve left off with the Sunfish Pond chapter, which tells the story of how close this jewel along the Appalachian Trail came to being bulldozed, expanded and pumped.

Damming the Delaware starts out with the earliest controversies (eighteenth century) right to the Tocks Island battle. If you’re interested in the river read it as soon as possible.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Six weeks until Spring…

February can bring brutal winter weather at a time when most of us are tiring of the cold. There is solace in the fact that whatever comes won’t stick around for long and the days are getting longer.

In a few weeks the migrating ducks will be hanging out in the Lower Delaware River, patiently waiting for the ice to melt up north.

One of the smallest of these migrants is the Bufflehead. Strange looking birds they are because their ‘buffalo heads’ seem somewhat oversized for their small bodies.

Take a trip up River Road in a few weeks and you’ll probably see buffleheads, hooded merganser and other early migrants. The stretch between Morrisville and New Hope is a prime area to look for the early harbingers of spring.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Frigid Waters…

It’s frigid but not entirely frozen down at the extreme lower end of the non-tidal Delaware River. Chunks of ice were floating by the Calhoun Street Bridge in Morrisville this morning.

An essential tool for those interested in rivers and creeks is the NWS Hydrology page (this links you the Mt. Holly station). There you find the ANNUAL WINTER/SPRING FLOOD POTENTIAL STATEMENTS and much more (ice buildup, snow cover etc.).

River ice 

Right now the flood potential is deemed to be “above normal.” Just a few days ago the Delaware River at Riegelsville gage surged to almost 16 ft. (six feet below flood stage). The river continues to run well above the median flow for January 30 at the Belvidere gage (15,000 cfs compared to 5,000 cfs).

The tributaries are running a bit above normal but that should change over the next string of dry days.

While we typically have little to no ice buildup on the lower Delaware River (with huge exceptions like the Winter of 1996 Ice Flood) the more telling ice and snow statements come from NWS’s Binghampton, NY station, which covers all of the Upper Delaware River.

As of this weekend there is little snow pack in the upper watershed, although thick ice covers the large eddies in the Pocono/Catskill reach of the river. Ice buildup sets up one of the conditions needed to cause a specific type of flood along the Delaware. A quick thaw and heavy rain on top of snow pack and ice jams can create a serious threat to communities along the river. The NYC reservoirs have no impact on this particular flood scenario.

With luck the coming spring thaw will happen gradually without any big storms so we don’t have a repeat of the April 2005 flood.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Storm heading our way...

A Flood Watch has been posted for small streams and rivers in our region. There isn't much snow around on the ground anywhere in the watershed except the mountains, where the deepwater is also still iced over.

The Delaware River, Lehigh River and most smaller creeks and rivers are running at or slightly below normal so even 2 inches of rain should not pose much of a threat for those living along a flood prone stream.

The good news is that most of the rain will be come down overnight tonight and we'll have great conditions for paddling.

Bad news is there will be a return to frigid weather by the end of the week and I am in not fit to paddle the canoe for at least 2 or maybe 3 weeks.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Winter Rivers...

Wading River - January 13, 2010 (photo by Chris Meyers)

I'm averaging less than one canoe trip per week and that won't change until March. The most recent was a wonderful winter trip on the Wading River, a pretty little stream in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. It was a cold day but not too cold for a river trip (about 35 deg.). It was exquisitely beautiful and serenely quiet. Atlantic White Cedar, amazing ice formations, scent of pine and lots of tricky maneuvering around fallen trees = balm for the soul.

It's been nearly three weeks since my last post and since then most of the waterways in the Delaware River Basin have fallen to near normal levels. The NYC reservoirs were up to almost 91% capacity at the beginning of January but have fallen a bit down to 88%.

This is time of year that we begin to assess ice build-up and the amount of snow pack, usually but not always a concern specific to the Upper Delaware watershed. The winter floods and "spring freshets" can be the most destructive of the distinct flood types that occur on the Delaware River.

More on that later, but here is an interesting discussion and list of winter floods that have occurred in New Jersey courtesy of USGS.

Taking a week off for surgery and then plan to take a trip up to Narrowsburg, NY in late January for a look at the river and to do some eagle watching.