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.