Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Great Read on the Highlands Region

"The Highlands: Critical Resources, Treasured Landscapes" (Rutgers University Press) is a must-read new book for anyone interested in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands. Edited by Richard G. Lathrop, who directs Rutgers University's Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis, the book features fifteen chapters, each written by different experts on topics such as geology, soils, watersheds, forest ecology and cultural history.

The Highlands makes a compelling case for protecting the region from encroaching development -- simply by presenting a science-based factual account of why these rugged foothills of the Appalachian Mountains are so unique and vital, not only to the people who live and recreate there but to the millions of people who live downstream from the Highlands and are dependent on the region for drinking water. The book provides a clear overview of how the boundaries of the Highlands have been defined, from both political and geographic perspectives, and readers are treated to a historical overview of parks and recreation in the Highlands region of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Toh Jammin'

Paddlers throughout the Mid-Atlantic and New England Regions will be gathering along the Tohickon Creek at Ralph Stover State Park on November 5-6 to enjoy the premier whitewater paddling destination in the Pennsylvania Highlands. For one weekend each spring and fall the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources manages controlled releases of 750 cfs from Lake Nockamixon into the Tohickon Creek. Anywhere from 300 to a 1,000 paddlers come out to paddle one or both days, with many participants representing various paddling and outdoor clubs including AMC's Delaware Valley Chapter, which is running the creek both days. The whitewater section of Tohickon Creek is only 3.8 miles in length but there are at least 6 challenging rapids in that stretch as well as superb scenery with towering, fern-studded shale cliffs and mixed hemlock-hardwood forest.

For those who would like a milder paddling experience but still take advantage of the lake release, there is a bucolic 7-mile stretch between the Lake Nockamixon dam and Ralph Stover State Park. Suitable for novice paddlers this section of the creek flows through iconic Bucks County landscapes of rolling hills, mills, stone farmhouses and smaller versions of fern-studded shale cliffs. Tohickon Creek is bounded on both sides by state and county parkland with excellent opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, birding and camping.

Tohickon Facts of Note:

Friday, September 09, 2011

Remnants of Lee flood...

The Delaware River @ the Rieglesville gage crested at 28.06', which is just a few feet under "major flood stage." It's still high enough to cause flooding problems for the most vulnerable floodplain dwellers. Towns like Yardley and West Trenton were inundated. I'll be touring the Delaware River in my neighborhood (Upper Black Eddy) tomorrow and report.

Of particular interest will be how the Delaware Canal towpath weathered this flood. Repairs from the 2004, 2005 and 2006 floods were just completed last year with a total cost of approximately $29,000,000. It's doubtful that the towpath and canal will suffer that much damage, but with current budget constraints and dwindling amounts of FEMA's not a good situation.

The Musconetcong River nearly reached the record level it attained last week. That's a terrible tragedy for the folks who were flooded out by Irene.

The Perkiomen Creek (largest tributary to the Schuylkill River) also reached a near record flood level of 14'. The Schuylkill had many other flooded tribs (Tulpehocken) and the river itself flooded a few towns, roads and floodplain homes.

The Susquehanna River and its tributaries got the worst of this tropical system. Let's hope it dries out before the next system gets here. The tropical wave train is cranking up!

This weekend I'll be reporting the other issue that plagues the Delaware River: what role did the NYC Reservoirs play in this flood? Based on the Delaware River stream gages, it appears the answer is 'minimal.'

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


It seems that the Delaware and some of its tribs have leveled off and the rain has slacked off considerably. The river at Riegelsville is just around bank-full as of 9:00PM. That would be 22'. It's still heading up though and bears watching. Flood warnings abound. If the rain holds off streams will level off. It we get another round of intense rainfall in the region -- all bets are off.

The Susquehanna watershed will have epic flooding -- the storm tracked right up the Appalachians and the river valley from the Bay to the New York headwaters.

Stay tuned.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Ominous forecast...

What the hell?

By 9:30am this Labor Day morning Upper Black Eddy was already getting dumped on, and the forecast called for rain this afternoon; not a good sign. Flood watches are posted for the entire region. This map at Weather Underground says it all.

Tropical Depression Lee is just opening up on us and isn't scheduled to be done until sometime Wednesday. Nobody knows how much will come down but it seems at this rate it could be several inches of rain over the next few days.

If this happens we'll see more flooding, especially on those streams that already saw record high water (Musconetcong River and Assunpink Creek to name a few). The NYC Reservoirs are at 100% capacity, except Cannonsville which is just over 98%.

NOAA has the river at Riegelsville attaining a height of 18' by Thursday and that is great news. I'm surprised and worried that that prediction is way under (22' is beginning of flood stage at that particular gage - it got upp to 25' last Monday).

The Delaware River at Riegelsville is heading upwards from 8.31' and the Musconetcong River at Bloomsbury is at 2.84' and will begin to surge higher after this cell moves north from Bucks into Hunterdon and Warren counties.

Little else to say except: Hurricane Katia. It is predicted to not hit the Outer Banks and the mid-Atlantic. Cape Cod could be in trouble. However, even though most models show it heading towards Greenland, there is a possibility that this storm could change its course and slam us. If that happens...I'll be predicting 'epic flood' once again. It didn't happen last week along the Delaware River. Others living along smaller rivers and streams in our region weren't so lucky.

All floodplain dwellers should keep up with conditions and predictions and check multiple sources. Never rely on any one forecasting service!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Irene spared Delaware

The Delaware River might tear up some of the more hopeless sections of the canal and towpath. It's hard to tell because those areas are still inundated.

Most of the floodplain dwellers escaped flooding because Tropical Storm Irene didn't come loaded with as much energy and rain as expected. The Delaware at Riegelsville crested Sunday morning just under 25 feet, four fewer than expected. Thirty feet is considered a "major flood." Twenty-five is minor. Twenty-two is 'bank full.'

As far as the Delaware River Basin goes it was more of a New Jersey event. The Assunpink Creek (near Trenton) was a record 14.25 (approx). It's normally 1.00 this time of year.

The Musconetcong also was up over 8' (6' is 'bank full'). Flood pics are posted on the Musconetcong Watershed Association Facebook page. Several other rivers in NJ saw record flooding, primarily in northern (notably the Passaic Basin).

On Saturday I joined some other folks to help The Indian Rock Inn remove a ton of stuff from their basement, which had some serious influx of water from the monsoon. They were expecting some flooding along River Road, and rightfully so given the forecast of a 'major flood'. I certainly expected it but am thrilled it didn't come to pass. On Monday a lot more lifting because our own basement took on a few feet. The result: my back needs a major break, figuratively speaking.

Meanwhile, stop in at the Indian Rock this coming weekend - they will be open.

And stay turned for the next potential storm a week from tomorrow.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Another Delaware River flood on the horizon...

This reminds me of Hurricane Ivan, which was a tropical storm when it hit us back in 2004. That was a bigger more potent storm than Irene, but Ivan was also a drought breaker. Irene is just adding salt to the wound. It's all falling on soggy soil.

The Delaware is predicted to rise to around 27' which would be a moderate flood. We'll enjoy sunny weather by the time the river crests -- sometime around Monday night or Tuesday.

Here's a recent story from the Philly Inquirer that accurately captures the anguish for floodplain dwellers.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Calm before the storm...

A flood watch is in effect for just about everywhere!

There are so many variable scenarios for Irene, some models say it could head further east off the coast, others predict an inland path towards the Susquehanna Valley, but most predict it will hammer the coast.

Dire predictions warn of record storm surges from Nags Head to Brooklyn. A 15' foot surge would destroy lots of homes and businesses. Check out this Mother Jones article for some up-to-date info and historical data mixed in with the hysterical hype.

If the storm develops as expected there will be much destruction and pain for those living along the coast and on the floodplains. Once the cleanup begins and FEMA is doing its thing the discussion will turn to inappropriate development. Floodplain dwellers along the Delaware (or is it 'denial' river?) will predictably blame the NYC reservoirs. Its only a matter of time before this crowd begins calling for flood control dams on the Delaware River and its tribs.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Apocalypse Soon?

Ah yes, the impending Apocalypse. All the signs are in place. Earthquake? (check). Hurricane? (check). Bachman-Perry Ticket? (check) Fall of Muamar Gadaffi? (check).

Some joking aside, the potential exists for a Delaware River flood of epic proportions. It's already raining heavily on top of saturated soils with higher than normal streams and the NYC reservoirs are at almost 90% (better than 100%). A flood watch is in effect for our region today and that is not related to the hurricane (or tropical storm) headed our way (flood watch for small streams - NOT the Delaware River).

As of this morning the NWS says that Irene might track a bit further to the west than first predicted. That would bring serious problems for the Delaware and New Jersey coastal areas, with the landfall expected near high tide, accompanied by a new moon.

The entire Delaware River Basin will be thoroughly saturated before Irene arrives. If we get pounded with several inches of rain this weekend its likely the Delaware River will flood. The potential for flooding will be more easily predicted by tomorrow. To keep track of real time conditions check out the Delaware River Basin Commission's Flood Information Page.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hello, Irene?

Monday, August 22 was a stunningly glorious day, in contrast to the tropical muggies of the previous few.

It looks like August 2011 could turn out to be an all-time record for amount of precipitation in southeastern PA; for any month, although I find that hard to believe. As of this morning 13.0 inches has been recorded at Philly International Airport. The airport is coastal plain -- about 60 miles southeast from my current 'hometown' -- Upper Black Eddy. I'll look at the rainfall totals for the Piedmont and Highlands region for comparison, but it's probably close to what has fallen on Philly.

More to the point...the upper Delaware River watershed has had much more rain. I was hiking along Hornbeck Creek just a few days ago (Indian Ladders in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area) and the creek, seeps, springs and wetlands looked more like April -- all perky & shit. And if that part of the watershed gets dumped on - folks - if you live along the lower Delaware River, please beware! It's a hard rain gonna fall!

This coming weekend we could be looking at the first hurricane (or tropical storm) of the year if Irene tracks the way most of the models say it will. Here's AccuWeather's take on this rapidly developing storm.

If Irene does impact our region we'll experience some degree of flooding along the smaller creeks and rivers. The Delaware River is staying above 5' at the Rieglesville gage and that is an uncomfortable starting point for taking on a massive amount of tropical moisture.

By this Wednesday forecasters will have a pretty good handle on what we should expect from Irene.

PS: if you'd like to see Hornbeck Creek up close check out this link. Too damn close for me. Apologies for the ugly skinhead music, but the scenery is magnificent.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Rising Fast...

A sampling of USGS stream gages show how the Upper Delaware River watershed got pounded by storms last night and early morning; way smaller amounts fell down here along the Bucks and Hunterdon tributary watersheds of the Lower Delaware River.

Cases in point on the New Jersey side: the Flatbrook at Flatbrookville rose 1.5 feet while 65 miles downstream the Musconetcong River at Bloomsbury only showed a rise of a few inches. That's a good things for the guys working on Musconetcong dam removals and streambank stabilization down near Riegelsville, NJ.

On the PA side: The Broadhead Creek at Minisink Hills rose a few feet overnight, while the Tohickon Creek at Pipersville came up just a few inches. The Lehigh River shot up over 5 feet, a significant rise for such a big river, but some of that surge was no doubt contributed by the whitewater releases from the FE Walter Dam.

Of course all this is reflected in the muddied waters of the Delaware River at Riegelsville today, that gage showed an approximately 4' jump. People planning to put tubes in the lower Delaware will be greeted by the branches, logs and styrofoam swept downstream by the river.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Falling fast...

It had to happen sooner or later. In this case it was the later.

The Delaware River at the Riegelsville gage has fallen below 4' for the first time this year. In other words it's getting back closer to the median flow for this time of year. A similar reading can be found at the Belvidere gage, and that is several hundred CFS above the median flow. The river will fall further depending on the intensity of thunderstorms over the next 12 hours. All the tributaries are significantly down from the vigorous flows observed just a week or two ago.

For those true river geeks interested in getting automatic notifications of river gage readings from the USGS, sign up here. Pick your state and data type and set your parameters. I am receiving the Musconetcong River at Bloomsbury and the Delaware River at Riegelsville. The statewide gages for NJ, NY and PA can be found on my 'links' list.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Delaware Yo Yo...

Last Saturday I led a group of kayakers down the Delaware River from Phillipsburg to Riegelsville (I was the only canoeist). It was a Musconetcong Watershed Association trip that we call the "Three Congs Tour."

This 9-mile stretch of the river cuts through the Highlands Region and picks up flow from several tributaries including the Lopatcong Creek, Pohatcong Creek and Musconetcong River on the NJ side, and the Lehigh River and Frys Run on the PA side (also a few other smaller tribs and two major sewage treatment plants).

The river level was a vigorous 5.50 feet, which made the trip fast and easy; but with all the interesting features submerged (rock formations) it was also somewhat of a bland trip for those of us who are intimately familiar with this part of the river, and most participants were seeing it for the first time. The riffles and gravel bars were washed out and the few rapids were obliterated. The river was high enough that it was impossible to land at our lunch stop, the sandy beach at Groundhog Lock was underwater too (so much for the picnic tables and fancy flush toilets). It's a river trip so we improvised and stood upright for our lunch break on the upstream end of Raubs Island. It should be noted here that the lack of toilet facilities at either the P-burg and Riegelsville NJ access is ridiculously negligient and inexcusable. NJDEP owns R-ville and I believe the City of P-burg is responsible for their access. It just about guarantees that recreational users will answer the call of nature along, or perhaps in the river.

As the USGS gage at Belvidere shows, the Delaware has been yo yo-ing between 5 and 10 feet for the past few months, sometimes surging 3 or 4 feet in one day. As a result water clarity (AKA water quality) is not great. The median flow for early July is around 4' so the river has consistently stayed well above normal (last year at this time it was a scratchy 3' but crystal clear).

The yoyo syndrome could be a concern if we experience a big tropical storm. Chances are the river will fall back to a normal level, but there isn't much normality in the weather pattern this year.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

What a difference...

Last June the Delaware River and it's tribs were running at a trickle. The plants were wilting and oppressed by a drier, hotter than normal spring. Who remembers that in 2010 we endured the first of what would be many heatwaves -- in APRIL?

This year has (so far) been a weather paradise relatively speaking. Aquifers are recharged, the streams are perky, wetlands and vernal pools full, and it is surely the most lush greenery in recent memory (so far this century?).

Today was to be a river cleanup but the river is running several feet higher than our predetermined 'safe level' for that activity (about 5'), which involves picking up trash from islands and river banks. I'd like to say that we had to cancel because of high water, but the truth is it was cancelled 3 days ago due largely to apathy. The fact that it was rescheduled from June 4 also cut down on the number of signed up volunteers. Stay tuned as we may try again this fall.

The Delaware River @ Riegelsville crested at 11.5 feet last night and is falling this morning. That's about 6 feet more than the median flow for this date, which is huge. The river rose 5 feet in one day which is astounding for this time of year.

Upriver tributaries (from where I view the river in Upper Black Eddy) are also running high. The Musconetcong River @ Bloomsbury is around 3 feet (2.91). Yet some streams downriver from here showed there was little rain over the past few days. The Tohickon Creek is running at 1.91 feet which isn't enough water to paddle (without walking in some spots).

Folks who planned to go tubing or paddling the Delaware River today will be disappointed. It's muddy and not safe for novice paddlers and certainly unsafe for river potatoes (tubers).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Please Help on this LAST CALL!

(from Delaware Riverkeeper Network)

Last Call for Letters on Gas Drilling in the Delaware River Watershed! – Due April 15th

We are down to the wire friends!  This week is the last chance to weigh in on the proposed natural gas regulations for the Delaware River Watershed to protect our communities and the River from toxic gas drilling.  The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) needs to receive your letter by mail or hand delivery by April 15th at 5pm (or online at the National Park Service website by midnight on the 15th).  Please write a letter NOW to keep a moratorium on drilling and share concerns about the inadequate draft gas regulations being considered that would harm the health of our communities and the River.

Click the link below to get more details and help with a sample letter.  Delaware Riverkeeper Network will hand deliver letters to the DRBC for you if we receive them by Friday at 1pm.  In under 2 minutes you can take action and weigh in on this crucial historic rule-making to protect our water.  Thanks for doing all you can.

You can also submit comment electronically and online up to midnight on April 15th by going directly to the National Park Service Link below.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Run of the Mill Flood...

As Delaware River floods go this one should stop just short of the "moderate" category.

The Musconetcong River never reached flood stage. The Lehigh River has crested and is falling so that means the Delaware River, which is a few feet over its banks will begin to fall sometime tonight. It's projected to reach 25.5 ft.

We need some of those sunny, cold March wind days to allow the watersheds to dry out a little bit.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Late Winter Flood....

The Delaware River at Riegelsville just spilled over its banks (22 feet), but it appears to be leveling off.

I drove up the river between Upper Black Eddy and Raubsville today and it was quite a spectacle. The river is lapping at the front of some homes in Carpentersville, large trees are bobbing down the river. At this level the river isn't much of a threat to anyone. It would have to rise a few more feet to do serious damage. No word on the status of the ice jams in the eddies of the Upper Delaware River.

Major tribs like the Lehigh River and the Musconetcong River have already started to fall so it's inevitable that the Delaware will be back down by tomorrow morning.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Slow Meltdown...

And so winter's grip holds tighter after that stunning glimpse of spring last week. Any snow that falls here on out won't stay around long.

The Delaware River and its tribs rose quickly after that 70 degree day and it was all snow and ice melt. The river at Riegelsville is running around 6' which is almost double the flow of the previous week, but still a moderate level for this time of year.

That's a great sign for all those who dwell by the river. There's still lots of thick ice in the lakes, and clogging the big eddies of the Upper Delaware River, but it looks like the trend towards gradual thawing and melting will continue.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Locked Up in the Watershed...

The Delaware River is running at summertime levels (3.90 @ Riegelsville) and that is because most of the precipitation that has fallen over the last few months has been in the form of snow and ice.

The entire watershed is covered with snow and the river and its tributaries contain thick ice sheets. This is the classic set-up for the most wicked type of flooding that occurs on the Delaware River and elsewhere. The last such event was 1996 and it impacted the Lower Delaware and many tributary streams such as the Perkiomen Creek.

Even though conditions are perfect for flooding it could turn out that we'll see a gradual melt and thaw period with little rain. It's also possible that a two foot snow will hit us, followed by heavy rain and warm temperatures. The winter ice-jam floods can occur anytime between January and March.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Dillution the sollution to pollution?

That's what the gas drillers in PA seem to think. Unfortunately, so do the regulators as this AP article points out.

"Industry representatives and the state's top environmental official insist that the wastewater from fracking has not caused serious harm anywhere in Pennsylvania, in part because it is safely diluted in the state's big rivers."