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.

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