The annual Schuylkill River Sojourn is always a week-long celebration of the river. This year, the more than 200 paddlers participating in the seven-day journey from June 4 to 10 will also celebrate the 18th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn itself.
Earlier this year, the 112 mile guided canoe/kayak tour of the river was recognized with a National Public Outreach Project Award by the American Society for Environmental History. It was the only project nationwide so honored.
Now in its 18th year, the Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn is a week-long paddle that begins in Schuylkill Haven on June 4 and ends a week later in Philadelphia. It has evolved into a popular paddling event that attracts people from all over the country.
This year, participants hearken from nine different states and New Zealand, and a record-breaking 80 paddlers will make the full 112 mile journey.
“The sojourn has developed such a strong reputation for excellence that every year people tell us it is a bucket list item for them,” said Silas Chamberlin, executive director of the Schuylkill River Heritage Area, which organizes the annual event. “But the sojourn is also a unique way to connect people to the river and its history, which is why it has been honored with a national public outreach project award.”
The award recognizes “environmental history projects and programs that engage the public beyond the academy; help the public appreciate the role of the environment in the shaping of broader social, political, economic and cultural issues; and/or have measureable impact on communities.”
For 18 years, the Schuylkill River Heritage Area has hosted the sojourn in order to draw attention to the river as a beautiful natural, historic and recreational resource. Over the years, more than 3,500 registrants from 25 states and four countries have participated, and all have come away with a deeper appreciation for the Schuylkill River.
Programs at lunch and evening stops provide information on some aspect of the region’s environment, history or culture. This year, the program theme celebrates the Centennial of the National Park Service, and features presentations by park rangers from Valley Forge, Independence and Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.
“The National Park Service Centennial is focused on reaching the next generation of visitors, supporters and future stewards of our natural, cultural and historic resources,” said Peter Samuel Heritage Area Coordinator for the NPS in the Northeast Region. “Having the Schuylkill River Sojourn focus on this provides a great opportunity to engage river enthusiasts in programs that expand their understanding of our National Parks.”
Overall, daily attendance numbers are high for the ever-popular sojourn. For safety reasons, only about 100 to 120 boats are allowed on the water each day, and every day is filled to capacity. Participants don’t have to register for the full trip, although this year a 80 people will make the entire journey, camping out in parks along the river. The remainder will join in for as little as one day or as many as six.
Although the Schuylkill River Sojourn is clearly a recreational endeavor, its primary purpose is to draw attention to the river as this region’s most critical natural resource and a source of drinking water for more than 1.5 million people. Studies show that when people paddle a river, they are more likely to be concerned about the health of that river, and to take measures to protect it.
The Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area, managed by the non-profit Schuylkill River Greenway Association, uses conservation, education, recreation, historic and cultural preservation and tourism as tools for community revitalization and economic development. Visit www.schuylkillriver.org/sojourn.aspx for more information.