16th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn will celebrate The Schuylkill As Pennsylvania's River of the Year

Near Pottstown during last year’s event; photo by Jeremy Quan
Near Reading last year; photo by Dan Creighton

Every June, the Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn is organized as a weeklong celebration of the river. This year, paddlers have even more reason to celebrate: they will be floating down Pennsylvania’s 2014 River of the Year.

The fact that the 16th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn is happening on Pennsylvania’s River of the Year is only one reason 2014 is shaping up to be an exceptional year for the 112-mile, weeklong guided paddle planned for June 7-13. Also noteworthy is the record number of participants who have registered for the full trip. This year, 69 paddlers will make the entire journey from Schuylkill Haven to Boathouse Row, breaking last year’s record of 59 full-trippers.

Overall, daily attendance numbers are high for the ever-popular sojourn, with the first four days already filled to capacity. For safety reasons, only 100 boats are allowed on the water each day. Registrations are still being accepted for Wednesday through Friday, June 11-13. To register visit www.schuylkillriver.org. Sign by May 18 to avoid the late fee.

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For 16 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 that time period, more than 3,000 registrants from 21 states and Canada have participated. This year, the sojourn will welcome people from 11 states, including Ohio and Colorado, which have never before been represented. In addition, the first European registrant, from France, will paddle this year.

“That we have paddlers coming from 11 states and Europe really speaks to the fact that this river has become a recreational destination, and that the Schuylkill River Sojourn has widespread appeal,” said Schuylkill River Heritage Area Executive Director Kurt Zwikl “The sojourn is always a highly anticipated event that brings people to the river. This year, we are pleased to be able to build on that excitement as we make our way down Pennsylvania’s River of the Year.”

The Schuylkill was designated River of the Year by an online public voting process in December. The Schuylkill River Heritage Area, which organizes the annual sojourn, was named the lead agency for 2014 River of the Year programming. Therefore, all lunch and evening programs during the sojourn will spotlight the Schuylkill as River of the Year.

Informative programs on the region’s history, environment and culture are offered yearly at every sojourn stop, and all are open to the public. This year’s topics will include the Schuylkill Canal, conservation efforts and recreational initiatives. Among the highlights are a special program on historic steam Locomotive 113, at Friday evening check-in on June 6 at Schuylkill Haven Island Park; a panel of watershed partners speaking about their programs on Tuesday June 10 at Riverfront Park in Pottstown; and a presentation on Dragon Boating on Wednesday June 11 in Mont Clare. A dragon boat will accompany the Sojourn the following day.

This marks the second time the Schuylkill has earned the honor of being the state’s River of the Year. The first time was in 1999, the same year the Schuylkill River Sojourn was introduced by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources as part of the state’s more expansive River Sojourn Program.

While 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 over 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.

Visit www.schuylkillriver.org/sojourn.aspx for more information.

Please Note: Below is a list of approximate arrival and launch times of Sojourn stops should you wish to send a reporter or photographer to the sites. Please be aware that the times listed are based on past experience; many things, including weather and river flow, can impact timing.

Pre-Sojourn–Friday, June 6

4-8 p.m. Check-in at Schuylkill Haven Island Park, Schuylkill Haven

Schuylkill Haven Island Park welcomes paddlers to the 16th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn as they begin registering at 4 p.m. Chicken BBQ dinner will be available through Schuylkill Haven Island Park for those who order by May 29 by emailing bookkeeper@schuylkillhaven.org. An ice cream social will begin at 6 p.m. We will host a special River of the Year program, with coal-fired steam Locomotive 113 on site from 4-8 p.m. and tours available by Bob Kimmel, president of Railway Restoration Project 113.

Day 1–Saturday, June 7

15.5 miles: Schuylkill Haven to Port Clinton

Lunch: Noon at Auburn Dam. Bill Reichert will discuss the abandoned mine drainage cleanup efforts of the Schuylkill Headwaters Association.

Evening: The Port Clinton Fire Company serves up a spaghetti dinner at the Fire House as a fundraiser from 4-7 p.m. Afterward, at 7 p.m., fellow sojourner Brian Swisher will provide a presentation on the new Schuylkill River Water Trail guidebooks he is currently helping design.

Day 2–Sunday, June 8

18.5 miles: Port Clinton to Jim Dietrich Park, Muhlenberg Twp.

Lunch: 12:30 at Peter Yarnell Park. Singer/songwriter Haley Sheeler, long popular among sojourners, will once again perform her original music. After lunch Glenn Wenrich of the Berks County Heritage Center will speak about the Schuylkill Canal in Berks County.

Evening: Sojourners camp at Jim Dietrich Park. Doug Chapman of Take it Outdoors Adventure Group will speak about paddling on the Schuylkill River.

Day 3–Monday, June 9

16.3 miles: Jim Dietrich Park to Gibraltar

Lunch: Noon at Reading Riverfront Park. After paddling through Kelly’s Rapids, sojourners will learn about projects related to land, water, trails, gardens, wildlife habitat, and connecting people to nature in many ways from Berks Conservancy’s Tami Shimp.

Evening: Allegheny Aqueduct Park 7:30 p.m. Shad were historically a critical food source along the Schuylkill River until dams prevented them from traveling upriver in the early 1800s. Learn why shad were important, and what efforts have been undertaken to reintroduce them to the river from Josh Tryninewski of the PA Fish and Boat Commission.

Day 4 – Tuesday, June 10

13.9 miles: Gibraltar to Pottstown

Lunch: Noon at Historic Morlatton Village. Learn about Frick’s Locks Village, an important stop along the Schuylkill Canal that was abandoned when the Limerick Generating Station was built. It became a ghost town until recent efforts preserved a number of its buildings.

Evening: Pottstown’s Riverfront Park at 7 p.m. A special River of the Year program will bring together a panel of Schuylkill River watershed partners to talk about the work they do to protect and improve our natural environment. Panel will include representatives of: Schuylkill Action Network, Berks Conservancy, Montgomery Co. Conservation District, Philadelphia Water Dept., and Manayunk Development Corp.

Day 5–Wednesday, June 11

17.8 miles: Pottstown to Mont Clare Lock 60

Lunch: Noon at Victory Park in Royersford. Montgomery County has introduced a new Get Out and Go Montco initiative that encourages residents to get out on the river and trails. County planner Beth Pilling will give an overview of the program.

Evening: Always a sojourn highlight for both participants and onlookers, the paddlers will end their day by locking through Lock 60, the Schuylkill Canal’s only fully restored, operating lock. The Otterbein United Methodist Church will serve a spaghetti dinner at 6 p.m. at St. Michael’s Park. Following that, at 7:00 p.m., Kevin Brown, of the Norristown Dragon Boat Club will talk about Dragon Boating. The following day, Brown and some of his fellow club members will help us celebrate the Schuylkill as River of the Year by accompanying the sojourners to Norristown.

Day 6–Thursday, June 12

14 miles: Mont Clare to West Conshohocken

Lunch: 1:00 p.m. at Valley Forge National Historical Park. Park Chief of Planning and Resource Management Deirdre Gibson will talk about Sullivan’s Bridge, a new pedestrian bridge that will take Schuylkill River Trail users across the river. The Norristown Dragon Boat Club will join us on the river.

Evening: 7:30 p.m. West Conshohocken. The Circuit is a network of trails in the Philadelphia region that includes the Schuylkill River Trail. Sarah Clark Stuart of the Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition will discuss The Circuit and the movement to complete it.

Day 7–Friday, June 13

16 miles: West Conshohocken to Philadelphia

Noon at the Philadelphia Canoe Club. Did you know there is a boardwalk being built along the Schuylkill in Philadelphia? Learn about this fascinating project that will expand the Schuylkill River Trail and create a unique destination from Joe Syrnick, of the Schuylkill River Development Corp. After lunch, the Norristown Dragon Boat Club will again join the sojourn for the final stretch. Our final takeout will be Lloyd Hall at Boathouse Row. The vehicle shuttle will take place from Lloyd Hall to W. Conshohocken, followed by a final shuttle to Schuylkill Haven.

From the Schuylkill River Heritage Area