Every June, the Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn is organized as a weeklong celebration of the river. This year, from June 6-12, paddlers will also celebrate the legacy of the former Schuylkill Canal as they make the journey from rural Schuylkill County to Philadelphia’s Boathouse Row.
Now in its 17th year, the Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn is a 112-mile, weeklong guided paddle that begins each year in Schuylkill Haven and ends a week later in Philadelphia. It continues to be a popular paddling event that attracts people from all over the country.
Participants don’t have to register for the full trip, although this year nearly 70 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.
Overall, daily attendance numbers are high for the ever-popular sojourn. For safety reasons, only about 100 boats are allowed on the water each day, and the first three days are already filled to capacity. Registrations are still being accepted for Tuesday through Friday, June 9-12. To register visit www.schuylkillriver.org. Sign up by May 18 to avoid a late fee.
For 17 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 25 states, Canada and France have participated. This year, the sojourn will welcome people from 12 states, some coming from as far away as Arizona, Colorado, and Florida to explore the Schuylkill.
“Over the years, the sojourn has developed a reputation for being well-organized, challenging, and fun,” said Schuylkill River Heritage Area Executive Director Kurt Zwikl. “The fact that it has engaged people from 25 states and two countries demonstrates not only that the sojourn has widespread, longstanding appeal, but that the river itself has become a recreational destination.”
Zwikl, who is retiring at the end of June, will attend a portion of the sojourn. However, sojourners will also have the opportunity to meet the Schuylkill River Heritage Area’s new Executive Director Silas Chamberlin.
The sojourn also has an educational component, with informative programs about the river offered at every lunch and evening stop.
All programs are open to the public.
The program theme for the 17th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn is Schuylkill Canal: Legacy & Landmarks. Presentations will focus on various aspects of the Schuylkill Navigation System, which featured a series of locks and dams that made the river navigable.
While only remnants of the canal exist today, it served as a vital transportation route from 1825 to the early 1900s, bringing anthracite coal from Schuylkill County down the river to fuel factories and forges nationwide during the Industrial Revolution.
“The Schuylkill Navigation System was an important chapter in the history of the river, yet it is often a forgotten piece of history,” noted Zwikl. “This topic is especially significant for sojourners, who frequently paddle past remnants of the canal without knowing much about it.”
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 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.