What it looks like to kayak the Schuylkill for seven days and 112 miles

This article was originally published by The Philadelphia Inquirer

On the first Saturday in June, this one, 21 years later, about 120 sojourners slid their kayaks and canoes into the river in Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania. Yellow, blue red crafts entered the navigable headwaters in pairs in the above-average flow, high from recent storms.

Ages ranged from teens to octogenarians. Reasons for making the trip were various, but for seven days, men and women would paddle the Schuylkill River, contemplate their days and converse with each other.

It was not a competition, but rather a journey — one not seen by the road, that had turtles and bald eagles along the way.

A canopy of trees enveloped the first miles of swift water and opened up to dams that had to be portaged.

Each night — the first in Port Clinton — a spaghetti dinner was served to the travelers that had made the first dozen of the journey’s 112 miles.

The days were clear, nights the opened with thunderstorms. Tent preparation was learned.

Paddlers covered about 15 miles each day after a safety briefing led by The Bad Adventure Accompany.

The Sojourn is coordinated by The Schuykill River Greenways National Heritage Area. Some make the seven-day trip while others join for segments. During provided lunch and dinner breaks, educational programs were offered. This year’s theme was “Our Working River,” which focused on stories about the industry along the Schuylkill.

Each afternoon, sojourners pitched their tents and maybe walked to a local ice cream shop, or just walked.

Following Port Clinton, nights were spent in soccer fields and community parks.

Obstacles like “The Chutes” and “Flat Rocks” were navigated. Some tipped, some sank, but everyone made it.

The week ended at The Philadelphia Canoe Club on the following Friday, to firm land, and cars, and traffic and what wasn’t slipping beneath paddles.

A view of the Schuylkilll Sojourn kayaking trip from Schuylkill Haven to Philadelphia. The trip takes place over the course of seven days in June.

Portaging toward Lock 60 during the Schuylkilll Sojourn from Schuylkill Haven to Philadelphia, June 6, 2019

Soujourners wait to pass through Lock 60 in Mont Clare, PA on June 6, 2019

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