River Sojourns: Connecting People to Our Shared Waters Through Paddling and Partnerships
2022 Delaware River Sojourn Scholars & DRBC Staff: (From L to R) Kate Schmidt, DRBC; Eteecio B.; Judy L.; Leslie J; Darleen W.; and Beth Brown, DRBC. Photo by the DRBC.
“No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.” — Sir David Attenborough
When I started with the Delaware River Basin Commission in 2005, the Delaware River Sojourn had just wrapped. My supervisor told me about it, saying the DRBC had been helping plan and promote this annual guided paddling and camping trip along the Delaware River since the late 1990s. He also asked me to represent the DRBC on the committee that organizes the excursion each year.
From my first Delaware Sojourn in 2006, I was hooked and have proudly served on the steering committee ever since. In fact, I just paddled my 15th Delaware River Sojourn last month!
We are lucky to have several sojourns taking place in the Delaware River Basin. In addition to the Delaware River Sojourn, the Lehigh River Sojourn and the Schuylkill River Sojourn are each multi-day, annual events. The multi-day Lenape River Journey launches every four years, and there is also an annual, one-day Perkiomen Creek Sojourn.
River sojourns are awesome because they connect people to the water, to the land and to one another. They are a great way to get introduced to paddling in a group environment, and if you like the outdoors, they’re a ton of good family-friendly fun!
Paddling New Jersey’s Crosswicks Creek. Photo by the DRBC.
Sojourns are guided paddling and camping trips, combining on-water experiences and educational learning opportunities. They are suited for paddlers of all skill levels; equipment is provided, and river guides teach basic instruction and help keep paddlers safe while on the water. The connections fostered by river sojourns have not only introduced more people to paddling and to the waters of the Delaware River Basin but have also made people more aware of how their actions and daily habits can affect our environment.
To me, river sojourns truly embody the mission of Our Shared Waters, bringing together like-minded individuals, non-profits, businesses and government agencies that understand that through recreation, education and experience, we have the opportunity to create new stewards of our shared water resources. When Our Shared Waters was formed in 2019, the Delaware River Sojourn immediately joined as a partner. It is especially fitting to be able to author this blog for Our Shared Waters about the Sojourn experience, as the missions tie together so neatly.
But enough from me. Those who know me know I can talk about the river forever! Let’s hear from others about their river sojourn experiences.
In 2022, scholarships offered by the DRBC’s Our Shared Waters program enabled first-time paddlers to participate on either the Delaware or Schuylkill River Sojourn for a day. The scholarship program is geared for people interested in paddling but perhaps without the equipment, skills or opportunity to do this type of activity on their own and aims to increase diversity of all types among sojourn participants.
2022 Schuylkill River Sojourn Scholar Pat J. preps her rental kayak for the paddle. Photo courtesy of Pat J.
Four individuals joined the Schuylkill River Sojourn’s final day, paddling from West Conshohocken, Pa., to Philadelphia, ending at the iconic Boathouse Row near the Fairmount Water Works.*
Pat J.: I had a wonderful time on the Sojourn and felt like I was very well taken care of from the moment I arrived. I really appreciated this amazing experience.
Adrienne D.: Receiving the Sojourn scholarship offered me the opportunity to enjoy nature and the waterways in my own community. Everyone was so supportive and helped me with kayaking basics.
Rick W.: It felt good to be out on the river and in the sunshine, and more paddling is definitely in my future. I really enjoyed kayaking with everyone and sharing the experience.
LaVondra H.: I thoroughly enjoyed my time paddling the Schuylkill. I was quickly incorporated into the group, and when I needed help along the way, so many people were happy to give advice and teach me. This experience was therapeutic for me, encouraged me to continue learning how to kayak, and gave me a greater appreciation of nature and community.
We appreciate our partners at Schuylkill River Greenways National Heritage Area, who organize the annual journey, for welcoming the scholars.
Three of the four 2022 Schuylkill River Sojourn Scholars. Photo by the DRBC.
Four newcomers also joined us on the final day of the Delaware River Sojourn on June 25, 2022, as we explored Crosswicks Creek, a tidal tributary that enters the Delaware River at Bordentown, N.J. Paddling this tidal tributary gave us all the experience of paddling with the tide in a more intimate setting. And while we waited for the tide to reverse, we learned about amazing efforts underway to restore the surrounding ecosystem, known as the Abbott Marshlands.*
Leslie J.: I wasn’t sure what to expect, but when I came in, everybody was so nice and made me feel included. The day was very enjoyable and absolutely worth it. As a girl scout leader, I’d love to bring the girls on the trip as an end-of-year experience.
Eteecio B.: I had a blast and loved every minute of the day! It was my first time but will not be my last, next year we’re going to make a family day of it. It was a beautiful experience, and I recommend any and everybody to try.
Judy L.: Thank you for the opportunity to kayak with your group – it was a fabulous day! The most interesting thing I learned was from the lecture about living shorelines. I hope to be back next year for a least a couple of days!
Darleen W.: I did really enjoy the whole experience. Thank you so much for the scholarship as I doubt I would have tried it for the first time otherwise. I always felt included and cared for.
As I revisit this feedback, I am all smiles, knowing these individuals are now hooked like I was after my first sojourn. We are so glad that they decided to try something new and join us on the water.
A big thank you to all our Sojourn partners on the Delaware and Schuylkill; planning these events is a lot of hard work, and we appreciate your efforts and dedication. I can’t wait to see these scholars – and possibly you, too – on a future paddle along Our Shared Waters!
*Please note that the scholars’ feedback was slightly condensed/edited for length and clarity.
Learn more about River Sojourns here:
Delaware River Sojourn: https://delawareriversojourn.com
Schuylkill River Sojourn: https://schuylkillriver.org/programs-projects/schuylkill-river-sojourn/
Lehigh River Sojourn: https://www.wildlandspa.org/lehighriversojourn/
Perkiomen Creek Sojourn: https://www.perkiomenwatershed.org/perkiomen-creek-sojourn
Kate Schmidt has served as the Communications Specialist for the DRBC since 2005.