Today I had the great pleasure to participate in a Kayak tour of the Schuylkill Banks organized by Hidden River Outfitters. The weather was perfect for an hour of kayaking on the river, starting at the Walnut Street Bank and paddling towards the famous Fairmount Waterworks.
Being no stranger to water sports as a PADI certified scuba diver and whitewater rafting enthusiast, I jumped at the chance to try my hand at this 'urban' style kayaking. After an introduction to safety issues and kayaking skills, the group was fitted with life jackets and we headed to the kayaks.
The Schuylkill (Dutch meaning: hidden river) winds through 128 miles of Pennsylvania terminating in the Delaware River. The portion of the river I was kayaking on flows through the center of downtown Philadelphia. We were kayaking through a canyon composed of steel and glass. The sound of cars traveling across bridges and highways echoed through this urban canyon as we drifted silently along the river.
For the first half of the journey along this river, I struggled to control my kayak. Fighting the movement of the kayak by abruptly reverse paddling to make course corrections and stabbing the water with my paddles to move forward. These actions expend your energy and you quickly find yourself going nowhere fast. A bit frustrated, I rested my paddles on my lap, sipped some bottled water and watched the guides as they moved past me. They paddled along with a rhythmic, gentle movement that allowed for easy course changes and power when needed. Let me give that a try and see what happens I thought to myself as I picked up my paddles. The difference was everything.
Finding my paddling groove, I began to relax and take in the scenery as we came upon the Fairmount Waterworks. A spectacular scene unfolded with the beautiful neoclassical facade of the Waterworks and Boathouse row in the distance. The Zoo Balloon was visible from our spot on the river as well. We could have lingered all day, but all too soon we had to head for the dock.
The scenery on the way back was just as spectacular with the city's skyscrapers framing the skyline as we paddled back to the dock. More than once on my way back, I considered getting waterproof casing for my camera gear. As I glided though the sun sparkled water, I marveled at the peacefulness of this activity which is smack in the middle of an urban jungle. I've travelled the world enjoying this type of water sport and here I find it has always been in my backyard.
I am aware of the tragic death that has occurred on this river and my condolences go out to the family of the victim. Kayaking is a safe and enjoyable water activity. However, accidents do happen. Always remember to follow safety instructions, wear sunscreen and stay hydrated while on the water and you will have a safe and fun kayaking experience.
Happy Kayaking Everyone!