What is the Delaware River Sojourn?
The Sojourn, a paddling trip on the Delaware River, is full of fun and adventure, offering a great time for all participants where wonderful memories are made! The purpose of the Sojourn is to heighten awareness of, and appreciation for, the ecological, historical, recreational, and economic significance of the Delaware River, which flows through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. The Sojourn combines canoeing/kayaking, camping, educational programs, historical interpretation, and more.
The Sojourn is fully insured and sanctioned by the American Canoe Association. Each day we are accompanied by our safety team, made up of members of the National Canoe Safety Patrol.
Sojourners are like an extended family, and many participants join in the fun year after year, whether it’s for a day or two, or the whole event. It is a great way to get outdoors, meet new people or reconnect with old friends, and enjoy nature - a perfect “staycation” where you feel you are away but still close to home.
Who Can Participate on the Sojourn?
The Sojourn is for novice to experienced paddlers or those who are simply curious about the outdoors. Almost anyone can come on the Sojourn: adults, families, kids, and grandparents. Travelers can sign up for the entire trip or for the section(s) or day(s) of their choice.
To show the variety of landscapes, culture, history and nature of the entire Delaware River, we paddle in each section (upper, middle, lower, and estuary). We often take side trips on the historical canals, into the tidal marshes, and down the scenic tributaries. All along the way, we will learn about the river’s ecology and ties to local communities, as well as how we can become stewards of this great resource for future generations. The itinerary varies from year to year, so there is always something new to discover.
What is a Typical Sojourn Day?
1. Meet your paddling companions at the appointed rendezvous.
2. Check in for a welcoming address and the mandatory safety briefing.
3. Follow our river guides and enjoy the companionship of fellow sojourners.
4. Paddle a few riffles, Class I rapids, and occasional Class II rapids.
5. Enjoy the lunch provided.
6. Paddle approximately 10 to 15 miles (about five hours) at a moderate touring pace.
7. Learn about nature, recreational opportunities, history, and conservation from our naturalists, historians, and environmental educators.
8. Gather for an evening program on nature, culture, history, or river issues.
9. Enjoy campfire camaraderie or evening entertainment.
10. Pitch a tent and sleep to the sounds of the river.
What are the Sojourn's Policies?
For your safety and that of your fellow sojourners, the following policies will be in effect:
1. No glass containers are allowed on the river.
2. All participants must attend the daily safety briefing conducted by the National Canoe Safety Patrol before launching. Participants must adhere to the safety guidelines presented.
3. All participants must sign a liability waiver. Parents must sign for children under 18 years old. The signed waiver should accompany your registration form.
4. Participants must wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD) at all times on the river. These are provided with rentals.
5. Participants under the age of 18 are the responsibility of, and must be accompanied by, a parent or guardian at all times. Children need to be able to swim and must weigh at least 40 pounds to be properly fitted with a PFD.
6. Follow the directives of the safety patrol and sojourn staff in the event of bad weather, hazardous conditions, or an emergency.
7. No pets allowed.
8. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited on the river.
9. Footwear (river shoes, river sandals, surf mocs, or old sneakers) must be worn at all times.
10. Exhibit courteous behavior and respect private and public property.
Sojourn organizers encourage participants to adhere to "Leave No Trace" principles and reduce the amount of waste generated during the trip. Keep this in mind:
"Nature never breaks her own laws," said Leonardo da Vinci. People do.
How has the Sojourn Brought Positive Attention to the Delaware River?
Over the years, the Delaware Sojourn has focused mounting attention on the river, creating an awareness of the important role it plays in the lives of the over 15 million people who rely on its waters for drinking, agricultural, and industrial use. By getting people out on the river and experiencing it for themselves, the Sojourn helps foster appreciation and stewardship for this great resource that some may only read about in the newspaper or drive over or alongside on their daily commutes.
Because of the Sojourn, elected officials, including congressmen, have paddled the Delaware and its tributaries, coming away with a better understanding of the importance of protecting a resource which has so much to offer their constituents.
The news media also have written about the Sojourn since its inception, the heightened visibility no doubt giving a boost to the tourism and recreation trades in the four states that make up the watershed.
And, lastly, more and more riverbank communities are becoming involved and supporting the Sojourn, recognizing the need for stewardship to protect a national treasure that just happens to run through their backyards.
What have Past Sojourners Said about the Event?
- Daniel Okrent, Sojourn Participant 2004 -
Dan submitted a "blog" in 2009 for inclusion on the Sojourn web site. To view, please click here.
- Pennsylvania State Senator Chuck McIlhinney:
"The more you educate people, the more they’re going to want to preserve and take notice that the Delaware River is a treasure here not to be squandered by development or any number of things."
- Florence Wharton, Delaware and Raritan Greenway:
"Not only do you enjoy the experience of being on the river, but you get to know so many people who want to see this river remain a recreational treasure."
- Susan Grimes, Sojourn 2000 participant:
"This was the day we experienced simultaneously touching three states, with a single finger on Tri-State Rock. The landmark lies under Route 84 where the Neversink and Delaware Rivers meet."
- Ken Margolis, Former President, River Network:
"You can’t know a river from any one spot on it. A river is the movement of water, from headwaters to mouth."
- Kelly Robbins, Student, New Hope-Solebury High School:
"We pulled the canoes up on the bank, then reluctantly walked to the bus with a new appreciation for the Delaware and its wildlife."
Who are the Lady and Lord High Admirals?
Thousands of timber rafts once rode the river’s spring freshets to markets located along the tidal Delaware River where the vessels were disassembled and the pine and hemlock logs fashioned into spars and masts for large warships.
Daniel Skinner, according to local historians, was among the first loggers to make the trip. Sometime during the 1760s he and two mates launched an 80-foot long raft of lashed logs from the Catskill Mountain settlement of Cochecton, N.Y. Shipbuilders offered up a rousing welcome when Skinner and one of the mates (the other reportedly drowned) came ashore in Philadelphia, some 200 miles downstream. Overjoyed with the fresh supply of timber, the shipbuilders honored Skinner (some say he honored himself) with the title Lord High Admiral of the Delaware.
Skinner had a lock on the title and the river’s timber trade until his death in 1813. Almost 200 years would pass before his honorary title would be given to a new generation of folks drawn to the river. In 1997, the title, and a modified version, were bestowed on a handful of people who became the first Lady and Lord High Admirals of the Delaware River Sojourn, another watery adventure which celebrates the river’s outstanding natural beauty. It has since become a tradition of the Sojourn that Lady and/or Lord High Admirals are selected each year to honor those individuals who have made outstanding contributions to protect the health of the Delaware River and its environs.
What's so Special about the Delaware River?
The Delaware, the longest un-dammed river east of the Mississippi, is as steeped in history as it is diverse in nature.
George Washington and his troops rowed across it on Christmas night, 1776, en route to a decisive victory over the British crown. This marked a turning point in the Revolutionary War.
During the Civil War, more than 12,000 Confederate soldiers were imprisoned on Pea Patch Island, just down river of New Castle, Delaware.
The river also winds through Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, birthplace of another revolution - America’s Industrial Revolution.
In 1915, to meet the demands of WWI, the world’s largest shipyard was built along the Delaware on Hog Island, offshore of Philadelphia.
Upstream, the river flows beneath the Delaware Aqueduct, built by engineer John Roebling who designed the fabled Brooklyn Bridge. The aqueduct served as a watery passage for mule-pulled canal boats which hauled the coal that helped fuel the Industrial Revolution.
Downstream, the river then empties into the Delaware Bay, which washes by old whaling towns.
The Delaware River serves as a major source of water for big cities – Philadelphia and New York City – and heavy industry, yet supports a world-class trout fishery and bald eagles. Over 15 million people rely on the Delaware River Basin for water, but the river itself is small, draining only four-tenths of one percent of the total continental U.S. land area. Three-quarters of the non-tidal river – about 150 miles – has been included in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, a testament to the remarkable improvement in its water quality.
The Delaware Estuary -- the tidal reach of the Delaware River and the Delaware Bay -- has been included in the National Estuary Program, a project set up to protect estuarine systems of national significance. Meanwhile, it is also host to the Delaware River Port Complex (including docking facilities in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware), which is the largest freshwater port in the world.
Charles Kuralt may have had the Delaware in mind when he wrote, "I started out thinking of America as highways and state lines. As I got to know it better I began to think of it as rivers. America is a great story, and there is a river on every page of it."