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Hundreds of paddlers participate in Lehigh Sojourn

By Bo Koltnow, Reporter, BKoltnow@wfmz.com
Published On: Jun 24 2013 06:31:48 PM CDT

Lehigh River Sojourn a journey of fun, learning

WALNUTPORT, Pa. -

Learning on the Lehigh River.

It's what hundreds did Monday during the 17th annual Lehigh River Sojourn, a three-day educational environmental experience that included white-water rafting camping and a two-day trip down the Lehigh.

"Fantastic. A great experience," Bob Brunda proclaimed.

Brunda is one the 300 or so who signed up and saddled up in kayaks and canoes for the final nine-mile river ride from Walnutport to Northampton.

"We get people out here to experience it first hand. It's different than driving over it 150 feet on Route 22," Chris Kocher of the Wildlands Conservancy said.

Kocher, our leader, quickly points out a bald eagle and blue heron.

We're only 15 miles north of Allentown. But we could just as easily be in a national park.

Trees cover both sides of the river and it's hard to believe the city is just a stone's throw away.

But Kocher says the river wasn't always so pristine. Controlled by the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, the Lehigh served as the lifeblood for the anthracite coal industry with the canal on one side, rail on the other, and industrial filth filling the middle.

However, Kocher says the river today has made an amazing recovery and is cleaner now than it has been in the last 174 years.

He attributes this tributary's turnaround to education, which flows into the Sojourn's goal of exposing this natural beauty to those like Elizabeth Possinger. She had her maiden voyage today.

"Saw a bald eagle twice today," she says.

It's a sight Kocher hopes has an impact on this river for generations to come.