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By the Way: Strolling on the river


This is Rivers Month – and it’s worth a trip to the river bank to appreciate the river’s majesty and power. Where would we be without our gorgeous life-giving, wild and dangerous river and its related waterways?

There’s something about bodies of water that seems to draw people out of themselves, even when they’re ordered to stay at home. It’s almost like a magnetic attraction – a walk on an ocean beach, a stroll along a creek or a lake, especially when one has been confined.

The few times I ventured beyond our four walls during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I found myself either near the Delaware River and accompanying canal or checking out the 7-mile-long reservoir in Nockamixon State Park. The Tohickon Creek dumps water from the lake into the river twice each year. Even on a cold, gray day, minus sailboats and colorful kayaks, there’s something about the lake’s wide open space that is restorative in a special way.

It is no surprise to me then that the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has designated this month as Rivers Month. This is the time of year when all waterways throughout the state awaken and seem to take on new life as people troop to the water’s edge.

I have lived close to water all my life. Bristol, where I grew up, was an historical port on the Delaware River, and it was close to my heart as a child. Later, my college dorm room in Manhattan overlooked the mighty Hudson, and now once again, I see the Delaware River almost daily. For me, it’s always majestic, always awe-inspiring.

Especially after such a dreary winter, it is strangely satisfying, even exciting, to see the Delaware splashing to life again with speedboats tearing through the water and leaving broad wakes, pontoon boats and tubers bobbing in the spreading waves, fisherman hunched over their poles.

It’s nice, too, to see so many people picnicking by the river or walking, with or without dogs, jogging or biking along the Delaware Canal towpath.

On sunny days, even when the grim COVID-19 countdown was at its height, people seemed to find a kind of comfort in the natural world. Even though ordered to stay at home, some surged into the outdoors.

And now that the virus seems to have loosened its deadly grip in our area, even more people are popping up outside like daisies. After so much isolation, this is especially welcome after living in a world that sometimes seemed as though it was playing in slow motion and at other time reeling past frighteningly fast.

Robert Sweeney, assistant park manager at Nockamixon State Park, said veteran park workers marveled at the influx of people when the weather was fine.

“Ever since mid-March there’s been a dramatic increase in attendance,” Sweeney said.

He said, “On sunny days, the number of people doubled or even tripled what we’d seen in the past at the same time of year. The number was dependent on the weather, of course – some days more, some days less.”

The lake is the jewel-like centerpiece of the 5,200-acre park surrounded by the rolling hills of Bedminster and Haycock townships.

Devin Buzard, manager of Delaware Canal State Park, recognized the same phenomenon, as people took to the towpath. “Some days we exceeded our usually anticipated capacity,” he said.

Buzard oversees the 830-acre park that lies partly in Bucks County and partly in Northampton County and parallels the Delaware River for most of the canal’s path from Easton to Bristol.

He also is responsible for nearby Ralph Stover State Park and the 155-acre property surrounding the Giving Pond, a formidable former sand-and-gravel quarry close to the river a few miles downstream from Upper Black Eddy.

The Giving Pond is a truly peaceful spot. We spent a long afternoon there once quietly watching beavers building a dam. How can that not make a person feel good? And grateful for all our natural beauties?

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