The Susquehanna River and the Conowingo Dam

Yesterday my group and I went canoeing on the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania with Dough Levin and Stephen who was our tour guide. It was quiet an amazing trip considering we had expected fall weather, instead the sun came out and there was a cool breeze. We drove to the Susquehanna Outfitters which is owned by Steve Alephant and his good friend, Billy. They both have grow up by the river and know some really amazing things about its history and the problems it could be facing. After we had gathered what we needed for this trip, we all gathered and discussed about both the Susquehanna river but mainly about the Conowingo Dam and what’s happening to it. He gave us two different types of map that gave us an idea of where are and while looking at them, our professor – Dough – helped us understand the formation of the river and of the mountains surrounding it.

While paddling, we reached the oldest and longest railroad called Rockville Bridge which was built between 1900 and 1902. it was a beautiful sight to look, almost majestic but ancient by its old stone structure. Another bridge was suppose to be built alongside it but it never was completed, all that is left is the broke stone columns. When paddling through one of its arches, not only was it somewhat uneasy if it decided to crumble and fall upon us but also looking at where the sea level was at different times. What ensured afterward was pretty funny but also neat and that was the search of a wedding ring that was glimpsed from one of my peers. She had caught sight of it at the bottom and with a group effort, we were able to recover it. We’re not sure what we’ll be doing with it

We reached a small gravel beached island and made our resting spot there for lunch and an exciting activity. What Steve had us do was in groups of two and threes, we collected small critters from the rock bottom. I had never done this sort of exploration before and I found it to be so intriguing and fun to do. My partner and I were able to collect two crawfish, a snail, and multiple tiny organisms of which the names of them I’m not able to recall at the moment. When we had all collected our samples, Steve explained to us that just by looking at what types of organisms are living here, it is possible to figure out if the body of water is in good health, medium, or poor. He said its easy and important to do this if you want to understand your surroundings. The cool part was that he took one of our crawfish and said how to distinguish between a female and male the proceeded to hang it on his ear like a earring. Though it looked painful he said the bigger ones are so but the fellow he had didn’t have big pinchers so not so much. I was completely captivated by this activity and will be sure to do this again when I get the chance. After eating a good lunch, Dough had taken us a bit further into the island where there was evidence that something had occurred not so long ago, all the trees and brushes had dried mud covering the base and some of the branches. It was a startling look, one I had never seen before and I was very curious as to what had caused it. It turns out that there had been a recent and powerful flood that had swept through the island and smothering practically everything in its path. Huge branches and other human waste had been swept into piles by the sheer force of the flood. The height of the destruction appears to say that the flood had been 6 to 19 feet which is pretty big. I thought it was pretty amazing to figure out what kind of natural disaster happened just by looking at the evidence it left behind. A small note that must be said is before we left to paddle more was finding a bowling ball that had heart-shaped chipped into it. We named it Muriel and have taken it with us to our next destination. It appears that we have a new companion with us for the rest of the journey.

The last stretch of our trip was fantastic between play fighting amongst us, believing that a pile of tires were huge turtles, and racing to the very end. What I found to be amazing was always being able to see the bottom of the rivers throughout the entire trip. It was that clear and for the most part, the bottom was made up of different sizes of rocks from cobble to boulders. No matter how shallow or deep it was, you could still see all the way down. It was perfect weather and I had learned so much while paddling about my surroundings. As I said before, we had talked about the Conowingo Dam and what’s currently happening to it. This dam has a 14 foot long sediment buildup that is causing problems for the Chesapeake Bay and the Susquehanna River. However people downriver don’t think that they need to fix anything because they believe that nothing will work until the dam is fixed. Mostly people think that the dam will not last for long because of all the sediment but others want to take action and do something about it before it too late. It’s just that its easier to blame another party than to face one own’s problems and that is what’s going to be the biggest problem. When paddling the Susquehanna river, it seemed that there isn’t problem with it because of the clarity it had but I fear that it will get worse if there is nothing done. Doing this trip was such a great experience for me and has taught me to really observe my surroundings and continue to find ways to make an environmental problem better or solved. I can’t wait to learn more as my journey continue with my friends.

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