by Tom Damm
I had the opportunity to do so recently on two kayaking day trips.
The first was an intimate tour of a county lake that connects with Assunpink Creek and eventually the Delaware River near Trenton, New Jersey.
At Mercer Lake, Mercer County Park Naturalist Christy Athmejvar led a group of us on a tour of the lake’s nooks and crannies, wisely advising us to keep our binoculars handy as she spied cool critters and plant life.
In one hidden cove, as we passed a beaver dam, we saw 14 painted turtles basking on a log and three bullfrogs staring ahead with their bulbous eyes and wide mouths just above the water.
Paddling near the shoreline, Christy would quickly interrupt herself to point out a red-winged blackbird or an American goldfinch soaring above or, to her delight, a double-crested cormorant tucked in the water with only its head and long, curved neck visible.
Toward the end of the tour, her visual sweeps of the treetops scored the highlights of the day – two bald eagles. We kept our binoculars trained on the majestic birds as we bobbed in the kayaks, savoring our lucky finds.
A day later, it was time to join the sojourn that was completing its 24th annual, eight-day trip down sections of the Delaware River.
Fortunate that a thunderstorm threat never materialized, our sojourners, ranging from youth groups to seasoned veterans of the journey, paddled the warm, gentle waters of Crosswicks and Watson creeks on an eight-mile round-trip to the Tulpehacking Nature Center in Hamilton, New Jersey.
We started and finished at Bordentown Beach at the confluence of the Delaware River and Crosswicks Creek. Along the way, we struck up conversations and at times joined our kayaks and canoes, drifting with the tide as we heard presentations about the Abbott Marshlands.
The talks focused on successful efforts to preserve and expand the marshlands, their rich cultural and historic legacy, and the support they provide for more than 1,200 species of plants and wildlife.
Whether on water or land, head out to some of the natural attractions of the Delaware River Watershed to get a better sense for why its restoration is so important to EPA and its partners.
And for what you can do to help, check out this site.
About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.