POTTSTOWN — A record number of paddlers are setting out for the 16th annual Schuylkill River Sojourn this year.
The sojourn covers more than 111 miles starting June 7 at the Schuylkill Haven Launch area and ending at the Philadelphia Canoe Club on June 13, according to a press release from the Schuylkill River Heritage Area.
This year, 69 people from 11 states and “The first European registrant, from France, will paddle,” the release said.
Since the inception of the event, more than 3,000 registrants have signed up.
“That we have paddlers from 11 states and Europe really speaks to the fact that this river has become a recreational destination and that the Schuylkill River Sojourn has widespread appeal,” said Schuylkill River Heritage Area Executive Director Kurt Zwikl.
Paddlers will launch every day at 9 a.m., stop around noon for lunch, and then paddle to their final destination. Participants can paddle the entire week, for one day or for a half day.
This year, the sojourn has an additional piece of excitement to talk about. The Schuylkill River was named Pennsylvania’s 2014 River of the Year after an online vote was taken in December of last year.
This is not the first time the river has been named the best in the state. In 1999, the same year the sojourn began, the river also held the title.
“This year, we are pleased to be able to build on that excitement as we make our way down Pennsylvania’s River of the Year,” Zwikl said.
Along the sojourn this year, participants will hear speakers that will highlight the conservation efforts and recreational initiatives along the river.
“Among the highlights are a special program on historic steam Locomotive 113,” the release said. There will also be a panel talking about watershed programs and a Dragon Boat presentation in Mont Clare.
The Dragon Boat, according to the release, will also paddle with the sojourners on Thursday as they travel from Mont Clare to West Conshohocken.
“While the Schuylkill River sojourn is clearly a recreational endeavor,” the press release said, “its primary purpose is to draw attention to the river as this region’s most critical natural resource.”
The river, according to the release, is a source of water for 1.5 million people.
“Studies show that when people paddle a river, they are more likely to be concerned about the health of that river, and to take measures to protect it,” the release said.