Kayaking the Lehigh River from Lehighton to West Bowmans

This is a nice, calm, easy section of the Lehigh River.  I was thinking it'd be a good place to take first-time kayakers to get them acquainted with moving water, because there are only a few rapids over the ~4.5-mile stretch, and they're all pretty minor... but then we got to this one which is one of the craziest rapids we've ever done.  It's probably only a class II (I've had multiple river people tell me there's nothing higher than class II south of Jim Thorpe), but we're not hardcore kayakers, so the size, speed, and steepness of this particular set of rapids as you go around the bend was pretty scary-awesome to us.  Neither of us flipped, but I wouldn't have been surprised.  So, while I can't wait to do it again, it's definitely not something to take a first-timer through.

We also went through a strainer for the first time on this run.  At this spot in the river, there's a small side-channel on river-right, about 30 feet wide -- the kind that's usually fast-moving and really fun.  As we got closer we could see it had some downed trees blocking part of the channel, but it didn't look entirely impassable.  I made it past the first couple trees, but then on the last one, I couldn't maneuver my boat quickly enough over to the clear spot I was hoping to hit, where there was ~4 feet of clearance between the tree and the water (the tree was sticking out horizontally across the river).  Instead, I was ~10 feet to the right, closer to the bank, heading for a spot where the tree was only maybe 2 feet above the water, and this tree was about 2 feet in diameter.

I put my hand on the tree as I approached, I guess partly thinking I could maybe slow myself down and shove off to the side and get through, but also partly it was just instinct, because the tree was right at face level, so it was either my hand/arm, or a face-plant.  Well, as soon as my hand hit the tree, my upper body slowed/stopped but my kayak kept going, so it was basically an automatic flip -- which actually worked out well, and in retrospect was probably the only way I could have gotten past it safely, by going down into the water.  Fortunately the only branches coming off the tree and down into the water were pretty small ones; they scraped my arm up a bit, but didn't block the passage of me nor my kayak. 

They did grab my paddle, though.  After I was through it, my boat was swamped, so I pulled it over to the side and worked on emptying it out.  Meanwhile Kim had come through behind me, and instead of going right for the last tree as I did, she kind of went off to the side into the bank.  The current was pretty strong though, so once she was there out of the flow, it was hard for her to get back in, and she ended up just going under the tree the same as I did.  We both then tried to fight our way upstream, walking/swimming, to get back to the tree and retrieve my paddle, but the current made that impossible.  Instead, I just walked up on the bank (actually on the small island that forms this channel) and jumped back into the river above the side-channel, going through it again, but this time swimming it (with my life-jacket of course) instead of boating it.  The current took me right back to the same spot, so I easily just grabbed my paddle as I passed under the tree again.

It worked out fine in this case, but lesson learned: don't take any side-channels that appear to be full of strainers!

I usually abandon ship a few times to cool off in the river. The water is cool, crystal clear, and beautiful.

This is the strainer (the green stuff on the left, not the bare stuff on the right) that flipped me and took my paddle (though I did get it back, by walking upstream and jumping in and swimming down through the same route, grabbing my paddle as I went under the tree). It's a couple of downed trees that cover most of this ~30-foot-wide side-channel. This photo is looking at it from the downstream side, so it's kinda hard to make out; it's not *quite* so impassable as it appears here, but still, it would have been better to stay in the river's main channel, which was wide open.

Some cliffs and a random tuber.