|Virtual tour of the upper Lehigh gorge.||Virtual tour of the lower Lehigh gorge.|
|Street Atlas map of the upper Lehigh. (70k)||Street Atlas map of the lower Lehigh. (70k)|
|| Topo Map of Lower with GPS
Waypoints for Rapids Marked
Recorded level gauges:
(717) 443-0400 - Hickory Run Park Office
(215) 656-6680 – Frank Cook of the Army Corp of Engineers – call to find dam status and to voice the concerns of private boaters.
On-line level gauges:
is located in northeast PA, about 2 hours
and 1 1/2 from Philadelphia. White Haven (the put-in to the upper
about 45 miles west of the NJ border on Route 80.
Click for a overview map. The area is rich in history, and in the 19th century the river had a lock system installed for the transportation of coal.
There is a large state park campground near the upper section, and a smaller private campground (Lehigh Gorge Campground) on Route 940 about a mile from the put-in of the upper section. You can also stay at the rafting outfitter campgrounds, although they tend to be noisy at night.
There is an upscale inn near Tannery rapid on the upper. Sleep in, stroll down to Tannery bridge and watch the action, and still have time to run the river with some fly fishing in the evening. The Pocono Mountains Visitor Bureau also has some lodging ideas.
The Lehigh River has 2 whitewater sections classed as an easy III (easier than the lower Yough, but much harder than the Delaware (see the Monocacy's river ranking), with guided raft trips, raft rentals, or great trips for private boaters. The river can get crowded during weekends (particularly release weekends) with raft trips and clubs. Detailed descriptions of the rapids are given in the virtual tours for the upper and lower sections.
Section I (the upper) is a 9 mile run from White Haven (at Rt 80) to Rockport.
Section II (the lower) is a 14 mile
Rockport to Jim Thorpe (or
use the Glen Onoko take out which cuts out 2 miles of mostly flatwater
Class II down to Thorpe).
Section III is a summer Class II 'family float' trip running from Jim Thorpe to Bowmanstown. Not as pristine and scenic as the first two sections, but nice on those hot summer days. Sections that can be run include:
The upper has more play spots (including enders at Wilhoyts and Beaver Hole, squirts at Lunch Rock and Eddy Turn Rock, and great surfing waves at Ledges) than the lower, but is not as pretty as the gorge area of the lower. The biggest rapids in the lower (Little Swimmers, Oxbow, Tower) are longer and bouncier than anything on the upper. But then the lower has more flatwater stretches, and can have a pretty stiff headwind near Bear Creek.
trail follows the river along an old railroad bed from Jim Thorpe
to Glen Onoko
Haven as part of the state park, with bike rentals available locally.
is administered by the PA Dept
Conservation and Natural Resources. There is a steep trail starting
parking area at Glen Onoko that goes up to the top of a multi level water fall.
the river as well as the bike trail. The eastern shore of the upper
state park, with some hiking trails down to the river. The whole White
Thorpe area has a long history of coal mining and tourism. Water levels
dependent on the releases from the Francis Walters dam, operated by the
Army Corps of
(see FEW Dam Info links above) are usually announced on Wednesday and
finalized by Friday. There is usually enough natural flow water for
releases in the spring, thru the end of May. The Army Corps recently
rerouted the road across the Francis Walters Dam to allow the dam level
to be raised without flooding the road. They are testing raising
the dam level in the spring and giving more whitewater releases during
the summer, and a higher minimum release to build a better trout
fishery on the Lehigh.
The Wildlands Conservancy's
web page contains some information about the Lehigh, and coordinates a
on the Lehigh, and river reach
The upper section of the Lehigh is stocked with trout down to about Hickory Run at Eddy Turn Rock. From the Francis Walter Dam down to White Haven is also a popular fishing stretch. A non-profit association stocks the river from Jim Thorpe down to Allentown. Mud Run near the Northeast Turnpike Extension overpass is fly fishing only. This area is one of the best for fishing in Carbon County. No boating is allowed on the Lehigh's upper section from White Haven to Rockport during the first weekend of Pennsylvania's trout season (early April).
Even the most playful rivers can be unforgiving, so be prepared (the AWA incident report was for an unguided family group not familiar with the river using plastic department store 'toy' rafts) . The park rangers will inspect your canoe to be sure that you have adequate flotation (i.e. air bags in canoes- too many wrapped Grummans in the past, or that your rafts are adequate with multiple chambers), protective flotation devices (i.e. life jackets - to be worn at all times while on the river), and won't let you on the river without them. Helmets for kayakers and strapped-in open boaters is also a good idea, as are throw bags, biners, and 1st aid kits, ducttape (you get the idea). Boat access (put-in and take-out) within the park boundaries is allowed only at White Haven, Rockport, and Glen Onoko. The rangers patrol the bike path (release weekends) on the river right side in case you get in trouble or have to hike out. Back-boards are located at intervals down the river along that roadway. Don't boat alone unless you and your next of kin are prepared to accept the vagaries of mother nature. Rescue people first, equipment second. Float with your feet on the surface. Watch out for rattlesnakes. Don't walk on the railroad tracks. (I sound like somebody's mother). State park rules apply: no alcoholic beverages on the river, life jackets on at all times on the river, no swimming, no fires, no parking at the bottom, etc., etc., etc. Have fun out there...
This information is my opinion only and may not reflect actual conditions. It is based on my usually hazy memory, and should not be used to decide whether you or your guides are qualified to run the river.
Back to the rafting page put-in.