There are three access points to the trail and the river (for boaters): White Haven, Rockport, and Glen Onoko (near Jim Thorpe). We opted for the Rockport Access. Several parking lots are available above the river (as the lot close to the river is reserved for commercial whitewater rafting vehicles or individuals picking up kayaks).
As we walked down to the Lehigh Gorge Trail, we saw this stream that flows into the Lehigh River and a cave in one of the many rock formations along the gorge.
The steep, deep-walled gorge was was formed by the powerful Lehigh River. White water rafting is a very popular activity on the Lehigh River at this park. Several commercial companies are licensed to offer trips between the three access points: White Haven to Rockport (8.7 miles); Rockport to Glen Onoko (12.2 miles); White Haven to Glen Onoko (20.9 miles). The third trip can take 12 hours, depending on the water level of the river.
The flow of the Lehigh River in this area is controlled by the US Army Corps of Engineers at the Francis E. Walter Dam. Check www.waterdata.usgs gov/nwis) for scheduled water release dates.
We headed east on the Lehigh Gorge Trail at about the 119.5 mile mark.
The trail is a wide, gravel path. As hikers, we had to be cognizant of the bicyclists along the trail. Right away we noticed the abundant rhododendron blooms and interesting rock formations along the gorge.
The lovely Buttermilk Falls are about a half mile from the Rockport Access point. Picnic tables can be found near them (and at other spots along the trail as well).
We saw lots of this shrub (or tree). I believe it is rhus typhina, a member of the sumac family (but not closely related to the poisonous kind). The velvety texture of the flower was so interesting. Also shown is a plant with red berries we saw all along the trail (not sure what it is...)
But mostly, we heard and saw the many rafting groups with kayakers on the Lehigh River.
We stopped for lunch at a picnic table along the trail. There were paths down to the water in multiple locations along the trial.
Ruins of the lock system that once operated from 1830 to 1862 could be seen on the segment of land between the trail and river.
After the 122 mile marker (about 1/3 mile) is a wayside exhibit of Lock 22. Comprised of 29 high lift locks, the Upper Grand Section (between Mauch Chunk [now Jim Thorpe] and White Haven) was 5.5 miles of the 26-mile Lehigh Canal. The entire canal compensated for a drop of elevation of 600'.
A path behind the marker leads to the river's edge where Mud Run flows into the Lehigh River.
Sadie, our sweet doggie, was so happy to cool off in the river here.
We continued on the path to Lock 22. All of the locks were built with simple tools, man power, and mule power. No mortar was used; the workmen meticulously fitted the available stones together with wood beams set at specific intervals. The locks could handle boats that weighed up to 150 tons, an engineering marvel at the time. In 1838, a boat with a 40-ton burden moved through the locks with one set of horses in 14 hours.
After 30 hours of heavy rain in June, 1862, thousands of cut logs were carried downriver. They (and other debris) battered and destroyed the locks and dams of the Upper Grand Section of the canal. The recently installed railroad system replaced the damaged canal and it was never rebuilt.
We hiked back to Rockport (about 3 miles) and thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of the Lehigh Gorge and River. The walk up the relatively steep hillside to our car was the toughest part of the hike!
There are many more miles of the Lehigh Gorge Trail to hike (or bike) in the park. For additional information, check out www.visitpaparks.com.