It's time to register for the 2011 Lehigh River Sojourn, an educational whitewater rafting, canoeing or kayaking trip down the Lehigh River, runs from Friday, June 24 to June 27.

Now in its 15th year, the Sojourn offers a three-day paddling adventure meandering from the rural wilderness of the Upper Division of the Lehigh River in Lehigh Gorge State Park, to the metro-wilderness of Cementon as the Lehigh River enters historic industrial territory.

"If you ever thought about experiencing the Lehigh River, this is the best time to do it-as part of the Sojourn," said Chris Kocher, president of the Wildlands Conservancy. "You have a guided trip with safety officers, and there's educational programs, and meals. It makes getting out and seeing the river relatively easy."

"I had no idea this was here."

"I had no idea it was this beautiful."

"I had no idea we would see this much wildlife."

"I had no idea that this was just in my backyard."

Those, according to Kocher, were some of the comments he heard from people on their first Lehigh River Sojourn.

Those who wish to come early and camp at Mauch Chunk Lake Park on June 24 are invited to an animal presentation by Becky Cunfer at the Carbon County Environmental Education Center.

The itinerary includes:

Day 1 – Saturday morning June 25 – A hot breakfast and a day of adventure paddling whitewater rafts with Pocono Whitewater on a Class II III trip from White Haven to Drake's Creek, through the majestic Lehigh Gorge State Park, which covers 6,107 acres in Luzerne and Carbon counties.

At a halfway stop, Mike Dinsmore, assistant manager of Hickory Run, will be discussing land protection surrounding the Lehigh River and its tributaries. He will talk on the state's initiative to protect this vital piece of property and how land protection efforts-preserving valuable open spaces, fragile ecosystems and rare or endangered plant life and animals-positively impacts the rivers.

Day 2 – Sunday, June 26 – Canoeing and kayaking from Jim Thorpe to Walnutport led by safety director Jerry McAward and a team of guides from Jim Thorpe River Adventures.

Midway through, the trip will stop at the new East Penn Township boat launch where the Wildlands Conservancy recently protected 172 acres on the Kittatinny Ridge.

The land, which is visible from the boat launch, connects nearby natural areas including the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, State Game Land 217 and the Appalachian Trail. Representatives from Wildlands Conservancy and the Pennsylvania Game Commission will speak on the importance of protecting the land along the Kittatinny Ridge.

The recently protected parcel is home to recovering stands of oak, birch and chestnut trees. Wildlands is in the process of transferring the property to the PA Game Commission to allow public access for outdoor recreation.

Day 3 – Monday, June 27 – The canoe/kayak ramble leaves Walnutport bound for its Cementon take-out. The scenic trip passes relics from the canal period including a breached dam and the best preserved remnants of a Bear Trap Lock, a river lock used in advance of the Lehigh Navigation System.

Stopping below the Treichler's Bridge at midday, the Sojourn will meet Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham, who will talk about the recent trail improvement projects of the D&L Trail.

After Lehigh County purchased 11 miles of abandoned railroad for the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor trail project, the county asked Wildlands Conservancy to acquire trail easements to eliminate the gaps along a 9.2-mile section of the trail. These easements helped contribute to the ultimate goal, creating a 165-mile historic trail path from Bristol, Bucks County to Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County.

The Sojourn concludes at the Tri-boro Sportsmen's Club where the last intact Lehigh Canal boat is on display.

Participants may join the Sojourn for one to three day. Meals are provided. Registration information is available at www.wildlandspa.org [1]. Preregistration is required. Space is limited. The registration deadline is Wednesday, June 16. For more information, contact Elizabeth McKinney at 610-965-4397 ex. 126 or email: emckinney@wildlandspa.org [2].