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'Guide to Lehigh Gorge Historic Trail' published by park ranger

  • Gail Maholick/TIMES NEWS David Fry, chief ranger at Lehigh Gorge, Nescopeck and Hickory Run State Parks, recently published "A Guide to the Lehigh Gorge Historic Trail." The booklet is available at several locations. Fry also designed a badge and…
    Gail Maholick/TIMES NEWS David Fry, chief ranger at Lehigh Gorge, Nescopeck and Hickory Run State Parks, recently published "A Guide to the Lehigh Gorge Historic Trail." The booklet is available at several locations. Fry also designed a badge and medal to accompany the booklet.
Published June 20. 2013 05:03PM

After his 28 revisions, Chief Ranger David S. Fry, has published "A Guide to the Lehigh Gorge Historic Trail."

This 24-page guide helps visitors learn about the rich history of the Lehigh Gorge.

Fry became a state park ranger in 1990 working in Nochamixon State Park. He came to work in the Lehigh Gorge State Park in 1995. Presently, he services three parks, Nescopeck, Lehigh Gorge and Hickory Run state parks.

"I'm in a position to promote green recreation," he said. "I enjoy being able to assist youth groups learn more about the Gorge. That's a big part of a rangers job - to talk to visitors. "

For years, Fry, who is a history buff, had collected reams of historical information and old photographs. His interest in the Lehigh Gorge forged a dream of someday using the materials he had collected to create a guide to an area he had come to love.

Whenever he had a few spare minutes, he poured over many photographs and historical documents, looking for a way to present the information as a resource to park visitors.

The time became right when he slipped on ice and wasn't able to work for three months.

"Now I had the time along with the materials and desire and realized I finally could put everything together," said Fry.

Fry said there hasn't been a guide printed on the Gorge since the early 1980s, when a guide to the upper Lehigh was put out by the Appalachian Hiking Club.

Through his guide book, visitors to the Lehigh Gorge will be able to chart their progress and find landmarks that the casual visitor would miss. The guide also includes maps and points of interest and his old photographs.

Almost every photograph in the guide is one that Fry owns.

"I whittled the guide down to the present 24 pages because I wanted it to have a reasonable amount of pages," he said.

The introduction notes that the Lehigh Gorge Trail follows the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor Trail in Pennsylvania from White Haven to Jim Thorpe. The trail is 23-1/2 miles long and runs along the route of the Central Railroad.

The trail runs at a two percent grade downhill from the north. Alongside the bicycle trail is the Lehigh River which is known for its whitewater boating.

The river also was the site of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Canal.

The Lehigh Canal was in operation from 1829 to 1942 and provided transportation between Stoddartsville and Easton.

Readers of the guide will find information on the two active freight railroads in the Gorge that operate on the lines of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The regional Reading, Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad runs the length of the Gorge while the Norfolk Southern Railroad goes between the M&H Junction at Penn Haven through to Jim Thorpe.

The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway has tourism passenger service from Jim Thorpe to Old Penn Haven Junction.

Knowing your own location helps visitors identify landmarks. For example, at mile marker 118. you can see the Eye of Needles rapids and at mile marker 115.2, you'll see Mile-long Rapids.

Fry said by learnign the identifying points on the trail, it will assist in faster responses by rangers or emergency personnel to specific locations.

He also wanted to encourage youths to read and document their visit. He developed a test and designed a badge and a medal that could be earned by completing the test.

Leaders of youth groups, such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and others will be able to purchase the Guide to the Lehigh Gorge Historic Trail for a nominal amount and then determine just how many questions the youths must answer correctly before being presented with the patch or medal.

Fry said that the Lehigh Gorge Park encompasses three Boy Scout Councils and two Girl Scout Districts.

The patch comes with five side patches that personalize a youth's connection to the project. A boat patch signifies that the youth used a boat to navigate the river, a sneaker shows that it was hiked, a railcar shows that the Gorge was visited by railroad, a bicycle shows the area was navigated by two wheels, and the fifth is the word Switchback, to signify that the youth also visited the Switchback Trail.

"It's about the history," said Fry. "I love the park and I love sharing it with visitors," he said. "It's best to see the park during low water. That is when you'll see the wooden faces of the dames and features of the canal. It's best when the leaves are off the trees."

Contact Fry at (570) 443-0714 or (570-443-0714 for information to purchase the guide and patch or badge for your group. Anyone purchasing the booklet is under no obligation to purchase badges or medals.

The booklet is available at the following locations, Lehigh Gorge Railway gift shop, Mauch Chunk Lake Park office, Blue Mountain Sports or Hickory Run State Park office and camp store.

The Guide to the Lehigh Gorge Historic Trail is also a good guide for tourists who want to put a historical spin on their visit to the park.

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