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Week #2, 11-17.September, 2005

Chautauqua, NY to The Allegheny River: Portages, Portages, Portages


Week two began with crew member Aimee Rowe joining the vessel at Chautauqua, NY. Aimee has past experience working on boats and doing environmental education, so she is a perfect addition to the WaterWorks journey! She plans to be aboard for the entire duration of the journey, therefore earning the title of Chief Mate. The photo on the left shows Aimee testing out her bicycle powered paddlwheel at the Chautauqua Institution dock.

One of the first things we did during this week was take the boat out of Chautauqua Lake and portage it down to Warren, PA. The three small rivers that flow out of the lake (Chadakoin River, Cassadaga Creek, Conewango River) are too small for the BPV Libelula to travel on. So, we put the boat back into the water where we thought we'd have enough water to float our vessel, which draws about 16 inches of water. We spoke to numerous locals about where to put the boat back into the river, and ended up deciding on the boat launch ramp on the Allegheny River at the helipad of the hospital in Warren, PA which is pictured above.

The level of the Allegheny River is controlled by the Kinzua Dam located just a few miles upriver from Warren, PA. Some people told us they thought there wouldn't be enough water in the river for our boat to float. Others thought we would be fine as long as there was at least 1500 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water being released from the dam. On the day of our departure there was about 2180 cfs coming out of the dam, which led us to believe we'd have plenty of water under the boat. As we got underway, we learned a little bit about how to read the river. We looked for downstream V's on the surface of the water, which means there is a submerged obstacle like a rock or a tree just beneath the surface. We learned that disturbed, rippled water often appears in a shallow areas, but the same surface bubbling also can happen in deeper waters when waters merge or when the river narrows. We learned the hard way that there is shallow water on the downstream side of an island after having gotten stuck on the large spit that forms behind it as the waters make deep channels on either side. We also learned that if the ducks are standing in the water, then it is probably not deep enough for our boat to float. The first two days were pretty tough going as we ran aground a total of over 20 times. Some of those times were a result of of our inexperience of reading the river. For example the above photo shows us pulling ourselves out of shallow area using some ratchet straps and a dead tree that was lodged in the center of the river. In this particular case, the river split around an island, and we chose to go on the wrong side. The other side of the island wasn't that much deeper either, and there were some places on the river that no matter which side of the island we chose to navigate around it was just too shallow. We were lucky to be able to get off the boat and push through these shallow waters, and at no point did we hit waters so shallow that we had to turn around. We are also lucky that we did not poke a hole in one of our aluminum pontoons as we dragged so often across the bottom. The pontoons got scratched up and even dented in a few places, but subsequent inspections to the hull after we removed the boat from the water showed the scratches weren't too deep and the pontoons were still quite sound. We decided after very slow going and a lot of aching back from pushing the boat across the river bottom to take the boat out of the water in Tidioute, PA and find a place to put back in where the river would for sure be a little deeper.

In spite of us being delayed by our frequent groundings, we were still able to keep up with our educational program for the week. We started out on Monday at the Warren Elementary Center in Warren, PA and also visited Tidioute Community Charter School in Tidioute, PA (pictured at left), West Forest Elementary School in Tionesta, PA, and Seventh Street Elementary School in Franklin, PA. We visited a total of 11 classrooms and 258 students.

In Tidioute, PA we stopped at a gas station to fill up our water supply and were greeted with interesting body parts hanging next to the pump. They apparently had stopped taking money for gas at this station and were asking for other forms of payment instead. It is times like this when it is reassuring to have a bicycle propelled boat, which is a much better use of appendages if you ask me.

After taking the boat out of the water in Tidioute, PA we decided to portage it once again down to Franklin, PA. On our way there we drove through through Tionesta, PA and made a wrong turn. It just so happens that our wrong turn led us right by a Cub Scouts meeting that was happening outside, so we pulled off to the side of the street and showed Troop 82 (photo left) our bicycle powered vessel and told them about the river journey. It turned out to be a fortuitous wrong turn not only for the Cub Scouts, but also for ourselves as we would discover next week.

Upon arriving in Franklin, PA and talking with more of the locals, we were advised not to put the boat back in the river here because it was still quite shallow. There hasn't been much rain this summer, so the river levels are especially low. We were advised to put in again at East Brady, PA which is where the Allegheny River becomes officially navigable by commerical traffic and depth in the center of the channel is adequate due to the pool created by the lock and dam system that is run by the Army Corps of Engineers. So we continued on down to East Brady, where on Saturday we worked on the boat a little bit more and added some doors, sealed some holes that might let water inside our sleeping area, and repacked our supplies for the upcoming week that was before us. We got underway on Saturday evening and passed by this photo of a new bridge being constructed on the river at East Brady. It had been a long week without a shower, so after anchoring for the night we jumped into the Allegheny with a bar of soap and cleaned off by the light of the full moon.


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