Not Much Frozen Water In The Lehigh River Gorge

Not Much Frozen Water In The Lehigh River Gorge

Rockport (8 of 46)
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Usually, in January, there are many forms of frozen water here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Snow, sleet, and all kinds of ice. Not this year, another mild Winter has resulted in only light snow cover and only at  the highest elevations near my home in Luzerne County. On my hike in the PPL Wetlands last Saturday I found most of the ponds and the Susquehanna River were  ice free. 

It was overcast with temperatures in the low 30’s last  Sunday morning, I decided to try  hike somewhere different. And I thought I might still  find some ice formations to photograph in the Lehigh Gorge at Rockport in Carbon County. Located about 15 miles from my home most years large ice formations develop on the cliffs and rock ledges surrounding the Lehigh River in the Winter . In many years the river itself freezes solid. I knew this wouldn’t be the case this year  but I thought there still may be some ice formations remaining  on the cliffs. 

When I arrived at the Gorge at  around 9 a.m I found the waters of Buck Mountain Creek rushing down into the Lehigh River. We had about a 1/2 of rain Friday and the creeks and streams were still swollen from the recent snow melt and heavy rains storms. 

I began my hike by heading east on the trail. It was mostly snow free although there were some icy patches.

I was surprised to find no ice formations of the sheer cliffs at the beginning of the trail. Most years there are huge icicles and ice formation clinging to and covering the cliffs.  Some remain until late March . Again, not this year, not a one. There were chunks of ice at the bottom of the cliffs indicating there were ice formations  earlier in the Winter but the warmer temperatures and rain melted them. This is very unusual and another sign of our changing and warming climate. 

About a 1/4 mile from the parking lot I came to  the picturesque Buttermilk Falls. 

The heavy rains  caused the waters to cascade with fury over the rocks of the waterfall  as they made their way to the nearby Lehigh River. 

Leaving the falls after taking some photos I returned to the parking lot and followed the trail south along the rushing waters of the Lehigh River. 

Here, there was less sun and the trail was covered with ice, compacted by snowmobile traffic after the heavy snow storm a few weeks ago. This would be some of the only frozen water I would find on my five mile hike. 

Fortunately , the sides of the trail were snow free. I walked another 1/4 mile and came to another, smaller waterfalls, Luke’s Falls. Once again I stopped to admire the beauty of the waterfalls and take some photos. 

Near the falls is the remains of  an old stone building that always draws my attention. I often wonder what its purpose was. The stone work is extraordinary. 

I continued my hike on the trail. Hemlocks, yellow birch were the dominant trees growing along the trails, with an occasional oak, maple or beech tree. 

Thick groves of  rhododendrons also grew along the trail .

As I followed the trail, an old railroad right away,  it followed a narrow path between the raging Lehigh River and the steep cliffs of the Broad Mountain I saw the many  springs flowing of of the mountain. Many years they turn until beautiful formations of ice. Not this year. The streams cascaded down the mountainside ice free. 

And in some areas, where the waters drips down the side of cliffs along the trail fantastic icicles and ice formations appear. This year only a few had formed and one could see the remains of others that had formed but melted because of the warmer weather. 

There was almost no wildlife seen or heard on my five mile hike. Actually,  I didn’t see any wildlife and only heard a few birds hidden in the thick growths of rhododendrons. However, I was surprised to find some mushrooms growing on the trail. There were a number of this species, one which I can not identify and

even more of these puffballs which much have grown during the heavy rain storm on Christmas Eve. 

Growing near these mushrooms I found this pretty and unique plant which my iPhone app identifies as reindeer moss although it is actually a lichen. I tried to confirm this and I am not sure if this is an accurate identification. I have not seen it before. 

This plant below I have seen before but not in January. trailing arbutus or Mayflower.  It is an unusual year. 

There were also the usual Winter plants growing along the trail such as the common teaberry,

the intermediate or evergreen fern and the 

spotted wintergreen.

As I rounded a turn to the east on the trail as it followed the Lehigh River  the more southern exposure and resulting sun cleared the trail of the ice and snow.  I hiked about two miles, near where Drake Creek enters the opposite side of the river when I decided to walk back. 

As I mentioned above, it was an uneventful hike as far as observing wildlife. Some blue sky appeared in the clouds as  I walked back enjoying the solitude. The only sound was the sound of the wind rustling through the trees tops and the rushing of the waters of the Lehigh River. 

I soon was back at the parking area where only a few other hikers ventured into the gorge. I didn’t see much of the frozen water  I came to photograph but I enjoyed a peaceful five mile  hike along the Lehigh River. Although I would love to photograph, and share some beautiful ice formations, I wouldn’t mind the warm weather continuing either.  Here is  link to a gallery on my blog website with more photographs from unsuccessful hike searching for frozen water. Lehigh Gorge Rockport. January 17 2021. 

“He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter.”
― John Burroughs



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