Rhododendrons Are In Bloom: And I Found Them In The Lehigh River Gorge
In June our state flower, the mountain laurel, blooms and puts on a beautiful show here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. It’s close relative the rhododendron, also a native species, puts on its show in early July. Although not as spectacular as the mountain laurel it is still something you don’t want to miss if you love flowers and nature.
I knew, from past hikes, that the D & L Trail along the Lehigh River would be a good place to find some wild rhododendrons. I decided to start my hike at the Lehigh Tannery entrance to the trail. Located about 2 miles south of White Haven in Luzerne County, it is about a half hour drive from my home. I arrived around 9 am. and began walking south on the trail.
It was partly sunny and warm 75 degrees when I started walking on the old Lehigh railroad right of way. I immediately found what I was looking for, the beautiful white to pink blossoms of the rhododendrons. They were just coming into their peak and their were many buds just starting to open.
The rhododendron leaves are very similar to the mountain laurel and the two plants can be easily confused in the winter. The mountain laurel are smaller and they have more flowers on each shrub. The rhododendrons have fewer flowers but their displays tend to last a little longer than the mountain laurel.
I walked along the trail listening to the rushing waters of the Lehigh River below me. Views of the river were obscured by the large pine, hemlock oak and maple trees growing along the trails. I also noticed a lot of trees with berries that I hadn’t seen before. My iPhone app tells me they are alder buckthorn trees. I have never seen them before and there were a lot of them growing on the trail.
I heard the songs of a lot of birds as I walked under the thick canopy of trees. I heard American redstarts, common yellow throats, warblers and vireos in the trees. I saw a few of them but I wasn’t able to get one single photograph of a birds on my entire 8 mile hike! It was just an unlucky day for me. I did get one critter, a damselfly on a leaf.
Even without seeing any wildlife the hike was delightful. I came to a few mountain streams and waterfalls. Listening to the water of the river an waterfalls, the songs of the birds and the rustling of the trees made me feel like I was back in time, before the ancient forest were cut down for timber. I thought of John Audubon and the trip he made up the Lehigh River in 1829. I imagined the pristine Lehigh River, the ancient trees and the abundance of birds and other wildlife.
The trail followed the river as it meandered through the mountains of the gorge. In the shade of some of the glens I started to find mushrooms growing. I knew they would be popping up soon since we had an abundance of rain.
I stopped to see the ruins of the old Lehigh Canal. The stones that made of the walls of this old lock were placed here in the 1830’s. There are some more blog posts about the history of the canal in my blog archives.
On my walk back I encountered a lot more bikers, hikers and dog walkers enjoying the beauty of the trail. I walked past the parking area to a bridge to view the river that created this beautiful gorge.
Although I didn’t see any wildlife, not even one single bird photograph to share, once again the woodlands of Northeastern Pennsylvania provided me with fresh air, exercise and some beautiful scenery. I love these woods and I love Summer. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs from my hike Lehigh Tannery July 7 2019.