Two bright clear days. Two groups of Riverguides. An audience of community members. Three rowboats in the fleet, a new one ready for launch, and a busy, welcoming river. On June 14th and 15th, all our work over the past months practicing rowing, exploring the river, and learning about different parts of its ecosystem all came down to those elements. This was the biggest challenge we gave the Riverguides this whole year, their culminating event: take these great days, the boats, the river, and all together as a team provide a meaningful experience for an audience out on the river.
Over the course of two days, nearly 60 people experienced the Delaware River from a rowboat led by the Riverguides. They rocked in gentle waves and gripped oars for the first time to try their hands (and arms and core!) at rowing. They dragged nets in the water, and through microscopes saw the whole plankton ecosystem that supports life in the river. For the first time, they saw in the same water samples the microplastic pollution next to the living plankton, a reminder that humans influence and change the Delaware River at even the smallest levels – not always for the better. Many who were unaware that freshwater mussels even existed now held their shells and living examples as evidence, learning how these animals help filter pollutants and sediment out of the water to keep it clean. Our passengers remarked how new this was for them and how it changed their perspective of the river. In a sense, they all began to see the Delaware River the way the Riverguides already see it and know it to be: a valuable place with lots of life and beauty, a place for adventure, and environment that needs to be cleaned and protected.