Saturday’s second annual festival in Mont Clare revels in the return of the American Shad to the Schuylkill River
MONT CLARE PA – The annual Schuylkill River Shad Festival, which enjoyed a successful inaugural run last year in promoting the industrial history and heritage of the Schuylkill River in the greater Phoenixville area, returns Saturday (April 28, 2012) from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at two locations in adjacent Mont Clare and Phoenixville PA.
Except for specific events, the festival is free and open to the public.
It highlights the historic significance of the role the American Shad fishery played in the growth of communities up and down the Schuylkill River during the nation’s infancy. It also celebrates the return of the American Shad itself, thanks to environmental improvements within the river over more than 50 years.
The removal of hazardous breached dams and the repair and construction of fish ladders on the remaining dams, including the passage built onto Phoenixville’s Black Rock Dam by Exelon Generation, re-established the migratory route for the historic return of the American Shad as far north as Reading PA.
The shad is a fish that spends most of its life at sea, but swims up fresh water rivers to spawn. Full grown, it can weight between 3 and 8 pounds, and is considered to have a delicate flavor when cooked.
Five different area organizations – the Schuylkill Canal Association, the Phoenix Iron Canal and Trails Association, the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area, the Phoenixville Green Team, and Chester County Parks – have organized the festival with financial underwriting from Exelon Generation.
Festival activities are planned simultaneously throughout the day at two specific sites:
- Lock 60 on the Schuylkill Canal in Mont Clare (Montgomery County); and
- Black Rock Sanctuary and the Black Rock Dam Fish Ladder in Phoenixville (Chester County).
Also included will be a hike starting at the Foundry Building, Main Street, Phoenixville, to the Cromby Station Trail Head of the Schuylkill River Trail; and an organized bike ride that takes advantage of Bike Schuylkill, a free bicycle-sharing program operated from the Phoenix Cycle Shop, Bridge St, Phoenixville.
At Lock 60
Lock 60, the only operating lock of the historic Schuylkill Navigation, is a prime attraction of Mont Clare and Phoenixville. The association will host LoopFest there, a guided 5-mile water trail loop paddle down-and-back on the Schuylkill River and Canal; two guided trips are scheduled. A donation of $5 per boat is suggested.
The association also will coordinate several water sports activities, including a fishing derby, boat rentals and demonstrations. Raven Hill, a local bluegrass music band, will play during the afternoon on the stage in the Lock 60 picnic grove.
The Locktender’s House will be open, and lock openings are scheduled along with history displays that highlight the navigation system and its impact on the American Shad river population.
Native American Heritage Programs will present displays and stories related to the history of Lenni Lenape Indians and their life along the Schuylkill River. In addition, the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area will offer an educational display on Native American history specific to Phoenixville’s river community.
At Black Rock
As the American Shad returns to the Schuylkill River watershed, the Black Rock Dam Fish Ladder plays an instrumental role for the historic return of this migratory fish for springtime spawning. The dam and the adjoining Black Rock Sanctuary are located north of downtown Phoenixville along PA Route 113 (Black Rock Road.)
The Phoenix Iron Canal and Trails Association will provide volunteers to host visitors at the Black Rock Dam Fish Ladder and distribute information related to the history of the dam.
Throughout the afternoon visitors can enjoy a self-guided hike along Black Rock Sanctuary’s interpretive trail to enjoy the natural wonders the sanctuary provides on its award-winning 3/4-mile, wheelchair accessible trail. Along the trail they will see wetlands that supply habitat for mammals, reptiles, amphibians and migratory birds. A free trail map of the sanctuary will be given to all visitors.
The Phoenixville Green Team and the Phoenix Iron Canal and Trail Association will coordinate a guided hike and a bike ride from downtown Phoenixville. The guided hike will be from the Foundry Building’s parking area located on North Main Street to the Cromby Station Trail Head of the Schuylkill River Trail, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The bike ride, from 1:30-3:30 p.m., follows the trails on both sides of the Schuylkill River.
Graphic by artist Bob Hakun; photo from the Schuylkill Canal Association