Monday, July 9, 2012

Week 8 VaFo ProRangers Morgan & Ocampo

Lexus canoeing port-side
Lexus checking other side of river

Eric checking river bank
 Hello again everyone. Hope all is going well! This was a short week for here at VaFo as we were given off for the Fourth of July which fell in the middle of the work week. It was also very hot out here being at a higher elevation that some places.However, we finally got out onto the Skuylkill River to do some river patrols. To do this, we first had to be given a safety presentation and go over safety instructions with Safety Officer John Waterman and his safety intern. Basically, we were told how to properly get in and out of a canoe without it tipping. One person sits on either the port or starboard side (which ever end that is still partly on shore) while the other person steps into the canoe, or out, and uses 3 points of contact to make sure you stay steady and don't tip the canoe over. Getting in and out is when you are most likely going to tip it. We also were given an overview of life vests, to bring an extra paddle, and how when someone in another canoe slams their paddle onto the water this means they are trying to get your attention and is important to notice that. After going over safety we were able to take the canoe out onto the river. The Skuylkill River separates the North Side of the park from the South Side and about 3 miles of it falls onto park territory. The water is very shallow in most parts to the point where it would be very easy to walk across the river to the other side. Some parts do get very deep but for the most part its shallow enough to see the bottom but the water is also very dirty and fisherman are not allowed to take out any fish they catch. It is a catch and release program. The river was once, years ago, dammed off and had to be filtered with a bunch of pipes because it was extremely contaminated with coal. While on the river we are looking to make sure everyone has a life vest, either worn or on the canoe/kayak/boat. We always bring an extra vest with us in case someone does not have one with them. We also are looking to make sure no one is drinking alcohol on the river, make sure no one is in trouble, and we also get a great view of the North and South side banks where some people like to pitch tents illegally. There is also Cat Fish Island that we canoe to and inspect. Visitors are allowed on the island but without actually being on it, it is very difficult to see what anyone is doing from both sides of the park. A couple kids a few years back were caught camping and having multiple different illicit drugs in their tent so it is always a good idea to get a good look at the island. However, with the extreme heat this week we barely saw anyone on the river save for a couple kayakers. 

Ranger Hannah teaching us the setup
We also helped open the park on Saturday morning and were given the opprotunity to put up the sign trailer, the electronic sign that will give messages or warnings. Ranger Eric Hannah showed us how to properly set it up and scroll through the 40 different messages. We put it on an extreme heat warning, drink plenty of water message and this message locks after 5 minutes so no one can come up and mess with it. For now on we will be able to transport the trailer and set it up in various places throughout the park because the Rangers would like to get it out more often than they do. We also helped out the visitor center on Friday and Saturday due to the heat but we also did multiple driving patrols throughout the day to check not only on visitors but also on our staff. We gave out water to our staff members stationed outside at Mullenburg's Brigade and Washington Headquarters and to visitors walking, running, or bicycling through the park to help prevent any heat exhaustion. Whenever we drive by any roadkill we clean it up to keep the park looking good and clean to visitors. This week we are heading to Natural Resources to work with juveniles from St. Gabe's and we will be getting a couple night shifts and ride-alongs in the upcoming weeks. We'll see everyone soon at Leadership Camp, hope everyone is ready!

Lexus clearing a skunk
Eric clearing a gopher

ProRangers Eric Morgan and Lexus Ocampo

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