I had a dam good time on Friday.



That’s the Black Rock Dam in the photo. The dam is on the Schuylkill River, above Phoenixville, and it was one of the wonderful views I had on my hike at Canal Park and Lock 60 in Mont Clare.

The hike was impromptu. I had an appointment in Phoenixville that morning, and I had a couple of hours before I had to report to work. So once I was finished I headed across the river to Canal Park. I’ve been there before to see the canal lock, but I’d never hiked there before. Would it be worth the trip?

I sometimes think silly questions. Yes, it is. First of all, there’s the remains of the canal to see. The Schuylkill Canal was born in the canal boom following New York’s success with the Erie Canal, but like many such projects never generated the income it was predicted to. Today all that is left of the canal are ruins up and down the river. Canal Park preserves a nearly two mile stretch of watered canal, Lock 60, and the Locktender’s House.


Canal Park is still very much a work in progress. While the Lock 60 area is open, south of the Route 29 crossing and the bridge between Phoenixville and Mont Clare sections of the towpath are under restoration, and closed to the public. Eventually the towpath will be open between the end of the paved Schuylkill River Trail in Port Providence and the to be constructed pedestrian and bike crossing of the Schuylkill, allowing continuous car free travel between Philadelphia and Phoenixville. But that construction isn’t expected to be finished before 2015.

However, there is a variety of hiking and walking north of the Route 29 bridge. The road to the canal lock is low traffic and makes a nice walk in itself. And, as I hiked last week, the towpath north of the canal is in good shape. I was fortunate to be out, as the leaves still held a lot of color, and the weather was warm enough I wasn’t shivering.

After enjoying the towpath, I headed away from the water, into what are called “the ravines.” People outside of the Philadelphia area have the idea the suburban regions share the same flat topography of the City of Brotherly Love, but its not true. The Schuylkill winds among hills most of its length, and Mont Clare sits at the base of a steep climb. A description of the ravines trails described one of them leading to a 100 foot bluff overlooking the river, and so I set out trying to find it. I had no luck, and my knowledge I needed to look presentable for work after the hike deterred me from some more difficult climbing. But my exploration of the ravines and towpath, although only totaling a mile and a half, was a good time hiking, and I know next time I am in the area to allow more time for a longer, and more rugged, exploration.