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The annual Youth Heritage Sojourn, coordinated by the Endless Mountains Heritage Region, is set for Thursday to Saturday, May 28 to 30. The unique combination of day-time paddling on the North Branch Susquehanna River Water Trail, overnight lodging at Camp Lackawanna, and presentations from experts on history, nature and watershed stewardship is open to all high-school age students in Bradford, Sullivan, Susquehanna and Wyoming counties.

The EMHR serves as the official manager of the Upper North Branch Susquehanna River, which is part of the National Park system. A long-term partnership with Endless Mountains Outfitters has helped the EMHR to get more youths out on the water each year and teach them the rich heritage of the river.

“As water trail manager for the Susquehanna’s Upper North Branch, the Endless Mountains Heritage Region works vigorously to host and organize events like these sojourns, which educate the public on this beautiful natural resource and how to kayak and canoe safely upon it,” said Cain Chamberlin, executive director for EMHR.

Towanda teacher Keith Brown has managed the Youth Heritage Sojourn longer than he has owned EMO. With his finger ever on the pulse of what will interest students and how best to reach them, Brown pulls together action-packed adventures that keep the students on the move during daylight hours and provide time for reflection each evening.

“The goal of the trip is to educate our community about the environment, stewardship, ecology, wildlife and so much more,” Brown offered. Increasing the number of youths on the river is especially important, he noted, “because the future generations will have to take care of it.” Brown opened the sojourn up to junior high school students for the first time last year.

Students will meet at Camp Lackawanna on Vosburg Neck near Tunkhannock the first evening and help to set up camp prior to a kayak and paddle board demonstration and a historical presentation. EMHR water trail manager Emily Baldauff will talk about environmental matters.

Participants will be shuttled to EMO headquarters near Wyalusing on Friday morning to embark on a 12- mile paddle to Laceyville. Paddling safety will be part of each morning’s briefing. After an evening hike back at Camp Lackawanna, students will enjoy a presentation by nature expert Rebecca Lesko.

The final morning will consist of breaking down camp before getting back on the river at Laceyville and paddling to Vosburg Neck along a stretch of river especially renowned for its bald eagles and other predatory birds. The sojourn will wrap up with the students offering presentations to share what they experienced and learned along the river.

Students with musical instruments are encouraged to bring them, as each evening’s campfire session offers an opportunity for the youths to express and entertain themselves. Additional speakers will also be added to the schedule. 

The cost of the entire trip is $125, which includes kayak rental, meals and daily transportation. Home-schooled students, Scouts and church youth groups are also welcome to participate. Accommodations can be made for students and chaperones who are unable to commit to the full three days. To request a registration form or more information, interested readers can contact Brown at Kbrown@tsd.k12.pa.us or (570) 746-7102. Interested parties may also register at www.emheritage.org/events or on the Endless Mountain Heritage Region events page on Facebook.

There is no rain date. If the weather is not suited for kayaking, participants will spend more time enjoying the amenities at Camp Lackawanna. If the river is too high, kayakers will be shuttled to area lakes. 

EMHR sojourns are made possible through grant funding from the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers. Donations from the community for the sojourns are also appreciated. Dates and locations for adult and family-oriented sojourns in 2020 will be posted on the Endless Mountains Heritage Region Facebook page.