Tour details, logistics, and dates are subject to change.
SPECIAL TOUR (Saturday, May 20, 2017)
Watering Manayunk: Some Parks, a Canal, and a Tank
In partnership with the Fairmount Park Conservancy and Love Your Park Week, the Fairmount Water Works is offering this special tour!
This special park tour has two parts. Do just the first hour, or both.
We’ll visit the new Venice Island Recreation Center with its green-
roofed stormwater tank, river-themed art, and beautiful spray park. See the intact Lock 69 at the outlet of the Manayunk Canal, which was built in 1819 when Manayunk was barely a settlement, and the towpath linear park.
In the second hour we’ll walk uphill to the new Cynwyd Trail, just opened in 2015 atop the Manayunk Railroad Bridge, for a spectacular view of the canal and river. How did the canal take us almost 200 years later to the need for a stormwater tank? Hear the story from Manayunk resident Sandy Sorlien, a watershed educator and expert in the Schuylkill Navigation system. Optional: stick around for lunch or shopping on Main Street, or view the peregrine falcons of Pretzel Park.
Part I has about a mile of easy walking; add 2 miles round-trip for Part II.
Parking: lot at Venice Island
Train: SEPTA Norristown line to Manayunk Station
This is a FREE tour, but registration is required.
SEASONAL TOURS (April – September)
River Reimagined: A Land & Water Tour
Learn about the Fairmount Water Works, one of Philadelphia’s first tourist attractions, and cruise the Schuylkill for a new perspective on sites along this historic river. After a brief tour of the Fairmount Water Works, stroll through the beautifully landscaped South Garden, and along the Schuylkill Banks for a 1.5 mile walk to the Walnut Street dock to board a boat for a 1-hour narrated cruise. (Dates: June 1, July 13, July 27, August 10, August, 24 & September 7)
PLEASE NOTE: Comfortable and sturdy shoes are strongly recommended for the 1.5-mile walk. Transportation from the Walnut Street dock back to the Fairmount Water Works is available. In the event of inclement weather, we may have to cancel the tour. You will be notified by email if the tour must be cancelled.
Click here to register!
Cub Scouts (Hills of the Wissahickon ,2015)
Tour group at Lock 60 Canal Park (Black Rock Dam, 2015)
Hills of the Wissahickon scenic view.
Saylor Grove wetland (Hills of the Wissahickon)
Small Group Tours
The following off-site tours, offered to groups of 6-15 people, explore the past, present, and future impact of this national historic landmark and the surrounding watershed.
Hills of the Wissahickon
(This is a two-hour, three-mile loop hike over trails, roads, and some hills. Wear sturdy shoes or hiking sandals. Ages 8+ are welcome. Maximum group size is 15.) Join local Roxborough resident and Fairmount Water Works environmental educator Sandy Sorlien as we tromp the wooded valley of the Wissahickon and Monoshone Creeks. We’ll learn the history, engineering, and ecology of several special sites. First we’ll walk downhill through the forest overlooking Forbidden Drive along the “Wiss”. Your guide will put all these sites into a context of the larger Schuylkill River watershed and the urban water use cycle. We will visit the interceptor sewer, RittenhouseTown, and Saylor Grove constructed wetland.
Falling Waters of the Schuylkill (Offered in April, October, & November)
Choose from one of these fascinating Schuylkill River natural and historic sites and we will customize a walking tour for your group. Learn about the connection of the original Schuylkill Navigation dams with the urban water cycle locally, and with the City of Philadelphia’s landmark water system. See firsthand the thriving ecology of Pennsylvania’s River of the Year for 2014, as we look for birds, turtles and fish. Several dams have fishways (fish ladders) that have enabled the return of the shad every spring. Your guide is watershed educator, urban planner, river photographer and (intermediate) birder Sandy Sorlien, from the Fairmount Water Works.
Flat Rock Dam #31 and Lock 68, Shawmont – You may know the Manayunk Canal behind Main Street, but what about the other end? This walk centers on the Shawmont (Philadelphia) side of Flat Rock Dam, which was originally constructed in 1818. Sites include the historic Shawmont train station, Schuylkill River Trail, former Roxborough Pumping Station, a hidden fountain, and ruins of Lock 68. The lock and its sluice house are at the head one of only two remaining “watered” canal reaches from the 19th century Schuylkill Navigation system. The Flat Rock Dam Fishway is visible across the river, and new native trees, transit-oriented development, and birds and turtles adorn the canal. Everything reflects on the present and future of Philadelphia’s water supply, Schuylkill watershed health, and riverfront recreation. Packed dirt and gravel surfaces.
Norristown Dam #29 and Fishway, Bridgeport – This tour typically begins in Norristown on the Schuylkill River Trail near the Drinking Water Treatment Plant and crosses the Dekalb Street Bridge to the Norristown Dam Fishway and Upper Merion Boathouse in Bridgeport. For a longer walk, we can begin at Riverfront Park in Norristown. We’ll have a beautiful view from the bridge of the dam and Barbadoes Island, and we’re likely to see waterfowl and herons. Entirely paved surfaces.
Black Rock Dam #26 and Sanctuary, Phoenixville, and Lock 60, Mont Clare – The Black Rock Sanctuary, a beautiful riverfront park, was once a basin for settling coal silt out of the Schuylkill. The Sanctuary contains acres of wetlands, woodlands and meadows and is dedicated to wildlife habitat and public use. Tour options include walking a circuit above the Black Rock Dam while learning about its role in the Schuylkill Project environmental cleanup of the 1940s. On the Mont Clare side of the river is Schuylkill Canal Park, featuring the restored Lock 60, 1836 locktender’s house, and Oakes Reach Canal. We can view the Black Rock fishway from the spillway abutment. Mostly paved surfaces.
Pawlings Dam #27 and Walnut Hill Impoundment Basin 21 – This new tour is for hikers, not strollers. We will walk part of the River Trail in the north section of Valley Forge Park, stopping to see the hidden ruins of Pawlings Dam of the Schuylkill Navigation, constructed in 1838. Next we do a loop across and atop the Impoundment Basin berm. Similar to Black Rock Sanctuary but untamed, Basin 21 was used to store coal silt after it was dredged from the river in a massive government cleanup called the Schuylkill Project, 1947-51. The Basin attracts wetland bird species. A fascinating terrain with several historic ruins. The path is mostly flat but parts may be muddy or overgrown.
To schedule a tour for your small group, please complete the online form below.
Comments or questions are welcome.
Specialty tours of Philadelphia Water’s Wastewater Treatment Plant and Drinking Water Treatment Plant are also available. For more information, call 215-685-0723.