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handling stormy henri

On August 11, 2021, a group of kayakers on the Delaware Sojourn put in at Minisink Park on the Brodhead Creek. (Photo courtesy Robert Lovenheim)

A view of the same stretch of the Brodhead, from a bit further upstream, on August 23, 2021. Minisink Park is to the right. (Photo courtesy Robert Lovenheim)

By Carol Hillestad

Editor’s note: “Woods & Water” is an occasional feature focusing on the relation between land and water quality – and the conservation easements that help preserve our environment in the Brodhead watershed.

The morning after Hurricane Henri blew into town, I watched an eagle glide on the crystal-clear air along the edge of the Pocono Plateau, as if surveying what had happened overnight in the Brodhead watershed.

What a view that is! The corrugated, eroded folds of the plateau stretch from Camelback to Mount Pocono Knob, northeast along Cresco Heights and Game Lands 221 to Chestnut Mountain, then Spruce Mountain and Mount Wismer, to West Mountain, Skytop, and beyond. 

The previous night, for hours, while the eagle roosted in an old white pine, Henri had rained down billions of gallons of water on the Brodhead watershed. 

In Game Lands 38 and Camelback, rain swelled Hypsy, Bowers, and Fall creeks as they raced into the McMichael, and Wolf Swamp and Dry Sawmill runs on their way to Pocono Creek. 

Rain fell in sheets on Pocono Manor and the Knob, Cresco Heights and Game Lands 221, swamping Swiftwater Creek and Forest Hills Run, Tank Creek, Yankee Run and Devil’s Hole, before they streamed into the Paradise. 

Rain, rain, and more rain boomed down the rocky steeps of Buck Hill, Griscom and Mill creeks, Spruce Run, the Middle Branch, Leavitt Branch and Goose Pond Run — all of them pouring into the Brodhead.

Just think of all that water from all those creeks draining all that land — overtopping bridges, washing out roads then roaring through Stroudsburg and East Stroudsburg! 

At Minisink Park, with the Delaware River in sight, Brodhead Creek spreads wide, unbound from its banks, filling the broad floodplain, flooding acres of soccer fields, trails, and woodlands several feet deep before finally releasing its burden of water to the Delaware River.

A catastrophe? No, not at all. This is a floodplain, and that’s just what nature intended to happen.

Wedged between Route 80 and the Delaware, Minisink Park might seem a good spot for a park-and-ride, a strip mall, “riverview” condominiums, or an industrial site. 

But floodplains are special. They’re actually part of a river system, which includes the river channel itself and adjacent land that must be kept natural. 

As the rain slackened, hours passed and a new day broke, the Brodhead and its sister Cherry Creek, which also enters the Delaware here, gradually returned to their banks. The standing creek water left behind will slowly infiltrate the soil of the soccer fields, and seep down into the woods, adding nourishing silt and sediment. Within a few days, the coffee-colored water will become clear and sparkling again, a source of drinking water for 13 million people. 

The eagle swivels her head, blinks. Everything slips back to normal … until next time.

Carol Hillestad of Cresco is a writer and hike leader for Get Outdoors Poconos. The series is administered by Brodhead Watershed Association and supported by a grant from the William Penn Foundation.