PHILADELPHIA REFLECTIONS
Musings of a Philadelphia Physician who has served the community for six decades

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Sporting Philadelphia
A few reflections about sports in and around Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Fish and Fishing
Less than a century ago, Delaware Bay, Delaware River, Schuylkill River, Pennypack Creek, Wissahickon Creek, and dozens of other creeks in this swampy region were teeming with edible fish, oysters and crabs. They may be coming back, cautiously.

City of Rivers and Rivulets
Philadelphia has always been defined by the waters that surround it.

Sights to See: The Outer Ring
There are many interesting places to visit in the exurban ring beyond Philadelphia, linked to the city by history rather than commerce.

Nature Preservation
Nature preservation and nature destruction are different parts of an eternal process.

Tourist Trips Around Philadelphia and the Quaker Colonies
The states of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and southern New Jersey all belonged to William Penn the Quaker. He was the largest private landholder in American history. Using explicit directions, comprehensive touring of the Quaker Colonies takes seven full days. Local residents would need a couple dozen one-day trips to get up to speed.

Touring Philadelphia's Western Regions
Philadelpia County had two hundred farms in 1950, but is now thickly settled in all directions. Western regions along the Schuylkill are still spread out somewhat; with many historic estates.

Customs, Culture and Traditions (2)
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Right Angle Club 2012
This ends the ninetieth year for the club operating under the name of the Right Angle Club of Philadelphia. Before that, and for an unknown period, it was known as the Philadelphia Chapter of the Exchange Club. www.philadelphia-reflections.com/topic/175.htm

Conowingo

{Conowingo Dam}
Conowingo Dam

IT was once a major hazard of travel between Philadelphia and Virginia, to cross the Susquehanna River on the way. The river is wide at the top of Chesapeake Bay, and the cliffs are high on both sides. Consequently, the cute little towns of Port Deposit and Havre de Grace grew up as places to stay in inns overnight, perhaps to throw a line into the water and catch your breakfast. Today, these little towns can be seen to have millions of dollars worth of cabin cruisers and sail boats at anchor, at least during certain seasons of the year. In 1928 the Conowingo Dam was built about ten miles north of the mouth of the river in order to harness the water power of the river, and the Philadelphia Electric Company put a power station there as part of the dam, to generate electricity for Philadelphia. It doesn't seem so long ago, but it gave a mighty boost to the electrification of Philadelphia and its industries. Indeed, competitive forms of power generation have now reduced its output to periodic bursts of power requirement during the day, and Philadelphia no longer enjoys a reliably cheap water-powered electricity advantage. Coal and nuclear came along, and now shale gas has made an appearance.

{Bald Eagle Fishing}
Bald Eagle Fishing

Although it could be claimed that water power is not merely cheap but environmentally friendly, the plain fact of the matter is that fish get caught in the turbines and rather chewed up by getting sucked from the tranquil lake on the upside, coming out at the bottom as diced fresh fish salad. That attracts seagulls and other fish lovers to the base of the dam. Some fish escape the meat grinder and merely are stunned by the experience, floating downstream to be attractive to eagles, turkey vultures, hawks and owls. The consequence is that many thousands of gulls sit on the downside of the dam, while hundreds of turkey vultures and eagles sit on the higher levels of the power generation apparatus. And hundreds of bird-watching nature lovers stand on the southern shore below the dam, poised with many thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment and binoculars. If you don't have a pair of binoculars, your visit there will certainly be substandard. Lots of fishermen are there, too, but that will depend on the waves of spawning fish at different seasons of the year; shad is particularly favored. You can now begin to see that the prosperity of Port Deposit and Havre de Grace has a wider variety of attractiveness than merely sailboating and crabbing. There is, however, a large and ominous yellow warning sign.

The sign tells you that you are standing on a riverbank where the water can suddenly rise without warning; if the red lights start blinking and the warning siren starts honking, immediately gather up your tripods and head for higher land. It looks pretty peaceful, however, and the people with tripods are mostly chatting happily with their friends. It can be pointed out, however, that about two hundred bald eagles are perched on the super structures round about. Cameras are mostly digital these days, attached to the rear of a telescopic lens three feet long, and when they shoot bursts of exposures they sound like a machine gun. So, the bird photographers follow a swooping eagle eagerly, shooting away and hoping to catch the bird in an attractive pose, throwing away the rest of the pictures. Good shots are called "keepers", which the photographer is happy to show onlookers on the rear view screen of the camera/machine gun. More sedate bird watchers carry binoculars made in Germany or Switzerland, which cost thousands of dollars and produce really spectacular images. It's unclear whether all this expenditure is worth it, but there is no doubt you are wasting the trip without some kind of binocular, at least.

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Conowingo Dam Hightide

Suddenly, ye gods, the lights start to flash and the siren starts to honk loudly. Not knowing exactly what to expect, the first-time visitors head for the hills. The old-timers with the Gatling gun on a tripod are much more casual, but pick up their apparatus and go several feet up the river bank. The birds seem to know what the signals mean, and scramble into the air, or start to arrive from far perches. The electric company seems to have received a notice that more electric power generation is needed, so the gates at the bottom of the dam are lifted and water gushes forth; the water does indeed rise rather rapidly. The birds divide themselves into two groups: the gulls circle in a thick spiral at the base of the dam, while the eagles and vultures circle independently in a second spiral, several hundred yards below the dam. One group is looking for fish salad, and the other group prefers stunned whole fish. Photographers much prefer the eagles downstream, circling and then swooping to the water's surface to grab a wiggling fish and running off with it. Some of the bigger bullies prefer to let others do the fishing, and swoop in to steal the fish from them. Ratta-tap-ratty tap go the digitals. After twenty minutes it is all over, and the birds seem to realize it before the water stops gushing into geysers. The river recedes, the birds go back to their perches, and quiet again rules the land.

On the way home you notice something you perhaps should have known. Interstate 95 takes people speeding down the turnpike, just out of sight of the dam. You get there quicker, but you don't see the sights. Coming back from the bird watching parking area which the electric company has provided, you are more or less compelled to recognize that U.S. highway Number One goes right across the top of the dam, up the hill and over the charming rolling countryside. Back to Philadelphia.

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