Man kayaks entire Susquehanna River, brings attention to water quality

Calling Andrew Phillips a “water enthusiast” is a bit of an understatement.

“I always just loved the water,” Phillips said when he met up with an abc27 crew on the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg. “And when I was ten years old, I got this kayak actually as a gift from a family friend. And I really haven’t spent any time out of the water since then.”

“This is really a lifeline of our area,” Phillips added, pointing to the Susquehanna. “This runs right through our backyards.”

Phillips’ passion for the environment, along with his own athletic abilities, prompted him to take on the challenge of kayaking the entire 464 mile stretch of the Susquehanna River over the summer.

“13 days and two hours from start to end,” Phillips said with a grin.

Preparations included research – a lot of it – and working on physical fitness.

Execution included sleeping under bridges, finding creative ways to get the next meal, and battling rough weather.


Now that his trip is done, Phillips says he feels more than a sense of a accomplishment; he feels concerned.

“All of that waste, all the chemicals all the mud and silt – it all ends up here,” Phillips said, referring to the Susquehanna River. “So this really is a dipstick for the health of the entire landscape, really.”

Phillips says he saw the results of agricultural runoff, and areas where dams made it tough for life to survive.

“Being able to see it in person really is so different from just hearing about it,” Phillips said.

“The generation Andrew [Phillips] is a part of is concerned and that’s really refreshing and important,” Chesapeake Bay Foundation Media and Communications Coordinator of Pennsylvania B.J. Small said. “It’s going to be his water shed and his water resources in the future.”

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has been trying to call attention to issues with the health of the Susquehanna. The hope is Phillips’ trip will raise more awareness.

“Some of the messages of his trip include the fact that water counts,” Small said. “Clean water counts. Not just on our river, but throughout Pennsylvania.”

“It is a remarkable journey,” Phillips said. “Something that gives you such a greater appreciation for the river and you see where it comes from and it becomes personal.”

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