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A River Runs Through It: Guided Kayak Tour of Fairmount Park on the Schuylkill River

Join us for a guided tour by boat!


Saturday, August 12, 2023


5:00am - 8:00am


Philadelphia Canoe Club
4900 Ridge Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19127

We’ve led many Fairmount Park tours on foot, on bike, and on bus…but this is our first time touring BY BOAT! 

Despite the fact that the Schuylkill River is the main artery through the heart of Fairmount Park and the reason for its existence, a majority of park users have never been out on its waters. When the Fairmount Water Works constructed a dam spanning the river in 1822, the river was nicknamed the “Schuylkill Pond” because of its flatness that is well-suited for the sport of rowing. From the 1850s to today, the sport has dominated the river, with access reserved for a small number of club members and high school / collegiate athletes. Thankfully in recent years, the tides are turning (pun intended!) with increased use by other recreational watersports, such as kayaking, outrigger canoeing, dragon boating, etc. 

Join us for a special guided kayak tour of the Schuylkill River above the Fairmount dam, in partnership with the Philadelphia Canoe Club. Get a unique perspective on the landscape by traversing the waters that separate East Park and West Park. John Sigmund, Fairmount Park Conservancy’s Director of Public Programs will share information along the way so you can learn about the park’s fascinating past and experience the present from the unique vantage of the river. Some notable points of interest include: the park’s colonial-era historic houses (the “Schuylkill River Villas”), Laurel Hill Cemetery, Peter’s Island, the Philadelphia Zoo, the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial, and several stunning historic bridges. Every guest will get to borrow a pair of binoculars to see the sights up close! 

This one-way tour begins at the Philadelphia Canoe Club boathouse and ends at Lloyd Hall’s dock at the end of Boathouse Row. 

The tour will begin with an on shore skills demonstration, followed by a brief lesson in the water, so all kayaking levels are welcome! Please keep in mind that the 4.5 mile distance- approximately 2 hours of continuous paddling – will require some physical stamina. 

PLEASE NOTE: This is a ONE-WAY downstream paddle and in order to keep costs down, we cannot provide shuttle service back to the PCC starting location. If you come by car, you’re responsible for finding transportation to the PCC boathouse — either before or after the tour. We recommend parking your car in the Lloyd Hall lot (FREE parking and 2 hour time limit is not enforced) BEFORE the tour. From there, use car share (Uber, Lyft) or Indego Bike Share. (Nearest location is 15 min. walk from PCC at 4341 Ridge Avenue & Heritage Street). If arriving to PCC by SEPTA, you can take the Manayunk-Norristown Line to Wissahickon Station (5 minute walk) or by bus, getting off at Wissahickon Transportation Center (1 minute walk). Take Route 61 bus from Center City via Ridge Ave. or Route 38 bus from Center City /West Philly.

MORE INFO: Without the Schuylkill River, there would be no Fairmount Park. The park was developed in the 19th century to protect Philadelphia’s water source by preserving green space along this major waterway within a rapidly industrializing city. The city first purchased a property around Lemon hill in 1844 to “protect and prove the purity of the Schuylkill water supply.”

TICKET PRICES: Pay what you can – $30, $40, or $50
[ Not sure what to pay? Please refer to this Sliding Scale Pricing FAQ for additional info. ]


  • All tours begin with a brief safety talk and on-shore kayaking lesson.
  • Tour is 4.5 miles (roughly two hours of continuous paddling) and requires a moderate exertion level.
  • Please dress according to weather conditions and wear clothes you don’t mind getting wet.
  • Bring water and a snack.
  • Bring bug spray and sunscreen.  
  • Bathrooms are available at the beginning and end of the paddle.

The Philadelphia Canoe Club (PCC) clubhouse is located on the bank of the confluence of the Wissahickon Creek and Schuylkill River, within the Fairmount Park System of Philadelphia. The address is 4900 Ridge Ave Philadelphia PA 19127. PCC driveway entrance is at the traffic light on Ridge Ave by the SEPTA DEPOT/bus stop, just south of the Manayunk Main Street movie theater.

ABOUT THE PHILADELPHIA CANOE CLUB: Philadelphia Canoe Club (PCC) has been in existence since 1905, and is a dedicated group of canoeists and kayakers. All of the club trips, training, and events are open to the public, and do not require membership. The club promotes paddling, and paddle sports in the Philadelphia area, training new paddlers and leading trips all over the US, year round.

Enjoy our programs? Become a Supporter of Fairmount Park Conservancy to help ensure that Philadelphia’s parks are enhanced for generations to come! Supporters enjoy special benefits like early registration access for events and our Park Perk Pass, which offers discounts and benefits throughout Philadelphia.

In the event of rain or other severe weather conditions, the event will be canceled and attendees are eligible for a full refund.