The spiritually-inclined often seek out mountaintops, standing rocks, sacred springs and other places that seem to have cosmic resonance. To that list should be added confluences, I believe, because to stand at the meeting place of two great rivers is to feel, if not metaphysical vibration, then geography at your feet, those features we pass by unheeding everyday that describe the singular face of this glorious planet Earth.
Such thoughts came to mind recently when I visited Shikellamy State Park at the southern tip of Packer’s Island in central Pennsylvania. The north and west branches of the Susquehanna come together there, about halfway along the main river’s course from around Cooperstown, New York, to its delta on Chesapeake Bay: some 464 miles, making it the longest river in the U.S. non-navigable to commercial boats.
Historical plaques nearby show the site a Native American village that was home to Shikellamy, an Iroquois Confederacy leader, and the high water mark during the big Susquehanna flood of 1972. You can walk right out to a little plaza at the confluence where the sound of traffic on two bridges connecting Packer’s Island to the towns of Northumberland and Sunbury dies down to a dull hum and ducks paddle in the muddy shallows, all ignorant of the site’s geographical significance.
Of course, this started me thinking about other great confluences I’ve seen at close hand: the narrow Chroy Changvar peninsula east of downtown Phnom Penh where the Mekong and Tonle Sap Rivers join; Belgrade’s old citadel in Kalemegdan Park overlooking the intertwining Danube and Sava; and best of all, perhaps, the meeting of the Green and Colorado, deeply-inscribed in the stark desert plateau of Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. My brother and I once pitched tents at Willow Flat in the park‘s Island in the Sky sector overlooking the Green’s last lap before annihilation in the mighty Colorado.