- Explore the Corridor
- Signature Programs
- Partner Resources
Paul Fogal is well-known throughout the Jim Thorpe community, but his hometown lies further east – a small resort town called Ocean Grove in New Jersey. With such close access to the water, Paul was able to develop a love for paddling and canoeing at a young age.
“I started paddling in seventh or eighth grade – paddling canoes, paddled in the ocean, paddled a lot of the little rivers in New Jersey.”
Paul would stay in New Jersey through college, graduating from Monmouth University with a degree in business. After finishing his education, Paul’s desire for adventure would take him on a journey hitchhiking around the world. When his trip finished some five-to-six years later, New Jersey was not where he ended up. Paul found a summer job as a river guide in western Pennsylvania.
Initially, Paul was working as an employee for a rafting company around three days a week on the river. Since his parents owned a resort hotel, Paul had more to offer than just guiding. When management found out he knew how to make reservations, Paul was put to work in the office.
“I was kind of bummed out at first, but then I realized – ‘OK I’m getting six days of work. Everybody else is only getting four or five.’ I did that for about two years, and I realized that I could do this, and I could do it better than how that guy was doing it. So, I started a whitewater rafting company here on the Lehigh River in the National Heritage Corridor – which was not the National Heritage Corridor at the time.”
In 1977, Paul Fogal opened Pocono Whitewater.
What was once a small business known as Pocono Whitewater has blossomed into Pocono Whitewater Rafting, Pocono Biking, and Skirmish Paintball. Working together with local businesses and governments has garnered the Fogal businesses a solid foothold in Jim Thorpe – helping revitalize the main street and making it into the tourist destination it is today.
“We bring about 100,000 people a year into the area. We also do marketing and promotion with the Corridor and local chambers. We promote the Lehigh Gorge, the Lehigh River, and Jim Thorpe. [Along with] the other rafting companies – we have all been promoting [the region] for years. This is one of the reasons why the Lehigh is one of the most popular rivers in the country.”
According to Paul, Pocono Whitewater Rafting and Biking has provided services to over a million people over the years, proving a significant economic boost to Jim Thorpe. Last year alone, they employed approximately 500 individuals ranging from local teenagers to those who have retired. Additionally, their environmental impact is minimal due to the nature of their business.
Outside of his business, Paul continues to show a dedication to trails and the environment.
He has assisted multiple groups with their sojourns over the years, including Wildlands Conservancy and Rails to Trails Conservancy – which he also has volunteered with in the past. He’s also worked with a company from the Netherlands to include the Jim Thorpe section of D&L Trail as part of their Eastern United States bike tour. He’s facilitated multiple fundraisers over the years to support the community as well.
Additionally, Pocono Biking works with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and their local Environmental Steward Instructor, Diane Madl. She will work with local school groups to teach them about the environment. Pocono Biking will provide bikes, shovels, and other equipment that will assist the children as they work outside of classrooms and in nature.
Like many advocates for outdoor recreation, Paul is no stranger to working with and even lobbying some of our local and even federal elected officials.
According to Paul, one of his biggest accomplishments was working together with DCNR, federal representatives, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the private boating and fishing sectors to convince Congress to change the water management at Francis E. Walter Dam to allow for downstream recreation.
“We got together with the State Parks, federal representatives – it was Representative Kanjorski at the time – and the Army Corps of Engineers. And we lobbied in Congress…It gave us water releases in the summer and that has really been a dynamic change. In the early days, you would run the river in the spring and the fall. Now we can run the river in spring, fall, and summer…That was a big one, you know? That water management program for Francis Walter Dam has been a big plus to the Corridor – to the area.”
Jim Thorpe is a special town with an amazing and dedicated community. Over the years, it has experienced a revitalization effort that encourages and inspires other towns across the Corridor. And right there just off the D&L Trail, next to the train station, is Pocono Biking, Paul Fogal, and his family.
When posed with the question “Why Jim Thorpe?”, Paul said this:
“I have paddled all seven continents I have biked in 29 different countries – this is a world class destination.”
46 years. It’s been nearly half a century since Paul initially opened Pocono Whitewater and the company has soared since, becoming well-known and well-loved by both locals and tourists alike.
Over the years, it’s become a family operation. With his children and some nephews all lending their talents in one way or another, he’s been able to step back a bit.
“I’m not as involved with the business anymore. Before I was 100%, now maybe I’m 75%… It’s a gradual fade out here. But I still paddle the river. I still cycle the trail. I’m on the Board of directors of the Pennsylvania Parks and Forest Foundation. I’m on the board of the local and regional tourist agencies. We’re obviously members of Pocono Mountain Visitor’s Bureau. So, I’m still definitely involved, yeah. I mean, it’s pretty hard to step away from something that’s this cool.”
As always, Pocono Biking offers many services to trail and outdoor enthusiasts. They have multi-day trip packages along the D&L Trail and offer shuttle services to cyclists, whitewater rafting is available from Spring through Fall, and paintball experiences can be done individually or in groups.
Pocono Biking also participates in events throughout the year. Most upcoming? The White Haven Trail Festival! Pocono Biking will be offering Biking Shuttle services from the White Haven South Trailhead to the D&L Black Diamond Trailhead to benefit DLNHC and our programs. (We’ll be there too, so stop by and say “Hi!”)
This article was written as part of the DLNHC Faces of the Corridor campaign. If you know someone or group that you think should be featured, visit this page to learn how you can nominate them.