Rat Island!

February 15, 2012 |  by  |  Found  |  ,

 

Island looking north | Photo: Mike Szilagyi

Island looking north | Photo: Mike Szilagyi

Just off the shipping channel in the tidal Delaware River, opposite the mouth of the Schuylkill, lies a half-acre island of scrubby trees, windswept pebbly beach, and upwards of ten thousand discarded plastic bottles. Nameless on those maps that deign to show its existence, the loosely knit group that sets up camp here twice each winter for the last thirty years calls it Rat Island.

One weekend each mid-November, and again in March, the sandy grove in the center of the island sprouts tarps, tents, an outdoor kitchen, and a riproaring driftwood bonfire. As they have for three decades now, the late-night crew will tune in to WXPN’s Stars End ambient music program, and place a call to DJ Chuck Van Zyl to let him know that the Rat Island encampment is listening.

Shipyard seen from island | Photo: Mike Szilagyi

Shipyard seen from island | Photo: Mike Szilagyi

Through the night the occasional cargo ship glides silently past, just a stone’s throw away. Long after midnight, once the roar of jets landing at Philadelphia International Airport has died away, there is an eerie stillness here, on this forgotten corner of the world, at the far edge of the city.

windswept | Photo: Mike Szilagyi

windswept | Photo: Mike Szilagyi

The next Rat Island encampment is tentatively scheduled for the weekend of March 17 and 18.

Rat Island

Rat Island

About the author

Mike Szilagyi was born in the Logan neighborhood of Philadelphia, and raised in both Logan and what was the far edge of suburbia near Valley Forge. He found himself deeply intrigued by both the built landscape and by the natural “lay of the land.” Where things really get interesting is the fluid, intricate, multi-layered interface between the two.

Send a message!



7 Comments


  1. Long an object of fascination for me.

  2. Always great when you guys share things I never otherwise would have known existed. Great piece Mike!

  3. Love it! Leave it to you Mike to find a diamond in the rough.

  4. I was a regular visitor to Red Bank Battlefield park as a kid, and always wanted to get to that island. What amazing views it has!

  5. super cool, but i have to ask, are they’re actually rats on rat island?

  6. I’ve camped there twice, and didn’t see any rats, for what it’s worth. Your experience may differ: http://starsend.org/ratislandraiders.html

  7. Actually Rat Island looks like it’s on the JERSEY SIDE.

Trackbacks

  1. At the End of the Schuylkill River – Thomas A. Shakely

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
Exhuming A Pyramid Of Petrol Along The

Exhuming A Pyramid Of Petrol Along The “Golden Mile”

February 15, 2019  |  Vantage

Greg Prichard takes us on a suburban expedition to find Vincent Kling's lost, modernist gas station on City Avenue > more

Conkling-Armstrong House & Jewelers Row District Go Before Designation Committee

Conkling-Armstrong House & Jewelers Row District Go Before Designation Committee

February 12, 2019  |  News

Starr Herr-Cardillo has this roundup of local register nominations on the agenda at the February meeting of the Philadelphia Historical Commission's Designation Committee > more

Under Construction: Charles Library At Temple University

Under Construction: Charles Library At Temple University

February 8, 2019  |  Last Light

Something Snøhetta this ways comes. Michael Bixler takes us to the quad at Temple University where its new library is currently taking shape > more

A Life Of Community Service For Theaters In North Philly

A Life Of Community Service For Theaters In North Philly

February 6, 2019  |  Vantage

The legendary Uptown Theater is gearing up for its 90th anniversary this month with a new fundraising campaign and the lighting of its original marquee. To mark the occasion, cinema scholar Joan McGettigan gives us a social history lesson on the neighborhood movie houses near North Broad Street > more

Archaic Expectations: Freeing Female Roles From A Dollhouse In Society Hill

Archaic Expectations: Freeing Female Roles From A Dollhouse In Society Hill

February 1, 2019  |  Vantage

In this essay Mickey Herr examines women's roles and social norms through the history of a dollhouse spanning seven generations > more

Neighbors In Spruce Hill Mobilize As Arvilla Eviction Nears

Neighbors In Spruce Hill Mobilize As Arvilla Eviction Nears

January 29, 2019  |  News

Affordable housing nonprofit Mission First evicts residents of The Arvilla in West Philadelphia, displacing a community of low-income families. Ali Roseberry-Polier has the details > more