The Delaware River Blog

How is The Delaware River Used by Different People?

The Delaware River is a scenic waterway that forms the boundary between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It also serves as part of the border between the states of New York and Pennsylvania. Opportunity for a multitude of recreational activities abound.

Boatmen row a Durham boat across the Delaware River after reenacting Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These vary from decidedly athletic activities to relaxing leisure-time pursuits. No matter the interest of the visitor, the Delaware River will not disappoint him or her. The Delaware River flows from Cape May and Cape Henlopen, in the southern part of New Jersey to empty into Delaware Bay near Trenton. The river was discovered by Henry Hudson in the early part of the seventeenth century. Through much of the early history of the United States, the Delaware served critical shipping interests. A portion of the Pennsylvania Canal as well as the Delaware and Raritan Canal flanks many miles of the river. Although not widely used today, these canals provide beautiful photographic opportunities for the sightseer. A stroll along a portion of the tree-lined canals places the visitor in a serene historic setting. Tubing the Delaware is a recreational activity enjoyed by many hundreds of enthusiasts each year. A life jacket is highly recommended for all water activities including tubing, and a jacket is required on some parts of the river. The Delaware Water Gap Recreational Area enforces a reduced speed limit for all boats; and thus, it is a favorite place for water tubing. The tube excursion between Worthington State Forest and Interstate 80 is a much-loved activity. A visitor must acquaint himself with the terrain in order to avoid the more dangerous white water and debris while tubing. This information can be obtained from local rangers and businesses. Various outfitters offer canoe and raft adventures on the Delaware Waterway. Both guided and unguided trips through the Water Gap Recreational Area are available. These excursions provide views of the breath-taking Pocono Mountains. Canoes and rafts can be procured in the Philadelphia area. Several towns in the state of New York have outfitters that provide access to the Upper Delaware Waterway. Other outfitters can be found in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Canoeing and rafting are outstanding adventures to gain a view of the majestic Delaware River. Seventy miles of old mule trails run on both flanks of the Delaware River. But don’t expect to see any mules on these trails today.

Delaware River near Worthington State Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These old mule trails have been converted into some of the best maintained hiking routes in the nation. They offer endless opportunities for the photography enthusiast or bird watcher. All the travel accommodations, including restaurants and lodging, are located conveniently along the trail. If the hiker is also a fisherman, these trails will not disappoint him. Packed stone provides the surface of the path along the Delaware and Raritan Canal. This trail can be reached from State Route 29. A quarter of a mile north of Interstate 95, the hiker can view Scudders Falls. Bird watchers are pleased to learn that the Delaware River is home to both peregrine falcons and bald eagles. Numerous smaller bird species are also found in the area. The Delaware River area is also home for the timber rattlesnake. So the birdwatcher must look down as he looks up, if walking on infrequently traveled trails. On the Pennsylvania side of the waterway, the thirty miles of the mule path was actually once a tow-path, used to pull barges through the canal. Now the path is used by walkers, cyclists, and runners. In the winter, the path is used by cross-country skiers. The area bordering the Delaware River is steeped in early American history. The area played a major role in the French and Indian War. Intact settlements, dating from the 1700’s, remain in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area. This recreational area also hosts one of the earliest remaining resorts, originally constructed by the eastern railroads. Of course, the most famous date in Delaware River’s history is December 25, 1776. On that date, George Washington led his Continental Army across the frozen Delaware to surprise the British troops stationed at Trenton N.J. The classic painting by Emanuel Leutze depicting this famous event of the American Revolutionary War is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. There have been proposals to dam the Delaware Waterway, but these proposals have been opposed by both environmentalists and those individuals who want to preserve the history of the region. Extensive small-boat excursions on the Upper Delaware Waterway are not practical. The river, where it forms the border between New York and Pennsylvania, is fast-flowing and shallow. However, there are small stretches of the Upper Delaware which are friendly to the small boat.

Delaware Water Gap, as seen from the Appalachian Trail at Mount Minsi, Pennsylvania. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Access is limited, and some trip-planning is advised to avoid wasting time looking for a boat ramp. Although, many advise a canoe to explore the Upper Delaware, several specialized boat designs have been created to navigate the shallow waters of the Upper Delaware. Although the waters are shallow, wearing a life jacket is still advised, and in some jurisdictions, required. There are state parks and private campgrounds offering access to the Delaware River. Often the campsites are primitive, but provide water and rest rooms. When tent camping or just camping in general, be mindful and thoughtful of the wildlife. Black bears still roam in the rural portions of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Never leave food, or even food scraps, unprotected in the open. Keep food in a vehicle or a securely closed cooler. Properly dispose of all food waste immediately. If the campsite does not provide a means of disposal, bury the food waste. All violations of these simple, logical rules will invite a black bear into your campsite. Bears usually only want the food, which had been carelessly, left unprotected; but all wild animals can become dangerous if they feel threatened. Whenever an individual or group ventures outdoors, the weather forecast should be consulted. Much of the Delaware River’s recreational areas lie in flood plains. Some local flooding frequently occurs in the spring, as a result of the snow melt-off. Occasionally, a hurricane will impact the area, although hurricanes have generally been weakened before they reach the Upper Atlantic states. Although extreme temperatures are usually not a problem, being prepared by taking note of the weather forecast is always a prudent precaution. Take time to enjoy, rejuvenate, and learn from the Delaware River. The river is an important part of American history. It served as an indispensable commerce link for centuries. The muddy paths once used by mules to pull river traffic up and down the Delaware have become the finest hiking and biking trails. Falcons and eagles nest in sight of the Delaware. Fishing is abundant. Local canoe and raft outfitters can supply all your needs. The Delaware River should not be missed.

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