The Delaware River is one of the major waterways of the Eastern seaboard and runs from its source in the Catskill Mountains to the Delaware Bay. Serving as the border between Pennsylvania and the states of New York, New Jersey and Delaware, the river offers a unique combination of recreational activities for all ages and levels of activity, all of whom enjoy The Delaware River for recreation.
For those interested in physically oriented activities the Delaware River offers hiking, biking, canoeing, boating, tubing and camping. Over 100 miles of trails for biking and hiking offer beautiful vistas, photo opportunities and historic landmarks. Visitors to the river can combine their activities with camping and fishing, or even enjoy a stay in one of the many bed and breakfast accommodations or a local inn.
For those who want a little slower pace, the river basin provides a wide range of areas to bird watch, picnic and relax. The region is home to a large number of peregrine falcons and bald eagles, as well as smaller species. Occasionally, game such as deer, foxes, raccoons, coyotes, turkeys and squirrels can be seen on the well-maintained trails that run on both sides of the river. In the more remote areas along the river, black bear are still active and campers should take the necessary precautions to remain safe. On the eastern side of the river paths that once served a tow paths for the merchant boats plying the canals are now well-maintained paths for the many hikers, bikers and joggers.
The best time for boating and canoeing is during the high crest of the river which occurs in March and April. The river peaks with the crystal clear waters of the snow melt in the Catskills. Numerous outfitters and guide services offer a wide selection of excursion packages. Many feature running the white water during this peak time of year. Although the river can be treacherous in spots, most of the waterway provides water recreation for everyone, whether they are beginners or more advanced boating enthusiast. The lower part of the river is best suited for larger boats and recreational watercraft.
Opportunities also exist for combining canoeing and kayaking with overnight camping in one of the many area campgrounds. These encourage using The Delaware River for recreation and primitive camping sites also dot the river’s edge. Checking with local park rangers and state game and fish departments will give the necessary information on locations of camp sites, fees, and any licenses needed.
On any trip down The Delaware River for recreation, by boat or on foot, one of the most beautiful spots to visit is the Delaware Gap Recreational Area. The canyon walls, formed by the powerful combination of time and water pressure rise over the river and are most impressive when seen while standing at the prow of a boat or a path through the wooded area surrounding the park. The river visitors can also see spectacular waterfalls including Dingman’s Falls. With the low rolling hills and the cut through the surrounding mountains, the Delaware presents a wide range of natural settings sure to please any enthusiast. Over 25 miles of the Appalachian Trail are within the park and have varying levels of difficulty.
One of the more recent additions to The Delaware River for recreation include “tubing” on the slower portions of the river. Visitors can use one of the many vendors who provide inner tubes and rafts, as well as pick up service at your destination point. However, this form of water fun can easily be done without the help of a local service. The best time to experience this leisurely activity is during the summer months when the water level is low and the temperatures are higher. Drifting slowly down the river gives a unique perspective on the sights, smells and sounds of the world surrounding the waterway.
For those who want to soak up culture as well as the sunshine, the Delaware River boasts a number of historically significant spots, including the nearby town of Trenton. The well-known painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware occurred in this region, when the outnumbered Colonial troops crossed the river by night and surprised the British troops and German mercenaries stationed in the town. This victory gave renewed faith to the Continental Army and cemented Washington’s leadership of the army. The city has preserved some of the more significant landmarks and offers a glimpse into this period in American history.
Other historical sites mark the area, many dating back to the Native Americans who were in the region almost 8,000 years ago. Intact settlements of the 1700s and the preserved 1900 township of Millbrook Village are open to visitors in the Delaware Gap Recreational Area. Every October the Millbrook Days celebrate the history of this village. The tourism departments of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware have information on the many historical sightseeing opportunities afforded along the river.
Suggested routes for a vacation that combines sightseeing and outdoor recreation can also be found through the tourism departments and through local outfitters and lodging accommodations. Major adjacent cities, including Philadelphia, Camden, Wilmington and Trenton are havens for history buffs who want to incorporate “civilized” sights into their vacation plans. Philadelphia boasts several excellent cultural venues including one of the country’s best art museums. Philadelphia also offers a wide range of architectural styles resembling the Colonial or the Federalist periods. Outstanding dining and night life are also part of this major metropolitan area.
Whether you want to enjoy a day outdoors, or spend several days doing a variety of activities, the Delaware River offers some of the most scenic and unique sights in the Eastern United States. Plan on making this a vacation destination in your future and discover what so many others already know – the Delaware River is a great place for adventure!