What The Delaware River Means To Me

The Delaware River means a lot to me, having grown up enjoying it everyday for much of my youth.  There are so many stories and memories I associate with this glorious river.  The Delaware River is the essence of my childhood and all my earliest memories take me back to the Delaware.  Big and broad and wide to a child, it signifies serenity and recreation.

It was the playground of my youth

The Delaware symbolizes family to me.  My grandparents lived not far from the bank of this peaceful river and we would spend the entire summer at my grandparents’ house and take daily trips to its banks just to relax.  The Delaware River was our playground, our bathtub, our swimming pool, and the backdrop of many, many picnics.  We had a favorite spot that served as the playground of my youth.  A few big boulders were stacked up along the bank, along the tree line.  We tied a thick rope from one of the trees and attached a limb to the bottom of the rope to form a trapeze.  Then we would spend hours upon hours a day swinging off the top of those rocks and dropping into the water.  In the summer, we didn’t have to take that many baths because we spent so much time in the water at the river.  It washed us clean enough to smell good.  We had a canoe that we would paddle around the wide bend where my grandparents lived, the water was slow and languid at the bend and we’d paddle around from an early age.  My siblings and I found camaraderie with each other along the banks of that river.  We learned a lot of valuable lessons about family there.  We learned how to look after each other and take care of one another because we valued each other and loved each other.  We built tree houses and forts along the ground.

My father taught us all how to find willow or bamboo and make our own fishing poles.  He taught us how to catch a grasshopper to use as bait and how to make our own corks.  We stayed down there many a night and day fishing and catching so many bass we couldn’t eat what we cooked.  We learned survival skills and how to build a fire and live off the land, picking berries and nuts.  The Delaware River means survival to me.  It is necessary to learn how to adapt to your environment in order to survive and we had it mastered along the Delaware.  We knew every inch of that river bank and the surrounding landscape.  We knew the wildlife and how to hunt and fish from it like champions.  We knew how to travel on foot or by boat and we knew exactly how fast and swift the river was at any given point for miles.  We knew how to build fires and cook our own food and how to boil water to drink if we had to. We would camp for days at a time and live off the land just because we could.  It meant liberty and independence to us.  We loved the freedom of doing things on our own and fending for ourselves.  There was no other feeling in the world to us as little kids.  The Delaware River means freedom to me because of this.

I used to go to the river to think

The Delaware River also means peacefulness and serenity and gave us a place to relax without worrying about the stresses of everyday life.  We could forget all our troubles at the Delaware.  Many times, I would have a hard day at school and go straight to the river afterward to think.  The sounds of the flowing water and wildlife were a blissful sound to my ears.  It removes any of the troubles that were on my mind.  All I had to do was sit there for a few minutes and all my worries were gone.  I could stay there for hours just meditating and enjoying the breeze.  I loved to lie on my back on the cool grass and just take in the sounds.  It was so relaxing to me.  I would often end up falling asleep because the atmosphere was so calm and relaxing.

Delaware River Scene

Delaware River Scene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Delaware River symbolizes adventure to me.  You couldn’t go to the river without having an adventure of some kind.  It could be a wild river adventure where we pretended to be pirates and take out the canoes and take turns capturing each other’s vessels.  It could be a fishing adventure where we fished for the most fish.  It could be a survival adventure where we camped out and tried to live off the land and brave the wild.  There were countless adventures we came up with and went on along the river.  We went on many tubing adventures where we would float along the river in rubber tubes and then hike back along the trails to get back home.  Some days, we would float all day long and it would take literally half a day to hike back.  Sometimes, we would have to camp out if we floated too long and darkness came on our hike back home.  It was full of adventures.  There were bird watching adventures where we would take our binoculars and go bird watching and try to find new species of birds.

The Delaware River also means home to me.  Now that I’ve grown up and moved on to another city in the south, the thought of The Delaware River reminds me of home and gives me the nostalgic feelings associated with my roots and growing up.  There is no other place that symbolizes the feeling of home to me like the Delaware.  It is a place that molded who I am as a person today by giving me all the wondrous opportunities and experiences while growing up.  I still get homesick sometimes just thinking about it but I know that I can always go back to visit.


  1. maryann says

    I grew up in a house that sat on the banks of that gorgeous river. I am heartsick with all the flooding and destruction due to overdevelopment and the river basin commission not caring about the residents on that river. I went back in 2009 after not seeing the area outside of Martins Creek for many years. I was shocked how many cottages were gone, My family home had never flooded the 26 years we had the home. Hurricane Agnes in 72, it was close, right up to the little yard next to the house. Living on the river, you had the “top” yard, the “bank”, and then the “bottom yard” next to the river. Fishing, rowboating, watersking, swimming nonstop all summer, right up to Labor Day. It would overnight, be too chilly to swim. It was the best place in the world to grow up. Although, in the sixties it seemed so uncool. We floated in tubes when we reached our teens, traveling in a gang of friends, and the river always had other folks tubing right along side you.That river was the healing force in so many ways. Listening to the rapids at night singing to me through my open bedroom windows with the mixture of honeysuckle scent is something that soothes even today when I evoke those memories of youth. Watching the giant ice jams in spring coming down from uoriver with no threat at that time of flooding was a winter end ritual. I remember just sitting on the couch in our living room watching it speed by our yard. At times our bottom yard would flood and then after the water receded, we would walk on top of the huge ice bergs left behind. It is where I developed my love of fishing, where I learned to swim with a huge old green life jacket, our endless supply of entertainment in a gentler, less complicated era. I love the Delaware. I live many states away now, but those days of innocence will be in my heart forever. I too get nostalgic and homesick for that time of fun, play, and that gorgeous wonderful river. I truly miss it.

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