Preview The Book
The Delaware River: A
Wild and Scenic Treasure
330 miles of the Delaware make it the longest un-damned river east of the
Mississippi. It has been the source of life, inspiration, power, wealth, and
recreation. Flowing from its headwaters in Hancock, New York into the Delaware
Bay, it provides much of the water for New York City, and spawning grounds for
the American Shad. It was a highway for the valley’s early inhabitants and a
habitat for rare birds and botanicals. The river is also a playground for
tubers, boaters, and fishermen, and a photo opportunity for nature paparazzi.
river roads in Bucks and Hunterdon provide access to valley vistas, parks,
camping, boat ramps, and the historic river towns that grew up around ferry
crossings and river-powered mills. From Easton in Pennsylvania and north of
Milford in New Jersey, paths on the banks of the river or along the adjacent
canals provide places to hike, bike, and in some areas, ride horses.
There are many
ways to experience the river, but floating down it on an inner tube, or a raft,
gives you a first hand look at nature and wildlife, and the beauty of the valley
that earned the Delaware the distinction of being named a National Wild and
Scenic River. The wild and scenic designation for the Lower Delaware, which
passes between Bucks and Hunterdon, runs from the Delaware Water Gap to
your journey north of Reigelsville. When you reach the village consider the
bridge, which celebrates its centennial this year. Constructed by John A.
Roebling, builder of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Delaware Aqueduct upstream, it
is a steel wire-rope suspension bridge 585 feet long.
home to wealthy mill owners who used the river for transport and power. On a
walk through town, you’ll find impressive homes built by these successful
industrialists, a theme you’ll discover in many of the river towns.
Returning to the
river, you pass the Milford Bluffs before coming to the towns of Milford, New
Jersey and Upper Black Eddy, Pennsylvania. The bluffs are a unique ecologic area
preserved by the Nature Conservancy and the New Jersey Lands Trust. Looking up
from the surface might entice you to climb to the top for one of the best views
of the valley. To reach the bluffs from Milford, travel 1.2 miles north on Route
519 to a parking lot on the left. The lot and a path to the top are not easy to
find so directions from someone in Milford would be helpful.
Black Eddy is a village along the River Road with a gas station, country store,
realtor, post office, an inn, restaurant, and an antiques shop. It’s not a
walking town, but Milford is, and a stroll along its main street is in order.
Milford’s small downtown includes the first brew pub in New Jersey, a
Victorian bed and breakfast, shops offering necessities and antiques, and the
bakery and retail store for The Baker, where you’ll find the same wholesome
baked goods you can buy in local grocery stores across the northeast.
Back on the river,
you’ll notice that the local bird life is less afraid of humans floating along
as birds do. You may see cormorants, Great Blue Herons, lots of ducks and geese,
and perhaps a snapping turtle or two. Throw a line into the water for lunch and
you might catch bass, shad, stripers, trout, sunfish, or carp. If you’re
really lucky, you’ll get a fishing lesson from a diving osprey.
next stop is Frenchtown, where you can take a break from the water. Rent a bike
at Freeman’s Bicycle Shop and spend some time on solid ground. A trip into the
surrounding countryside will give you a taste of rural Hunterdon. Back in town
there are more than a day’s worth of interesting businesses, antique shops,
art galleries, and boutiques to explore. With lots of restaurants and three
country inns, Frenchtown may entice you into spending a day or two.
If you want to
boat instead of float, there are many access ramps where you can put a craft
into the water. One of these is near Tinicum Park, south of Frenchtown. The park
has campgrounds that offer an outdoor alternative to country inns.
river flows gently south until you reach Point Pleasant, once known as Lower
Black Eddy. You’ll know you’re there when you see the stone pilings from the
last bridge, which washed away in the flood of 1955. At the site of the old
bridge you can’t miss Bucks County River Country. You’ll see stacks of
rafts, tubes, and canoes, and on a summer weekend, hoards of happy people of all
ages waiting to be bussed north for their own river experience. Originally Point
Pleasant Canoe and now Bucks County River Country, the company has introduced
thousands of people to the river over the past three decades. If planning
isn’t your forte, or you don’t want to make the long trip we’re taking,
Bucks County River Country will provide all you need for an unforgettable day on
south, the river winds its way down to the wing dams at Lumberville. This is
another place you might want to stop and stay awhile. There are two country inns
in the village and at the end of the Lumberville walking bridge there are
campgrounds in Bulls Island State Park. It’s a place to steep yourself in
history, or nature, or both. You can rent bikes here too, at the Lumberville
General Store, and they’ll pack a picnic lunch for your ride along the canal
or into the countryside. On Bulls Island, you’ll need binoculars if you’re a
birder. In spring and summer it’s home to a wide variety of warblers, vireos,
and migrating birds.
of Lumberville, the river takes you past islands and through shallows before
coming to Stockton and Center Bridge. At Stockton, you’ll find places to eat,
art galleries, and the Prallsville Mills historic site just off the river in the
Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park.
Once you’re back
on the river, it’s just a short ride down to the busiest towns on the trip.
Pull your craft out of the water here and stop to take in the many attractions
in New Hope and Lambertville. The two towns have fine restaurants, historic
sights, canal barge rides, train rides, art galleries, antique shops, and the
new Michener Art Museum, where you can see paintings by the New Hope
that you’re out of the river you might want to stay out, not only because of
all the tastes, sights and attractions, but also because you don’t want to get
caught in the Class II and Class III rapids at Wells Falls just to the south.
You’ll see signs on the New Hope-Lambertville bridge warning floaters of the
danger of the falls.
Get back in the
water south of the falls. From here it’s a bit of a float to one of the
country’s most historic sites, Washington Crossing. The National Wild and
Scenic River designation ends here at the parks in Pennsylvania and New Jersey
that commemorate Washington’s crossing of the Delaware on Christmas night in
scenery to history to river town life to wildlife, you might not find another
float so varied and interesting as the one you’ve just taken.
If we’ve peaked
your interest and you’d like to paddle down the river with a group, the annual
Delaware River Sojourn in early June is a trip to take. Adults, families, kids,
and grandparents all go on the Sojourn, the purpose of which is to heighten
awareness of the significance of the river. For more information about this
annual event, visit www.delawareriversojourn.org.
you’re planning a trip on your own, the Delaware River Basin Commission offers
a set of recreational maps that cover the 200 mile, non-tidal reach of the river
from Hancock, New York to Trenton, New Jersey. They give you all the information
you need, from the International Canoe Federation’s Scale of River Difficulty
to lists of canoe, raft, and tub rentals and parking areas, boat ramps, and
sanitary facilities. The maps, which come in a zipper lock, waterproof bag, are
$10 for the set and can be ordered from the Delaware River Basin Commission,
P.O. Box 7360, West Trenton, NJ 08628-0360.