Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area


Size: 70,000 acres along a 40-mile stretch of the Delaware River
Ecosystem: Eastern mountain woodlands
Features: Easy-going river with beaches and canoe access points, tributary streams with waterfalls, mountain overlooks, easy to moderately strenuous hiking trails, pleasant woodlands, educational sites
Activities: Paddling, Hiking, Fishing, Bicycling, Rock Climbing, Scenic Driving, Cross-Country Skiing, Active Learning, Camping

The modern American family comes in many shapes, sizes, and oddball configurations. When picking an outdoor destination, it makes sense to choose somewhere that offers something for everybody—challenges for the experienced rough-and-readies as well as gentle experiences for the young, old, outdoor newbies, or just plain tired. It will keep everyone in better spirits to get there in as little time as possible: Impatiently demanded rest stops and whiny "Are we there yets?" seem to increase geometrically with every extra hour on the road. Children love to learn, so it's good to have a place that enriches their schooling with active learning—where they can learn about history, science, or art when they're not outside romping around.

The Delaware Water Gap, where the Delaware River twists in a tight "S" curve through Kittatinny Ridge in the Poconos between New Jersey and Pennsylvania, has been a family destination for over a century. In the 19th century, large hotels sprang up catering to a clientele of businessmen and their families. People enjoyed the healthy air and cool breezes while cities simmered in the summer heat. Today most of the large hotels are gone and people usually come here for a day or two rather than months at a time. But the air is still invigorating and the views as spectacular as they ever were. It still has everything a family could want in a getaway. And you can be there in just a couple of hours traveling from New York City or Philadelphia.

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is easily accessible from both the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas as well as the nearby cities of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Scranton, Pennsylvania. Food, lodging, gasoline, shopping, and medical services are available in the towns surrounding the park.

You might want to begin your visit at one of the visitor centers, located at Kittatinny Point in New Jersey just off I-80, or at Dingmans Falls off U.S. 209 in Pennsylvania. Park staff members are on hand to answer questions and provide schedules of activities and programs. Both visitor centers are open May through October, while Kittatinny remains open on weekends in winter.

Scenic Driving
In any season, the auto tourist can find breathtaking views along many miles of roads. As you travel New Jersey's Old Mine Road, continue north to Route 615 and ride among the rolling hills. Drive Route 209 in Pennsylvania, and fields lie between you and the river, with the Pocono Plateau rising to the west. Along Route 611, south of Interstate 80, three scenic overlooks provide the best places to view the Water Gap.

More than 200 miles of roads wind through the scenic valleys, over the ridges, and past historic buildings. Along the way you may see some of the area's wildlife, view one of numerous waterfalls, stop to picnic, or just take a short walk along a trail or an old road. Around the first of July the rhododendron bloom, making this an especially nice time for a visit. All recreation sites in the park are for day-use only.

The Delaware River is one of the cleanest and most scenic rivers in the East. You can enjoy the water whether you are just a wader or an accomplished swimmer. Bath houses, picnic areas, and parking are available at both Milford Beach and Smithfield Beach.

The Old Mine Road, on the New Jersey side of the Delaware, is a moderately hilly, scenic touring route. In Pennsylvania, Big Egypt Road, Freeman Tract Road, or Zion Church Road offer biking opportunities. Bicycling is not recommended on Route 209 in Pennsylvania due to high-volume traffic. Bicycling is not permitted on any of the hiking trails, but the Blue Mountain Lake Mountain Bike Trail has recently been opened on the New Jersey side of the Delaware, with help from the Kittatinny Mountain Biking Association (KIMBA).

Wildlife and Birdwatching
This landscape provides a rich diversity of animals and birds. White-tailed deer, beaver, black bear, and even river otter are some of the animals you might see. The park is one of the best places in the East to watch for hawks and other raptors during their semi-annual migrations. This is also one of the few locations in the East where bald eagles winter in any abundance. Midmorning or late afternoon during January or February are the best times to spot them.

Near the Kittatinny Point Visitor Center, you can find excellent climbing on the 200-foot cliffs of Mount Minsi and Tammany. Heights of Madness (5.8 miles) and Morning Sickness (5.11 miles) are two exceptional routes.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



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