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Little-Known Fact: The Kittatinny Ridge area in the center of the Delaware Water Gap was once an exclusive health resort in the 1800s.
Mount Tammany rises above the Delaware River in northwestern New Jersey, just a stone’s throw from the Appalachian Trail. This portion of the upper Delaware seems caught in a time warp. Once you’re paddling down the river or hiking above it in a cool forest, you’re alone. You may hear a jet pass overhead, but you’re just as likely to detect the shrill cry of a bald eagle or osprey.
It’s a land of natural and cultural history, a 70,000-acre, 40-mile-long park that extends from Delaware Water Gap (where Mount Tammany rises) upstream to Milford, Pennsylvania. It teems with fish, birds, mammals, reptiles, lush growth and clean water.
The upper Delaware (114 miles from Delaware Water Gap north to Hancock, New York) is part of the nation’s Wild and Scenic Rivers System, and it attracts a lot of canoeists and kayakers. But the river isn’t the only source of recreation. The Appalachian Trail winds along the park’s eastern boundary in New Jersey for 25 miles, and shorter day hikes (up to 4 miles) lead to natural attractions such as Dingman’s Falls in Pennsylvania or Sunfish Pond in New Jersey, a natural lake formed during the last ice age.
Delaware Water Gap is best viewed from atop Mount Tammany, and one of the best months to hike there is April, before summer foliage veils the vistas. The Red Dot Trail, one of five paths in the southern end of the park that intersect the Appalachian Trail, leads to Mount Tammany’s summit.
Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area
National Park Service
Bushkill, PA 18324
Tune your radio to AM 1610 when traveling along Route 209 near Bushkill and at Dingmans Falls Visitor Center to learn more about park programs and recreational opportunities.
River Condition Information Line: 914/252-7100
Located in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the NRA is along the Delaware River, 100 miles west of New York City and 100 miles north of Philadelphia.
From Pennsylvania, take I-84 east to Rt. 209 S (Exit 10) through Milford to the northern boundary. Take I-80 east past Stroudsburg to 209 N (Exit 52) to the southern boundary. From New York City and New Jersey, take I-80 west to the Delaware Water Gap.
- One of the park’s strengths is its variety of seasonal activities.
- Fishing (trout, American shad, walleye, smallmouth bass) is excellent in spring, as are canoeing and kayaking.
- Hiking is fine anytime, although spring and fall are the most comfortable seasons.
- Winter is excellent for ice climbing and cross-country skiing; there are two marked and maintained trails and lots of deserted roads.
- Spring temperatures range from 30 to 55 degrees F. July is the warmest and most humid month with highs around 86 degrees F. The daily high in January is about 18 degrees F.
- Expect the first frost in early October, and an occasional light snow in December. Most rain falls between mid-April and late July. Around the first of July, the rhododendron bloom making this a beautiful time to visit. In June, the annual Delaware River Sojourn features educational activities.
Nearly 250 bird species (waterfowl, raptors, songbirds, shore birds, game birds) inhabit or migrate through the park.
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 where bald eagles spend the winter. Mid-morning or late-afternoon during January or February is the best time to spot them.
Also common are whitetail deer, beavers, black bears and river otters.
Ticks are common.
Hemlock, mountain laurel, black locust, rhododendron, and wild orchids are just a few samples of flora found in the area.
Although the area is intended for day-use, primitive camping is allowed in designated areas ~ such as Quicks Island, Buck Bar, Toms Creek, Quinn, Valley View, and Peters. There are also a few single sites located along the length of the Delaware.
There are many private campgrounds located within 40 minutes of the river. There is just one privately owned seasonal campground, Dingmans Campground (RD#2, Box 20, Dingmans Ferry, PA 18328; 717/828-2266), within the recreational area. It offers tent and RV sites April through October 15. Public telephones, hookups, water, showers, flush toilets, and picnic tables are available. Sites run about $15 per night.
Primitive camping is permitted for Appalachian trail hikers and for boaters traveling between river access points. These sites are limited to a one-night stay and operate on a first-come, first-served basis. For special AT camping regulations, call 717/588-2451.
Canoe camping at designated locations is also available.
The National Park Service operates visitor centers at Kittatinny Point (908/496-4458) in New Jersey just off I-80 and at Dingmans Falls (717/828-7802) off U.S. 209 in Pennsylvania. Both centers are open from April through October, and Kittatinny remains open on weekends in the winter.
There are over 15 canoe liveries in the area.
Parking areas are located at Lake Lenape, Resort Point Overlook, and Sunrise trailhead in Pennsylvania. In New Jersey, parking areas are located at Farview, Dunnfield, Coppermine, Milford Beach, and along Route 602.
Camping permits are not required for the Appalachian Trail or primitive (canoe) areas along the Delaware River. Fishing licenses are required in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
- Camping is not permitted along the park’s day trails.
- Fires are permitted only at designated sites. On the Appalachian Trail, self-contained stoves are permitted.
- Bicycles are not allowed on any trails within Delaware Water Gap; instead, use paved and unpaved, ungated roads in the park.
- Pets on leashes are allowed except for Milford Beach, Smithfield Beach, Hidden Lake Beach, and the mowed areas at Kittatinny Visitor Center, Watergate Recreation Area, and Hialeah Picnic Area.
- Flood conditions have left their mark; some areas and facilities remain damaged. Check with park for specific locations of concern.
- Cross streams carefully; water levels vary considerably with the seasons.
- Poison ivy is common.
- Hunting is permitted in some parts of the park; check dates of hunting seasons with a park ranger. Fluorescent orange clothing and hats should be worn during hunting seasons.
Leave No Trace:
- The area is implementing a park-wide recycling program, so look for cans with recycle stickers at various sites.
- Respect any private property you encounter while hiking.
- All LNT guidelines apply.
Hiking maps and general maps of the area are available from the park superintendent, and “Hiking Guide to Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area” is available at both visitor centers. A number of books, guides, and maps are available from:
Eastern National Park & Monument Association
3 Main St.
Layton, NJ 07851.
One helpful source is Delaware Water Gap Hiking Guide by Nick Miskowski.
Other Trip Options:
- Short day hikes (up to 4 miles) lead to natural attractions such as Dingmans Falls in Pennsylvania or Sunfish Pond in New Jersey, a natural lake formed during the last ice age.
- The Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River (717/685-4871) is a popular destination for canoeists.
- Visit the Zane Grey Museum (717/685-4871) in Lackawaxen PA, home of the famous author of Western romance novels from 1914-18.
- And check out Hialeah Air Park (201/778-9236), located one-half mile north of Smithfield Beach on River Road in Pennsylvania. Here, the Roxbury Area Model Airplane Club provides the opportunity to watch radio controlled model aircraft.
- For more attractions, call 800/POCONOS or 800/4-SKYLAN.