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Day Tripper - Delaware Water Gap
06/26/2011 - By Christine Burke Eskwitt
Hiking, camping and more on the Delaware Water Gap
If you live in Monmouth County, did you know that in slightly less than two hours you and your family can explore the largest recreation area in the eastern U.S.? Where else can you find, all in one place:
• 40 miles of calm river
• 67,000 acres of valley
• the world-famous "Water Gap"
• 100 miles of trails along streams, ridges, and mountains
• 27 miles of the Appalachian Trail• Bountiful wildlife
• Hemlock and rhododendron ravines
• 200 miles of scenic roadways
• Historic villages
• 200 structures from the area’s colonial and recent past
Most of us couldn’t put our finger on the map and point out the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. We kind of know where it is but are not exactly sure. Maybe you visited once on a school trip, but that was a while ago. I can’t say I’ve been a frequent visitor since my days as president of the Hiking Club at Mater Dei High School, Class of ’76, but as the Park’s three million annual visitors can attest, there’s something for everyone at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
For Geography Buffs
The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is on the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The recreation area encompasses 67,000 acres of mountain ridge, forest, and floodplain on both the NJ and PA sides of the Delaware River. A water gap is a geological feature where a river cuts through a mountain ridge. The Delaware Water Gap began to form four hundred fifty million years ago when quartz pebbles were deposited in a shallow sea on top of the Ordovician Martinsburg shale. The Martinsburg shale was uplifted when a chain of volcanic islands collided with proto-North America around four hundred fifty million years ago. These islands went over the North American plate. This collision deposited rock on top of the North American plate, which eventually formed to become the Delaware Water Gap.
For History Buffs
Though set aside as an area for outdoor recreation, the Delaware Water Gap is rich in history. The park encompasses significant Native American archeological sites. A number of structures also remain from early Dutch settlement and the colonial era. The entire region was a frontier of the French & Indian War. Historic rural villages from the 18th and 19th centuries remain intact on the New Jersey side, and landscapes of past settlements are scattered throughout the park. In the 19th century, the village of Delaware Water Gap was a focus of the early resort industry fostered by the railroads.
Even today the region is known for its vacation appeal. Route 80, which leads us to the Delaware Water Gap, is the oldest commercial highway in the United States. Winding its way from New England to Philadelphia, Route 80 follows an aboriginal trail along the Delaware River believed to be 8,000 years old. In American Colonial times dating from 1652, Dutch settlers carried copper ore from rich mines located near the Delaware Water Gap to Kingston, New York along the route. Houses along the road became vital refuges and forts for settlers during the French and Indian War. George Washington's soldiers used the road and John Adams and Ben Franklin were frequent travelers. During the mid 19th Century part of the Old Mine Road became links in the Underground Railroad.
Step back to the year 1900 at Millbrook Village, open weekends in the summer. In October, one hundred volunteer “villagers” bring the place alive for “Millbrook Days.”
For Nature Buffs
The Delaware Water Gap is home to an array of animal species, including black bear, timber rattlesnakes, bald eagles and peregrine falcons. Ecosystems include hemlock ravines with bountiful rhododendron and ridge tops with prickly pear cactus. Forty miles of the Middle Delaware River are within the park as well as 27 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Add trout streams, lakes, ponds, and some of the highest waterfalls of either Pennsylvania or New Jersey. The Middle Delaware River is one of the cleanest rivers around; the Delaware watershed provides water for ten percent of the nation’s population. The Water Gap is a testament to the strength of flowing water. Watch the watershed in action at Dingman’s Falls or Raymondskill.
For Outdoor Recreation Buffs
The Park is the largest recreation area in the eastern U.S. There’s rock climbing plus canoeing, kayaking, rafting, tubing and swimming. With a fishing license, one can fish the Delaware River for smallmouth bass, walleye, eel, catfish, muskellunge, carp and shad. Follow the footsteps of two centuries of hikers as you climb the gateposts of the gap, Mt. Minsi, PA and Mt. Tammany NJ, and emerge atop the “endless mountain,” or hike along the 27 miles of Appalachian Trail that pass through the park.
In and Around the Park
Here are just a few of the dozens of destinations within the Park on the New Jersey side.
Isaac Van Campen Inn - Originally built in 1750, the house has undergone a $500,000 restoration It was a rest stop along Old Mine Road for the likes of John Adams and was used as a fort in the French and Indian War.
Peters Valley Crafts Center - The mission of Peter’s Valley as a nonprofit organization is to foster an appreciation of traditional and contemporary crafts by providing programming for individuals to study, create and explore new ideas in a supportive environment. June, July and August provide a wide range of events and opportunities for students and visitors to enjoy workshops, evening lectures, studio tours, the Peter's Valley Craft Store and the annual Craft Fair in September.
Millbrook Village - A recreated 19th Century rural community, Millbrook offers a self-guided walking tour about the buildings and life as it was one hundred years ago.
Pahaquarry Copper Mines - Scheduled for a major upgrade and expansion of parking and facilities, visitors can walk to the historical mines at Pahaquarry.
Watergate - Includes an open air concert area, a 50-site picnic area, concession food service, parking and comfort facilities.
Van Campens Glen - Picnic area on a beautiful babbling brook.
Poxono - Boat launch and boat trailer parking facility.
Blue Mountain Lakes, Crater Lake - Trailhead parking, fishing, spectacular views.
Appalachian Trail - The famous hiking path which runs from Maine to Georgia spends 27 of its miles in the Park.
Delaware River - One of the cleanest and prettiest rivers in the east, the 40 miles in the park are great for swimming, boating and fishing. There are several swimming beaches plus boating access points every 8-10 miles.
Delaware Water Gap
National Recreation Area
Remember when you visit the Park, there are no gas stations and comfort stations are far and few between.
Because the DWGNRA is so large and has so many destinations, you should visit to the official website for specific directions, operating hours and seasons, fees and reservations, maps, brochures, contacts, events, news, closures and other important information that will make your visit a great one!
On the site, you can also find links for canoe, kayak , tube and rafting tours and rentals.
From New Jersey, visitors to the DWGNRA should take the Garden State Parkway to 287 North to exit 22B. Merge onto 202 N/206 N toward Bedminster/Netcong. Slight left onto 206 N. Take the ramp onto I-80 W. Take the Oat Street exit. Turn left on Oat Street, which becomes Waring Drive. Continue straight onto Mountain Road. Arrive at DWGNRA.
Recreation sites in the Park are only for daytime use and overnight camping is limited (visit website for more info). You can do a web search for bed and breakfast inns. Several nearby private campgrounds offer visitors a variety of amenities with easy access to the Park. Here are two:
Camp Taylor Campground
TripleBrook Family Camping Resort
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