50 Years of Recreation in the Delaware Water Gap

Delaware Water Gap

The National Park Service held a series of public meetings in early September to get visitor feedback on its management plan for the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Find updates on the plan process at parkplanning.nps.gov/dewa. (Photo credit: Jiashiang/Flickr.com)

Among the parks where the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference maintains trails, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is unique: It’s the only location the Trail Conference serves that is a designated National Recreation Area, managed by the National Park Service. Across the country there are only 18 National Recreation Areas (NRAs), congressionally protected lands that prioritize recreation activities while safeguarding the environment and land from incompatible development. The Delaware Water Gap received its NRA status 50 years ago, on September 1, 1965.

Encompassing 70,000 acres in New Jersey and Pennsylvania along the Delaware River, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DWGNRA) offers excellent opportunities for all outdoor enthusiasts. For hikers, the Appalachian Trail through DWGNRA provides access to the popular Mt. Tammany, Sunfish Pond, and a connector to the spectacular Buttermilk Falls (also easily accessed by car). The Pennsylvania side is known for its bike-friendly Joseph M. McDade Recreational Trail and a selection of beautiful waterfalls, as well as popular launches and shuttles for kayaks and canoes.

Buttermilk Falls

Buttermilk Falls. (Photo credit: Jeremy Apgar)

In total, the Delaware Water Gap offers more than 150 miles of hiking trails. Fourteen Trail Conference volunteers, plus the volunteers of the Hunterdon Hiking Club, maintain 31.3 of those miles in N.J., including all 13.8 miles of the A.T.

Over the summer, the National Park Service asked the Trail Conference for assistance with trail improvements around the historic Ramirez Solar House, located within the DWGNRA in Milford, Pa., about 20 minutes west of High Point State Park. This structure, which is being restored as a center for environmental and sustainable design, is one of the earliest examples of passive solar residential design—it is known as the second solar house built in the United States and is the earliest surviving example in this country. On September 26—National Public Lands Day—Trail Conference volunteers and staff partnered with the National Park Service to lead an Introduction to Trail Maintenance workshop and trail work day at Ramirez Solar House, teaching volunteers how to open trails in historically sensitive areas. The maintenance work exposed some of the house’s unique architectural features, which had been hidden from view under years of overgrowth.

Delaware Water Gap

Fall is a perfect time to visit the Delaware Water Gap. (Photo credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli/Flickr.com)

“The Delaware Water Gap area serves as the northwestern gateway to hiking in New Jersey,” said West Jersey Trails Chair Don Tripp. “From here, hikers can access hundreds of miles of trails that our volunteers maintain in the Kittatinny Range. We’re proud to be stewards of the Delaware Water Gap’s hiking paths.”

If you’re interested in joining our ranks of volunteers who keep these beautiful trails open and safe, contact volunteer@nynjtc.org for more information.

An overview of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area for hikers can be found at: nynjtc.org/park/delaware-water-gap-national-recreation-area. For a full visitors’ guide, visit: nps.gov/dewa/index.htm.

About Trail Walker

Since 1920, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has partnered with parks to create, protect, and promote a network of more than 2,100 miles of public trails in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region. The Trail Conference organizes volunteer service projects that keep these trails open, safe, and enjoyable for the public. We publish maps and books that guide public use of these trails. The Trail Conference is a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization with a membership of 10,000 individuals and 100 clubs with a combined membership of 100,000 active, outdoor-loving people.
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