The Delaware Water Gap

Mossy rocks and the creek in the Delaware water gap recreation area

The creek and trees in the Delaware water gap national recreation area

The Delaware Water Gap helps form the border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. This is where the Delaware River has been busy carving through the Kittatinny Ridge for more than 400 million years.

The gap itself is about a quarter of a mile wide near the river, but about a mile wide at the top of its two sides, according to park information. The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, a 70,000-acre park, allows visitors to explore this natural wonder in many different ways. The park celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.

Created by Congress on September 1, 1965, Delaware Water Gap was established to preserve the natural, culture, and scenic resources and values of the Delaware River valley and provide opportunities for recreation, education, and enjoyment in close proximity to the most densely populated region of the nation,” according to the park’s website.

Appalachian trail marker on tree
Keep left for the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail passes through, along with more than 100 miles of other hiking trails. People visit each year for hiking, boating, swimming, picnicking, biking, fishing & hunting, exploring historical sites, and for special events.

When I was little, my family went to this park for hikes and later for backpacking. After he retired, my dad walked through on his journey to complete the Appalachian Trail in its entirety.

Mossy rocks and the creek in the Delaware water gap park

The gap is also significant to me because from a young age it was a marker for my sisters and me on our family’s long drives to Ohio to visit my grandparents several times each year. After about an hour of driving through New Jersey, we would pass through the gap into Pennsylvania’s miles of endless oblivion, with the promise of nothing to good look at and nowhere fun to stop.

Creek and trees in the Delaware Water gap park

This was where the real journey began. Would we ever make it to Gramma and Grandpa’s, or would we succumb to whining and madness? Would we find the strength to behave ourselves in the backseat, or would the sport of sibling taunting bring out the bullies and the tattle-tales in us? Would we push mom so far that she would tell us we weren’t allowed to get a happy meal?

Trees and sunlight in the Delaware water gap park

As a child, I didn’t appreciate the panoramic views of the gorgeous rolling farmland, mountains, rivers, valleys, unspoiled wilderness and all that the beautiful state of Pennsylvania has to offer. I only knew it was 6 hours of impossible boredom. And it all started with the ancient and enormous Delaware Water Gap.

Last year, I made three trips through the gap when my Gramma got ill and when she passed. Grampa has been gone for years, and the time had come time for Gramma to complete her long journey. Those were the last of the visits to Gramma by way of the Delaware Water Gap.

A trail in the Delaware water gap park

Finally, in summer, I drove to the gap and stopped there for a couple hours of peace and tranquility. A walk through the park was what I needed. The sounds of the water rushing over rocks calmed me as I watched the creek flow past old rhododendrons and hemlocks. They have been growing since I was a kid. Probably before. On the ground, ferns bobbed on breezes under tall trees. Summer’s sunlight and heat was diffused by the forest. It was perfect. Just like it’s been for the past 400 million years.

35 thoughts on “The Delaware Water Gap”

  1. Cynthia, what a lovely but sad post. I am sorry about your grnmma’s passing, The trip you took over summer must have been bittersweet for you. Isn’t it incredible how water flowing, just is such a sense of calm.

    1. Thank you Lynne for your kind words. Yes, even though she lived a long and full life, it was sad to say goodbye. I agree, being in nature is so calming, especially being near water. Thanks xo

  2. Cynthia, I love this post, the fun of you and your sisters in the car tattling and being kids, making that trip so many times. The passing of loved ones! This is a gorgeous place and I would love to see it someday! Thanks for sharing these memories and this beauty!

    1. You’re welcome, I’m glad you enjoyed them and thanks for your comments! Yes, we spent many hours in the car on road trips, never flew anywhere. So my sisters and I spent lots of time crammed in the station wagon finding ways to pass the time lol. I hope you do get to visit one day, it’s a beautiful place!

  3. Your wonderful photos add so much to your description of this lovely place that I had not known about. I got such a kick out of your great description of kids and long car rides. I hope some day I can visit the Delaware Gap.

    1. Thanks, Carol! I’m happy that you liked the photos and the story πŸ™‚ We took many road trips as a kid, so I have many memories to help me write it. I hope you’re able to visit one day too! It’s a beautiful place.

        1. Boston is great and lots of fun! Go when the weather is nice and just walk around everywhere. It’s a great walking city. Connecticut I’ve pretty much only driven through to get to Boston haha, never really stopped there. I can’t comment on the other places but I’m sure they are lots of fun as well!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, xo. Yes, I do really miss her at times. But I have many great memories of her and that’s nice to think about. I hope you can visit PA soon. It is lovely, despite my feelings for it as a kid πŸ™‚

  4. This is such a beautiful post reflecting on your childhood and grandmother! Your photos brought back memories of my own childhood as we had a summer house not far from the Delaware Water Gap. I remember visiting the park with my parents, brothers and sister. The woods there are identical to the woods I played in as a kid during summers spent in that part of PA… the ferns, hemlocks, everything you mentioned! My grandmother also had a summer house nearby, so plenty of memories made surrounded by that gorgeous scenery. Thank you so much for bringing me back!

    1. Thank you, Jean, for your lovely comment! I’m so happy that I could share my experiences and that you could relate. Thanks for sharing a little about your childhood and connection to this special place πŸ™‚ I recently found a couple vintage post cards with photos of the gap that I will post soon as well.

    1. Thank you, Maria! I have driven through the Smoky mountains and western NC and it is beautiful there. Just to think about how far a drive that is from here, it’s hard to imagine hiking the whole AT!

  5. What a lovely post, Cynthia. Thank you for sharing your childhood memories of driving throught the Delaware Gap. I’m so sorry to hear about the passing of your Gramma but, as you say, she had reached the end of her long journey and it was time to leave.
    Your photos are simply stunning! I’m a very outdoors-loving person myself (I’m a geologist) and could happily spend weeks in that magical place. Hiking and backpacking are what I like to do best – at least they were in my younger days! I’ll just have to swim across the Atlantic first. πŸ™‚ How great that Delaware Water Gap has reached its 50th anniversay as a National Recreation Area. 70,000 cres is a big park!

    1. Thank you so much, Millie! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and photos πŸ™‚ It’s a wonderful place for hiking and exploring, I hope you have fun doing so after your swim over here πŸ™‚

      1. I can manage 50-60 lengths of the pool quite easily, but I’ll need a bit of training for the distance stuff. (Besides, I wouldn’t like to meet a shark or two en route.) πŸ™‚

        1. Well, there’s plenty of time to practice before the weather warms up enough to do it πŸ™‚ 50-60 lengths of the pool, that’s impressive! I’m blushing thinking about how few I could do, if I could do one at all. I can tread water but never really got the coordination down of real swimming.

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