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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.