Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area | PARK AT A GLANCE

Kayaker on the Delaware River, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

Kayaker on the Delaware River, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is comprised of federal land on both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey sides of the Delaware River between Milford, Pennsylvania, in the north and Slateford, Pennsylvania, in the south. It is a perennial Top 20 Most Visited National Park property due to its proximity to New York City and Philadelphia. The park gets its name from a gap in the Appalachian Mountains at its southern end that was cut by the Delaware River. This feature is known as the Delaware Water Gap.

The park’s creation is quite interesting. After major floods on the Delaware River following back-to-back hurricanes in 1955, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed building a dam to control future flooding. The dam was to be called the Tocks Island Dam, and when completed, most of the area now within Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area would be covered by a lake. In fact, in 1965 Congress created the park so that the National Park Service could manage all the soon-to-be fun activities on the new lake. In 1967, the federal government began buying the land that would soon be underwater, using the doctrine of eminent domain to do so. Not everyone was happy, to say the least.

There was a lot of opposition to the dam project by 1970. The Environmental Movement was in full swing and the Vietnam War was taking up much of the country’s budget. Given the circumstances, in 1975 the Tocks Island Dam project was cancelled, and the National Park Service found itself in possession of 70,000 acres of recently purchased land—all for nothing, as it turned out—and hundreds of abandoned buildings. As the saying goes, when you have lemons you make lemonade. Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area went on as planned, only now it was based around the Delaware River, not a lake.

As was anticipated, fun activities abound. For those who like the water, 40 miles of the Delaware River within the park boundary are open to boating, paddling, and fishing, and there are three swimming beaches with picnic areas. Landlubbers have access to over 100 miles of original hiking trails, including a 31-mile hiker-biker trail. In addition, 28 miles of the Appalachian Trail pass through the park. There are four campgrounds plus 62 riverside campsites for those making a trip down the river, not to mention dozens of private campgrounds just outside the park boundary. History lovers can explore two historical villages with authentic buildings from the mid-1800s, and there are dozens of other 19th century buildings scattered throughout the park. Anyone who enjoys outdoor activities and history can easily spend a weekend or even a week at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and not run out of things to do.

OPERATING HOURS

While Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is technically open year-round, 24 hours a day, parking lots, picnic areas, beaches, and historical sites are only open from sunrise to sunset.

Visitor Centers have operating hours that vary per season. See the National Park Service’s official Visitor Centers web page for the current schedule.

FEES

While there is no fee to enter the park, there is a fee to use the beach facilities at Milford Beach, Turtle Beach, and Smithfield Beach. There are also parking fees at Dingmans Ferry and Bushkill Access but no fees to use the actual facilities (i. e. if you walk in, bike in, or get dropped off, no fee). All other facilities within the park are free to use.

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Last updated on January 17, 2024
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