Delaware Canal State Park
The Delaware Canal is the only remaining continuously intact canal of the great towpath canal building era of the early and mid-19th century. Mule drawn canal boat rides and the Lock Tender's House Visitor Center are at New Hope.
A walk along the 60-mile towpath is a stroll into American history. Paralleling the Delaware River between Easton and Bristol, this diverse park contains an historic canal and towpath, many miles of river shoreline and eleven river islands. From riverside to farm fields to historic towns, visitors to Delaware Canal State Park will enjoy the ever-changing scenery along its corridor.
Picnicking: Picnic tables are available at many access areas and at the Giving Pond.
Canoeing: Canoeing is popular in the canal, on the Delaware River and at the Giving Pond Recreation Area.
Canoeists can launch from public access areas in PA and NJ to enjoy the water trail which includes scenic views of River Islands and Nockamixon Cliffs natural areas. Water Trail users will enjoy viewing wildlife along a major migratory route for raptors, waterfowl and songbirds.
CAUTION - The river poses natural hazards and visitors should use caution on and around the river.
Motorboats must display a current boat registration. Non-powered boats must display one of the following: boat registration; launching permit or mooring permit from Pennsylvania State Parks, available at most state park offices; launching permit from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
Complete information on boating rules and regulations in Pennsylvania is available from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Web site.
Fishing: The Delaware River contains many species of game fish including American shad, striped bass, smallmouth bass and walleye. Shad migration starts in early spring.
The Delaware Canal also contains a variety of warmwater game fish.
Complete information on fishing rules and regulations in Pennsylvania is available from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Web site.
Hunting and Firearms: Archery hunting is permitted in designated areas in the Giving Pond Recreation Area.
Hunting woodchucks, also known as groundhogs, is prohibited. Dog training is only permitted from the day following Labor Day through March 31 in designated hunting areas. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Game Commission rules and regulations apply. Contact the park office for ADA accessible hunting information.
Archery equipment used for hunting may be uncased and ready for use only in authorized hunting areas during hunting seasons. In areas not open to hunting or during non-hunting seasons, firearms and archery equipment shall be kept in the owner's car, trailer or leased campsite. The only exception is that law enforcement officers and individuals with a valid Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms may carry said firearm concealed on their person while they are within the park.
Complete information on hunting rules and regulations in Pennsylvania is available from the Pennsylvania Game Commission Web site.
Hiking: 60 miles of trails
Biking: 60 miles of trails
Together, the Delaware Canal State Park and the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park have formed a series of looping trails connecting Pennsylvania and New Jersey, using five bridges. By simply parking in one of several areas located along the loop trail, visitors have easy access to the canal towpaths in both states, and can ride, walk of jog a complete loop back to their car. Loop trail connection bridges are in the Pennsylvania towns of Uhlerstown, Lumberville, Center Bridge, Washington Crossing and Morrisville.
The 30-mile stretch of parallel trails with five connecting bridges allows visitors to choose among 11 different options of loop length and distance. Each loop will lead you through quaint towns, scenic river views, and wooded in-lands. A perfect extended weekend could be had in riding the loop trails by day and staying overnight at one of the many bed and breakfasts along the way.
No Camping: Although Delaware Canal State Park has no overnight facilities, camping and cabins are available in nearby state, county and private campgrounds. For information on rental cabins contact Nockamixon State Park at 215-529-7300. For information on camping contact Bucks County Parks at 215-757-0571.
Cross-country Skiing: The 60-mile long Delaware Canal towpath runs from Easton to Bristol and is a National Recreation Trail. Once trod by mule teams pulling cargo-laden boats along the canal, the towpath is used today by walkers, joggers, bicyclists, cross-country skiers and bird watchers.
Environmental Education and Interpretation
Delaware Canal State Park offers a wide variety of environmental education and interpretive programs. Through hands-on activities, guided walks and evening programs, participants gain appreciation, understanding and develop a sense of stewardship toward natural and cultural resources.
Explore Delaware Canal Educational Programs for much more information.
Explore the Calendar of Events for a listing of events from today forward.
Explore environmental education and interpretation for more information.
Access for People with Disabilities
If you need an accommodation to participate in park activities due to a disability, please contact the park you plan to visit.
Delaware Canal State Park is 60 miles of wildlife watching opportunities. Wildlife abounds, both in and around the canal and river. Listed below are the main places to see wildlife. For listings of species of wildlife seen in the park, explore the Species Inventory.
The Delaware River
At 330 miles in length, the Delaware is the longest free-flowing river east of the Mississippi River and serves as a major migration corridor for birds and the American shad. The park maintains six public recreation areas with shoreline access to the river. Of the many islands in the river, eleven are protected as the Delaware River Islands State Park Natural Area.
The 65-mile segment of the Lower Delaware River and selected tributaries are part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Systems. This designation recognizes free-flowing rivers with exceptional natural, recreational, historical and cultural resources.
The Delaware Canal starts at the confluence of the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers in Easton, PA. The Delaware is the longest undammed, free-flowing river east of the Mississippi. Many of its tributaries, such as the Lehigh River, have been dammed for industrial, water retention, or flood control purposes. The dam at the mouth of the Lehigh River is integral to the functioning of the Delaware Canal, as it provides the primary water source for the canal's northern section. However dams inhibit the movement of migratory fish species, such as the American shad. A shad needs to return to its birthplace in order to spawn. Obstructions such as dams cause declines of migratory fish species.
One way to help migratory fish overcome manmade obstacles is to build them a ladder. The shad ladder at Easton is an inclined series of water filled chambers that the fish can navigate to pass over a dam. Shad sense the strong current created by the outflow at the bottom of the fish ladder, and swim into the first "step" of the ladder. The walls of the chamber are carefully designed to create a strong current of water that will lead the fish into the next chamber and a calm pool where a tired fish can rest without being washed back out of the ladder. By swimming from chamber to chamber, the fish progresses uphill and over the dam. When it passes through the final "step" of the ladder, it reenters the river above the dam and can continue upstream toward its spawning grounds. Creating and maintaining structures such as the shad ladder has gone a long way toward restoring the indigenous shad population of the Delaware River and its tributaries. Fish ladders improve the natural diversity of our waterways and increase their recreational value as well.
The American shad is the largest member of the herring family. Spawning adults commonly reach four to eight pounds. Female shad are called "roes" and males "bucks."
An anadromous species, shad are born in freshwater, spend three to six years at sea and return to their natal waters to spawn. Adult shad do not eat on their way to spawning grounds. Unlike salmon, not all shad die after spawning and will eat on their return trip to the sea.
For centuries, there has been a dynamic interaction between the Delaware River and the people and cultures that have lived and worked in its basin. One of the best examples of this interaction is the story of the American shad. Because of its predictable migrations, the shad has served as an important resource to many cultures throughout history.
The Lenni Lenape depended on shad as a staple of their diet. They began the traditional methods of preparing shad, by grilling them on wooden racks. The Lenape also preserved shad by air drying and smoking. The shad was an important part of life for the early Moravians and other settlers in the Delaware Valley.
As human populations grew, pollution from sewage and industrial wastewater increased. By the time of the American Revolution, pollution of the Philadelphia waterfront and various tributaries was a serious problem. By the early twentieth century, key fish populations had all but collapsed due to pollution, habitat destruction, and over-fishing.
Water pollution worsened during World War II. In 1946, the Delaware Estuary experienced a 20-mile zone of zero dissolved oxygen, preventing all migratory fish including the American shad from passing into their native spawning grounds.
In 1961, the Delaware River Basin Commission launched a pollution control effort which greatly improved water quality. Unfortunately, pollution was not the only thing effecting the American shad.
During the great canal building era of the 1830s rivers were dammed to ensure water supplies for the canals. Two dams vital to the Delaware and Lehigh Canal system disrupted the shad migration up the Lehigh River preventing the fish from reaching their spawning grounds.
To help the shad re-establish their native spawning grounds on the Lehigh River, while keeping the historic canal intact, park staff have maintained two fish passageways since 1993. These "ladders" allow the fish to navigate upstream, through a series of chambers, around the dams and on to spawning grounds at the Lehigh River as far north as the Frances Walter Dam.
For more information on shad in Pennsylvania, visit the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission shad Web site.
Pennsylvania State Park Natural Areas are of unique scenic, geological or ecological value. These areas are maintained in a natural condition by allowing physical and biological processes to operate, usually without human intervention. Delaware Canal State Park has two designated state park natural areas - Nockamixon Cliffs and River Islands.
The Nockamixon Cliffs Natural Area forms sheer north-facing cliffs that tower over 300 feet above the river. The shale cliffs are situated at a curve in the river, between Kintnersville and Narrowsville. Visible from both the Delaware River and New Jersey, these cliffs dominate the landscape of the entire area. In places, series of rock shelves and deeply cut ravines containing seeps and rivulets provide habitat for a variety of forest and cliff plant communities. The rock appears to be bare in winter, but is well covered by vegetation in summer.
Due to their north-facing aspect, Nockamixon Cliffs receive little direct sunlight. This cool habitat supports an alpine-arctic plant community that is unusual to find this far south. Some of these plants are rare or endangered in Pennsylvania. Directly across the Delaware River, an opposite set of circumstances occurs, creating habitat for unusually arid plants.
Nockamixon Cliffs originated geologically from reddish sands and mud carried by torrential streams from the northwest. Massive amounts of these sediments were deposited into temporary shallow lakes. The resulting red sandstone and shale can still be found throughout the region. They are bright red and break easily into flakes and fragments.
Toward the end of the Triassic Period, molten magma from deep within the earth's crust flowed into these beds of sedimentary rock. These "igneous intrusions" heated the surrounding sandstone and shale, changing them into tough, weather-resistant rock called hornfel.
During the Jurassic Period, the region was subjected to continuous erosion. While some other rock, such as the sandstone and shale were worn away, the hornfel resisted weathering, allowing the Nockamixon Cliffs to rise above the surrounding landscape.
The talus slope at the cliff base is covered by Dutchmen's breeches in spring. Wild columbine, rock cress, herb Robert, moss phlox, and harebell carpet the rock face well into summer.
The area is frequented by raptors and a variety of other birds, adding a dimension of wilderness to the general character of rugged, unspoiled beauty.
Due to the delicacy of the plant communities present in the Nockamixon Cliffs Natural Area, active recreational pursuits such as rock climbing, camping, and hunting are not permitted within its boundaries.
Both humans and wildlife use the undisturbed natural areas of the Delaware River Islands for rest and recreation. The Delaware River, one of the last free-flowing rivers in the United States, is an important corridor for migrating birds; the islands provide safe stopovers through a rapidly developing area. Publicly owned river islands also enhance recreational opportunities for canoeists, kayakers and fishermen. The islands are part of the water trail used by canoeists and other small boaters on the Delaware River. For more information on the sections of the water trail adjacent to our park or to order recreational river maps, visit our friends at the Delaware River Basin Commission. www.nj.gov/drbc/
Some river islands, such as Hendrick Island, were originally part of the main shoreline, but most islands grew individually from the river itself. Silt and stone left by glacial waters almost 10,000 years ago form the substrate of these islands. Seeds were eventually deposited by wind, water or wildlife. As plants grow on the islands, the roots bind the substrate materials together. Although they are relatively stable, the size, shape and location of the islands shift slightly with the movements of the river.
Delaware Canal State Park manages the Delaware River Islands Natural Area, which includes (from north to south) Loors Island, Whippoorwill Island, Old Sow Island, Raubs Island, the Lynn Island Group, and the Hendrick Island Group. With the exception of Hendrick Island, all the river islands are located near Raubsville and Kintnersville, in the northernmost 12 miles of the park. The main island at Hendrick is designated as a Special Management Area due to archaeological significance.
While river islands are beautiful places to rest and fun to explore, please visit them with care. The islands are delicate environments, and provide important habitat for birds and other wildlife, as well as several rare plants. No camping or hunting is permitted in the Delaware River Islands Natural Area.
A National Historic Landmark
The 60-mile Delaware Canal is the only remaining continuously intact canal of the great towpath canal building era of the early and mid-19th century. Today, the canal retains almost all of its features as they existed during its century of commercial operation.
In the early 1800s, America was growing rapidly. Canals provided a better way of transporting natural resources to urban areas. When completed in 1832, the Delaware Canal connected with the Lehigh Navigation System at Easton and helped to develop the anthracite coal industry in the Upper Lehigh Valley. These canals provided a convenient and economical means of transporting coal to Philadelphia, New York, and the eastern seaboard.
As railroads became a more efficient means of transporting goods, it became increasingly difficult to profitably operate canals. The last paying canal boat completed its journey through the Delaware Canal on October 17, 1931.
On the same day, 40 miles of the canal were deeded to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth acquired the remaining 20 miles in 1940.
The U.S. Congress officially recognized the canal's importance to the economic development of America by establishing the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor in 1988. The canal is a Registered National Historic Landmark and its towpath is a National Recreation Trail.
Explore Delaware Canal History to learn much more about Delaware Canal's national significance.
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Join a Friends Group
The Friends of the Delaware Canal is an independent, non-profit organization working to restore, preserve, and improve the Delaware Canal and its surroundings. Our primary goals are to ensure that the Canal is fully-watered from Easton to Bristol and that the towpath trail is usable over its entire length. We embrace this mission in order to:
Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation
Believing that each generation is responsible for leaving behind a better legacy of good conservation, the Pennsylvania Parks & Forests Foundation (PPFF) was created in 1999 to give supporters and users of Pennsylvania's parks and forests a positive way to contribute to the conservation of our publicly-owned properties. The Pennsylvania Parks & Forests Foundation welcomes the support of individuals and businesses who share a commitment to conserving, protecting, and enhancing the natural, scenic, and recreational areas of this commonwealth. www.paparksandforests.org
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We love when young people ask us how to get involved!
DiscoverE has programs for young people ages 4 to 17, provided by Pennsylvania State Park educators. By combining recreation and education, we hope to motivate children to learn more and return often, leading to a lifetime of outdoor enjoyment and conservation leadership.
In Watershed Education, teachers and students assess water quality of a local stream on a quarterly basis and develop strategies to solve local water quality problems.
ECO Camp - Exploring Careers Outdoors - is a week-long residential camp for a cross-section of high school youth from across Pennsylvania, sponsored by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). Participate in action-packed, hands on activities and recreational adventures in Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests that expose youth to conservation, recreation and careers in natural resources. Learn how people make a living working in the outdoors.
Explore education for more information on these and other programs.
Explore the Calendar of Events to find a program near you.
Do you take conservation personally? iConservePA is a Web site managed by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources whose vision is to inspire citizens to value their natural resources, engage in conservation practices and experience the outdoors. Take conservation personally.
Come Work with Us
Pennsylvania State Parks and the Department of Conservation and Natrual Resources offer a wide range of civil service and non-civil service jobs, from foresters, to rangers, to engineers, to educators, to botanists and so much more. Learn what is currently available.
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Delaware Canal State Park
Information on nearby attractions is available from the Bucks County Conference and Visitors Bureau. http://visitbuckscounty.com
Ralph Stover State Park: visitors enjoy seasonal whitewater boating and rock climbing.
Phillips Mill: from a mill village established in 1743 to an artists' colony in the early 1900s, this spot has a long and colorful history. It is located about two miles north of New Hope, near canal mile marker 26. The mill was operated from 1756 to 1889 by Aaron Philips and his descendants. Later it became home to Philadelphia physician Dr. George M. Marshall, who convinced his childhood friend, the painter William Lathrop, to move in. Lathrop founded the New Hope School of Impressionism, and often ferried his students to the Philips Mill property on his own canal boat. The Holmquist School for Girls, an early progressive independent school, also had its roots at Philips Mill. It later merged with the Solebury School, a local boys' school, to become one of the first co-educational independent schools in the country. Phillips Mill is still known for its local and regional juried art shows.
Bowmans Hill & Thompson Neely House: About two miles south of New Hope the canal passes several spots of historical interest. Next to the towpath lies parts of the upper division of Washington Crossing Historical Park. This former camping and picnic areas are no longer in use, due to flood damages. Across the canal is the Thompson-Neely house, a former mill-owners home which was used as a field hospital during the Revolutionary War.
Across River Road (PA-32) from the Thompson-Neely house is Bowman's Hill Tower and Wildflower Preserve. Many walking trails wend through this nature preserve, which is dedicated to interpreting local woodland flora. Guided tours are available daily. A hike up to Bowman's Hill Tower gives an excellent view of the Delaware River valley.
Washington Crossing Historical Park: Just north of the town of Taylorsville, the towpath runs beside Washington Crossing Historical Park. The park is dedicated to interpreting Washington's historic crossing of the Delaware River on December 25, 1776. In addition to the annual crossing reenactment, the park offers a look at historically preserved buildings of the 18th and 19th centuries, a collection of Durham boat replicas which are used in the annual crossing, videos, guided tours, and special programs.
Maps and Downloadables
Below are many of the maps and publications for this park. You can read them or download them and might need special software (all free) to view the publications.
You must have the free Adobe Reader to view the maps and brochures that are in pdf format (.pdf).
Alternate versions of the text of the brochures are in rich text and text formats. Click on the files to view them. To download (.rtf) files:
Delaware Canal State Park Map (.pdf) (1,367 kb, 3/11)
Interactive GIS Map
The Interactive GIS Map uses Geographic Information Systems to create a map that does not need to be downloaded and features driving directions, searchable park amenities and customizable maps. Please note that the background maps are maintained by a variety of public sources and driving directions usually go to the nearest large road.
There are numerous access points along the 60-mile length of Delaware Canal State Park. The park follows the Delaware River from Easton to Bristol, paralleled by Pennsylvania Routes 611 and 32.
Driving Directions: The Interactive GIS Map has turn-by-turn driving directions to the park office from the Park Information Window. Please note that the background maps are maintained by a variety of public sources and driving directions usually go to the nearest large road.
Delaware Canal State Park