Delaware Water Gap

The Delaware Water Gap is a water gap on the border of the U.S. states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania where the Delaware River cuts through a large ridge of the Appalachian Mountains. The gap constitutes the southern portion of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, which is used primarily for recreational purposes, such as rafting, canoeing, swimming, fishing, hiking, and rock climbing.


Delaware Water Gap

A water gap is a geological feature where a river cuts through a mountain ridge. The Delaware Water Gap began to form 450 million years ago when quartz pebbles were deposited in a shallow sea, on top of the Ordovician Martinsburg shale. The Martinsburg Shale was uplifted when a chain of volcanic islands collided with North America at approximately the same time. These islands slid over the North American plate, and deposited rock on top of plate, forming the Highlands and Kittatinny Valley.

Then approximately 400 million years ago, a small, narrow continent collided with North America. Pressure from the collision twisted the Silurian Shawangunk Conglomerate, shattering the gray quartzite as it was uplifted. In addition, the pressure created heat, melted the quartzite, and allowed it to bind the quartz pebbles and conglomerate together. This layer was then uplifted, and the Delaware River slowly cut its path down through the shattered quartzite. If the quartzite had not been cracked, the river may not have been able to cut its path through the mountain.

Millions of years of rain, ice, snow, and wind erosion shaped the area. The Wisconsin glaciation, which occurred between 21,000 B.C. to 13,000 B.C., covered the entire Kittatinny Ridge and ended near Belvidere. When the glaciers retreated, the gap assumed its present form.

The mountain consists of Silurian Shawangunk conglomerate. This is gray quartzite, which makes the mountain highly resistant to weathering. The Silurian High Fall formation of sandstone is on the western side of the gap near the base. The eastern side of the Gap has the Ordovician Martinsburg shale. Sedimentary rock is along the river. The Bloomsburg Red Beds, a red shale, are at the Gap under Dunsfield Creek.

The Delaware Water Gap is approximately 300 meters across at river level and 1400 meters wide at the top. The river through the gap is 283 feet above sea level. The ridge of the Appalachians that the Delaware crosses is called the Blue Mountains in Pennsylvania and the Kittatinny Ridge in New Jersey. This is the first major ridge of the Appalachian mountains. The New Jersey mountain is Mount Tammany, named after the Native American Chief Tamanend. The Pennsylvania mountain is Mount Minsi, named after the Native American Tribe of the area. The summit of Tammany is 1,540 ft (470 m) above sea level.

Dunnfield Creek drains the western face of Kittatinny Mountain in Hardwick Township, New Jersey and flows into the Delaware River on the north side of the gap. This creek flows over the Bloomsburg Red Beds of shale. To the east face of Kittatinny Mountain is the Kittatinny Valley which is oriented southwest to northeast, the Paulins Kill drains the lower half of the valley in New Jersey and enters the Delaware one mile south of the Delaware Water Gap near Columbia, New Jersey, the upper half of the valley is drained by Papakating Creek, which flows into the Wallkill River flowing north to the Hudson River.

Flora and fauna

Delaware Water Gap

A northern deciduous forest cloaks the slopes of the Delaware Water Gap. Hardwood species comprising the forest include various oaks, hickories, maples, ash, elm, cherry, walnut, birch, sycamore, and beech. Coniferous species include Eastern White Pine, Pitch Pine, Eastern Red Cedar, and Eastern Hemlock. Black bear, whitetailed deer, gray squirrels, raccoons, gray fox, and chipmunks are some of the forest species of the area. Shad migrate up the river through the gap in the spring. Other fish include bass, trout, carp, and walleye. Timber rattlesnakes and copperheads also inhabit the rocky areas of the mountain. Salamanders are found in the moist areas of the forest. Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus also grows on the mountain near the red dot trail on the south eastern facing slope half way up the mountain.

Paleo Indians and Native Americans

Delaware Water Gap

After the Wisconsin Glacier melted, grasses slowly grew. The area was first a Tundra then after several thousand years became a Taiga-Boreal forest. At this time big game passed through the area. Paleo-Indians then moved into the area as the climate warmed. Evidence of Paleo Indians has been found north of the Gap at the Harry's Farm Site in Pahaquarry. Charcoal from this place has been dated at 5430 BC + or - 120 years. Another Paleo-Indian site located in Pennsylvania along the Delaware just north of the Gap, has charcoal carbon-dated to about 8900BC.

The Lenni Lenape Native Americans occupied the area at the time of the first written records late in the 16th century. By about 1800 many moved North and West because of conflicts with European immigrants, and the area became part of the United States of America.


Foot travel was not possible though the Gap on the New Jersey side or Pennsylvania side as steep rock walls went into the river. In 1793 a road was built on the Pennsylvania side of the river. In 1830 a road was built on the New Jersey side through the Gap and north toward Pahaquarry. Interstate 80 passes through the gap on the New Jersey side as of the early 1970s via the Delaware Water Gap Toll Bridge. The Pennsylvania portion of the New Jersey Cut-Off mainline of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad comes into Slateford, PA. The Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Rail Authority owns the trackage in the Water Gap area and is operated by the Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad. Pennsylvania Route 611, which is adjacent to the railroad for most of way through the Gap, occupies the right-of-way of a former trolley line. Interstate 80 occupies the former right-of-way of the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway.

Tocks Island and the National Park Service

In 1962, Congress authorized the building of the Tock's Island Dam. This was to control the flooding of the Delaware River due to hurricanes passing through the area. The dam was planned upstream of the water gap at Tocks Island, but was never built, although the land for the proposed reservoir had already been purchased. The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area was created from the land acquired for the planned reservoir. The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area was created in 1965 by President Johnson. There are two offices, one located in New Jersey near the Delaware River and the other in Pennsylvania, north of the Gap. The New Jersey side of the gap is also protected within Worthington State Forest, a New Jersey State Forest wholly contained within the recreation area.

Hiking trails

The Red Dot Trail is a path to the top of the Kittatinny Ridge, which has views of the entire area. This is roughly a one hour hike, traversing over 600 vertical feet. The red dot trail is highly eroded due to weather and large numbers of hikers. The Gray Dot Trail is a very steep climber's trail that goes from I-80 to the top of the gap along the top edge of the big wall. This trail intersects with the blue dot and red dot trail at the top. The hike up the gray dot trail and down the red dot trail takes about two hours and fifteen minutes. The blue dot also goes to the top, but is about a 3-mile hike that is less steep than the red dot.

The Appalachian Trail crosses the Delaware River on the Route 80 Bridge and goes up Dunfield Creek to Sunfish Pond and continues northeast to Stokes State Forest. The trail crosses Route 206 and continues along the top of Kittatinny Mountain to High Point State Park where the trail turns east and eventually goes into New York State. This part of the Appalachian Trail is maintained by the New York - New Jersey Trail Conference hiking club.

Rock climbing

The Gap is the premier place to rock climb in New Jersey. The climbs are one hundred fifty feet (50 meters) to three hundred feet ( 100 meters), climbing on Silurian Shawagunk Conglomerate, which is quartzite, with bands of shale from a half inch to four inches thick. Most cracks are horizontal, flaring out near the edge. Adjustable cams are probably the best for climbers to use. Most climbing is done on the New Jersey side due to easier access. Climbers can walk along the cement wall along I-80 until they pass the big wall on I-80 and then go up a path that follows the base of the big wall.

On the Pennsylvania side (Mount Minsi), park at the cold air cave pull-off on Route 611, then follow a steep and strenuous trail up the talus to the cliffs. Most routes are then to the left (south). In recent years, the PA side has been closed to climbing during the nesting season for peregrine falcons, this has resulted in overgrowth of trails and climbing routes, providing an experience closer to the natural state than is found at more popular climbing destinations.

There are about one hundred climbs on the New Jersey side. This is truly multi-pitch climbing because of the height of the wall. Once at the top of the wall on the New Jersey side, one can rappel down, climb down in the big chimney, or follow the gray dot trail back to Route 80. Hanging belays also occur on the wall depending on the climbing route. Climbs on the wall range from 5.1 to 5.13 on the Yosemite scale of climbing.

The path that follows the base of the big wall on the New Jersey side is steep, with poison ivy in the spring and summer. Occasionally there is falling rock, so one must use caution. The wall also has poison ivy growing on it. The sun shines on the wall from 10am to 3pm. The sound of Route 80 can be heard while climbing and is somewhat loud. This can severely affect communication between lead climber and belayer. This is one reason most lead climbers do not go too far from the belayer. The lead climber then sets up protection to belay the second.

Boy Scout camps

The Easton Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America operated Weygadt Scout Reservation in the Delaware Water Gap at the base of Mount Tammany from 1931 until 1968. The Reservation was originally home to two Scout campsâ€"the Easton Council's Camp Weygadt on the southern part of the reservation and the Bethlehem Area Council's Camp Minsi on the northern section of the reservation. In the later part of the 1930s, the Bethlehem Council moved their camp to the Poconos, and the entire reservation in the Water Gap became Camp Weygadt. Camp Minsi is now located in Pocono Summit, Pennsylvania, on the shores of Stillwater Lake.

Pahaquarra Boy Scout Camp was located on the New Jersey side of the Delaware Water Gap on Old Mine Road at the abandoned Pahaquarry Copper Mine. The camp served Boy Scouts from the George Washington Council.


With a fishing license, one can fish in the Delaware for carp, shad, and other fish.


External links

  • Pahaquarry Abandoned Mine at Delaware Water Gap

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