A two-state riparian hike along the Delaware River
Bull's Island State Park - NJ Travel Blog› entry 830 of 1090 › view all entries
After last week's "extremely relaxed" hike, which turned out to be an extremely intense hike, I undertook another effort to make a relaxed outing today. I had learnt my lesson to not select a trail that may go up and down. So I planned something that, in my opinion, could not go wrong: a hike over a path that used to be a railroad alongside a canal. A trail with a lot of history and in a nice environment, since the canal flows parallel to the beautiful Delaware River.
The Delaware & Raritan Canal is/was a 71-km (44-mile) long canal that connected the cities of Trenton and New Brunswick. In order to provide the D&R with water, a feeder canal of 35 kilometers (22 miles) was constructed, which routed water from the Delaware River into the highest section of the main Canal.
Despite its success, times changed. In 1893 the canal started operating with a loss which would never turn into a profit anymore. Operations were finally ceased in 1932. Unlike other canals, water remained flowing through the D&R canal because it was turned into a water source. Up till today the canal is still used for transportation of water. Besides that, the canal was placed on the list of the National Register of Historic Places.
One of the reasons the canal became unprofitable was the growing importance of railroads. Ironically a railroad was constructed along the canal shores after its boating services ceased. The Belvidere Delaware Railroad, a railroad connecting Trenton to Philipsburg and Belvidere. Constructed in 1836 it was much faster than the canal boats and could carry more. But, the railroad did not have an eternal life either. The last train on the Trenton-Philipsburg track operated in November 1978. Starting in 1979, the abandoned tracks were removed as ordered by the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park.
On the section where the track was removed the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park has constructed a perfect light gravel trail. Good for hikers and bikers. This almost horizontal trail goes through shaded woods, crosses old railroad bridges that bridge brooks that feed into the Delaware River. Very relaxed and nice!
At the village of Stockton the trail passes by the Prallsville Mills, a series of historic water-powered saw and grist mills.
The flat and well prepared trail made my hike relaxed indeed. Once in a while I had nice views on the old canal and the Delaware River.
At the Pennsylvanian shore of the Delaware River there was yet another canal, the Pennsylvania Canal (also called the Delaware Canal). It was built at almost the same time as the D&R Canal and decommissioned one year earlier (1931). In 1933 the canal was handed over to the state and was left untouched. In 1940 it became, like D&R, part of a state park. Its towpath became accessible again and the canal was refilled with water. In the 50s however the state started making plans to pave over the canal and even construct roads.
I walked the tow path, which was perfectly walkable but in a less good condition compared to the New Jersey side. (Again as a result from flooding). At some parts the canal was filled, at some parts it was nothing more than a grass-filled trench, or a muddy something in between.
Near Bull's Island I arrived in the village of Lumberville. There used to be a wooden covered bridge here, the Lumberville – Raven Rock Bridge.
More pictures below. Also some historic ones!