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Delaware River

The Delaware River
— A Little Known Natural Treasure

The Delaware River flows free for 330 miles from New York through Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware on its way to the Atlantic Ocean. The millions of people who cross it daily may be vaguely aware that George Washington made history when he crossed it once, but few recognize its importance to their daily lives. Though the watershed drains only four-tenths of one percent of the total continental U.S. land area, 15 million people — about 5 percent of the nation’s population — rely on the Delaware River Basin for their drinking water. This includes the largest and fifth largest cities in the nation — New York and Philadelphia. The Delaware River Basin is a place of contrasts. The clean, clear waters of the River’s upper and middle reaches and its cold tributary streams support a wilder landscape rich in fish and wildlife where residents enjoy a more rural way of life. It is also where the visually stunning Delaware Water Gap lies. Every year, millions of visitors take advantage of the wide range of recreational opportunities it offers. Hard to believe it’s just 90 minutes from the heart of New York City. The lower end of the River and its Estuary host the world’s largest horseshoe crab population and an active commercial fishery, yet are marked by heavy industry and busy shipping traffic. The Delaware River Port Complex (including facilities in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware) is the largest freshwater port in the world and is the largest for steel and paper in North America. The Port is the East Coast’s largest importer of cocoa beans and fruit and as much as seventy percent of the oil shipped to the Atlantic Coast moves through the Estuary.

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In Order of Appearance

Bill Mineo, Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor
Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper
Ruth Jones, President, Kittatinny Canoes
George Magaro, Sr, Delaware River Shad Fishermen’s Association
Traci Longnecker, Waterman,
Maggie Meyers Frank “Thumper” Eicherly, Owner-Operator,
Glenn Gauvry, President, Ecological Research & Development Group
© 2008 GreenTreks Network.

Valuing the Delaware River

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network is in the process of finalizing a comprehensive report that helps make us aware of the many functions that are dependent on a healthy river—and why we should all Remember the River in every decision we make. Check out our “River Values Report”

See preview of six dedicated sections of the report below.

The Lifeblood of the Region

Rivers are, quite literally, the arteries of our world. They provide drinking water and nourishment; enable access to hard to get to places; and are a constant source of inspiration and tranquility. Humans, fish, birds, and wildlife all need rivers to survive…

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Areal view of the Delaware River along Mount Tammany, NJ

Clean Water

While nearly 5 percent of the U.S. population relies on the Delaware River for their drinking water supply, the Delaware is also the source of water for washing, cooking, watering, and a wide range of other personal and Industrial uses. Clean water is critical…

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Recreation for All

Recreational activities thrive on and along the Delaware, providing benefits far greater than the millions of dollars they contribute to the region’s economy every year. Swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, biking, and bird watching are but a few of the health-giving, soul feeding pastimes…

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Closup photo of a Balnd Eagle

Wildlife Wonders

The Delaware River and Bay provides habitat for hundreds of wildlife species that supply humans with food, attract tourists, and support the medical industry. The Bay houses the largest population of horseshoe crabs in the world and is a crucial stopover for countless migrating birds…

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Culture and History

From headwaters to sea, the Delaware is one of the nation’s most historically significant corridors, full of natural, cultural, and archeological treasures. Revloutionary era buildings, historic canals, Native American and colonial sites, and towns filled with antique architecture and 19th Century mills…

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Environment and Economy

The clean, clear waters of the upper and middle Delaware are rich in fish and wildlife and support a wild landscape where residents enjoy a rural way of life. The lower Delaware and its estuary host an active commercial fishery, along with the largest freshwater port complex in the world…

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River Facts

The Uplands

The Delaware River’s Uplands extend from the Catskill and Pocono mountains where it bubbles forth as cool mountain springs and trickling streams, to Hancock, NY where its East and West Branches meet to form the main stem, which flows down to the Delaware Water Gap where it enters the Piedmont section of the watershed. Learn more about The Uplands of the Delaware River including fauna and flora, water quality and recreation.

The Piedmont

The steep slopes of the Delaware watershed’s Piedmont end abruptly at the Kittatiny Ridge, with the 3,000-4,000 foot peaks of the Pocono and Catskill Mountains giving way to the gently rolling hills and sweeping valleys of the Piedmont. The difference between the two regions is dramatically illustrated as the River spills through the Delaware Water Gap, a narrow opening in the Kittatiny Ridge. Similar geologic gaps occur in the Appalachian ridges as several Delaware tributaries enter the Piedmont. Learn more about The Piedmont of the Delaware River including water quality, geology and fish.

The Estuary

The Delaware Estuary stretches 134 miles from the Trenton falls to the mouth of the Delaware Bay between Cape May, NJ and Cape Henlopen, DE. Approximately 8 million people live within the Delaware Estuary’s watershed, many depend on it for food and drinking water. Learn more about The Estuary of the Delaware River and the areas where the river meets the sea.


The Delaware’s main tributaries in New York are the Mongaup and Neversink Rivers and Callicoon Creek; in Pennsylvania, the LackawaxenLehigh, and Schuylkill Rivers feed the Delaware; and from New Jersey, the Musconetcong, Rancocas Creek and the Cooper and Maurice Rivers.

The upper part of the Delaware is shallow and difficult to navigate, so a canal system was built. Opened in 1830, it ran from Easton to Bristol, just beneath the Trenton Falls. It is no longer used for shipping, but the canal is still a source of enjoyment and recreation for thousands of visitors every year who walk and bike along its towpath.

The watershed’s rivers, creeks and streams also include: