We’ve been here before. During a long drive heading back to New England from a trip to Baltimore for the 200th anniversary of Francis Scott Key’s writing of the lyrics to the “The Star-Spangled Banner,” we detoured for an overnight in Budd Lake, NJ near Allentown, PA and the Pocono Mountains. Then, we drove though all three National Park Service units for the Delaware River.
Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River is a separate National Park Service unit from the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. It encompasses areas of PA and NY north of the Delaware Water Gap NRA and Middle Delaware National Scenic River. It extends through parts of five counties along this section of the river --- Delaware, Orange, and Sullivan in New York and Pike and Wayne in Pennsylvania. The Delaware River is the longest undammed, free-flowing river in the northeastern United States.
Unlike the other two areas, this one has towns and buildings close by that seem integrated into this national park unit. A drive on Route 97 is pleasant in any season.
As the name implies, this NPS area is mostly about the river. Recreational activities include canoeing, kayaking, rafting, tubing, fishing, and eagle watching. There are also hiking trails in Pennsylvania and New York. It is also about the home of author Zane Grey and Roebling Bridge, the oldest existing wire cable suspension bridge in the United States. Both are part of this national park unit. We visited both.
Admission is free to the Zane Grey Museum at 135 Scenic Drive in Lackawaxen, PA, but donations are gladly accepted. The self-guided tour of his study and office takes about an hour if you look at and read everything. The National Park Service volunteer at the desk is nearby and can answer any questions. It was home to this prolific western author in the early years from 1914 to 1918. Like Washington Irving, Zane Grey had a place to sleep just feet behind his desk. Irving’s was subtle; it was a padded bench that could be concealed by draw drapes. Grey’s was a full-sized twin bed with no camouflage. It was interesting to learn the Zane Grey was originally a dentist in New York City. “Riders of the Purple Sage” was his most famous novel. Other books became TV series --- “The Lone Ranger” and “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon.” Many of Grey’s works were published posthumously. The volunteer said that he heard that something had been published in February 2013.
For those who participate in the Passport to Your National Parks Program, the Zane Grey Museum has the cancellation station at the front desk. There are two cancellation stamps. They read:
● Upper Delaware SRR - Beach Lake, PA
● Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River - Zane Grey Museum
The bookstore is at Zane Grey Museum.
There was a kayak rental station across the street from the Zane Grey Museum. There are several others in on the New York side at Barryville, Narrowsburg, Port Jervis, and Hancock among others.
Roebling's Delaware Aqueduct a/k/a Roebling’s Bridge connects Lackawaxen, PA to Minisink Ford and Barryville, NY. Begun in 1847 as one of four suspension aqueducts on the Delaware and Hudson Canal, it was designed by and built under the supervision of John A. Roebling, future engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Roebling's Bridge Tollhouse is on the bridge on the New York side. It contains exhibits and historic photographs. I found it interesting. It took about 15 minutes to go through. The D&H Towpath Trail provides a one-mile stroll along the 1828 towpath. The bridge has a walking path for visitors to view the scenic beauty of the Delaware River. One might see bald eagles as there are nests in this area. I walked the bridge.
It was an experience to drive over and to walk on a bridge that was over 165 years old and still solid. There’s a parking area on the Lackawaxen side where one can get a good look at the structure of the aqueduct. That's a great photo stop. There are also info boards.
There are only a few restaurants in the area on the PA and NY sides of the bridge. There are more in Barryville, NY which has a coffee shop and a diner. There are no fast food places.
We recommend a visit to the attractions in the National Park Service unit from spring through fall.
A nice tag-on for history enthusiasts is a visit to Minisink Battleground Park that commemorates the Battle at Minisink Ford on July 22, 1779. It is also commemorated on the village square in Goshen, NY, in the Lackawaxen Cemetery adjoining St. Mark's Church in Lackawaxen, PA and Fort Decker in Port Jervis, NY.
The areas around the Roebling's Delaware Aqueduct are wheelchair accessible. There were stairs at the tollhouse. There were stairs in front of the Zane Grey Museum. Both are accessible only with assistance. Call the ranger station ahead.
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