145 Mapleton Rd., Princeton, New Jersey
As early as 1676, William Penn is said to have considered building an inland waterway across the narrow “waist” of New Jersey to expedite the trip from Philadelphia to New York. More than 150 years were to pass, however, before work began on a canal connecting the Delaware River north of Bordentown and the Raritan River at New Brunswick.
This 44-mile waterway (7 feet deep and 75 feet wide) required 14 locks to complete its course. The water came from a feeder canal 22 miles farther up the Delaware. Largely dug by hand by Irish immigrants, these giant trenches exacted a high price: Scores of workers housed in labor camps died of cholera.
By way of the canal, which opened in the spring of 1834, the trip from Bordentown to New Brunswick took the better part of two days. The waterway remained in operation for nearly 100 years.
Since 1974 large sections of the canal have been set aside as a unique state park, which varies with its changing surroundings. With its 19-cent bridges, bridge-tender houses, cobblestone spillways, and stone-arched culverts the canal is a mecca for history lovers. Its trails are enjoyed by hikers, cyclists, horseback riders, and cross-country skiers.
Canoes can be rented near Bull’s Island and at several towns along the canal, including Titusville, Kingston, and Griggstown.
Open year-round. Camping only on Bull’s Island.
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