To motorists on I-80, the Delaware Water Gap is little more than a magnificent minute at the border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where the highway briefly joins the Delaware River as it snakes through a deep cut in the Kittatinny Ridge. Unseen from the highway, however, is the quietly impressive countryside that lies upstream — a 40-mile corridor formed by millions of years of erosion and gradual uplift and now protected as the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. In summers past, this forested valley — encompassing more than 70,000 acres — hummed with vacationers who flocked to fashionable resorts to savor cool mountain air and blissful views. Most of the resorts are gone, but this relatively unspoiled landscape can still be enjoyed by anyone with a craving for a preserve embodying scenery and serenity.
1. Kittatinny Point Visitor Center
Just off I-80 at the exit immediately to the east of the Delaware River Bridge, the drive sets out from the Kittatinny Point visitor center. In addition to its stunning views of the Kittatinny Ridge — a long, flat-topped range so straight that it would be the envy of any carpenter — the visitor center offers a good introduction to the Water Gap area. It also provides the only access to Old Mine Road, along the route of an 18th-century wagon trail. Although the historic path is now paved, the going is still slow on the narrow, winding roadway. (Nearby, a 3.7-mile trek along Dunnfield Creek meanders to secluded Sunfish Pond, one of many glacial lakes that dot the uplands.)
From the visitor center Old Mine Road heads north, paralleling the Delaware River through Worthington State Forest. The woods are dense with hardwoods and pines, but occasional openings afford wonderful glimpses of the wide, lazy river and the foothills beyond. The 5,800-acre forest, traversed by the famed Appalachian Trail, is popular with hikers and campers, not to mention black bears, which are fairly common in these parts. Three miles to the north, the Depew Recreation Site offers picnickers a chance to dine along the river’s edge.