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The National Park Service manages the stretch of the Delaware from Hancock to Sparrowbush, NY…about 73 miles…under the Wild and Scenic River System. The Upper Delaware is considered recreational, rather than wild, since the park has some means to control the flow of the water.
Roebling’s Delaware Aqueduct/Bridge on the Upper Delaware is also maintained by the NPS. It is the oldest wire suspension bridge in the US and was built by John A. Roebling, who is best known for building the Brooklyn Bridge.
The Delaware Aqueduct used the same engineering principles as the Brooklyn Bridge.
I attended a meet-up here with the National Park Travelers Club. The NPTC has about 2000 paid members nationwide, all who share a passion for visiting the 417 NPS units. The club had arranged for a park ranger to give our group a tour of the bridge and The Zane Grey museum.
The Aqueduct was built to carry the Delaware and Hudson Canal across the Delaware River. The canal was built in 1828 to carry coal from mines in Northeastern Pennsylvania to New York City. The canal was abandoned in 1898 when the railroad became a more efficient means of transportation.
Our tour began at the D&H Towpath Trail on the New York side of the river. The towpath was once used by mules to help the canal boats move downstream. It now passes under the bridge and past the remnants of a half-mile stretch of the old canal.
Next we followed the ranger past the old toll house, which now is a museum with displays about life on the canal.
We crossed the bridge on the southern pedestrian walk and returned on the northern walk trying to imagine what it had looked like when it was filled with water. (Scroll to the end for a short video clip.)
When the park purchased the bridge, they restored it to its original appearance, except for the concrete road bed installed to safely accommodate a single lane of traffic. It had already been converted from aqueduct to bridge sometime after the abandonment of the canal, but the road was made of timbers. These had rotted out and actually collapsed under the weight of a truck crossing the bridge.
At each display, the ranger paused to point out features like the steel cable used to suspend the bridge and the ice breakers designed to protect the structure from ice floes in the spring.
Back on the New York side of the river, the ranger pointed out some ruins across the street that were from the old canal. State highway 97 follows the path the canal once took, parallel to the Delaware River.
Location: Lackawaxen, PA
Designation: National Scenic & Recreational River
Date designation declared: 1978
Date of my visit: 7/18/2018