Delaware River
GOOD FOR: Ages 9-12

Source:Outdoors with Kids Philadelphia (AMC Books)
Address:Washington Crossing, NJ
Hours:All hours
Fee: Free if you own your own paddling equipment; rental fees at outfitters vary
Bathrooms: At various points along the river
Water/Snacks: None

Paddle or float down the big, wide river, combining the thrill of a ride with the serenity of nature.

Delaware River
Photo by: Susan Charkes

Just a few miles north of Philadelphia, the banks of the Delaware River are thick with forests. Silence is punctuated by birdsong, and fish glint in clear water that rushes over smooth stones. Gone are the highways and refineries. Canoes replace freighters. Eagles and osprey soar overhead.

From just south of Easton north to Morrisville, the lower Delaware River has been designated part of the National Wild and Scenic River System, protected by the National Park Service.

There is little development in this section, mainly because the Falls of Trenton—a line of boulders—blocks navigation, so industry and cities never came this far upstream. Instead, quaint towns hug the banks. The riverside roads are scenic byways.

To really experience the river, you have to get out on it. Follow the Delaware River Water Trail and journey downstream. Kids who are old enough to pay attention can accompany adults in a canoe or raft. Older children can pilot their own kayak or tube.

You can rent canoes, kayaks, or tubes from an outfitter, who will ferry you upstream so that you travel down to where you left your car. (Outfitters are in Point Pleasant, Pennsylvania, and Stockton and Frenchtown, New Jersey.) Be sure to call ahead, as some outfitters do not rent boats to children under age 12. Tubing is an easy introduction to the ways of a big river: Kids can learn how to float with the current, ride the rapids, and make small adjustments to change course. Tubing is extremely popular on the river between Tinicum and Point Pleasant, where the current is reliable and there are just a few areas of relatively easy rapids. In some sections, the water is calm and deep enough to
swim in (but keep your life jacket on). Depending on distance, and how often you stop, a tubing trip can take anywhere from two to five hours.

Canoeing and kayaking allow much more control over your ride, so you can explore the river, its inlets, and islands. Boats make it easier to pack a lunch, water, or extra sunblock.

If you have your own boat, you can put in at launches along the river; some good locations are Upper Black Eddy (PA Fish & Boat), Tinicum Park (Bucks County), and Bulls Island State Park in New Jersey. If you are boating on your own, it is imperative that you research the river conditions for your route. Note that the wing dam at Lambertville creates whitewater.

Remember: On summer weekends the river can be downright crowded with floating parties. Bring plenty of water and snacks. Wear sneakers, water shoes, or other footwear that will not come off your feet. Do not wear flipflops. Also note that the river is open to powerboats and Jet Skis, which heavily use some areas of the river.

Plan B:

Visit one of the many parks along the river, including Giving Pond Recreation Area, where you can put in a boat to paddle around, or fish or hike, or Delaware Canal State Park, where you can bike or walk along the level towpath.

Where to Eat Nearby:

It’s best to pack a picnic.


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