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Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park Bike Trails

Delaware River / Gateway Region

Historic, Scenic, Family Friendly
Trail Description

Location: Trenton, NJ to New Brunswick, NJ and to Frenchtown, NJ. Burlington, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset Counties

Length / Confuration: Network of Linear canal towpath trails and rail trails.

Delaware and Raritan State Park Trail: 70 miles

Delaware and Raritan Canal Towpath Trail -Trenton to New Brunswick, NJ : 34 miles

D&R Canal Feeder Trail - Trenton to Frenchtown, NJ: 31.4 miles

Trail Surface: Natural surface, dirt and gravel, textured crushed stone,

Trail Difficulty: Easy

Trail Use: hiking, bicycling, mountain biking. Horseback riding on the main Delaware and Raritan Canal Towpath Trail only.

Kayaking and canoeing are popular activities along the canal waterways.

Caution: Shared use. No motorized vehicles permitted. Be careful at road crossings.

Weekend trail use is very high, arrive early to park or come at off times during the week.

Sections subject to seasonal flooding, repair and preservation work. Call ahead.

Do not ride the canal towpath trails after periods of heavy rain.

 

Delaware Raritan Canal - D&R Trail Map

Note: This trail map is a graphical representation designed for general reference purposes only. Read Full Disclaimer.

Trail Access Points

Blackwell Mills To Princeton: Trail Access Parking

Blackwells Mills Canal House
Lat: 40.475592 Long: -74.571723

Blackwells Mills Parking Lots
Lat: 40.475267 Long: -74.572767

Griggstown Lots (causeway)
Lat: 40.438467 Long: -74.61545

Griggstown Lock / Lock Tender House
Lat: 40.429067 Long: -74.618017

Rocky Hill Lot on RT 518
Lat: 40.3994 Long: -74.6279

Rocky Hill Lot on RT 603
Lat: 40.397783 Long: -74.6268

Alexander Road: Millstone Aqueduct / Carnegie Lake Access)

Small parking areas are located off Washington and Alexander Roads where they cross the canal. Access and parking are also available on the eastern side of the canal from Lake Road.

Kingston Lock & Locktenders House / Rt. 27
Lat: 40.37425199813047
Long: -74.61866721510887

Port Mercer / Quaker Bridge Rd. (Canal House)
Lat: 40.3045261 Long: -74.6866969

Route 1 just south of I-95: North side of Rt. 1 provides access to a foot/bicycle overpass in Lawrence Township.

**

General Description

The Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park in central New Jersey is a 6,595 acre park with a 70+ mile Y-shaped linear, multi-use, national recreational trail network consisting of the canal, canal towpath trails, and former railroad rights of way.

There are two trail branches you can explore by bike; the 34-mile main Delaware and Raritan Canal Towpath Trail which travels northwest from Trenton to New Brunswick, NJ or the 31.4-mile D&R Canal Feeder Trail which travels northeast between Trenton and Frenchtown, NJ. Both trail segments highlight the park's historic canal features.

The Delaware and Raritan Canal, together with it's two trail consorts, is a "ribbon of life" that streams through a treasured recreational, historical and wildlife corridor along the Delaware, Raritan and Millstone Rivers; through forest, lowland and riparian floodplain habitat; past freshwater marshes, meadows and fields. You'll bike through villages and landscapes ranging from 18th century rural Yeoman farmsteads to Canal Era hamlets; stately Colonial to startup Revolutionary villages; and artistic Victorian to Ivy League College Towns.

With over 70 miles of Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park bike trails to explore, there is just too much to take in on a single day. And, then consider ... there is Pennsylvania's Delaware State Park Canal Trail just across the way. Trail bridges, many of them historic, cross the rivers and canals at many trail crossroads, providing bicycle, pedestrian and automobile access to both trail networks.

Intimate Bed & Breakfasts and elegant Historic Inns provide the opportunity for extended weekend bike trips where you can bicycle the trails by day; in the evening do a romantic candlelit dinner overlooking the water and get a sizzle on by a blazing fire in a suite equipped with a fireplace and / or wifi. Canalside picnic areas and benches strategically placed along the canal trail for optimum optic titillation, also provide excellent spots for a picnic lunch or snack.

Lambertville, NJ and New Hope, PA are very popular, trail access points. Both feature inns and B&B's, art galleries, crafts and antique shops, eateries and brew pubs. Nearby Stockton, NJ is more laid back Victorian charm with an historic inn dating back to 1710. Princeton, NJ is the place for an historical crossroads experience, melding of minds, a bit of poetry, and state-of-the-art excitement across all disciplines.

No matter which trail branch of the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park you choose to bike or hike, the terrain is fairly level with a max elevation gain of only 56 ft. We recommend mountain bikes and hybrid bikes for the main Delaware and Raritan Canal Towpath Trail. The D&R Feeder Canal Trail which travels over improved rail trails (former railroad rights of way) that have been graded with crushed textured stone, can accommodate just about any type of bicycle including road bicycles, recumbent bicycles and bicycles built for two. We once even saw a unicyclist on the trail. Motorized use is not permitted. Some trail sections are shaded by overhanging trees and there are long stretches that are completely in the open.

Park and trail preservation, repair work, and seasonal flooding in some areas may limit camping, natural area and trail access. We suggest you call ahead to check on trail conditions and any possible area closures.

Plan your bike ride accordingly.

 

 

Quote: (1972) National Register of Historic Places.

* The D&R Canal begins at the confluence of the Crosswicks Creek and the Delaware at Bordentown, and runs thence, through the city of Trenton and the valley of the Assunpink, crossing the creek by a noble stone culvert, to Lawrence's Meadows, whence it passes into the valley of Stony Brook; thence down the right side thereof, one mile S. of Princeton, to the junction of Stony Brook with the Millstone River; hence across the river by an aqueduct of eight arches, and by the right bank of the river to the Raritan River; thence along the right bank of the Raritan to New Brunswick, where it unites with the tide *

Delaware And Raritan Canal State Park Bike Trail Description

Facilities

Carry in and carry out. Camping, boat launches, picnic areas with tables and grills, porta potties located at major trail parking areas. Partially accessible for people with disabilities.

Rentals

Canoe and Kayak Rental Concessions are located at Griggstown and Princeton. Both are open weekdays, weekends and holidays seasonally. Area bike shops located nearby offer bike rental services.

 

The main Delaware and Raritan Canal Trail travels on the canal towpath trail that mules (sometimes horses), guided by muletenders once used to tow barges along the canal. It's a scenic bike ride on a hard-packed dirt and gravel surface with just a few slight uphill sections approaching the canal locks. Since the towpath trail, unlike the D&R Feeder Canal Trail, was never converted for rail use, it is a rougher bike ride. There are some narrow sections that wind along embankments above the canal and cobblestone spillways where caution is required. There may be some overgrown, washboarded, and muddy stretches with a few roots and rocks.

You'll meet other canal trail users along the way. It's fun to watch the occasional kayaker or canoer as they glide under picturesque canal bridges and the sight of horseback riders is somehow reminiscent of days gone by. The Millstone Valley Scenic Byway which forms a loop ride that travels on historic town roads parallelling the canal is popular with road bicyclists.

In early spring, bursts of bright yellow Forsythia, flowering Dogwoods and the chorus of warblers which include Orioles, Vireos, Prothonotary, Yellow-throated, and Cerulean provide spring inspiration along the bike routes.

There are several starting point options. Where you choose to begin will depend on the type of mountain biking experience you are looking for and how much time you have. For route details, we have set out a suggested path with options in Trail Highlights and Points of Interest below.

Option 1: Blackwell Mills or Griggstown

Both Blackwells Mills and Griggstown are usually good starting points. Both of these sites are located near historic canal locks with adjacent canal locktender houses, canal swing bridges and picnic areas. Perfect for those who want to relax and enjoy the scenic natural beauty of the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park while biking through shady, tree-lined National Register Historic Districts.

Blackwell Mills to Griggstown or Griggstown to Rocky Hills and back are fabulous and short round trip mountain bike trips.

Option 2: Kingston Mill Historic District

Begin your bike ride at an historic gristmill where Lake Carnegie empties into the Millstone River; visit Kingston Lock 8 and adjacent Locktender's House and tollstation; bicycle across the Millstone River over an 18th-century four-arched stone bridge and ride over to the Rockingham Historic Site which served as General George Washington's final Revolutionary War headquarters for over two and one-half months in 1783.

It's proximity to Princeton University makes this the ideal starting point for those looking for jam packed, bike ride options at the crossroads of American history.

 

Delaware Raritan Canal State Park Bike Trail Connections

Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park Trail Connections

D&R Canal State Park Feeder Trail

The Delaware and Raritan Feeder Bike Trail is split into two segments that total about 31.4 miles. From Trenton, NJ to Bulls Island, it travels on a towpath / rail rail. From Bulls Island to Frenchtown you are biking along the Belvidere and Delaware Railroad Canal segment of the park trail.

Website: D&R Canal State Park Feeder Trail

Washington Crossing State Park Bike Trails

Washington Crossing State Park in New Jersey is located along the Delaware River, just eight miles north of Trenton, NJ. This was the staging area where General George Washington and his army confronted both a raging nor'easter, a treacherous river crossing and lead his troops to a major Revolutionary War victory against British forces.

Website: Washington Crossing State Park Bike Trails

Six Mile Run Reservoir Trails

The 3,000 Six Mile Run Reservoir Site is located just across the street from the Blackwell Mills Canal House. Canal Road cuts across a slice of it's northwestern corner. A network of trails for mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding travel along field edges, and streams, through forests and wethands.

Website: Six Mile Run Reservoir Trails

East Coast Greenway

The Delaware and Raritan Canal Towpath is also a section of the developing East Coast Greenway trail network that will run from Maine to Florida.

Trail Highlights & Nearby Points of Interest

Some popular stops along this bike ride are Blackwell Mills, Griggstown and Millstone Valley Historic Districts, Rocky Hill and Rockingham Historic Districts, Kingston Mill Historic District, Princeton Historic District, Princeton Battlefield State Park, Port Mercer.

Historic Districts & Architecture Bike or Hike Tours

Delaware and Raritan Canal Historic District

Added to the National Register of Historic Place in 1973. It includes the canal, canal towpath and sections of rail trail; canal structures such as as locks, cobblestone canal spillways, bridges, hand-cut stone aqueducts, milltender and muletender barracks, canal houses and bridgetender toll stations. It travels through, is adjacent to and overlaps several separate historic districts and natural areas; some of which are jointly managed by the state, towns and preservation groups.

Blackwell Mills

Mileage / Blaze: Start at 0 miles

Circa 1830. The central focus of this idyllic canalscape is the Blackwell Mills Bridgetenders Canal House which is located at the corner Blackwells Mills Road and Canal Road. It sits just across the road from the northeastern corner of the Six Mile Run Reservoir Historic District.

For over 100 years, the canal house was inhabited by bridge tenders who monitored traffic along the canal. When canal boats came through, they allowed passage by swinging the bridge open 90 degrees. The system, considered high tech at the time, operated on a pivot mounted cable and pulley system and was powered by the bridgetender walking along the bridge guiding a long pole along a track.

In 1971, the Blackwells Mills Canal House Association, a group of local residents leased the house from the state and began restoration. Today it serves as a community center, museum, and library. It also hosts events such as canoe and fishing clinics, nature walks, programs designed especially for kids and more.

Across Blackwell Mills Road, opposite the Bridgetenders house, a picnic area offers shady picnic spots with tables and grills under the boughs of sycamore and elm trees. The lovely views of the canal framed by the white canal bridge and adjacent locktender station is just the thing to get your bike ride or hike jump started. Horse trailer parking is also available.

Trail Access

Blackwell Mills Canal House: Lat: 40.475592 Long: -74.571723

Blackwell's Mills Canal House Association
598 Canal Road
Somerset, New Jersey 08873
Phone: 908-369-0357 or 908-369-0357

 

Griggstown Historic District

The five-mile-long Griggstown Historic District, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, borders the eastern edge of the Delaware and Raritan Canal from the junction of Canal Rd. and 10 Mile Run to Old Georgetown Rd.

There are two major roads in Griggstown; Bunker Hill and Canal Road (formerly the 1745 "Griggstown Road"). Most of the historic 68 contributing structures line Canal Road which is canopied on both sides by a ribbon of trees.

Despite being on the front lines of major transportation developments throughout it's history, Griggstown hasn't changed much over the decades. Today, the village still presents a quintessential portrait of an early - mid 19th century rural and prosperous American Yeoman settlement. These were characterized by family farmsteads dotted with barns, silos and other outbuildings set amidst open space that were cultivated fields.

Griggstown Causeway & Mill

Mileage / Blaze: 3.5 miles

While development of most of the farmsteads were spurred by the opening of the Delaware and Raritan Canal in 1834, several were in operation before the Revolutionary War and suprisingly ... many of these farms are still in operation today.

There is a narrow, one lane, steel pony truss bridge that spans the Millstone River at the Griggstown Causeway Trailhead. It connects Griggstown with Belle Meade on the opposite side. It was built in 1890, rehabilitated 1978; and replaced in 2006. The original bridge that crossed the river here was built in 1740. It was burnt down to the timbers by the retreating British during the Revolutionary War in 1777.

A day use area with picnic tables and grill are also located at the causeway trailhead. A Kayak and Canoe Rental concession can be found behind the bridgetender's house, which also doubles as a Visitor Center.

Griggstown gets it's name from Benjamin Griggs (1690 – 1768), who arrived with his brothers early on. His brothers became successful area farmers and Benjamin built a grist mill on the Millstone River sometime before 1733. When you stop to think about it, that was a smart family business decision. The mill was located at the site of what was to become the Millstone Causeway; right in the path of the future Delaware and Raritan Canal.

Farmers came from all around the area to process grain. The mill became a popular hangout where farmers would gather to share news and views. This was the beginning of what was to become the village of Griggstown.

When the original Griggstown mill was torn down, John Van Doren, a descendant of early Dutch settlers, built a new mill on top of it's foundation. When the Delaware and Raritan Canal was built, the mill was torn down again.

Today, although the foundation is topped by a nondescript, modern 1950's style house, the picturesque setting hasn't changed much. If you close your eyes you can see, hear, and feel the power of the working gristmill.

Millhand & Muletender Barracks, BridgeTender Canal House & Station

Circa 1830. The Millhand and Mulehand barracks are located across the street from the site of the Griggs / Van Doren mill. They were originally built by John Van Doren for his millhands and later used as accommodations for bargemen while the canal was in operation from 1834 to 1933. Today the barracks are owned by the state.

Circa 1834. Stone Bridgetenders House and Bridgetenders station built at the causeway. The Bridgetenders house is one of only two stone houses in the Historic District. The tiny station with 6 x 8 feet of floor space was first a weaver's shop. Later it was used as a wireless telegraph station that notified the tender of approaching ships. When the canal closed in 1932, it became a county library until 1970. Good things come in small packages.

Trail Access

Griggstown Causeway Parking Lots: Lat: 40.438467 Long: -74.61545

From Route 206: CR 533 east, then right CR 632. Look for the parking areas on your right before the Griggstown Causeway.

Griggstown Lock 9 / Locktenders House

Mileage / Blaze: 4.2 miles

Lock 9 is set admidst a pretty farm landscape. A canal bridgtenders home, sits besides the lock. Canal locks on the Delaware and Raritan Canal were constructed of cut stone masonry laid with hydraulic cement. The locks were 162 x 24 feet and 100 feet between the gates at each end.

Today, Lock 9 is a barebones example of a Delaware and Raritan Canal Lock. It resembles a square cement bathtub. Since the lock gates and guard gate were constructed of wood, those features including the hardware no longer exist today. Canal water still cascades over the top of the structure; runs through the lock and out the opening at the opposite end.

When the canal was in operation and there was a drop in height along the canal route; depending on whether the boat was travelling upstream or downstream, water would be either lowered or raised through a system of valves located in the lower portion of the gate. When the water level matched the height of the canal water level, miter locks in the upper portion of the gate would open and the boats would be guided and pulled through by the muletender and his mule walking along the canal towpath. . . onward to the next lock.

Trail Access

Griggstown Lock 9 & Locktenders House: Lat: 40.429067 Long: -74.618017

Rocky Hill

Mileage / Blaze: 6.6 miles

"You come to a high but very rocky hill, which is very difficult for man or beast to walk upon. After crossing it you come to a large valley, the descent from which is very steep, by a very shrubby road" -- Journal of Jasper Dankaerts - 1679

Rocky Hill Historic Preservation District

The Millstone River powered the rise of Rocky Hill's mills; the canal and railroad propelled commercial and industrial growth. Farmers, merchants, mechanics and workers lived and conducted business farther up the hill, at what is now the center of town. Washington Street runs through it. At the turn of the 19th century, growth came to an abrupt halt.

The Preservation District, listed on the National Register in 1982 preserves Rocky Hill's historic central core. The town fights to hold back surrounding suburban sprawl. A part of the District that extends out about 100 yards from both sides of the canal overlaps the Delaware and Raritan Canal State park Historic District.

Trail Access

Rocky Hill Lot on RT 518: Lat: 40.3994 Long: -74.6279
From Route 206: CR 518 east. Before crossing the canal, look for a parking lot on the left.

The 518 Bridge over the Delaware and Raritan Canal has re-opened early May 2017 after many delays.

Rocky Hill Lot on RT 603: Lat: 40.397783 Long: -74.6268

Follow directions above and cross the canal, then right turn on CRT 603 (Canal Rd) to Route 27. Make a right and park at Kingston Lock 8.

 

WORK IN PROGRESS - WOW - learning stuff they don't teach you in elementary school.

Biking instructions coming --- the Rockingham Historic Site is just a little above a mile away - between Rocky Hill and Kingston.

We're almost at our ride's end - but first a few loop rides and tweaks

Kingston

Kingston Mills Historic District

Mileage / Blaze: 8.5 miles

The Millstone River between Kingston and Rocky Hill along River Road divides the Kingston Mill Historic District in Princeton Township from the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park and Historic District.

Popular stops along the trail are the Kingston Locktender's House, the Tollhouse, the Kingston Basin, Lock #8, the bridge that replaced Swing Bridge #16, and the Rockingam Historic Site.

Trail Access

From Alexander Road to the Millstone Aqueduct, there are paths on both sides of the canal. Small parking areas are located off Washington and Alexander Roads where they cross the canal. Access and parking are also available on the eastern side of the canal from Lake Road.

Rockingham Historic Site

The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, ended the American Revolutionary War between Great Britain and the American Colonies. It formerly recognized the United States as an independent nation.

"Having now finished the work assigned to me, I retire from the great theatre of action; and bidding an affectionate farewell to this august body, under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life" -- General George Washington - 1783.

This quote was the final act needed for a successful revolution. His retirement was short-lived. He was unanimously elected to the first of two terms as president of the United States in 1788.

Perched on a rocky hillside above the Millstone River, a pre-Revolutionary war era house that served as General George Washington's final Revolutionary War headquarters for 2 1/2 months in 1783, was in danger of being swallowed up by rock quarry operations in 1896. Local residents banded together, bought the house and moved it 300 yards up the hill to a lot purchased from the quarry.

In 1935, the property was deeded to the state of New Jersey. The house was moved another two times before being deposited on a much larger site along the Delaware and Raritan Canal in 2001. "Rockingham" was restored and opened to the public in 2004. It continues to be operated by the State of New Jersey, Division of Parks & Forestry with a lot of help from the site friends - The Rockingham Association.

Trail Access

Parking Entrance: Lat: 40.386475 Long:-74.621539

Look for a brown sign with white lettering alongside a fence at the entrance. There is a path from the parking lot to the house.

Website: Rockingham Historic Site

 

Wildlife Watch & Photography

Every mile along the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park Bike Trail presents an opportunity for that special photograph whether historical, scenic or wildlife oriented. The eastern phoebe and barn swallow attach their nests to the underside of the canal bridges; blue and green herons frequent borders of marsh areas; warblers flit from sycamore to syacmore tree; turtles and a variety of frogs hang out along tree-lined canal edges. You might spot a muskrat, raccoon, opossum, beaver, cottontail rabbit, red fox, red-tailed hawk, and even a bald eagle.

Cook Natural Area

The Preserve consists of two sections; the 22-acre Natural Area and the 30-acre Agricultural Area.

Griggstown Native Grassland Preserve

Birds & Butterflies

The 447 acre Griggstown Native Grassland Preserve is part of the Ten Mile Run Greenway. It lies adjacent to Canal Road which parallels the Delaware and Raritan Canal Towpath Trail. A 6 mile trail network provides connections to the Bunker Hill and Franklin Park Natural Areas and crisscrosses a diverse landscape of stream corridors, forest, grasslands, and wildflower speckled fields. No bicycles.

The list of birds (especially warblers) and butterfly species is mind boggling with names spanning all the colors of the rainbow and shades in-between. Close to 50 species of butterflies and 90 species of of birds have been sighted in the Griggstown Preserve alone.

Especially recommended for kids of all ages: Butterflies take flight on sunny, cool, windless days from May to September. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Great Spangled Fritillary, Delaware Skipper, American Lady, Common Wood Nymph and Monarchs are some of the more common butterfly species in the area.

 

Trail Access

1091 Canal Road, Princeton, NJ : Lat: 40.436852 Long: -74.613879
Princeton, NJ 08530
Phone: 908-766-5787

Website: New Jersey Audubon (for wildlife watch lists and special programs)

Historical Notes

On June 25, 1834 the Delaware and Raritan Canal opened for business. It provided a crucial waterway link between the Delaware River and Raritan River that not only created a shortcut between Philadelphia and New York City, but was the beginning of a vast intercoastal waterway network that linked major U.S ports east and west of the Appalachians. By 1850 there were about 3,800 miles of canals.

The Delaware and Raritan Canal was 24 feet wide, eight feet deep and 65.5 miles in length. It utilized a system of canal locks (elevators) that were designed to raise and lower boats, ships, and other watercraft to different heights as they navigated areas of the canal with significant gradients. However, since the Delaware and Raritan Canal route was fairly level, it needed only 14 locks. Seven locks lifted barges about 57 feet between Bordentown and the highest point of the route at Trenton. From Trenton, the canal ran level to the Kingston Lock. From Kingston, anoter 7 locks managed the drop of 56 feet to the tidewater at New Brunswick.

To better understand the transportation, cultural and architectural history of the area, we interrupt the story to mention a prehistoric foot path that crossed the Millstone River floodplain to form a connection between the Delaware River in the south and the Raritan River in the north. This trail was called the Assunpink Trail (stony, watery place), by the Lenni Lenape, an Alogonguin group who settled in small family farming / hunting communities throughout New Jersey, Delaware, southern New York and eastern Pennsylvania. They were present when early Dutch and Europeans settlers arrived in the area.

Within a few years of Henry Hudson's famous 1609 voyage up the Hudson river in the "Half Moon", the Dutch West India Company founded New Netherland, the first Dutch colony in North America. Dutch merchants quickly established forts and trading posts up and down the Hudson River from New Amsterdam (New York) to Fort Orange (Albany) and expanded into parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Dutch Fur traders used the Assunpink Trail to trade with the Lenape. They called it the "Old Dutch Trail".

European turf wars broke out. England, France and Holland duked it out. King Charles the II won out and New Netherland came under British control in 1664. Charles gave the land between the Hudson and Delaware rivers to his brother, the Duke of York, who in turn divied it up between two English Lords. To encourage settlement, they offered large tracts of land to those willing to seek adventure and fortune in the "new world". The area of what was to become New Jersey, became a Royal Colony in 1702.

Settlers from all over Europe arrived. They renamed the trail, "Old Kings Highway" and made their way into the fertile Delaware, Raritan and Millstone River Valleys to establish farmsteads, mills, blacksmith shops, general stores and the religious organizations of their choice..

During the Revolutionary War (1775–1783), General George Washington used the route to travel between army outposts in the area. Today, the southern portion of the original Assunpink Trail is part of Route 27. Other sections have merged with highway and greenway trail networks.

The War of 1812 and the British blockade of the east coast was a wake up call. An inland trade route was clearly needed. Both the Camden and Amboy Rail Road and Transportation Company (C&A) and the Delaware and the Raritan Canal and Banking Company wanted the right of way to connect the Delaware River, serving Philadelphia, with the Raritan River.

Each had a different methodology. The D&R Canal business model was tried and tested canal and towpath tech with a few new innovations. The C&A had plans to build a railroad with completely revolutionary and untested technology. It was not only the first railroad to be built in New Jersey, but also the first in the United States. Eventually a comprise was made about the paths each was going to take; and both were given the green light to begin construction in 1830. In 1831 these two companies joined and officially merged in 1867, as the United New Jersey Railroad and Canal Companies (UNJ). There is more to this story of transportation mergers and acquistions, however we are getting off at this stop (and travelling the rest of the way by bike).

A new era began with the with opening of the Delaware and Raritan Canal in 1834. Many area farmers sold their small farmsteads to the canal company and established much larger farms. It was now easier and more economical to ship produce and goods into the cities. Canal houses were built at the canal locks to provide homes for the canal Bridgetenders who managed boat traffic up and down the waterway.

The Delaware and Raritan Canal, for more than 100 years, has played many important roles. Early in the American Civil War (1861 to 1865), it was used to transport troops and supplies to aid in the defense of Washington, D.C, the nation's capital; it lit the fire that stoked the Industrial Revolution by transporting iron ore and anthracite coal from Pennsylvania mines to New York City ports; and later boosted tourism by carrying the boats that took pleasure and adventure seekers on scenic cruises.

The 1871 lease of the Delaware & Raritan Canal by the Pennsylvania Railroad resulted in the decline of coal transport along the canal. By the late 19th century a majority of canal transportation businesses became defunct. They were unable to compete with the much faster, flexible and more economical railroad system which not only serviced areas the canals didn't, but quickly expanded coast to coast in all directions of the compass.

Over time, most of the canal waterways were breached and water, the lifeblood of the system drained out. Sections of it became part of expanding roadway systems. Towpaths where mules once trod eroded. People left once bustling canal towns to find work in cities. Historic structures were either demolished or fell into disrepair. River flooding erased much of what was left.

The Delaware and Raritan Canal System was taken over by the State of New Jersey from the Pennsylvania Railroad Company in 1934. During the 1950's the Canal was rehabilitated to serve as a public water supply transmission system. In 1974 the Canal System was designated as a State Park and was also placed on the State and Federal Registers of Historic Sites.

Today, the Delaware and Rartan Canal State Park is New Jersey's largest and one of the most important historic, natural, wildlife and multi-use recreational corridors.

More Information

Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park - Mailing Address
145 Mapleton Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Phone: 609-924-5705

Website: Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park

 

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