Delaware Water Gap - type of water?

I’m very new to (sea) kayaking - just a few rentals and a couple of classes. I’ve just bought an Old Town Dirigo 140 (wide rec. boat).

Next year, I’m thinking of doing a 3 day trip down the Delaware Water Gap (from Milford Beach Access down to the Water Gap). The trip would possibly be done with a friend who has almost no kayak paddling experience (just 1 day on flat water). I’m just not real sure how to find out what the water is like. From some of the reading that I’ve done, it seems to generally be gentle water. My plan would be to have my wife along (non-paddler) and we’d go from one B&B to another, with her picking me up at take-out spots each day.

Anyway, I guess my main question is - can anyone tell me what kind of water I should expect through that area? Is it a bad idea for a kayaking newbie?



Pretty mild
Mostly just moving flat water. Some easy rapids - none of much significance.

There are tons of outfitters on the river that will rent to anyone with money in-hand, which should serve as some sort of indication.

I have a good guide book —
It’s out of print now

Canoing the Delaware by Gary Letcher, you might find it on Amazon.

Was very useful when I lived in Pa many years ago.

Used to canoe it all the time
when I lived in Jersey many years ago. That section is pretty mild.

shows one class 1 rapid.

Follow the suggestions and you will be fine. Plan on 2 mph, the worst thing about the Delaware is that the wind can funnel up it in your face.

Last paddled it in 2003

Good Choice For Your First Timers.
My first time paddling on any water anywhere was on that particular stretch in a canoe over (Yikes!)thirty years ago. I was part of a two week camping-float trip back then. I’ve been through there a few times since. Water-wise nothing much of it has really changed. (There’s just a bit more commercial build-up along the banks, like almost everywhere in the NE these days.) Your non-paddling/first time people (with a little of the right coaching from you)should really enjoy it. Especially in and around the Gap area itself (excluding the cars roaring overhead on the Interstate 80 bridge.) If there’s a lot of rain in the NJ/PA region during the days leading up to your trip before put-in, you might wanna check river levels with local outfitters mentioned in thread above (or with the USGS.)

-Who knows, by then, maybe I’ll be out there with my own family and friends!

I agree with the other posts

Delaware Water Gap, what kind of water
The Letcher book is excellent and breaks down the river mile by mile. Check the water levels before hand, if there has been several days of rain upstream, water levels can be high. The water is ore like riffles than rapids, just below the big bend in the river. Check with the National Park service on camping on the islands. My wife and I did that on our honeymoon over 30 years ago. We still kayak on the river, it was great to see bald eagles two years ago.

Have a great time.


Water type? Filthy!
On a recent trip east to pick up a canoe my wife & I met the seller at the recreation area at the Delaware Water Gap along the Interstate that runs right beside the river. It was a great meeting place and the seller turned out to be a very nice guy – the canoe we were buying was excellent. While we waited for the seller to show up we picked up an informational brochure at the park & read that the Delaware was New Jersey’s cleanest river. With some time to kill we took a stroll along the river for an hour or so. Yikes! What a mess! The area we walked was strewn with trash of all sorts, covered with discarded plastic shopping bags, filled with slim & stagnation. It had all the signs along the shore of a thoroughly overused waterway like one sees running through a large urban area… I can only hope that there’s a local watershed group intent on getting that mess cleaned up! If so they have their work cut out for them. What a dump. Cleanest river in New Jersey? Man, I hope not.

The river we saw that day at the edge of the Garden State it didn’t exactly invite visitors to explore further into the state, I know we were happy to leave it behind when we headed west. Perhaps we just saw it on a very bad day and conditions were worse than usual that particular day for some reason… I hope so. Perhaps the upstream sections of it (away from the Interstate) are cleaner. Again, I hope so.

had the river flooded recently?
when it does it picks up alot of stuff quite far away from the river.

I have seen some other instances of normally pristine rivers seemingly junk piles.

The Buffalo in AR was the worst a couple of years ago. It had just ebbed from one of the worst floods in recent years. Plastic bags and underwear and sox everywhere.

I have paddled the Buff several times. Its not normally like that.

water type- filthy
It sounds as if it was the shoreline and not the water that is filthy. A problem with the Delaware Water Gap Park Area is that it is a National Park and has been a victim of budget cuts that has reduced resources to keep it clean. Another problem is that it is located right on I-80 and is close to both New York City, Northern New Jersey and Philadelphia. With over 15,000,000 people living within a 2 hour drive, it will be overused and too many people are slobs and do not clean up after themselves.

As for your other concern, hope- yes- the water is clean, the shoreline cleaner as you go upstream from DWG Area.


Poor New Jersey, always getting
dumped-on (both physically and verbally) by people from out of state. While traveling, I recall stopping in Ohio once and picking up a brochure on the “progress in the clean up of Lake Erie.” So I went to see it for myself. Long story short: I’m still scraping gunk off that particular boat a zebra mussel would barf on. But hey, understandably, I’m sure there are better parts of that great lake somewhere in Ohio (Way to go Indians!!!) Hopefully, the original poster hasn’t been scared off his tour of the Delaware. It’s a beautiful 150 million year old river. If he needs an almost absolutely pristine run, he can always put-in further up where the river divides PA/NY (even as far up as Deposit, NY.) Just be prepared for that occasional Class III below.

I am sorry…
…I stepped on the toes of you fine folks from The Garden State. I really step in it sometimes. I’m better off out there paddlin’ than hanging out at the forum. But so it goes.

And reality bites sometimes and no matter how defensive you folks get trash abounded along the shoreline at the recreation area - sorry to say. On the other hand and to paint a more complete picture the parking lot, visitor’s building, sidewalks and stairs were actually nice and clean and litter free. There was even a ranger there that morning blowing leaves and neatening up when we were there. I was specifically talking about the condition of the waterway and shoreline within the recreation area that we saw.

I hope some members from the local watershed group dealing with the Gap are reading this forum and are perhaps planning a clean-up soon. They’ll need some volunteers. I hope some of the folks who’ve been reading this forum & obviously view New Jersey as a state that gives a damn about its environment will turn out to help.

There’s a lot of clean up needed out here in the Buckeye State also. We who are members of watershed and river trail groups work to clean-up the pigsties many Ohio streams have become. But it’s not enough. More people need to get involve. There is no denying it there are a lot of filthy streams here in Ohio – replete with acid mine run-off, industrial abuse, you name it.

…and about them Indians? Hmmm… I don’t follow baseball much if that’s what you mean, but I am part Native American, so I think the Indians are doing just fine. RK

No apologies necessary.
Discussion is what makes these forums lively. I too am part indian, Lenni Lenape (or “Delawares”).

My family (both of the nation and european) has lived along that river’s banks for generations.

PS- “The Tribe” is my favorite baseball team and I am not offended by their mascot.

Thanks all
Thanks all of the comments on what to expect from the water. I actually lived in northern NJ for a year and can relate to the trash and whatnot. Most want to keep it clean, others seem hell-bent on not.

Either way, I think I’m definately going to give the trip a shot - it seems like it should be a lot of fun. I have a handful of logistics to figure out (i.e. there are probably 3 of us who want to go, I own 1 kayak, will need to rent 2 and car-top 3…).


You guys would LOVE the Upper Delaware

got some pix

– Last Updated: Oct-30-07 6:21 AM EST –

I've paddle the Lackawaxen which ends on the Delaware. Page 1 is Lackawaxen, other 3 pages the Lackawaxen/Port Jervis area of the Delaware(except the video). Even though I'm a New Englander I really love this area. It is gorgeous. Been wanting to do a multi day off season trip here myself, emphasis on off season ;-).
Just remembered a trip on the Flat Brook in the water gap park I paddled last winter. The paddling pix are the Flat Brook, the waterfall pix and video are down towards the gap area

We’ve been paddling the Delaware from Matamoras to Smithfield Beach, in sections as day paddles, for quite a few years. What has always struck me is just how clear the water is. We haven’t been on it for a couple of years now, but the last time was after one of the major floods that the river has recently incurred. While the water had had a chance to clear, there were those blasted white plastic bags (they should be banned!!!) hanging from trees at the height the water had crested as well as other trash and other damage to the shoreline. Many campsites were unusable. This was on the Pennsylvania side as well as the Jersey side. I’m sure things have been cleaned up somewhat since then, but it was really a sad site to see. Floods sure can have a devastating effect.

This stretch is easy, even for beginners. Take your binoculars, as you’re almost sure to see eagles. If at all possible, go right after a front has passed and the winds are out of the north. Much easier than paddling into a south wind all day!


No apology necessary Randall
The Delaware Water Gap Rec. area is the take out for hundreds if not thousands on a summer weekend. Canoes, kayaks, rafts and pool noodles. Many of these people are day trippers and often first time paddlers. When you give the boat back to the outfitter, you make sure it’s clean of rubbish. Where do you think some dump their trash?

All you saw was a snapshot of a small extensively used portion of the river. Regardless of what you saw, the water quality is quite good, despite the depradations of 15,000,000 people within a 2 hour drive.

Had I seen that, I probably would have been upset too.

take this ^ with a grain of salt

– Last Updated: Oct-30-07 1:16 PM EST –

I know it was well-intended observation but I'm not sure you can form an opinion of an entire body of water from what you saw from shore, presumably after a flood, in a densely populated area. I hope the OP uses his own head here.
I went on a trip on the Chicago River, in downtown Chi, after recommendations here not to do so because it was filthy. Hmm. It's in the middle of a city.

I came back disease-free and it was really an amazing experience.