Delaware-Lehigh corridor rich in history

NEW HOPE, Pa.— Brown, yellow and red leaves paved the road leading to the Delaware River Valley in Pennsylvania during the fall.

The valley was once the location of one of the first European immigrants’ settlement in the 17th Century.

In 1631, a group of Dutch men formed a trading company in Delaware, but the settlement was destroyed by Natives Americans one year later. No further attempts of colonization were made until 1638, when Swedes established the first successful settlement on the Delaware River.

Ballooning is a popular recreational activity in the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor (Photo courtesy of Balloons Aloft).

Today, the valley is part of the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor and protected by the National Park Service. It offers five counties rich in outdoor activities and historic tours around the Delaware River.

The Delaware River Valley can be visited through different perspectives: by foot, car, air, boat and train. Each way of locomotion offers a specific and unique view at some historic sites from the 19th Century, and it allows visitors to relive the life of the first American immigrants or to enjoy the activities around the river.

The most efficient way to fully experience the atmosphere of the small towns in the valley is to wander around the streets full of antiques boutiques and art galleries.

This town in Bucks County offers a small main street with shops and restaurants full of tourists and nearby residents. From the red-painted chocolate store to the wooden candle shop, varieties of souvenirs and art crafts can be found in the town.

Scott Sirisky, 42, of Pitman, N.J., came to New Hope for the day with his wife Lisa and daughter Amanda. “I just think that there is a different variety of restaurants and different types of stores,” Sirisky said. “We have been boating on the Delaware River before. We like water skiing and tubing. It is nice.”

New Hope is also the location to relive the lifestyle of American immigrants along the Delaware canals. The Delaware River Canal Boat Company offers daily trip on a historic canal.

The 40-minutes ride on a boat pulled by mules pays tribute to the traditional way of transporting goods during the 17th century. The boat captain dressed in a traditional outfit tells stories from the 1800s about the canal, the life of people who lived along it and the wildlife surrounding the water.

In 1990, the Delaware Canal Towpath was designated a National Heritage Trail and remain until today the most intact canal system in the United States.

Before looking for another way to visit the valley, a stop by the Visitor Center of New Hope can provide information on a wide range of available activities in the other surrounding towns.

Ane Mc Laughlin, the director of the Visitor Center, explained the different attractions in the Delaware Valley. “Ten miles north of New Hope, in Port Pleasant, they have canoeing, tubing, rafting and kayaking during the summer,” said Mc Laughlin. “There are also museums, playhouses and a wine trail.”

The New Hope and Ivyland Steam Authentic Locomotive moves through Bucks County near the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor (Photos courtesy of the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad). Fly fishing (below) (Photo courtesy of Gary Mauz).

After the visit of charming New Hope, the next town across the Delaware River is Lambertville. The 1,053-foot bridge above the Delaware River, which separates the two towns, is also the frontier between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

At the end of the bridge that was originally constructed in 1904, a sign stating “Welcome to New Jersey” is the local picture opportunity alongside the 19th Century Lambertville train station on the banks of the river, which was restored and transformed into a restaurant and inn.

As tourists passed by the sidewalk leading to the bridge crosswalk, a newlywed couple and its wedding court stepped out the Lambertville Station to pose for photographs. A group of students walking towards the bridge stopped and took pictures of the wedding, which contrasted with the rainy and gray sky above the water.

Mark Stevens, 34, of Lambertville explained that the river is often the location for special events. “I saw weddings as well as barbecues along the river. It is an important part of the region,” Stevens said.

The bridge crosswalk was also a tourist spot for pictures of the calm river.

Kirsten Ide, 18, of Philadelphia, bent over the bridge railing above the Delaware River to have a better view of the water. Ide explained that she was on a field trip with her school for her architecture class.

“We are here because of a project that is supposed to be on this river and we designed artists studios, clusters of artists studios that will come out to the river, so we here to study the site,” Ide said. “The river is gorgeous right now in the rain and the movement of it. The reflection across the river is beautiful during the fall.”

South of Lambertville, in Hunterdon County, people who like to see places from a different view can stop by Balloons Aloft, a hot air balloon ride company. Johanna Pfenninger of Pittstown, N.J., has been running the popular attraction with her husband for 17 years.

“We offer one-hour flights over Hunterdon County, and sometimes we go over the river to Pennsylvania, depending on the wind direction,” Pfenninger said.

The ride also features champagne and hors d’oeuvres after each flight. “The customers love it. It is very popular,” Pfenninger said. “We also had weddings, engagements and other occasions on board.”

For those who don’t want to be in the air and prefer to get their feet wet, the Delaware River Fly Fishing Guide Service provides an original way of learning about the Delaware River.

Gary Mauz, 43, of Philadelphia, created the guide service in 1996.

“I used to go fishing by myself and I saw a few people come down the river and I told them ‘why don’t you try this?’” Mauz said. “I heard people yelling that they caught a fish after, so I asked myself, ‘Why not try to do some guiding?’”

Mauz described his guiding lessons as helpful and fun. “It is very exciting. When I guide you, I am sitting with you in the water. The little fun thing is that before the trip we sit down at a picnic table besides the river and the customer gets to catch their own fly and we go on and catch fish on the fly they caught themselves,” Mauz said.

Fishing camps and clubs are also available for kids during the summer. “Once the kids catch fish on their own fly, they hooked for life!” said Mauz who used to go fishing with his father on the Delaware River as a kid.

The Delaware River has always been part of Mauz’s life and he emphasized its uniqueness.

“The Delaware River is one of the latest free flowing river on the East Coast. There are no dams on the river from its origin up in New York,” Mauz said. “The river is getting a lot cleaner, so we have ocean fish migrating up the river,” said Mauz who once caught a 30-pounds stripper bass in the river.

After getting your feet dry from a day or weekend fishing trip, driving along the Stone Coal Way can also be an interesting way to enjoy a journey through history.

The 165-miles trail features more than 100 historical villages and buildings listed in the National Register.

The Stone Coal Way received its name from the discovery of anthracite, also called stone coal, by Philip Ginder in 1791 in Carbon County.

Over the next century an industry of mining, railroad and shipping developed in the region and it launched a system of waterways to transport anthracite from mountain to market.

Steaming through the hills and valleys of Bucks County is another way to travel into the scenes of the past. The whistle of the New Hope and Ivyland Steam Authentic Locomotive can be heard from any part of the county.

The vintage passenger coaches and antique Parlor Car add a historic touch to the ride that follows the historic route that was filmed in the 1914 movie series “Perils of Pauline.”


If You Go

Direction to the Delaware River Valley from Downtown, Philadelphia:

Merge onto I-95 North via the exit on the left toward Trenton. Take exit 51 toward New Hope. Take the ramp toward New Hope 10. Turn left onto Taylorville Road that becomes Upper River Road. Turn slight left onto River Road / PA-32. Continue to follow PA-32.Turn left onto West Bridge Street / PA-179. End at New Hope.

Delaware River Fly Fishing Guide Service
P.O. Box 201, Warrington, Pa., 18976
Gary Mauz will meet his customers at their hotel to go fish on specific sites of the Delaware River.

New Hope and Ivyland Railroad
32 West Bridge St., New Hope, Pa., 18938
Phone: 215- 862-2332, fax: 215- 862-2150
Rates vary depending on reservations and dates.

Balloons Aloft
Pittstown, NJ 08867
Rates: Prices start at $175 per person when booked for four passengers. When booked for three passengers, the price is $185 per person. When booked for two passengers for a regular, shared flight, the price is $195 per person. Children age 11 or younger fly for $100 when accompanied by an adult on a non-exclusive flight.  Every flight includes either a champagne continental breakfast (sunrise flights) or champagne & hors d’oeuvre party (sunset flights). Checks or cash and a $50 per person deposit is required within seven days of contact to hold the reservation. Passenger cancellations with less than three days’ notice will result in loss of deposit.

New Hope Visitor Center
1 West Mechanic St., New Hope, Pa., 18938
Hours of operation: Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Delaware River Canal Boat Co.
149 S. Main St., New Hope, Pa., 18938
Rates: Adults: $10, children under 12, $6

Comments are Closed