The Delaware Water Gap is an area of immense natural beauty and rich history so, of course, it was only natural that some brainiac came up with the bright idea to run Interstate 80 right thru the middle of it. This was followed by the equally brilliant idea to clutter Route 209 with tourist traps and a remarkable array of roadside junk. The result? On many days you can leave your car idling on the road, hop out and buy your fireworks (assuming you don’t live in Pa.) and get back in before you have moved an inch.
While the area around the Water Gap itself and parts of Route 209 are a mess, if you can survive them with your sanity in check (avoid weekends, get there early, look for some back country routes to get you to 209 north of Marshalls Creek) you will get to see why the U.S. Park Service is so important. If you are one of those people who thinks that the government never does anything right, we encourage you to compare the area before and after you enter the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area on 209 and see which you prefer.
Our guess is that everyone of right mind would opt for the 70,000 acres in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey along 40 miles of the Delaware that are preserved. Once you get into the DWG National Recreation Area the roads get better, the pace improves, and the streetscape changes from roadside flea markets to river valley farms and tree-covered slopes. Here you will find access points to the river and miles of trails, 25 miles of which are officially designated as part of the Appalachian Trail.
You will also find the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC), which is off of 209 about 5 miles south of the town of Dingman’s Ferry. This well respected organization has a robust schedule of events and courses and maintains a number of public hiking trails. It is well worth the stop in to see what they have going on.
The waterfalls along the river are always a prime stopping point. The two most popular are Bushkill and Dingmans Falls. Bushkill is privately owned and there is an admission charge. Dingmans Falls has a 130′ drop and is accessed via a boardwalk trail that also passes Silverthread Falls. The downside is that the falls aren’t particularly photogenic and, because of the ease of access, it can get a bit crowded. Still, it is a nice walk through some very pretty woods and a good place to stroll with younger kids.
Interestingly, the best waterfalls in the area to photograph seem to have fallen off the radar screen, yet they are only a couple of miles from Dingmans. If you like waterfalls, then where you really want to be is at the George Childs Park.
The waterfalls at Childs aren’t huge, but they are nicely formed and offer numerous vantage points for photography. There are three named falls on the site and a number of small, but very pretty cascades. A serious photographer could spend a lot of time in Childs quite easily, so bring some water with you. The trail is on the easy side of the scale and well maintained.
You’ll want to bring your lunch, as the picnic area here is first rate and very pretty. No point in eating inside when you can enjoy the sound of cascading water, is there? (There is also a good country deli on 739 that you will have passed if you came up from the river.)
To get to George Childs from the Dingmans Falls parking lot, go north to the first light and take a left on 739. Go to Old Silver Lake Road and take another left (the street sign may just say Silver Road – I’m not sure) and turn left into the parking area, which is a couple of hundred yards up the road.
Early mornings along the river can be a real treat. It is worth getting up early to shoot in the valleys, but the light won’t get into the gorges until mid-morning.
Bring your tripod and neutral density filters for the falls.
Look for the details, they often make for much more interesting photographs than do expansive vistas.