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Delaware Canal State Park is a Pennsylvania state park in Bucksmarker and Northamptonmarker Counties in Pennsylvaniamarker in the United States. The main attraction of the park is the Delaware Canalmarker, which at is the only canal that remains fully intact from the towpath canal-building days of the nineteenth century. The Delaware Canal runs parallel to the Delaware River between Eastonmarker and Bristolmarker.

The Delaware River is the longest free-flowing river east of the Mississippi River in the United States. It serves as a major migration path for American Shad and waterfowl. A visitor's center is located at New Hopemarker and the park management office is located in Upper Black Eddymarker. Within the park are two designated natural areas: Nockamixon Cliffs and River Islands. Recreational opportunities include hiking, biking and cross-country skiing along the towpath, fishing in the canal and river, and canal boat rides.

Delaware Canal State Park was chosen by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and its Bureau of Parks as one of "Twenty Must-See Pennsylvania State Parks".


The Delaware Canal runs from the mouth of the Lehigh River in Eastonmarker along the Delaware River south to Bristolmarker. The land along the canal is a mixture of private property and state park lands, with the state park covering some along the of the canal.

The course of Delaware Canal State Park is as follows: leaving Easton, the canal enters Williams Townshipmarker in Northampton County, and heads south paralleling the Delaware River. The park crosses into Bucks County and passes through the following municipalities: Durhammarker, Nockamixonmarker, Bridgetonmarker, Tinicummarker, Plumsteadmarker, and Soleburymarker townships, the borough of New Hopemarker, back into Solebury Township, Upper Makefieldmarker and Lower Makefieldmarker townships, the borough of Yardleymarker, back into Lower Makefield Township, and the borough of Morrisvillemarker.

The Delaware River has followed a southeast course until now, but after Morrisville in Falls Townshipmarker it turns approximately ninety degrees to flow southwest. The canal and park turn southwest earlier and leave the river in Morrisville, cutting off this corner. The park and canal pass through Falls Township to the borough of Tullytownmarker, where they again follows a course parallel to the river. From Tullytown the canal passes through Bristol Townshipmarker and ends at the borough of Bristolmarker.


The Delaware Canal stretches from Bristol to Easton along the Delaware River. It was used to haul coal and other products from the Lehigh Canal beginning in Mauch Chunkmarker (today Jim Thorpe) to the industrial centers of the Philadelphiamarker area near Bristol, Pennsylvania. The canal was built in the mid-1800s and ran its last commercial traffic on October 17 1931. The state bought of the canal in 1931 and bought the remaining in 1940.

The Delaware Division of the Pennsylvania Canal and its towpath became Theodore Roosevelt State Park in the early 1950s, when the berms were restored and the canal was refilled with water. The park was renamed Delaware Canal State Park in 1989. The U.S. Congress designated the Delaware Canal as a Registered National Historic Landmark and its towpath is a National Recreation Trail. Visitors to the park are given the chance to explore the canal in historic canal boats provided by the Delaware River Canal Boat Company.

Natural areas

Pennsylvania state park natural areas are special areas that are set aside within the state parks to allow the natural condition of biological and physical processes to operate, usually without human intervention. There are two such areas at the Delaware Canal State Park: River Islands and Nockamixon Cliffs. These natural areas are set aside to provide scientists with the chance to observe the natural ecosystems at work and to protect examples of unique and typical plant life, animal habitats, and to protect examples of natural beauty.

River islands

There are eleven islands in the Delaware River that are protected from further development. The islands contain archeological clues to the past, provide habitats for migrating waterfowl and songbirds, and offer recreational opportunities in a wild setting for fisherman and canoeists.

Some of the islands were originally part of the shoreline of the river and have since been cut off by the effects of erosion, river movement or intervention by man, but other islands have been built up naturally in the river. These river islands grew from silt deposits that attracted seeds. The seeds grew into plants and trees. The roots of the plants and trees caused the further building of silt and dirt and lead to the formation of the islands. These islands are mostly stable but can be shifted by the erosion effects of the river and flooding.

Nockamixon Cliffs

The cliffs along the Delaware River, known as Nockamixon Cliffs, appear to rise from the land, but are in fact formations of very hard stone that have eroded at a much slower pace than the surrounding land. These cliffs are made of weather resistant rock called hornfel, formed at the end of the Triassic Period when magma rose up from deep within the Earth's crust and flowed into beds of sedimentary rock. The cliffs "rose" during the Jurassic Period when the surrounding sandstone and shale was eroded by wind and water.

The Nockamixon Cliffs are situated along the river in such a way that the north facing cliffs in Pennsylvania receive little to no direct sunlight, causing their temperatures to be cooler than normal. The cool habitat supports an alpine-Arctic plant community that is very unusual for the latitude of Delaware Canal State Park. The south facing cliffs in New Jerseymarker at Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park have a nearly opposite habitat. They receive a high amount of sunshine, which makes the area near the cliffs warmer and drier than usual, creating a habitat for plants that normally thrive in much more arid areas.

American shad

The Delaware River is used by American shad during their spawning run. The fish are the largest members of the herring family. They are an anadromous species, which means they are born and spawn in fresh water but spend the majority of their lives in salt water (of the Atlantic Oceanmarker). After spending three to six years at sea, the shad return to the waters of their birth to spawn. Unlike salmon, not all shad die after spawning; some survive and return to the ocean.

The American Shad have long been a vital food resource for the people living along the Delaware River. The Lenape (or Delaware) tribe depended on the migration of the shad as a staple of their diet. They harvested the fish and prepared them in several ways. Some fish were grilled quickly on wooden racks and others were preserved for later use by smoking them or air drying. The Moravians and other early European settlers in the Delaware River Valley also depended on shad for their diets.

The booming population along the Delaware River, especially in Philadelphiamarker, Eastonmarker, Camdenmarker and Trentonmarker, led to increased levels of pollution in the Delaware River. Sewage and industrial pollution combined with extensive overfishing nearly led to a total collapse of the shad population. The pollution was so bad that in the years following World War II nearly of the river was a dead zone, free of dissolved oxygen. This dead zone prevented the migration of shad. Dams built during the canal era to provide water for the canals also limited the migration patterns of the shad. The combination of dams and pollution nearly caused the shad to abandon the Delaware River and its tributaries altogether.

Beginning in the 1960s, an effort began to re-establish the population of American Shad in the Delaware River basin. Pollution levels dropped tremendously, and fish ladders were built to allow the shad to bypass the dams that blocked their way and to migrate further up the river. These efforts have led to the restoration of the American Shad in the Delaware River.


The Delaware Canal towpath runs along the canal for from Easton to Bristol and was once used by teams of mules as they towed the barges up and down the canal. Today it is a National Recreational Trail open to walkers, joggers, cyclists, bird watchers and cross-country skiers. Five bridges over the Delaware River connect the paths in Delaware Canal State Park with paths in New Jersey at the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park.

The Delaware River and the Delaware Canal are warm water fisheries. Common game fish include the American shad, striped bass, walleye and smallmouth bass. The river is also popular with people who wish to explore it in canoes and other small non-powered watercraft. All boats must have a launch permit for Pennsylvania or New Jersey or a current registration from any state.

Nearby state parks

The following state parks are within of Delaware Canal State Park:


  1. Note: Despite the title, there are twenty-one parks in the list, with Colton Point and Leonard Harrison State Parks treated as one.
  2. Note: shows Delaware Canal State Park
  3. Note: shows Delaware Canal State Park

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