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The Delaware River is a major river on the Atlanticmarker coast of the United Statesmarker.The Delaware was explored by Adriaen Block as part of the New Netherlands Colony, and was named the South River to mark the southernmost reach of that colony.

The river meets tide-water at Trenton, New Jerseymarker. Its total length, from the head of the longest branch to Cape Maymarker and Cape Henlopenmarker, is 410 miles (660 km), and above the head of the Delaware Baymarker its length is 360 miles (579 km). The mean freshwater discharge of the Delaware River into the estuary is 11,550 cubic feet (330 m³) per second.

The Delaware River constitutes, in part, the boundary between Pennsylvaniamarker and New Yorkmarker, the entire boundary between New Jerseymarker and Pennsylvania, and most of the boundary between Delawaremarker and New Jersey. A historical oddity, the Delaware-New Jersey Border is actually at the eastern-most river shoreline within the Twelve-Mile Circle of New Castle, rather than the usual mid river or mid channel borders, causing small portions of the New Jersey peninsula falling west of the shoreline to fall under the jurisdiction of Delaware. The rest of the borders follow a mid-channel approach.

Commerce was once important on the upper river, primarily prior to railway competition (1857).

The mean tides below Philadelphiamarker are about . The magnitude of the commerce of Philadelphia has made the improvements of the river below that port of great importance. Small improvements were attempted by Pennsylvaniamarker as early as 1771.

In the "project of 1885" the United States government undertook systematically the formation of a 26 ft (8 m) channel 600 ft (180 m) wide from Philadelphia to deep water in Delaware Baymarker. The River and Harbor Act of 1899 provided for a 30 foot (9 m) channel 600 feet (180 m) wide from Philadelphia to the deep water of the bay.


The main, west or Mohawk branch rises in Schoharie County, New Yorkmarker, about 1886 feet (575 m) above the sea, near Mount Jeffersonmarker, and flows tortuously through the plateau in a deep trough, impounded at one point to create the Cannonsville Reservoirmarker, and then becoming the state boundary at the 42nd parallel, until it emerges from the Catskills. Similarly, the East Branch begins from a small pond south of Grand Gorge in the town of Roxburymarker in Delaware Countymarker, flowing southward toward its impoundment by New York City to create the Pepacton Reservoirmarker, the largest reservoir in the New York City water supply system. The confluence is just south of Hancockmarker.

After leaving the mountains and plateau, the river flows down broad Appalachianmarker valleys, passing Hawk's Nest overlook on the "Upper Delaware Scenic Byway". Below Port Jervis, New Yorkmarker, the Wallpack Ridge deflects the Delaware into the Minisink Valley, where it follows the southwest strike of the eroded Marcellus Formation beds along the Pennsylvania–New Jersey state line for to the end of the ridge at Wallpack Bend in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Areamarker.The Minisink is a buried valley where the Delaware flows in a bed of glacial till that buried the eroded bedrock during the last glacial period. It then skirts the Kittatinny ridge, which it crosses at the Delaware Water Gapmarker, between nearly vertical walls of limestone, and passes through a quiet and charming country of farm and forest, diversified with plateaus and escarpments, until it crosses the Appalachian plain and enters the hills again at Easton, Pennsylvaniamarker. From this point it is flanked at intervals by fine hills, and in places by cliffs, of which the finest are the Nockamixon Rocks, 3 miles (5 km) long and above 200 feet (60 m) high.

At Trenton there is a fall of 8 feet (2.4 m). Below Trenton the river flows between Philadelphiamarker and New Jerseymarker before becoming a broad, sluggish inlet of the sea, with many marshes along its side, widening steadily into its great estuary, Delaware Bay.


Its main tributaries in New York are the Mongaup and Neversink rivers and Callicoon Creek; from Pennsylvania, the Lackawaxen, Lehigh, and Schuylkill rivers; and from New Jersey, Rancocas Creek and the Musconetcong and Maurice riversmarker. Oldmans and Raccoon creeks are tributaries in New Jersey.


The Delaware has experienced a number of serious flooding events as the result of snow melt and/or rain run-off from heavy rainstorms. Record flooding occurred in August 1955, in the aftermath of the passing of the remnants of two separate hurricanes over the area within less than a week: first Hurricane Connie and then Hurricane Diane, which was, and still is, the wettest tropical cyclone to have hit the northeastern United States. The river gauge at Riegelsville, PA recorded an all time record crest of 38.85 feet on August 19, 1955.

More recently, moderate to severe flooding has occurred along the river. The same gauge at Riegelsville recorded a peak of 30.95 feet on September 23, 2004, 34.07 feet on April 4, 2005, and 33.62 feet on June 28, 2006, all considerably higher than the flood stage of .

Since the upper Delaware basin has few population centers along its banks, flooding in this area mainly affects natural unpopulated flood plains. Residents in the middle part of the Delaware basin experience flooding, including three major floods in the three years (2004-2006) that have severely damaged their homes and land. The lower part of the Delaware basin from Philadelphia southward to the Delaware Bay is tidal and much wider than portions further north, and is not prone to river related flooding (although tidal surges can cause minor flooding in this area).

The Delaware River Basin Commission, along with local governments, is working to try to address the issue of flooding along the river. As the past few years have seen a rise in catastrophic floods, most residents of the river basin feel that something must be done. However, due to insufficient federal funds, progress is slow.

New York City Water Supply

After New York Citymarker had made 15 reservoirs (with more to come) for their water supply, and with a growing population, the city tried to gain permission to make five reservoirs along the Delaware River's tributaries. However, they were denied the permission to impound the Delaware's tributaries to make new reservoirs. So in 1928, New York City decided to draw water from the Delaware River to feed the population boom that had started during the beginning of the Great Depression. There were, however, villages and towns across the river in Pennsylvaniamarker that were already using the Delaware for their water supply. The two sides eventually took their case to the U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker, and in 1931, New York City was finally allowed to draw 440 million gallons of water a day from the Delaware and its upstream tributaries.


The Delaware River is a major barrier to travel between New Jerseymarker and Pennsylvaniamarker. Most of the larger bridges are tolled only westbound, and are owned by the Delaware River and Bay Authority, Delaware River Port Authority, Burlington County Bridge Commission or Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission.

Washington's crossing of the Delaware

Perhaps the most famous “Delaware Crossing” involved the improvised boat crossing undertaken by George Washington’s army during the American Revolution on Christmas Day, 1776. This led to a successful surprise attack on the Hessian troops occupying Trenton, New Jerseymarker.

Major oil spills

A number of oil spills have taken place in the Delaware over the years.
  • 01-31-1975 — 11,000,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from the Corinthos tanker
  • 09-28-1985 — 435,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from the Grand Eagle tanker after running aground on Marcus Hook Bar
  • 06-24-1989 — 306,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from the Presidente Rivera tanker after running aground on Claymont Shoal
  • 11-26-2004 — 265,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from the Athos 1 tanker; the tanker's hull had been punctured by a submerged, discarded anchor

See also


  1. USGS See Also: (State of New Jersey: Recent flooding events in the Delaware river basin


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