What's so Special about the Delaware River?
The Delaware, the longest un-dammed river east of the Mississippi, is as steeped in history as it is diverse in nature.
George Washington and his troops rowed across it on Christmas night, 1776, en route to a decisive victory over the British crown. This marked a turning point in the Revolutionary War.
During the Civil War, more than 12,000 Confederate soldiers were imprisoned on Pea Patch Island, just down river of New Castle, Delaware.
The river also winds through Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, birthplace of another revolution - America’s Industrial Revolution.
In 1915, to meet the demands of WWI, the world’s largest shipyard was built along the Delaware on Hog Island, offshore of Philadelphia.
Upstream, the river flows beneath the Delaware Aqueduct, built by engineer John Roebling who designed the fabled Brooklyn Bridge. The aqueduct served as a watery passage for mule-pulled canal boats which hauled the coal that helped fuel the Industrial Revolution.
Downstream, the river then empties into the Delaware Bay, which washes by old whaling towns.
The Delaware River serves as a major source of water for big cities – Philadelphia and New York City – and heavy industry, yet supports a world-class trout fishery and bald eagles. Over 15 million people rely on the Delaware River Basin for water, but the river itself is small, draining only four-tenths of one percent of the total continental U.S. land area. Three-quarters of the non-tidal river – about 150 miles – has been included in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, a testament to the remarkable improvement in its water quality.
The Delaware Estuary -- the tidal reach of the Delaware River and the Delaware Bay -- has been included in the National Estuary Program, a project set up to protect estuarine systems of national significance. Meanwhile, it is also host to the Delaware River Port Complex (including docking facilities in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware), which is the largest freshwater port in the world.
Charles Kuralt may have had the Delaware in mind when he wrote, "I started out thinking of America as highways and state lines. As I got to know it better I began to think of it as rivers. America is a great story, and there is a river on every page of it."