Jersey Jaunts - Biking in (and around) New Jersey

The D&R Canal Tow Paths

(2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)

2009 Update We road *almost* the whole feeder trail this year; Washington's Crossing to Frenchtown, 44 miles. This was our first big ride with our new tandem on an unpaved path.

2008 Update The flood damage south of Lambertville has been repaired.

The D&R canal is really a two part trail system, the Main Canal, and the feeder canal along the Delaware River. The two trails have very different characteristics. The feeder canalís tow path was converted to a railway, which gives the feeder section the feel of a rail-trail, level, straight & smooth. The main canalís tow path is just that, a mule tow path, no underlining rail bed of ballast rock to keep tree roots in check. The last time we rode the main canal path from New Brunswick south we encountered some rough terrain, and turned back after 12 miles.

Here is a map of our usual biking route along the D&R feeder trail; this is a ~28 mile round-trip ride from Washingtonís Crossing State Park to the Bullís Island State Park campground. Here is the GPS route with waypoints. This 14 mile section can easily be split into two pieces with Lambertville as the center, when our children were younger we would park at Washingtonís Crossing, and bike to Lambertville, have pizza in town, and cross the bridge (there is a pedestrian walkway) into New Hope for ice cream, then head back to the car for a ~14 mile total trip. When the river is low (as it usually is) there is a wing dam just south of Lambertville, which kids like to explore. The northern 7 miles from Lambertville to Bullís Island passes through Stockton, where there is a deli/store located right on the trail, this is also a great place for lunch. At Bullís Island campground youíll find a pedestrian bridge to PA, this used to offer a great return loop on the Delaware canal path on the PA side, but the floods of 2004/2005 did major damage to the Delaware canal and large portions of the path are closed. Unfortunately I donít think repairs will be happening any time soon, check the Friends of the Delaware Canal web site for updates.

The D&R path continues north of Bullís Island to Frenchtown, even though the canal does not (about 9+ miles). In April 2007 we road this section of the trail to find that it dosn't end in Frenchtown but continues for another 2 or 3 miles, in frenchtown there is a resturant located right on the trail next time we will plan a lunch stop. We found this section of the trail to be very quite, and probably the least traveled part of the whole trail system, there was also a good amount of tree cover which is always welcome for summer cycling.

The last time we rode the D&R trail south of Washingtonís crossing we found that the trail sort of disappears after 3 or 4 miles, the trail changed to dirt & heavy roots, so we turned back (not sure this was even the trail anymore). To my knowledge there is no trail connection between the feeder canal and main canal paths.

In late April try to ride the D&R feeder during the annual Shad Fest in Lambertville; it is a great way to visit the festival without all the traffic and parking issues in the tiny town.

The path is very safe, with few road crossing, however you are riding almost continuously along a canal which is more than 6 feet deep; small children should be kept in sight as is the case with any body of water. The only other caution (again this is off the trail) is that a short section (~100 feet?) of the trail south of Lambertville runs along a vertical drop straight down to the Delaware River. The path also crosses over the canal a number of times via small bridges, so remember, bridges attract kids like ants to a picnic, they love to hang over and look at the water!

The state of NJ D&R bike brochure for the feeder canal.

2008 Update The flood damage south of Lambertville has been repaired.