Johnson City Press: Heading to New York City?
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Heading to New York City?

By Johnny Molloy • Jun 17, 2018 at 5:30 AM

The Delaware Water Gap area, along the Delaware River separating Pennsylvania and New Jersey, has long been a popular recreation destination even before much of the scenic valley became managed by the National Park Service and designated Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Back a century and more, visitors were flocking to the locale, retreating to cabins and rustic hotels, getting away from the big cities of the Eastern Seaboard and coming here to visit waterfalls, fish and boat the Delaware River. However, the dearth of public lands hampered hiking. The situation changed with the establishment of Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, which came about as a twist of fate, especially when considering that hiking trails like those we use to reach Hackers Falls and other cataracts within the recreation area were the result. Back in 1955, Hurricane Diane stormed its way up the Eastern Seaboard, dropping copious amounts of rain, including 16 inches at one recording station in Connecticut. Throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New England, streams overflowed their banks, reaching record levels. This massive load of water made its way down the Delaware River, leaving a swath of devastation in its wake, especially in the inundated Poconos of Pennsylvania. Over 100 people lost their lives in the Keystone State alone. This flood led authorities to seek ways to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. The plan arose to build a dam along the Delaware River somewhere in the Delaware Water Gap region. By 1965, the US Army Corps of Engineers was authorized to build what became known as the Tocks Island Dam. The land around this 37-mile-long lake was to be part of the Tocks Island National Recreation Area. Land was purchased and people were moved, some via condemnation. However, a group arose opposing the dam — the Delaware Valley Conservation Association — who rallied local residents as well as those from afar to halt the project. Citing additional infrastructure needed to be built to handle what would be a popular lake as well as environmental concerns halted the project in 1975. Additionally, the proposed dam site was not geologically sound enough to hold what would have been the largest earthen dam east of the Mississippi. Nevertheless, the land for the lake and dam was already purchased. Therefore, the federal government went ahead with a national recreation area that would be based on the undammed Delaware River and the lands and streams draining into it in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The result is what we see today, over 70,000 acres of history, hills and waterfalls — and plenty of hiking trails at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. George W. Childs Park is a special part of Delaware Water Gap. Here, you can explore several waterfalls on an elaborate trail system. Back in the early 1800s, settlers of the Poconos saw the waterfalls of Dingmans Creek as a source of energy first rather than a source of beauty as we view them today. To grind their wheat and corn into meal locals built small dams and mills all along Dingmans Creek as it fell toward the Delaware River. Even today, you can still see evidence of these mills, though the fully erect dams have long since washed away. Still others saw larger commercial ventures possible along the banks of Dingmans Creek. In one particular spot Joseph Brooks erected a wool spinning factory. He even brought in the sheep during that year 1826. Dingmans Creek provided the energy for the wool spinning machines, run by upward of three score employees. However, the sheep did not fare so well, succumbing to predators and disease. Therefore, Mr. Brooks had to transport raw wool to the factory, then ship the processed product to Philadelphia, killing his profit margin. Nevertheless, the factory limped along until Mr. Brooks passed away in 1832, then shut down for good. You can still see stone remains of the once three-story tall structure. More grinding mills and even a tannery were established along the banks of Dingmans Creek, but the stream’s beauty and its falling waters shone through to a man named George W. Child. He purchased the area around Factory Falls, Fulmer Falls, and Deer Leap Falls in 1892, with the intent to build a park for the public to enjoy these cataracts. Unfortunately, Mr. Childs passed away two years later. His wife eventually deeded the property over to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1912. Ultimately, when the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area came to be, George W. Childs Park was brought into the fold and is now managed by the National Park Service. Upon seeing the waterfalls here you will understand Mr. Childs’ desire to preserve this part of Dingmans Creek. The park has gone through many transformations, upgrades and repairs, including where the Civilian Conservation Corps laid their hands on the place, leaving their legacy of construction. The trail system was revamped in 2012, when the park service constructed or reconstructed the elaborate stairs, bridges and other paths to facilitate visitation, yet keep visitors from going places that may do themselves and the watershed harm. Photographers need to know that although they will be able to see the waterfalls from many different angles, the limitations on where they can go may hamper their efforts. The first part of the hike uses an all access track winding down to an overlook of Factory Falls. From there, you will employ a combination of trail and stairwells descending to Fulmer Falls, dropping 56 feet, the tallest of the trio. Due to the trail configuration, it is hard to get close to this falls, except at the top. Beyond a bridge crossing of Dingmans Creek you continue downstream then reach dramatic Deer Leap Falls, where a slender channel pinched in by rock walls shoots forth into an enormous plunge pool. Stand atop the bridge over Deer Leap Falls, then curve around to the falls basin. From there, the hike uses more stairs to work up the right bank of Dingmans Creek, eventually coming to the overlook at Fulmer Falls. Note how this cataract plunges into a semicircular basin before pushing out into its plunge pool. Next, after admiring the CCC Pavilion, check out stone foundations of the Brooks Woolen Mill. Enjoy yet another perspective of Factory Falls, then take a little side trip to the CCC Pump Shelter before returning to the trailhead completing a crown of a hike at a place that once was slated to be under the waters of a dam. Remember, Delaware Water Gap is right on the way to New York City from the Tri-Cities, and would make a fun and natural stopover before you enter the big city. For more information, please visit www.nps.gov/dewa.

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