An A.T. Community™ Dependent Upon its Land and Water

Delaware Water Gap

At the north end of the Kittatinny Ridge, near the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the Delaware River began carving a gap into the Appalachian Mountains more than 500 million years ago. Here, where steep, forested mountainsides dive directly into the meandering river, lies the Borough of Delaware Water Gap.

The area, once frequented by indigenous populations, was rugged enough to halt the westward expansion of European settlers in the 17th century. But beginning in the 1830s, with the construction of a road and then a railroad to the area, the borough grew to become one of the most popular resort towns in the East, with the establishment of several large hotels and smaller inns.

The natural beauty of “the Gap” attracted visitors seeking respite from the hot, steamy summers of city life, and some even stayed the entire season. In the mid-19th century, the town’s year-round population of about 400 people swelled to more than 2,500 in the summers.

Water-Based Economy

According to a book authored by Luke W. Brodhead, who operated the Gap’s Kittatinny Hotel from 1857-1876, “The principal sources of amusement and recreation are the rambles over miles of mountain paths with vistas of great beauty opening at frequent intervals; carriage drives in many directions over a picturesque and interesting country; steamboat and rowboat service, and good bass fishing on the river in season and trout fishing in the adjacent streams.”

The Gap was so prized for its natural surroundings and pure water that Dr. F. Wilson Hurd of Connecticut established the Wesley Water Cure, a sanitarium that claimed to heal illness using only the power of water.

From the beginning, Delaware Water Gap’s residents have depended upon the area’s natural surroundings to survive, operating businesses relying on tourists for economic success.

Small, Beautiful and Welcoming

Today, not much has changed. The borough’s population sits around 730, and the area remains a desirable vacation stop for those looking to experience nature, whether on foot or on the water.

“As a community, we have fought very hard to keep Delaware Water Gap the small, quaint little town it’s always been,” said Susan Cooper, a resident since 1977 and owner of the Village Farmer and Bakery. Cooper said her business depends on tourism – and clean water – to operate. “We are lucky to be surrounded by natural beauty, and we welcome visitors who are all desperately looking for that because it’s not easily found anymore,” she added.

Seeking the Unique

Though the borough remains small, the adjacent 70,000-acre Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area attracted more than 3.25 million visitors in 2018. And hundreds of hikers pass through while walking the 2,190-mile long Appalachian National Scenic Trail, which runs into town and exits the area from a street bearing the name of the iconic river that is the lifeblood of the local economy, Delaware Avenue. Delaware Water Gap is a designated Appalachian Trail (A.T.) Community™, offering various hiker services during the hiking season in the Gap: late March through October.

Susan’s son, Chuck Cooper, was born in the Gap and has spent most of his 42 years there. As owner of Edge of the Woods Outfitters, Chuck and his wife Rachele offer visitors river trips, canoe and bike rentals, backpacking supplies, and other services.

“People live here because it’s a beautiful place, and they want to see it preserved and cared for. Tourists come here because it’s unique,” Chuck said, noting the Delaware River is the longest undammed river in the East, as well as one of the cleanest. “As an outfitter, we provide a lot of information about Leave No Trace principles, wildlife, and conserved land,” he said. “We also have an educational sign on our kiosk describing how the Delaware River watershed works and how the area contributes to keeping the water and the aquifers clean,” Chuck noted.

Dependent Upon Clean Water

Keeping the local aquifer healthy and clean is a huge concern for Elvi DeLotto, a Delaware Water Gap Borough Council member and chair of its Water Committee. “It’s our only water source,” she said, explaining the town depends on three wells for all of its water needs.

DeLotto said although there is not much development taking place within the borough, she worries development in surrounding areas could affect water quality in the Gap, including the possibility of looser regulations at the federal and state levels regarding ecological buffer zones, construction setbacks, and runoff. “That will affect all of us,” she said.

Chuck Cooper voiced gratitude that organizations such as the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, and others are working to engage community members, educate the public, and protect the lands and waterways surrounding Delaware Water Gap. “A lot of our economy depends on tourism, so it’s important that these pristine lands exist,” he said.

Take Action

If you live, work or play in in one of the townships below, you can take action now to help improve the health and conservation of the Delaware River.


Upper Bern
Upper Tulpehocken
East Penn
Lower Towamensing
Middle Smithfield
Upper Mt. Bethel
West Penn Township

New Jersey


Call or email your local officials and tell them you support clean water and the protection of local rivers and streams by requiring vegetative and forested buffers along their banks that are at least 100 feet wide.

Thank you for protecting the Delaware River to ensure everyone has safe and fun outdoor experiences!