The Historical Significance of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is rich with human history. For at least 13,000 years, people have been drawn to the natural beauty of this area, and have lived and played in it. Their lives are retold to our current generations by the overwhelming amount of historical structures and artifacts that remain preserved in the recreation area.

The first humans who inhabited this land were Paleoindians who subsisted mainly off from big game that they hunted with rock tipped spears. The natural resources available in the water gap meant that fishing and vegetation were plentiful, as well.

The first white settlers were miners arrived in the Delaware Water Gap in the 17th century. An Indian trail known as the Old Mine Road became a catalyst for development in the area. This trail connected Port Jarvis, the Hudson River, and Philadelphia. It was so vital in early American trade that it became one of the first commercial highways in the United States. During this time, settlers began building permanent stone colonial homes along this trail, some of which are still standing today. Modern day visitors to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area can still explore the Old Mine Road.

In the 17th and 18th century, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area was the biggest and most important settlement for the Munsee people. During this time, Europeans began to occupy the area as well and regularly traded metal goods and cloth for animal pelts with the Native American people. Eventually, the water gap became a major frontier of the French and Indian War. The colorful story of the Munsee is an ongoing tale that is written by the vast array of archeological evidence preserved in the Delaware Water Gap. This area is now known as the Minisink Historic District, and is now a National Historic Landmark.

By the late 19th century, what is now known as the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area was already booming as a resort town. Without air conditioning, summers in the cities were excruciatingly hot, and it was not uncommon for upper class Victorians to vacation to areas like the Delaware Water Gap to get away from the heat. A well-off Victorian wife would often vacation for the entire season with her children. Her husband would work in the city during the week and join the rest of the family on the weekends. Much like today’s vacationers, Victorian families would partake in recreational activities such as fishing, canoeing, hunting, and simply enjoying the beautiful scenery.