After we left the busy port of New York City and Arthur Kill, Dave and I paddled on the Raritan River. Then we took the D&R Canal to the Delaware River. The D stands for Delaware and the R stands for Raritan. The Delaware & Raritan Canal has a long history.
Our coldest day of the journey happened when we were on the Raritan River. We wore many layers of clothing under our dry suits to stay warm. The dry suits would keep us dry if we were to get splashed or accidentally fall in the water. We also wore winter hats, mittens and big boots.
We were happy to reach the D&R Canal. It is narrow and surrounded by forest, so the wind didn’t bother us much. A trail runs along the canal, so we saw several people out running and walking. We would duck for low bridges so we wouldn’t hit our heads. Every few miles we came to an old lock that we had to portage around. We had some help on the portages from our new friends, Monica, George and Leona. Monica paddled with us for several miles and George later switched places with her. We used George’s cart on the portage. We even had a nice picnic lunch together.
The main canal is 36 miles long and there is a 22-mile long feeder canal too. When the United States entered into the Industrial Revolution in the early nineteenth century, many canals were built. The canals were used to transport resources to manufacturing centers and markets. The D&R Canal was built through New Jersey as a safe route for transporting resources between Philadelphia and New York.
The D&R Canal was built between 1830 and 1834. By the 1870s, the D&R Canal was one of America’s busiest canals. Most of the cargo that traveled through the canal was coal from Pennsylvania. Barges full of coal were either pulled through the canal by a team of mules or pushed by steam tugboats to New York.
As railroads were used more and more around the end of the nineteenth century, the canal was used less. The canal closed in 1932. The state of New Jersey bought it to use as a water supply system. A large stretch of the canal became a state park in 1974.
As we paddled on the canal, we saw several blue herons. People ran and walked on the path. We even saw one man paddling a kayak. I thought it was really great that this waterway and surrounding forest have been preserved.