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Canoe Camping The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

Canoe Camping The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
Scroll down to the trip.

Friday, March 21st - Sunday, March 23rd.

This is my first attempt at canoe camping, this is something a few of us have been talking about doing for years.

Anyhow the time has finally come to "dive right in", "break a leg", "get our feet wet",...OK that's enough!

I planned this trip for the end of March, yeah I know the weather and river conditions can be unfavorable this time of year.

Of course with any "new adventure", you gotsta buy lotsachit.
Hell that's half the fun, buying new gear and testing it out.

I already have a Pelican Bayou 160 canoe,

it's a bit heavy and not the best canoe for river canoeing but its wide at 44" and I feel comfortable in this canoe and since there will be no portage on this trip, the weight of 115 lbs. shouldn't be too big of a deal... hopefully!

The next thing was to take a road trip to check out the area, this was done on the Dispersed Camping Delaware State Forest Trip.

We will be putting in at Milford Beach Access and will take out at Bushkill Access, camping at two spots along the way.

As part of our road trip we checked out Milford Beach Access and on the way home we took 209 south (Federal road) and checked out a couple of access points south of Milford and all looked OK.
209 pretty much hugs the river.

Since I have all the gear needed for camping I only needed to look into a few things, so a
fter doing quite a bit of "GEAR" research the first thing I figured on looking into was dry bags.
Since there will be no portage and all the sites are right by the river I figured a good dry bag was OK and I did not need a backpack type bag such as the Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Pack and although they look cool they are pretty expensive.

I had already purchased a Sea To Summit eVent Compression Sack for my sleeping bag and picked up another one for my Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 these are waterproof bags as well as compression bags. My sleeping bag is a Western Mountaneering down Bag and I feel more comfortable having it in two dry bags.

OK back to the dry bags, I decided on the 65L Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Bag.

Click on the images for more info.

Sea to Summit Hydraulic Dry Bag. Sea to Summit eVent Compression Sack

I purchased two 65L bags this should be more than enough capacity for all of my gear, But to be safe, I will pack my gear a few weeks earlier and see if it is large enough.

Although there are no reviews on The Sea to Summit Hydraulic bags, the specs seemed pretty impressive and after packing the bag it is extremely sturdy.
I didn't want a bag too big and at the same time I did not want too many small bags, I can always half fill the bags and roll them down a bit more.
I'm planning on strapping my two bags to the center seat(front of the seat) side by side and my brothers gear on the other rear side of the bow seat.

Jim picked up a few "Outdoor Research watertight containers" for the canoes from Dicks Sporting Goods for small stuff like wallets, keys and cell phones, this will be strapped to the canoe.

Food, Clothing, camp sneakers, First aid kit, fire starting kit and cooking gear will be vacuum sealed in reusable Vac-Seal zip-loc style bags and packed in the Dry Bag.
Backup Clothing, jacket and a towel will be vacuum sealed and packed in the Dry Bag.

The Menu is undetermined at this point and everyone will be  responsible for their own cooking gear, Food and water.

We will probably use a cooler and bring some fresh food in, most likely precooked.
I will be bringing 3 gallons of water and will have my Sawyer filter with me.

Outfitting the canoe

I decided on getting a pair of canoe seats.

GCI Outdoor SITBACKER Canoe Seat Salamander Polar Paw 5mm Neoprene Gloves

I originally wanted to pick up a Kayak paddle for the stern rower but decided on a canoe paddle.

This will give me 4 paddles on board including the emergency paddle.

 Sawyer Glide Laminated Wood Fiberglass Canoe Paddle with RockShield Tip Liberty Mountain Kayaker's Throw Bag (50-Feet)

This oar and the throw bag will hopefully be my last purchases other than food for this trip.

This is the only thing that pisses me off with this trip.

Required Distances for overnight trips:
One-night trips (at least 14 miles)
Two-night trips (at least 26 miles)
Three-night trips (at least 34 miles)

The reason this pisses me off is because we have never done this trip and I don't want to park the shuttle vehicle 26 miles down stream and kill ourselves to get to the shuttle vehicle, that would totally ruin the idea of this trip.

However, I am pretty sure this means that you have to complete the 14 miles in two days so you would travel some of the 14 miles, camp then in the morning travel the balance of the 14 miles, if this is the case, I am OK with that, but to travel 14 miles then camp aint gonna happen with my crew.

The last thing I want is some "hard nose" getting in my face about us not following the rules... because you know if this happens... I wont be able to keep my mouth shut and I am going to jail.



For those driving with me, be at my house by 6:30 am

Friday March 21st

  • March 21st Friday 9:00 am Meet at Milford Beach Access

GPS 41.311821 -74.795382 canoe launch area  GPS 41.308809, -74.798013

  • Unload canoes by 9:30 am and drive down to Bushkill Access

GPS 41.106735-74.984173 (18 miles)

  • 10:00 am drop off shuttle car

  • 10:30 be back at launch area

  • 11:30 in the water

Friday afternoon March 21st

Lunch on Namanock Island (4 miles)

GPS 41.264988 -74.843964

  • 1st camp site 9 miles

Dingmans Shallows Site #24 (4 persons per site)

GPS 41.185276 -74.880993

  • 1st camp site (Alternative) Jerry Lees 12 miles

Sites #33-34 (8 persons per site)

GPS 41.153859 -74.908620

Saturday March 22nd,

  • 2nd campsite 16 miles Toms Creek (7 miles from Dingmans 4 from Jerry Lees)

Sites #39-42 (6 persons per site)

GPS 41.127015 -74.948574

Sunday March 23rd.

  • Paddle to Bushkill Access GPS 41.106735-74.984173 (2 miles)

  • Shuttle back to get the launch car and head back to pickup area, secure canoes and head home.

Some supplies needed:

  • Camping gear
  • Canoe Launch Permit or Registration
  • Spare Shoes
  • Change of clothing
  • Towel
  • Life Vests (must be worn from November 1st - April 30th.)
  • Rain Gear
  • Dry Bags
  • Paddling Gloves
  • You will need to supply your own food, water and cook set.

Height Conditions & Recommendations

Under 2.5 feet These are low water levels with many exposed rocks, especially in the rapids. Narrow channels make rapids difficult to navigate. Plan on a slower trip and expect to scrape rocks or river bottom with your vessel. Shorter trips are recommended. Also, limit the weight in your vessel.

2.5 - 4 feet These are average water levels good for recreational boating, with some rocks exposed in rapids and with waves up to 3 feet. River current is approximately 2 miles per hour.

4 - 6 feet These are moderate water levels with waves between 4 to 5 feet and swift river currents of 2.5 miles per hour or more. Only larger rocks are exposed in rapids with open and wide channels. Increased canoe or kayak skills are requested, and rafting is suggested for less skilled boaters.

6 - 8 feet These are high water levels with waves up to 6 feet and noticeable hydraulics. Expect a very swift current of 3 miles per hour and above. Higher skill level recommended for open boats, and rafting is recommended for less experienced boaters.

8 - 12 feet These are very high water levels with very swift currents of 4 miles per hour and above. Increased hydraulics and undercurrents exist. Waves can be up to 8 feet. Floating debris, hazards and obstructions along the shoreline and in rapids are possible. Water temperatures decrease so wet or dry suits are recommended. Properly equipped rafts and/or enclosed boats are recommended. Highest skill level only!

Over 12 feet

This is approaching flood stage water levels with extreme river current speeds of 6-7 miles per hour and many waves above 8 feet. Violent currents, undercurrents and whirlpools exist. Floating debris, hazards and obstructions along the shoreline make conditions very dangerous. Maneuvering and rescue is extremely difficult. Boating is not recommended.

Flood stage at the Barryville, NY gage is 17 feet.

Optimal (average) stage for recreational boating at selected gages along the Delaware are shown below. Follow the links for current stage, water temperature, and other river conditions. 

Callicoon:   3-5 feet

Barryville:   2 1/2 - 4 feet   

Port Jervis:  3-6 feet

Delaware Water Gap:  5-8 feet

Riegelsville:  4-6 feet

Trenton:  7-10 feet


Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service (Milford)

Advanced Hydrologic Forecast Tocks Island (South)

River Conditions and Recommendations.

Stream Gage

Canoeing for Everyone

At the end of this article are PDF's with all the camp site coordinates.

Delaware River Access Points

Canoe Camping The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

Preparing for this trip was a lot of fun as well as a lot of expense not just for me but for all of us. Since we were unsure of what to expect we planned for the worst.

A lot of research was done beforehand but that will only carry you so far. We all agreed to secure everything in wet bags, some of us double bagged and I even vacuum sealed backup, backup, clothes.

I secured the canoe the day before the trip and prepared my meals two days before the trip. Everything was packed and ready to go. Most of us decided to bring fresh food as the weather was on the cold side of 25-51°

I came home after work Thursday, tweaked a few things, threw the gear in the car and went to bed fairly early.

Day one, 6:30am

Bruce arrived at the house by 6:30 am we loaded up his gear then we picked up Jim and loaded up his gear.

Were going to meet Adam at Milford Access, this is where we plan to launch from.

On the way to Milford Beach Access, we stopped to check out Bushkill Access, this is where we will take out of, Adam was wondering where the hell we were and I turned off my phone and had it on the charger to charge up a bit as it died on the way up.

All looks good so we head up to meet Adam at The Milford Access.

The Canoes and gear are unloaded, Adam and myself head down to the Bushkill Access (take out access) to drop off my truck while Jim and Bruce secure the gear, its 18 miles south so we figured an hour round trip. 

It was fairly cold just about 40° with the Sun.

I have to laugh, because on the way up, the guys looked over and said the river is frozen straight across, I said, “no it's too warm for the river to freeze across”, anyhow on the way back to the launch area we decided to check it out to be safe, sure enough, they were right, it was frozen across the whole width of the river.

So Adam and I brainstormed, first idea was to stay close to the shore line and break through the ice with a tomahawk because the ice appeared to break up somewhat as I stepped on it and almost went in.

Anyhow we both agreed we did not want to go down the center because once committed to the middle route, there is no going back or getting out.

We brainstormed a bit more and Adam suggested we do sort of a portage, since the canoes were too heavy especially with the gear and the distance was too great, we decided the safest bet would be to pull the canoes over the ice from the land, sort of like transporting via canal.

This was the path we would take.

We were both holding on to the hope that since it was fairly sunny and warming up, that the ice may give way a bit and flow freely, as it would be several hours before we got there.

These pics were taken from the shoreline several hours before we arrived there with the canoes.

It's not looking good!

The ground was very slippery as it was mud on top and frozen underneath. Adams butt shows how slippery it was.

11:30am Launch
Alright, we launch at around 11:30am and believe it or not, we are on schedule. We come up to our first bridge, the Milford–Montague Toll Bridge and were off.

There's some ice floating about, but its not too bad, the wind is kicking up but with the sun, it's fairly decent weather. The view is awesome and so far it looks like were having fun.

Adam and Bruce were cruising, I still think they had a motor on that thing, I guess that's the advantage of having a V-Hull as opposed to a Flat Bottom canoe!

This is a back shot of the Milford–Montague Toll Bridge, OK, looks like were moving a bit.

I am not sure if this is an eagles nest or not but it's pretty big.

We hit some choppy water but it was a welcomed bit of excitement.

At 4 miles in, were coming up on Namanock Island, this is where we planned to have lunch and use the restrooms if they were open.

We haven't seen a sole yet, it appears we got the river to ourselves.

Uh, Oh, there seems to be a problem, the whole shore line is a wall of ice.

Adam and Bruce decide to get closer to check out possible areas to get ashore, Jim and I stayed closer to the center of the river to get a better view of the top of the island.

After playing around a bit, we decided that accessing the island was not safe, so we kept going, looking for another area to have lunch. We found a small clearing to stop and have lunch on Jerseys side, directly after the island.

1:30PM, lunch time

We stretched our legs and had lunch, I had a Wawa hoagie as well as Bruce, I think Jim had a Burrito and I'm not sure what Adam had, might of been jerky?

2:00PM, it was back to business as usual.

There was still a good bit of ice coming down.

We spotted a few hawks, we were not really sure what species of hawk they were, but we seen quite a few of them. Maybe Coopers Hawk or Rough-legged Hawk, but we couldn't be sure.

We saw plenty of red tails but these were different.

We were getting some pretty heavy winds in our face, the forecast called for 9-15 mph but it felt like a bit more, the canoe kept getting blown sideways.
There were quite a few buildings on the Jersey side, some looked abandoned and dilapidated and some looked like Gun/Rod clubs.

3:00pm we stopped just before the ice “barricade” we were worried about getting through. We docked our boats and Adam ran up to check out if it was passable, this was right before the Dingman's Ferry Bridge .

As were sitting there, a huge piece of ice was headed downstream and rammed the side of the canoe, the current was pulling everything towards us and it was moving pretty fast, I figured we better move soon or we could be in trouble.

This dam this thing was longer than our canoe at least 20 feet.

Adam comes back from his scouting and says, “were going to have to stick to our gameplan of portaging”, as he's telling us this, he looks up and says, “it just opened up, the dam thing just opened up”, so we decide to make a run for it, yep right down the center. Our hope that this impassable ice blockade would break free before we had to go through, became a reality. Now I know how the Israelites felt when Moses parted the red sea.

Dingman's Ferry Bridge .

3:20PM Making a run for it.

The whole entire area opened up and were just cruising through with tons and tons of ice, we decide to float a bit with the ice and hookup canoes and double check our map for our first site.

This is the only guy we seen on the river today.

It was actually pretty awesome floating down with all the ice.

Here's one of the the main pieces that busted through.

We could have camped on this thing.

The water was so clear there was no problem seeing the bottom.

4:00pm, we arrive at our first camp site, site#24,
Dingman's Shallows, were approximately 9 miles from Milford Beach Access and 9 miles from Bushkill Access.

All the gear is carried to the site.

Our first priority was to gather some wood and start a fire but we were not very happy with the location of the fire ring, so we had to improvise. After the fire was going, we looked for high ground to setup our tents.

I wasn't too keen on the tree in back of us either.

I felt bad for Bruce, he had water proofed his tent fly with waterproofing and left it at home, no biggie we were prepared, we had another tent. This was a good time to test out the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2

After we setup, everyone had a chance to use their new toys and start harvesting more firewood for the night.

6:30PM, We all sat down by the fire bullshitting about the days events and chowing down on our dinners, joking about how our original plan to get through the ice involved Adam on the front of the canoe chipping away with a tomahawk.

Day 2, 9:00AM, Making breakfast and warming by the fire, It was pretty cold last night, temps dropped to the mid twenties.

I decided to bring my Coleman Exponet Stove as a primary stove, but to be quite honest, I am very disappointed in the stove, I planned on cooking my meals on the fire with the exception of my breakfast sandwiches which I planned on using the stove.

Jim made some kick ass breakfast burritos for everyone, I fried an egg and toasted my egg, cheese, and sausage bagel sandwich by the fire, heated some water for coffee and had a cup of my camp coffee with a bit of Baileys, yeah baby! this most definitely warmed the soul.

Here's my cook set being packed, stove, lighter, firestarters, Mrs.'s Dash's seasoning, hot sauce, olive oil, scrubbie and frying pan handle are all inside my titanium toaks mug.

Packing up our gear.

Loading up the canoes. We tipped the canoes the night before because there was a good chance of rain.

11:15AM and we are back on the water and headed for our next site, Toms Creek.

Geese were everywhere and screaming all day. So we started screaming back, thank goodness there was no one else around.

It's still a bit nippy and the wind is a killer today, a lot stronger and persistent than yesterday.

Richard? Is this your coat?
Don't do it.
Fat guy in a little coat. Fat guy in a little coat.
(Scene from Tommy Boy)

12:00 noon we came upon a very inviting rest spot and since the wind was beating us up, we decided to take a short break.
I jumped out to secure the canoe and soaked my left foot, I took off my sock and shoe, placed it in a sunny spot and went barefoot on one foot the rest of the day.

we were back on the water.

Here is where the weather went completely nuts, it started raining so we had to put on our rain gear, the wind picked up and was blowing so hard we had waves coming over the bow, and at one point the wind turned us sideways then blew so hard again, that the boat almost went over, Jim yells, “hey are you leaning”, I said, “NO, it's the freaking wind”. I did not get many pics because there was no way to stop rowing, not even for a second!

The rain was short lived but the wind wasn't giving up on hammering us some more. At one point I was in the kneelers of the boat rowing like a mad man.

It got so bad that the wind would blow us upstream, at that point I said to Jim, BULLSHIT... I HAD ENOUGH, head for land and we'll wait out the wind, it made no sense struggling to go backwards.
Anyhow after about 20 minutes or so we regained our composure and headed back out on the water more determined than ever.

Jim suggested a drift anchor for our next trip. I will definitely be looking into this.

I am extremely happy I purchased the canoe seats, because you were able to get your feet out in front of you, avoiding leg cramps.

2:00PM we arrived at our 2nd campsite Toms Creek site #39. 7 miles from Dingmans, 16 miles from Milford.

There was no rain in the forecast, so we didn't bother tipping the canoes.

This site was much nicer but the wind was so bad we decided to hold off on a fire until the wind let up a bit. All of the gear is unloaded and we scouted the area looking for the driest spots. It was hard to find anything dry, because the first few inches of the ground was soft from the sun and it was frozen solid further down.

A quick review of the Camping Regulations.

Time to setup camp, Jim and Bruce looked like they were flying a kite, when setting up the Big Agnes tent.

Jim said if he pulled out a kite the wind would stop dead.

Hey guys, I believe you have the fly on inside out!

The ground was still frozen solid and I only had ultralight aluminum tent pegs so we had to improvise. I'll make sure to bring my heavier stakes for Canoe, winter camping.

My bed is all ready to crash tonight, I brought my extra comfy camp pillow, ahhh! doesn't that look comfy.

3:00PM, were all setup and start playing with our toys again, Since we didn't have a fire yet, I setup my $5.00 Chinese stove and threw on a pack of hot dogs for an early dinner, we figured we would eat again later on.

Adam found a canoe seat and fabricated a lounge chair.

Bringing the hot dogs was a great idea, way to go Jim!

Bruce and Adam decided to head down to Toms Creek and filter some water before it got dark.

I did a bit of exploring to see what the river had washed up... not much, I found a golf ball and a cutting board.

When I got back, I took a break next to Jim.

Adam decide to do some fishing, nothing!

I crashed in my tent for about an hour, The wind had let up so Adam started a fire. I had just fallen asleep when I smelled the campfire and it pulled me out of bed, sort of like that morning cup of coffee, awesome.

Nice View to wake up to.

Bruce took a snooze as well and wasn't feeling good, he was burning up then freezing, he started to feel better after a few hours.

6:00PM, the water was so calm I had to take a couple quick shots, it looked like glass and just a few hours before, it looked like the bay on a bad day.

The ground was very muddy so Adam and Jim laid some hardwood flooring. It ain't no Brazilian Cherry, but it worked just fine.

No wind and the Fire is looking good and meets Adams approval.

Adam playing with some more of his toys. Dam dude, you have more toys than can fit in Santa's sack!

Uh oh! looks like it's that time. It don't get any better than this, hanging by the fire sitting on hardwood floors a few stiff drinks and a whole lot of bullshitting.

8:20AM Day three
It's morning... yay, The night was a bit warmer than the first night probably around 30°. I slept like a rock but have a nagging sore throat and am very congested, hmmm, wonder if it has anything to do with the bottle of Captain, Bailie's and Tullamore D.E.W.

There is no wind, it's cloudy and very chilly, we decide to seize the opportunity and eat a quick breakfast and get on the water before the wind does!

The guys started a small fire to try and get the chill out of our bones.

This is supposed to be our bear bag, I was calling it the "bear Piñata".

9:00AM, we start packing up. We were pretty much cooking and eating breakfast while packing.

On the water for our last leg of the journey.

As soon as we got about 100 yards from our launch, the wind kicked up, mother nature wasn't letting us off that easy.

We hit a good bit of wind again and were getting a bit frustrated, at this point, I wasn't as Snappy Happy with the camera.
We had a few brief moments with no wind but they ware few and far between and short lived.

10:15AM, we arrived at Bushkill beach access and it's still windy and cold.

Jim and Bruce unload the canoes while Adam and myself headed up to pick up his car at the launch area (Milford Beach Access), my truck would not start and I thought, "man were screwed", but after a few minutes I got it running. We stopped in Milford to gas up and Adam ran into Arnold's and bought everyone a little surprise.

Jim would like this, the store has a candle cottage .

Dam look at this thing!
Taylor Ham, Taylor Pork Roll, Sausage, Smoked Bacon and Cheese on a Kaiser. Whatever calories we burnt on this trip, we were getting them back with this sandwich.
Thanks Adam!

Back at the launch we load up the gear and secure the canoes.

11:50AM and were loaded up and on the road headed home.

So that's it, everyone had a great time, everyone survived, no one got hurt and we plan to do this again. Were looking into a trip above the Delaware National Recreational Area, like the upper Delaware, maybe sometime in the fall.

I hope you enjoyed the pics, video coming soon!


Richard Leyden,
Mar 19, 2014, 12:21 PM
Richard Leyden,
Feb 18, 2014, 7:39 AM
Richard Leyden,
Feb 18, 2014, 7:39 AM