What’s 330 miles and runs through five states? Well that could be a number of things but in this case I’m specifically referring to the beautiful Delaware River. As the longest undammed river in the Northeast, its meandering flow runs through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware and eventually emptying into the great Atlantic ocean via the Delaware Bay. Although I fantasize about kayaking the entire 330 miles the reality is that my arms would probably fall off around the 100 mile mark. As of now I know a mere fifteen miles of this flowing water – a small section that runs through the Catskill Mountains. This particular area divides the states of New Jersey and New York and toward the south end, it begins to divide Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The Delaware river has a long-standing history of hosting the first documented visitors of the Dutch East India Company. At the time, it was Henry Hudson who was assigned to find new trade routes which in turn opened the door to the Dutch colonization of North America.
Leading into today, just as Henry Hudson, there are many daily visitors utilizing and admiring this beautiful host for life and local communities who reside alongside the Delaware River have respected the heart of this water for generations.
There are multiple recreational activities provided by the river – from fly-fishing (something I plan to learn) to kayaking, tubing, camping along the banks, and swimming. In the summer you can find lots of action but just as anything too much love for an area can cause major issues. Everything has its limits, even if it’s 330 miles long.
I’m not one for crowds especially when it comes to exploring and enjoying the outdoors. I normally plan my kayaking trips on the off weekends – either right before or right after a holiday – This way I avoid the crowds. Unfortunately my most recent trip was during a popular weekend. I will be honest, my previous experiences on the Delaware have completely spoiled me. Normally, I am the only kayaker for miles, floating around happily alone but this time….this time… the visitors on the river were countless. Groups of ten – twenty – thirty people floating by, birthday celebrations along the banks, campers barbecuing…oh my goodness it was madness! by the end of the day, I had a pang in my heart for the stress imposed on the river – I didn’t like what I was seeing – numerous items floating in the water. I was annoyed about how this normally peaceful beautiful flow of water was being abused.
The summer activities on the Delaware bring in a large seasonal cash flow to local businesses which is great! Just to give you an idea, renting a single kayak cost about $47.00 for a half day (four hours) and including myself, I was with a group of six – we paid approximately $300.00 (including taxes) for the four hours we were on the river. Most rental companies own about 20 kayaks so you can imagine the profits a holiday week/weekend can produce. At the same time, there is a fine balance between lucrative tourism and overusing a natural resource. Where do we draw the line between the abuse of a natural resources and flourishing income for locals?
Whether its creating a cap on the human presence per day on the river or not allowing campers to camp directly alongside the river, it only makes sense to create a boundary even if some profit is lost. Furthermore, some consideration should be taken to employ river keepers and allow penalties such as tickets to be given to those caught in abusing the Delaware River. Although immediate profits are beneficial, land managers and local business owners should consider the long-term effects of degrading this beautiful historic habitat. I don’t believe anyone would like to spend a day outing or extended weekend on a dirty river, beach or forest. Natural areas attract droves of tourists because they are clean and beautiful. Keeping these areas as pristine as possible is essential to increasing long-term income within the biodiversity tourism industry.
The fact of the matter is you can’t have one with out the other.
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