The Delaware and Lehigh Trail: Day 3
Starting Point: Easton, Pennsylvania, Mile Marker 59 (9:45 a.m.)
End Point: Bristol, Pennsylvania, Mile Marker 0 (7:30 p.m.)
Total Distance Traveled: 59 miles (6.1 miles per hour)
I decided to explore the city of Easton the morning of my third and final day on the Delaware and Lehigh Trail. Easton sits at the confluence of the Delaware and Lehigh rivers—the Lenni Lenape called it “Lechanwitauk”, or “Place of the Forks”—and was surveyed by Thomas Penn, son of William Penn, in 1736. The town was established in 1752 and served as a vital link between frontier tradesmen and coastal markets.
In October 1758, the Treaty of Easton was signed between the British colonial government and representatives from thirteen American Indian tribes. The agreement stipulated that the tribes would support enemies of the British during the French and Indian War. In return, Britain promised to recognize and protect Native American land claims in the Ohio Territory. This document influenced the much-despised Proclamation of 1763, which forbade European settlers from colonizing west of the Appalachian Mountains.
On July 8, 1776, the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence took place in Easton’s Centre Square. While the Declaration was being read, statesmen raised the Easton Flag—one of the first variants of the ‘Stars and Stripes’ to ever be flown over the colonies. This momentous occasion in our nation’s history continues to be celebrated in Easton as Heritage Day.
In 1832, the Delaware Canal opened for business, linking Easton and Lehigh Navigation Canal to major shipping depots on the Atlantic coast. Economic and industrial development flourished during the canal’s century-long run. Easton evolved into a major coal distribution center and railroad interchange. Even though the canal closed in 1932, Easton remains an industrious city while maintaining a small town appeal.
I stopped by Easton’s Historic Centre Square and shopped around the Farmers’ Market—America’s oldest open-air market, operating for 267 years. I grabbed myself a homemade apple Danish from the Flour Shop Bakery (necessary biking fuel) and departed Easton for the last leg of my trip.
At 10:30 a.m., I reached Riegelsville (Mile Marker 50). The town was originally settled as Shanks Ferry in the late 18th century but renamed in 1806 when Benjamin Riegel acquired the river crossing. Riegelsville saw steady economic growth with the arrival of the Delaware Canal and was finally incorporated as a town in 1916.
On April 18, 1904, Riegelsville’s Roebling Bridge was opened to the public. The bridge was constructed by John A. Roebling’s Sons Company—the same engineers who built the Brooklyn Bridge—and is one the few remaining multi-span, continuous suspension cable bridges in America.
Not nearly one mile away from Riegelsville is Durham Creek—the origin of the region’s iron industry. In 1727, Joseph Galloway, James Logan, and William Allen founded the Durham Furnace Corporation. George Taylor leased the company in 1753 and manufactured ammunition for American forces during the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars. The Corporation also supplied Durham boats—62-foot barges the could safely transport 20 tons of material down river—to General George Washington when he crossed the Delaware River to engage Hessian mercenaries in the Battle of Trenton. The Furnace closed in 1791 due to lack of viable resources and was replaced by a grist mill in 1819. Joseph Whitaker and Company reconstructed the ironworks in 1848, but the enterprise failed during the mid-20th century.
At Mile 45 are the Nockamixon Cliffs, which tower three hundred feet about the towpath and are a spectacle to see. Five miles from the cliffs is the Lost Town of Uhlersville—a once-bustling town of two hundred people that vanished with the closure of the canal. The town was situated along Locks 22 and 23, collectively known as the “Groundhog Lock,” and thrived on the timber and limestone industries. In the 1860s, resources grew low and canal traffic slowed. A paper mill and whiskey distillery arrived in the 1890s, but neither were very successful. After the paper mill burned down in 1929, the town virtually disappeared.
I grabbed a quick snack at Tinicum Park (Mile Marker 39) and arrived in New Hope (Mile Marker 25) at 1:45 p.m. The settlement was founded in the early 1700s and was originally named Coryell’s Ferry. In 1790, a devastating fire destroyed the flour and lumber mills of Benjamin Parry, a local businessmen. He rebuilt his complex and named it New Hope. The town eventually adopted the same name. New Hope served as a layover and maintenance area for the Delaware Canal. Weary canallers frequently passed through, and pretty soon the town was bustling with shops, taverns, theaters, and hotels. New Hope continues to treat tourists and travelers with its eclectic collection of historic, cultural, and recreational attractions.
I got some lunch at the Logan Inn (c. 1727) then walked over to Lock 11 and the restored Locktender’s House, an interpretive exhibit of canal life and technology. After touring New Hope’s historic district, I got back on the D&L and pedaled three miles south to the Soldiers’ Graves—burial sites of Continental soldiers who died while encamped with General Washington in December 1776. The only known soldier buried there is Captain Lieutenant James Moore of the New York Artillery, who died on Christmas Day, 1776, after an “excruciating illness.”
From the graves, I ventured off the D&L and visited Bowman’s Hill Tower. This 125-foot stone spire was built in 1931 and marks what is believed to be the lookout point for Washington’s troops when they crossed the Delaware into Trenton, though this may be more oral tradition than actual fact. This isn’t the only controversy at Bowman’s Hill. While many people accept that the hill is named after John Beaumont (anglicized as ‘Bowman’), others stipulate that the name derives from Dr. John Bowman—a ship’s surgeon for the infamous pirate Captain William Kidd. It is rumored that Bowman retired here after his days of high-seas plundering and is buried on the hill with his pirate treasure. Of course, this is only folklore…or is it?
General admission tickets to enter the tower cost $6, but it’s totally worth the price since you’re met with a stunning panoramic view of the Delaware River Valley at the top. Or, for $11, you can grab an all-access pass to the tower and other historic sites across the greater Washington Crossing Historic Park.
I entered the town of Yardley (Mile Marker 14) at 5:15 p.m. and stopped by the Yardley Ice House for some well-deserved ice cream. An hour later at Mile Marker 9, I reached the town of Morrisville, situated along the falls of the Delaware. The town was originally established as the Dutch trading post of Crewcorne, but was renamed in 1807 after Robert Morris, the Financier of the American Revolution.
Morris was a prominent merchant and shipping executive who pulled significant clout over delegates in Congress. In October 1783, Morris campaigned the Confederation Congress to build the nation’s new capital on the banks of the Delaware between Trenton and Philadelphia. Congress accepted Morris’s proposal and tasked to raise funds not exceeding $100,000 to construct the public buildings. However, given the wartime debts and post-war recession, Morris was unable to come up with the money.
Morris also faced considerable pushback from southern delegates who wanted to place the capital city closer to the Mason-Dixon Line. In the summer of 1790, Alexander Hamilton, representing the North, and James Madison, representing the South, met at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello to discuss a possible solution. The resulting Compromise of 1790 granted Hamilton control of the United States’ financial system while Madison secured the promise of a southern capital. The subsequent Residence Act of 1790 gave President Washington the authority to decide where to place the federal city. Washington established the nation’s capital on the banks of the Potomac River just fifteen miles from his Mount Vernon estate.
At 7:30 p.m., I finally reached the D&L’s Southern Terminus at the Grundy Mills Textile Complex (c. 1876) in Bristol, Pennsylvania. The borough of Bristol was founded by Samuel Clift in 1681 and incorporated in 1692. The city’s position between New York and Philadelphia made it a crucial hub for commerce, transportation, and industry. Bristol continues to be a thriving metropolis this very day.
Three days and 140 miles later, we’re all done! What an exciting trip this has been! The Delaware and Lehigh’s rich history and diverse culture have been so immersive and absolutely incredible to experience over the past few days. I thank you all for following along and look forward to doing another trip like this again soon! Stay tuned later this week our Delaware and Lehigh YouTube video!
Check out the Durham Historical Society for more information on the Durham Furnace!
Read more about New Hope's history on Tales of the Towpath!
For more on how Morrisville almost became the nation's capital, check out this article by the Bucks County Courier Times!