Converted Rail Bridge

This entrance is about 400 yards east of the Queens Bridge. It is an old railway bridge that has been converted into a footbridge as part of a new town house development in South Bound Brook.

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Institute Woods

This is an unmarked entrance to the trails on land owned by the Institute of Advanced Study. These trails are private property, and the public is allowed accss, for hiking, cross country skiing, etc., but no wheeled vehicles are allowed -- to be clear no bicycles allowed.

The New Jersey Trails Association describes these trails and has a map. It also describes the crossing at Stony Brook as "stepping stones", i.e., there is no bridge. Bird watchers like the area included in this trail system, which is described as "one of the prime areas for migratory birds in the immediate area".

The entrance is about 1/2 mile south of Alexander Road.


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Brearley House Trail

The Brearley House Trail connects with the towpath about halfway between Port Mercer and Route 1. The Brearley House Trail is about 1/3 of a mile long and leads to the Brearley House. The trail includes a footbridge crossing the Shipetaukin Creek. From Brearley House there is access to Princeton Pike via Meadow Road and also to the Lawrence Hopewell Trail, a 20 mile loop that is approximately 50% complete.


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Provinceline Road

The towpath goes under the bridge at Provinceline Road. This entrance is close to large shopping malls on Route 1 (Mercer Mall, Nassau Park Pavilion, and Quakerbridge Mall).


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Port Mercer (Quakerbridge Road)

The Port Mercer entrance is at Quakerbridge Road. There is parking here. This entrance is close to large shopping malls on Route 1 (Mercer Mall, Nassau Park Pavilion, and Quakerbridge Mall).


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Alexander Road

This entrance is one of three in Princeton. This is the southernmost of the three. There is parking and a picnic area here. There is access to a variety of shops from this entrance via Canal Pointe Boulevard that is across the canal and about 1/4 mile away.


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Washington Road

This entrance is one of three in Princeton. From here Washington Road to the north passes through the heart of the campus of Princeton University; to the south it crosses Rte 1 and leads to the Princeton Junction train station on the Northeast corridor line with NJ Transit service to New York and Trenton.


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Harrison Street

This entrance is one of three in Princeton.



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Millstone Aqueduct

This entrance is one of four along Lake Carnegie. This is the northernmost of the four and it accessible by car from Mapleton Road which can be reached either from Kingston or Rte 1 southbound, but not directly from Rte 1 northbound. There is parking and a picnic area here. A footbridge crosses the aqueduct to the towpath.


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Commuting by Bike in NJ

NJ has the most people per square mile and probably the most cars, too. Plus, New Jersey traffic People are surprised when they learn that TowpathGuy commutes regularly by bicycle. How can he do this and survive? Simple, the Towpath.

If you live work at or near Rutgers or UMDNJ in New Brunswick or on the Busch campus in Piscataway, at or near the municipal complex in the Middlebush section of Somerset, in the office park on Davidson Avenue, in Bound Brook, South Bound Brook or Highland Park, you are near one of the northern entrances to the towpath -- see Towpath Access. If your commute includes any time on Easton Avenue, then you might even finding that your bike on the towpath is faster than you car during the morning rush hour.

Commuting by bike is healthy and saves gas, which at $4.00/gallon can add up pretty quickly. TowpathGuy has a 6 mile (10 km) ride each way from his house to his office on Busch campus. This takes about 25 minutes. He rides with traffic only on DeMott Lane and the short stretch of Landing Lane between the towpath and River Road. The towpath and the campus roads are the bulk of the ride.

Most days TowpathGuys sees only one or two other bike riders, but plenty of runners and dog walkers. Some of the fellow bike rides are fellow commuters. There are several of us from Busch Campus using the towpath. Some go even further, e.g., on to Bound Brook. Last week, TowpathGuy rode up DeMott with a commuter who rides from Hoes Lane near Centennial Drive in Piscataway to Franklin Park every day. He used the towpath for part of his ride.

Tips for Bike Commuters

  1. In the summer leave early and ride slow -- it's cooler that way.
  2. Keep a change of clothes at work or carry them with you.
  3. Carry your stuff on a bike rack rather than a backpack. It lowers your center of mass and leaves your back free for the cooling wind.
  4. Use tough tires and innertubes. A flat can wreck your day. Keep light weight tires or an extra set of wheels for your weekend adventures.
  5. Solve your work problems while you ride! No cars means you have time to think.

Canal and Towpath News

The top of this page will always contain the latest news about the canal and towpath. Also, new website features will be listed here. Scroll down to see older announcements.'

(9/21/08) Towpath Surface
  • The surface of much of the towpath between Landing Lane and Blackwells Mills was redone in the Spring of 2008. A mixture of sand, pea gravel and river gravel called "I5" was used. The river gravel has formed a loose monolayer on the top of a hard well-packed surface. The D&R Office says that they are looking into ways to remove the loose gravel from the surface.

(9/21/08) Update to Colonial Park Footbridge
  • The D&R Canal Office says that bids for this bridge have been sent out by the Somerset County Park Commission and that completion is expected sometime in 2010.
(9/21/08) Update to Davidson Avenue/5 Mile Lock Temporary Closure.
  • The parking lot here is closed and PSE&G crews have prepared a path from the parking lot to the canal and river. The towpath itself remains open, but the D&R Office says that it might be closed in the near future for a short time.

(8/29/08) New Signage at DeMott Lane
A new sign "Towpass Access" appeared at the Easton Avenue end of the access road to the DeMott Lane Footbridge yesterday. The sign is attached to the bottom of the sign for The Meadows.
(8/28/08) Weather Watch

The development of two tropical storms in the Atlantic -- Gustav and Hannah -- prompts Towpathguy to start a Weather Watch section.

(8/22/08) Davidson Avenue 5 mile lock parking lot temporary closure

From an announcement on the D&R Canal State Park website:

"Please be advised that the 5-Mile Lock parking area will be CLOSED from August 25th through late October due to a PSE&G construction project. Also be advised that the towpath will be intermittently inaccessible during this period of closure. Further details will be posted here when they are received, so do check back regularly."

(7/16/08) Coming new footbridge at Colonial Park
At its meeting on 7/16, the D&R Canal Commission voted to approve an application from Somerset County Park Commission to build a pedestrian bridge across the canal at Colonial Park. The minutes of the meeting state that "there would be six feet of clearance between the water and the bridge at its highest point." No other details are given. Towpathguy estimates that this new footbridge would be about 1/2 mile north of Amwell Road, presumably near the current canoe launch. Colonial Park has bike, hiking and equestrian trails and also restroom facilities. Towpathguy will post updates on this footbridge when additional information is available.

Birds on the Towpath and Canal

This morning (8/26/08) Towpathguy saw snowy egrets and blue heron in the Raritan River. It was just before 8 am, and all were within a mile of the Landing Lane Bridge. The blue heron were on the Johnson Park side of the river. Two of the egrets were there too, along with a large gull. The third egret was sitting on a rock about 1/2 mile from the bridge and only about 100 feet from the towpath. A couple of birders from Highland Park were just walking over the Landing Lane spill way with binoculars and they were excited by the sightings.

There are lots of birds and other wildlife and bird watchers too. The bird watchers are usually on the towpath but the birds aren't necessarily there! The Canadian Geese are always around, and, of course, they nest all along the towpath and in the wetlands between the canal and river in the Spring. They can be a bit aggressive if you walk or ride between them and their young, so be prepared to be hissed at. By the middle of the summer, the protective behavior is much reduced.

Watch for this section to be expanded.

Kingston

The towpath crosses Hwy 27 just south of Kingston. There is a fairly large parking lot on the east side of highway 27 (left hand side if you are going south). A tunnel runs under the highway so towpath bikers, runners and hikers do not need cross the busy road. There are restaurants and other shops in Kingston, not far from the towpath.

Rockingham, the headquarters of George Washington at the end of the Revolutionary War, is about a 1/2 mile north of here on county 603 (Laurel Ave/Kingston-Rocky Hill Road). This historical site is across the canal as one rides from here to Rocky Hill, but this segment of the canal has a second trail on its east bank. This second trail is part of the John W. Flemer Preserve. With trails on both sides of the canal, the Rocky Hill to Kingston segment of the towpath becomes a nice target for a roundtrip.



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Rocky Hill

The towpath crosses hwy 518 just east of Rocky Hill. There are a few parking spaces here on the north side of 518 adjacent to the towpath and canal. However, there is an additional large parking lot on Laurel Avenue, about 200 yards south of 518.

This area and north from here to Griggstown was once popular as a summer vacation area. There is an abandoned "summer house" about 1/2 mile north of Hwy 519 -- between the canal and river. Only a foundation and a frame persist.

Rocky Hill is a small village with a few shops and restaurants within a few hundred yards of the towpath. Rockingham, the headquarters of George Washington at the end of the Revolutionary War, is about a mile south of here on county 603 (Laurel Ave/Kingston-Rocky Hill Road). This historical site is across the canal as one rides from here to Kingston, but this segment of the canal has a second trail on its east bank. This second trail is part of the John W. Flemer Preserve. With trails on both sides of the canal, the Rocky Hill to Kingston segment of the towpath becomes a nice target for a roundtrip.



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Little Valley

Little Valley has a small parking area and a footbridge across the canal to the towpath. This footbridge also provides access to the Speiden & Hoebel Greenlands which have hiking trails across Canal Road. These lands are held in perpetuity by the D&R Greenway Land Trust.

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Hiking Trail

Just opposite the footbridge at Little Valley there is an entrance to a small hiking trail that leads to the Millstone River. This trail is not maintained by the D&R Canal State Park.

Griggstown Lock

Griggstown Lock is only about 0.5 mile south of the Griggstown Causeway. The entrance to the parking lot is on Canal Road, just south of Coppermine Road.

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Silver Maple Trail

Just opposite the lock there is an entrance to the Silver Maple Trail. This is a hiking trail about 1 mile long. It is a loop that leads from the towpath to the river and back.

Griggstown Causeway

There is parking, a picnic area and toilet facilities at Griggstown Causeway. The causeway which includes a narrow one lane bridge over the Millstone River connects Griggstown, part of Franklin Township, on the canal side with Belle Meade, part of Hillsborough, on the river side.
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There once was a very interesting small museum adjacent to the towpath at Griggstown. This museum had exhibits about canal and towpath history including scale models of the barges, but it was closed the floods associated with Hurricane Floyd in 1999 The building itself has not yet been restored. The former curator of this museum has written two books about the canal and the towpath.

No Motorized Bicycles on the Towpath!

Today (8/21/08) about 5:30 pm, just west of Landing Lane, Towpathguy was passed by a rider on a power assisted hybrid bike, i.e., a bicycle with a motor and a guy pedaling -- going fast. This was not an electric bicycle -- from the noise and the smell it must have been a gas engine. The legality of this under NJ law is unclear. There are signs at most of the gates announcing that motorized vehicles are not allowed, and on the phone the D&R Canal headquarters affirmed that motorized vehicles are not allowed on the towpath.

Amwell Road

As the towpath crosses Amwell Road there is a small parking lot on the north side of the road. The village of East Millstone sits on the banks of the canal. Across the river is Millstone. Amwell is a fairly busy highway, so cross with caution.

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Manville Causeway

This is where the towpath crosses the Manville Causeway. The traffic from Weston Canal Rd turns unto the Causeway only about 50 feet from the towpath. Use caution as these cars are often moving at high speed and do not expect bikes and pedestrians. There is a parking area on Weston Canal Rd.

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There are restaurants and shops in downtown Manville, just across the Causeway and to the right.

Kayaks and Canoes
The canal bank on the south side of the Causeway next to the towpath is suitable for launching a kayak or canoe.

Zarephath

This is the entrance to the former Alma White College and Somerset Christian College. The area is Zarephath which is an unincorporated part of Franklin township.

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10 mile lock

This former lock, now a sluice, is located just upstream from the confluence of the Millstone and Raritan Rivers. From this point south for the next mile or so the Millstone River and the canal/towpath are separated by a flat flood plain.

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Footbridge on Weston Canal

This footbridge is located on Weston Canal Road. It is located just downstream of the Calco dam.

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South Bound Brook Lock

This entrance is about 200 yards from the Queens Bridge entrance (see map below). The lock here which has been converted to a sluice is quite popular with fishermen.

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There is parking here for many cars and also a grassy area with a picnic table. Moreover, sometimes there are 2-3 portable toilets here. They were removed recently and have not been replaced. There is, however, a hot dog vendor(!) there (8/16/08).

Queens Bridge

This is an entrance for bikes and pedestrians. The South Bound Brook Lock entrance is only about 250 yards away for car access with parking. The Queens Bridge crosses the Raritan River connecting Bound Brook to South Bound Brook. There are sidewalks/bikepaths on the both sides of the bridge, but the one on the west side is better to use if you are heading into the town of Bound Brook.

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This entrance is the closest one to an NJ Transit Station -- the Bound Brook station on the Raritan Valley Line. From New York Penn Station you'll need to change in Newark to get here.

Food!

There's a restaurant right on Main Street in South Bound Brook. There's also a variety of shops, including pizza, etc. on Main Street to the east, i.e., towards the Davidson Avenue (5-mile lock) entrance. Across the river, downtown Bound Brook is a bustling community, mostly hispanic, with a selection of restaurants, bars, etc.

Floods

The USGS maintains a river gauge (01403060) on the Raritan River about one mile upstream from the Queens Bridge. A website from the NOAA provides useful monitoring functions, an interpretation of the readings, and predictions of the river level for the next five days. Flood stage at this gauge is 28 ft.. The record high was 42.13 ft on 09/17/1999 from Hurricane Floyd. Main street in downtown Bound Brook was under more than 10 ft of water at this time.

DeMott Lane Footbridge

This entrance is convenient to the Quailbrook section of Somerset. The actual entrance is a wooden footbridge across the canal. Footbridge at DeMott Lane over Delaware and Raritan Canal to the towpath
Footbridge to the towpath at DeMott Lane
The footbridge is located at the end of a single lane paved access road. The access road, a northern continuation of DeMott Lane, is shared with the Van Wickle House, built in 1722 and now owned by The Meadows Foundation. The access road also marks the eastern border of the athletic fields of Rutgers Prep, a private school (pre-K-12).

Note: The footbridge was washed out on Sunday, August 28, 2011, due to the flooding following Hurricane Irene. A replacement project was announced in June, 2012. Towpathguy no longer lives in the area so please provide progress reports.

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On a bike or in a car the best way to get to the access road is to come down DeMott Lane and just go straight -- use the middle lane (marked as a left-turn lane). From Easton Avenue westbound (towards 287) turn right at the light. If you miss the turn, go past Rutgers Prep and use the jug-handle at Willow to make a u-turn and follow the instructions in the next sentence. From Easton Avenue eastbound (towards New Brunswick) take the jug-handle at DeMott. Turn left at DeMott and enter the access road from the middle lane. There is a sign "Towpass Access" at the Easton Avenue end of the access road. The sign is attached to the bottom of the sign for The Meadows.

There is a sidewalk/bikepath on the south side of Easton Avenue. DeMott Lane is rideable and on the west side of the street there is a sidewalk/bikepath from Amwell Road which, unfortunately, ends about 100 yards short of Easton Avenue.

There is angle parking at the end of the access road for about 8-9 cars and more parking at the Van Wickle House, just to the right.

Finally, in the canal to the right of the footbridge is a small floating dock. This makes a good spot for launching a kayak or canoe. Now (Sept., 2008), the floating dock is loose at one end and is a little difficult to reach -- the D&R Canal office has been notified and will send a repair team.

Davidson Avenue Lock -- 5 Mile Lock

Attn: Access to the parking area at this entrance is temporarily closed -- 8/25/08-late October

(10/11/08) Update to Davidson Avenue/5 Mile Lock Temporary Closure.
  • The parking lot here is closed and PSE&G crews have prepared a path from the parking lot to the canal and river. Bicycle and pedestrian access is still possible. The towpath itself remains open, but the D&R Office says that it might be closed in the near future for a short time. 
The Davidson Avenue Lock is also known as 5-mile lock. This lock, like the other locks on the canal, has been converted into a sluice. There's a 5-6 foot change in the canal level at this sluice, and it seems to be a favorite site for many fishermen.

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There's parking for about 8-10 cars at this entrance, but since it is adjacent to the interchange of I-287 and Easton Avenue (Exit 10) getting there by car is a bit tricky as there access only from Easton Avenue westbound. This means going around the interchange and under I-287 and onto Easton Avenue in the right lane so that you can turn into the parking lot.

By bike, it's a bit easier as there is a sidewalk/bikepath on the north side of Easton Avenue between Cedar Grove Lane and Davidson Avenue. Cross Easton at one of these two lights and use the bikepath. Incidentally, Cedar Grove is fairly wide and has a bike lane on both sides. Davidson is wide and relative lightly used on weekends.

This entrance is the only one with easy access to hotels; there are at least 10 of them within a mile of this entrance -- you can use the map above to find them or enter "hotels near davidson avenue in somerset, nj" into the search box below. (Note: The Quality Inn on the corner of Easton and World's Fair has a swimmable (~22 yds with lane ropes) lap pool.) There is a large drug store and other shops at Easton and Cedar Grove. West of this entrance Easton Avenue narrows and the speed limit drops as it becomes Main Street in South Bound Brook. In short, this is quite suitable for bikers -- note that there is rigorous enforcement of the lowered speed limit in this area.

There's a selection of shops and a few restaurants between here and the Queens Bridge entrance, mostly closer to Queens Bridge than to here.

Bicycles and Bicycling on the Towpath

Whether you bicycle for fun, fitness or for commuting, the towpath is a great bike and almost the perfect place to ride. It has multiple advantages:

  1. there are no cars, no stop lights or stop signs.
  2. it's flat
  3. it's pretty -- with canal views on one side along almost all of its length and river views on the other in many places.
  4. it's tree-lined almost everywhere, providing protection from the sun and wind.
  5. it's not crowded, i.e., you won't have to manuever to pass another bicyclist. Most of the people you'll see are on foot, walking or, more likely, running. Near the access points, you'll also see fishermen.

How flat is it?

It's really flat. The total change in elevation along the 44 mile length of the historica towpath is about about 40 feet, i.e., there is a slight downhill from Trenton to New Brunswick of ~1 ft/mile. This is definitely not hard-core mountain biking! There are, in fact, a few small hills near the locks and spillways and where bridges, etc. intersect with the towpath, but by-and-large it's flat. It's not straight, however, and the tree-lined towpath is really quite scenic.

What kind of bicycle should I have?

TowpathGuy rides a rigid mountain bike, i.e., no suspension either in front or in the rear, with 1.95" wide tires. He recommends a wide tire but there are plenty of road bikes on the towpath, mountain bikes with full or just front suspension, cycle-cross bikes, hybrid bikes, recumbent bikes and just about every other kind of bicycle that you can imagine. The surface is not paved and is mostly a hard-packed pea gravel or dirt. In the Spring some parts can get pretty soft especially if there is a freeze/thaw cycle sort of weather that often hits NJ at this time of the year. This is about the only time that wider tires are essential, especially if you are a heavier rider. Right now (August, 2008), there's been little rain and the towpath surface is quite firm. Major portions of the towpath, i.e., from Landing Lane to Blackwells Mills Road were resurfaced in the Spring of 2008. This surface is a mixture of sand, pea gravel, and river gravel. For now (Sept., 2008), the river gravel has come to the surface, but the underlying surface if well packed. The D&R Canal Main Office says that there are plans to try to remove the excess river gravel (basically a monolayer of stones) from the surface to reveal the hard-packed layer underneath.

What kind of equipment do I need?

Of course, you should always wear an approved bicycle helmet. In addition, you need some other gear. Access points are limited and there are no facilities on the towpath, so even for short rides you'll need to have water and a tire repair kit, including a pump. (Soon simple instructions on fixing a flat, if you should need to, will be posted at Simple Bicycle Repair.) However, you'll never be longer than a mile or so from the nearest exit, so carry a cell phone and then you can have a friend/family member pick you up if you have a mechanical problem. For longer rides you might want to bring some nourishment. Thus, a backpack is good, but even better is a rear carrier and pack for it, i.e., a small "trunk". The "trunk" is preferable especially in the summer as the backpack blocks your (sweating) back from the cooling air flow generated by your movement. Also, the backpack raises your center-of-mass a bit which some riders don't like. If you commute the trunk is also a good way to carry the change of clothes you'll need when you get to work. Also, if you work late or commute in the late fall, winter or early sping, you'll need a light. The towpath is far enough from the streets and protected enough by trees, canals, rivers, etc. that it's dark, very dark. In the winter, TowpathGuy uses 3 lights, one bright white one (rechargeable) for the front, a red LED light for the rear, and a spare white battery-driven light in case the rechargeable one fails. Some parents attach trailers to the their bikes for younger children.

When Can I Bike on the Tow Path?

Anytime you like! There are 4 seasons in NJ and the towpath is accessible during all of them. There are three weather events that will keep you from your towpath bike rides:

  1. snow -- snow and ice happen. In NJ it's not consistent. Some winters we get nothing and some winters the towpath will be buried under a few or more inches of snow for several to many weeks.
  2. rain -- TowpathGuy does not like to bicycle in the rain, so when it rains hard he stays home. Major thunder and wind storms frequently knock down trees along the towpath. The ones in the bank of the canal and the river seem to have fairly shallow root systems. When they fall, they either go into the canal or across the towpath. It usually takes the park rangers only a few days to come through and clear them.
  3. floods -- the towpath between South Bound Brook and New Brunswick floods. This is not particularly surprising since this stretch runs adjacent to the Raritan River. The most serious flooding occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Both Manville, NJ and Bound Brook, NJ were badly flooded and the towpath from Bound Brook to New Brunswick was under >10 feet of rushing flood waters. The towpath surface that had been quite recently improved was totally washed away. In addition, the eddies created potholes several feet across and deep at irregular intervals along the towpath. Riding remained possible, but care was needed and speeds were slow in places. It took a couple of years before the surface could be restored. Damage to the towpath surface occurs whenever there's a flood. Watch the news for flooding in Bound Brook and more than likely there will be flooding on the towpath.