Introduction

The core of the Delaware and Raritan State Park in central New Jersey are its two Canals. The Main Canal extends from New Brunswick in central NJ to Trenton, and the Feeder Canal runs along the Delaware River on the western border of NJ from Trenton up to Frenchtown. Adjacent to the canal is the towpath. Formerly, the working place of mules and horses, today the towpath is a long, vehicle-free "highway" for bicyclists, walkers, joggers, runners, fisherman, bird-watchers, and others, including horseback riders. It is a running trail, a biking trail, and a walking or hiking path. In addition, canoes and kayaks are common in the adjacent Canal. This website will focus on the central NJ part of the park and its towpath. Most of the emphasis is on the use of the towpath for biking, both for recreation and commuters, but other users, hopefully, will find this information helpful. The Towpath Access page has a map of the all of the entrances and the Towpath Guide (see right) lists all of the entrances, has a map for each one, and a short description.

What is the towpath?

The towpath is, essentially, a gravel and dirt road that runs alongside the Delaware and Raritan Canal. The central NJ portion is >30 miles long. No motor vehicles are allowed and there are limited access points. The limited access make it similar in some ways to the rail trails in NJ, but it is longer than most of them! View of the towpath in the Delaware and Raritan State Park looking eastward from the DeMott Lane FootbridgeParking is available at most of the entrances -- see the Towpath Access in the Towpath Guide. The northern-end of the towpath is at the Landing Lane Bridge, between the Raritan River and the Canal, i.e.., on the New Brunswick side of the bridge. The Towpath runs west from this point approximately parallel to Easton Avenue through Somerset to South Bound Brook. After South Bound Brook, the towpath makes a broad turn to the south and then goes through Somerset (again), East Millstone, Griggstown, Rocky Hill, Kingston, and Princeton before ending in Trenton. For much its length, the Canal runs close to the Raritan River or the Millstone River, a main tributary of the Raritan.

A (very) short history of the towpath

The Canal was built in the 1830's as a route for barges to haul coal from the coal mining areas of Pennsylvania to New York City without having to navigate around Cape May. During the years that the barge traffic moved the coal, and mules and horses provided the propulsion, walking on the towpath and towing the barges as they did so. The advent of the railroads made the barges un-economic and soon the towpath was abandoned. Eventually, the state of NJ took over the land and created what has become a wild-life and recreational paradise through the center of one of the most densely populated states in the U.S. The canal itself continues to supply drinking water to much of central NJ.

How to get to the towpath?

Check out the Towpath Access pages! If you live near one of the entrances, just hop on your bike and ride to it. If you use your car, check out the descriptions of the various entrances. If you're coming from from far away, use the Davidson Avenue entrance off Exit 10 of I-287, the Landing Lane entrance near Rt 18, or the Route 1 entrance, near the southern end. Access from NJ Transit stations from New York or Philadelphia is also possible -- this info will be added soon.

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