The Upper Delaware River begins its journey in New York’s Catskill Mountains, where cool springs bubble forth to establish the river’s East and West branches. Further south, the branches meet in Hancock, New York to form one of the only undammed main stem rivers remaining in the eastern United States. From there, the river traverses northeastern Pennsylvania’s farms and woodlands, flows past the Water Gap ravine, and then cuts through Philadelphia—one of the world’s most industrialized urban areas—before reaching the Atlantic Ocean to complete its 331-mile journey.
Reaching far beyond its banks, the Upper Delaware River watershed contains groundwater-influenced fens near Mount Bethel, high-quality, seasonal vernal pools scattered throughout the Greater Minsi Lake Corridor, dramatic cliffs and hardwood forests comprising the remote Long Eddy River Edges Preserve, and a rich floodplain forest of increasingly rare butternut trees on Butternut Island. This unique assemblage of cool, clean waters, interesting geology, healthy forests and extensive wetlands support abundant wildlife. Mammals including bobcat, beaver, bear and fox roam throughout this watershed that also boasts a world-class fishery abundant with trout, small mouth bass, shad and walleye. The Upper Delaware River also contains an important segment of the Atlantic flyway. Each year, more than 200 species of birds spend part of their life cycle in this “neck of the woods.”
In addition to harboring unique habitats and diverse wildlife, the Upper Delaware River boasts outstanding scenic and recreational opportunities that attract millions of visitors each year. Additionally, reservoirs established in tributaries provide drinking water to 17 million people residing in four states and numerous urban areas, including New York City and Philadelphia.
The Nature Conservancy has established a strong presence in the region to ensure the Upper Delaware River maintains its integrity and natural rhythms while supporting a booming economy and rich ecology. Most recently, the Conservancy began assisting the Delaware River Basin Commission with designing a system to monitor and manage water diversions in the river’s tributaries that disrupt natural flooding, temperature and flow patterns further downstream. These actions – combined with ongoing efforts to connect important habitats, influence sustainable land uses and combat non-native vegetation – will go a long way in ensuring the Upper Delaware continues to possess outstanding natural, recreational, historical and cultural resources that led to its designation as one of the nation’s “Wild and Scenic Rivers.”