Diving in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
Delaware Water Gap
The first thing you want to keep in mind when heading for the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River or the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is not to go to Delaware. This Delaware is in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey-just about everywhere but Delaware. We are talking about the Delaware River, where it flows through the Poconos, near Kittatinny Mountain and the like, forming a boundary between Pennsylvania and either New York or New Jersey.
The Upper Delaware River Area, with headquarters in Narrowsburg, New York, is a 73.4-mile, free-flowing stretch of the river. The Delaware Water Gap area to the south protects a 40-mile stretch of river that weaves through its eponymous gap in the Appalachian mountains. Headquarters for the park is in Bushkill, Pennsylvania. Between the two recreational areas is a different sort of gap, where the river leaves National Park Service jurisdiction.
Location: Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey
Elevation: 1,000 feet
Skill level: Intermediate
Access: Limited diving by shore, unlimited by boat
Dive support: Honesdale and Stroudsburg, PA
Best time of year: October, November
Visibility: Poor (8-10 feet); Extremely poor in March-April when algae blooms
Highlights: Old railroad cars, river fish
Concerns: Current, snags in river, discarded fishing lures
Rules and Regulations
Most places are accessible by car from NY 97 on the Upper Delaware and PA 209 along the Water Gap. No permit for recreational diving is necessary. The park divers rate this river as a good place for high-end beginners and for intermediate to advanced divers wishing to improve, their skills. In the fall it is a good place to learn drysuit skills because the outside temperature is still pleasant, but the water will be cold enough to make a drysuit welcome.
The local rangers say the best diving is October to November when the water temperature is 68 to 72°F at the surface and in the high 50s on the bottom. The worst is March and April when the water is not only cold but cloudy from spring runoff and algae blooms. In midwinter the water is extremely cold and, what's more, it's moving, which makes it worse. The digital gauges the park maintains at several underwater points have been known to dip to 30-31 degrees Fahrenheit.
The river is slightly more than 1,000 feet above sea level throughout much of the parks. This technically puts you on the altitude tables, so you should adjust your decompression profile slightly if you are not using meters that take altitude into account.
Although we will discuss popular shore access points below, it is worth noting that, particularly at the lower or "Gap" end of the park, the use of shallow-draft personal boats, particularly "jet boats" can open up new areas for divers to explore.
NARROWS BURG POOL OR "THE BIG EDDY"
This is one of the more attractive dives to park users of the scuba persuasion. The smart ones put in on the New York side, drift along in the 8-to20-foot-deep river for an appetizer, drop into the 113-foot-deep hole for the main course, and then exit down-current on the Pennsylvania side. This is smart, however, only if you have remembered to sequester a pickup vehicle on the downstream side. Visibility is about eight to 10 feet, and you may see rock shelves, freshwater sponges, pickerel, pike, eels, and muskellunge.
DELAWARE WATER GAP
Yep, one of the best places to dive the "Gap" is the "gap." This interesting geological feature where the river cuts through the mountains is just as compelling underwater as it is above. Divers can reach the point through the overlook parking lot on the Pennsylvania side. The water depth is about 55 feet, and the visibility ranges from 10 to 15 feet. There are some freight cars left from a 1975 train wreck on the Pennsylvania side, and the area is the focus of frequent diver-training and dive club excursions.
Come in at the boat ramp on the Pennsylvania side. There is decent diving for about 100 yards on either side, upstream and downstream. Interesting ledge features, fish, and some deeper water in the channel on the Jersey side.
DINGMAN'S FERRY ACCESS
A good place to dive from 100 yards upstream to 100 feet downstream of the access point, it reaches a depth of about 25 feet under the bridge. There are plenty of trees, rocks, and fish to observe. The area is sometimes used for instructional purposes.
Diver-down flag must be displayed or is strongly recommended while divers are in the water.
No permits or registrations required for noncommercial use
No collecting of anything except trash.
Nearest towns with general services: Port Jervis, NY; Honesdale, PA; Milford, PA; and Monticello, NY
Nearest dive support: Upper Delaware: Pisces Divers in Honesdale, PA, 717-253-0552. Delaware Water Gap: Army and Navy Store, Stroudsburg, PA, 717-421-4751.
Permits and park fees: None
Information numbers: River conditions, 914-252-7100, Delaware Water Gap, 717-588-2435, Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, 717-685-4871
Climate: Hot summers with some thunderstorms; mild spring and fall; moderately cold winters with snow. Water is warmest July-August.
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