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Upper Delaware River Bridges

Northwest of the Fall Line less than ten miles north of Trenton, New Jersey, a tour of the bridges on the upper Delaware River is a complete lesson in historic and interesting bridge types. There are more than 20 walkable bridges along almost 200 miles of river, most of them dating from before 1940. The valley where you will find most of the bridges is stunningly beautiful and rural. This portion of the Delaware River is the longest section of free-flowing river in the eastern United States, with almost no dams or reservoirs. Much of the area is owned and managed by the National Park Service, including the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River between Hancock and Port Jervis, New York, and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area between Port Jervis and Portland-Columbia. There are also multiple state parks encompassing historic canals on both sides of the river, offering former towpaths as lengthy, uninterrupted biking and hiking trails.

I had previously posted photos and descriptions of the Lumberville-Raven Rock Bridge, and the Reigelsville Suspension Bridge, both of them historic, lovingly maintained, and decorated little suspension bridges connecting parks and villages on either side of the river. I am now expanding the gallery to include photos of some of the other unusual and attractive bridges along the river.

The Washington Crossing Bridge is the furthest downstream bridge on the free-flowing upper Delaware River, situated about eight miles upstream of the Falls of the Delaware near Trenton, New Jersey. It was at this location that George Washington’s Continental Army, consisting of about 2,400 soldiers, crossed the river on Christmas night in 1776, and then defeated Hessian mercenaries in Trenton the next day, December 26. Although the bridge was not in place at the time of these events, it today serves to connect state parks on both sides of the river. Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey operate visitor centers with museum displays, and have stone monuments marking the spots where the crossing is thought to have taken place. In addition, the parks host a famous reenactment of the crossing of the river every year on Christmas.

The Kellams Bridge crosses the upper Delaware River between Pennsylvania and New York near Hankins, New York. The bridge is a small, single lane suspension bridge constructed in 1890. The bridge type is unusual, known as an underspanned suspension bridge. Instead of the deck being hung from suspension cables above the deck, the deck sits on rigid supports on top of the suspension cables below. This is the only underspanned bridge in the United States.

The Delaware Aqueduct crossing the Delaware River from Minisink, New York to Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, is a famous tourist bridge for a few reasons. Dating from 1848, it is the oldest suspension bridge in the United States, which should be reason enough. It is also one of three remaining bridges designed by John Roebling, and was one of the first-ever uses of wire rope suspension technology.

The Calhoun Street Bridge in Trenton, New Jersey, is unusual in that most early bridges in heavily populated downtown areas eventually become too small for the increasing amount of traffic, and they get replaced with newer and less interesting highway bridges. The Calhoun Street Bridge is certainly early, having been constructed in 1884, making it the second oldest bridge remaining on the Delaware River. The only older bridge on the river is the Delaware Aqueduct, which is in a much less populated area.

The Skinner’s Falls-Milanville Bridge was constructed in 1902 by the American Bridge Company, and has a lovely, ornate date plaque and geometric metalwork on the top-chord over the portal.

I spent quite a bit of time visiting the Delaware River bridges while researching my book, Bridgespotting: A Guide to Bridges that Connect People, Places, and Times. There is a detailed description of a Delaware River bridge tour in Chapter 9 of Bridgespotting Part 2.

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