Kayakers paddle the river between the park’s low mountains, while hikers trek alongside and peer down into the 1,000-foot-deep Water Gap. Today, the 70,000-acre Delaware Water Gap is a veritable mecca for hunters, anglers, campers and whitewater rafters—and a key focus point for our Delaware River Watershed Fund.
Protecting the Poconos
Look out from atop the Delaware Water Gap, and forested mountains fill your view. Spanning some 2,500 square miles, the region (called the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania and the Kittatinny Ridge in New Jersey) contains ten principal creeks and rivers fed by almost 30 smaller tributaries. Thanks to its intact forests, the region is a major source of clean water to the Delaware River.
To date, OSI has protected some 10,000 acres in the Poconos and Upper Lehigh watersheds, helping safeguard these pristine forests before it’s too late.
Just to the west of this region is the Upper Lehigh watershed, a roughly 700-square mile region containing the headwaters of the Lehigh River, the second-largest tributary of the Delaware River and a source of drinking water for thousands of people.
Wanting to protect local drinking water, and the regional recreational economy around the Delaware Water Gap, municipalities here are open to setting aside funds for open space. Coupled with these reserves, our funding helps local land trusts magnify their impact even more.
Challenges and opportunities
As more people move to the Delaware Water Gap area seeking a slower pace of life within commuting distance of New York, the region stands at an important tipping point.
Many rural communities are zoned for high-density development that would spring up if effective land conservation to protect drinking water is not in place beforehand. Meanwhile, effective land use is also critical to combat poor forest management, intensive agriculture and energy drilling.