Pennsylvania May Have Its First National Park With Delaware Water Gap

by Madison Miller

Will Pennsylvania and New Jersey finally have their very own national park to brag about, draw in visitors, and receive federal funding?

The popular hiking destination known as Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area already attracts a huge crowd from surrounding areas. Avid hikers and outdoors-enthusiasts come to the nature spot from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.

Delaware Water Gap Popularity

The Delaware Water Gap is about two hours from any major city and exists in happy, yet noticeable, isolation.

What’s waiting on the other side of the bustling parking lot has long enthralled hikers, however. The Delaware Water Gap is actually home to Raymondskill Falls, which is the tallest waterfall in all of Pennsylvania.

The trail to see the falls is the most popular in the 70,000 acres of mountains, forest, wildlife, water, and gorgeous foliage. Popular may even be underestimating the kind of draw this recreation area has on people.

According to USA Today, it is one of the most popular outdoor spots in the entire country. It draws in about 4.5 million people each year. You’re probably wondering — how can such a large, popular, and gorgeous spot not be declared a national park yet?

The Push to National Park

Groups like the Sierra Club are asking the same question and are now trying to make that distinction to “national park and preserve” for over a decade now. It makes sense to make this powerful change, seeing as many visitors basically already treat the space like a national park. The area sees just as many tourists as places like Yellowstone but lacks the same budget to help with amenities and infrastructure.

“It’s not just scenery. Its proximity to large urban centers like New York and Philadelphia make it accessible to millions. There’s so many people who could be served by this park,” John Kashwick, the vice-chair of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, said.

It would be a major first for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, too. None of these states have a national park and the nearest is four hours from Philadelphia at Shenandoah.

Although there are plenty of attractions and beautiful spots, none get that specific distinction of a national park. There are actually only nine national parks east of the Mississippi River.

The Sierra Club chapters in New Jersey and Pennsylvania will present proposals from the change soon. It then needs to get passed in the U.S. House and Senate before getting the name change.

The most recent national park to go through this somewhat grueling process is the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve located in West Virginia.

Given the popularity of Water Gap, more funding could help with parking, camping, and river access. This would let more people effectively, enjoyably, and safely enjoy the space.