The Poconos offer many choices for decent motorcycle rides and for many it all begins by passing through the Delaware Water Gap on interstate 80 to enter the state of PA. Where many still stop in the area to hike, swim, or explore, too many today use the route as a passageway to other areas of the Poconos glossing over a large part of the Pocono’s history in the process.
The Delaware Water Gap was formed during the Wisconsin glaciation period which began 85,000 years ago and concluded 11,000 years back. Its first inhabitants were the Paleo Indians who settled in the region 13,000 years ago. They migrated across the Bering Strait, the body of water that now separates Russia from Alaska at a time when the water was frozen due to glaciers dating back 45,000 years ago. That ice “bridge” was available to travel on up until 12,000 years ago when that area melted.
An old Indian trail in the gap ran up to Port Jervis, NY, reached on out to the Huydson river, and spanned all the way down to Philadelphia. It became known as Old Mine Road which became one of the first commercial highways in the US. Today, remnants of that road still exist with the area nearly hiding some of the evidence of the early Indian settlements with more obvious 17th century structures from the first European settlers still standing.
Old Mine Road could be a ride report all on its own with its sad Tocks Island Dam project that unnecessarily ordered people to leave their homes. The idea was to flood the Delaware river in that region to create a large recreation area. Budgetary reasons cancelled the project but it was too late for the people along the river who were already kicked out of their homes. Today, some of those homes still stand and you can visit the Millbrook Village, a recreated 17th century village with some original structures.
The late 19th century saw upper class Victorians coming to the gap area by train to escape the summer heat in New York City and surrounding areas. The very first Hotel/Resort in that area, The Kittatinny, was the place to be. Built in 1825, it sat 180 feet above the river giving guests a great view of the area. It was joined later by the Water Gap House hotel further up the mountain and the area saw many famous guests including president Teddy Roosevelt in 1910. By 1915 though, the Water Gap House had burned down and the same happened to the Kittatinny in 1931. With the advent of the automobile taking guests further into the state of PA, the golden age of the gap was over. Today you can stop at the Resort Overlook on rt. 611 just outside of the town of Delaware Water Gap to see where the Kittatinny once stood.
Heading into the town of Delaware Water Gap on rt. 611 will be a journey back in time with probably its most famous place being the Deerhead Inn. Once called the Central House in the 1840’s, it’s now the longest running jazz club in America that has seen many world renowned musicians over the years. Stop in for a drink or a meal while surrounded with history and the sounds of some of the best jazz musicians around. On your way out of town, stop in at the Village Farmer and Bakery on Broad Street for some of the best pies in the world!
There’s always good road to find for your bike in these parts and if you slow down a bit you’ll find yourself immersed in enough history to have you coming back again and again to absorb is all.
A view from The Kittatinny