Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor

Last updated
Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor
D&l logo.jpg
Location of Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor in Pennsylvania.svg
Location of Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor in Pennsylvania
LocationPennsylvania, United States
Coordinates 40°40.178′N75°14.1823′W / 40.669633°N 75.2363717°W / 40.669633; -75.2363717
Length165 mi (266 km), North–South
Max. elevation Mountain Top
Min. elevation Bristol
Visitors282,796(in 2012) [1]
Governing bodyDelaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor Commission

The Delaware & Lehigh Canal National and State Heritage Corridor (D&L) is a 165-mile (266 km) National Heritage Area in eastern Pennsylvania in the United States. It stretches from north to south, across five counties and over one hundred municipalities. It follows the historic routes of the Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad, Lehigh Valley Railroad, the Lehigh Navigation, Lehigh Canal, and the Delaware Canal, from Bristol (northeast of Philadelphia) to Wilkes-Barre in the northeastern part of the state. The backbone of the Corridor is the 165-mile (266 km) D & L Trail. The Corridor's mission is to preserve heritage and conserve green space for public use in Bucks, Northampton, Lehigh, Carbon, and Luzerne counties in Pennsylvania. [2] It also operates Hugh Moore Historical Park & Museums, which includes the National Canal Museum.



The Corridor is a contiguous, five-county region in eastern Pennsylvania. It contains the counties of Luzerne, Lehigh, Carbon, Bucks, and Northampton. [2] Major rivers include the Susquehanna, Delaware, and Lehigh.

Cities in the Corridor


The mission of the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor is to enrich communities through actions and partnerships that conserve the resources, preserve the history, and enhance the quality of life. Today, the Corridor offers a broad range of experiences for visitors and residents such as hiking, boating, camping, biking, and fishing. The Delaware & Lehigh also operates the National Canal Museum in Easton, Pennsylvania, which includes the Emrick Technology Center, Locktender's House Museum and the canal boat ride, Josiah White II.

Historically, the Corridor has been used to link people and communities, and this is still a prominent goal of the Corridor today. The entire trail is used to connect and promote the importance of this region. Each community has unique ecological attributes and a diversified history to conserve. The Corridor preserves these features and offers an opportunity to educate and enjoy nature.

D&L Trail

D&L Trail along the Delaware Canal Delaware Canal State Park-Pennsylvania.jpg
D&L Trail along the Delaware Canal

The D&L Trail is a 165-mile (266 km) multi-use trail. The trail incorporates rail trails, rails with trails, share-the-road sections, and canal towpaths.

The trail follows the route that anthracite coal took from mine to market. It winds through northern mountains and along the banks of the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers through northeast Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley, and Bucks County. The D&L Trail passes through towns, industrial powerhouses, and along remnants of the Lehigh and Delaware canals. This earthen path exposes walkers, hikers, bicyclists, and others to Pennsylvania wildflowers, waterfalls, and wildlife.

Currently, 135 miles (217 km) of the trail are completed. [3] The southern terminus of the trail is in Bristol, Bucks County. The northern terminus of the trail is in Mountain Top, Luzerne County. Work has begun on extending the trail from Mountain Top—to—Wilkes Barre at Seven Tubs Natural Area. From Mountain Top to White Haven, the trail is locally known as the Black Diamond Trail. From White Haven to Jim Thorpe, the trail is locally known as the Lehigh Gorge Trail, a 26-mile (42 km) section that parallels the Lehigh River and the valley of the Lehigh Gorge at Lehigh Gorge State Park. From Easton to Bristol, the trail is known as the Delaware Canal towpath, a 60-mile (97 km) section that passes entirely through Delaware Canal State Park. The Delaware Canal towpath is a National Recreation Trail. [4]

The highest point on the trail is 1,785 ft (544 m) in Mountain Top; the lowest point is 20 ft (6.1 m) in Bristol.


The Corridor contains more than 100,000 acres (40,000 ha) of public lands for outdoor recreation, including many state, county, and local parks. [5]

Historical appreciation

The Corridor includes hundreds of historical sites related to a variety of subjects including: social development of young America (Leni Lenape) settlements, the anthracite coal mining era (the Molly Maguires labor movement), the Industrial Revolution (Bethlehem Steel), the development of systematic canals (the Lehigh Navigation, Lehigh and Delaware Canals), the development of rail transportation (Lehigh Valley Railroad), and the evolution of natural conservation (John J. Audubon and Bucks County conservation movement).

It also features sites that can be interpreted to represent the transforming principles that became the foundation of the American Constitution — religious freedom, mutual responsibility between government and the people, and equality.

In 2017, the D&L completed a merger with the National Canal Museum, combining the reaches of both the museum and the D&L Trail. The Delaware & Lehigh now operates the museum and works to provide information on the history, science, and technology of canal construction and navigation. They manage a complete collection and archive of important artifacts of both the canal era and the industrial revolution. Through this merger, the D&L deepens one of their central missions as an organization: to preserve the cultural heritage of the Delaware and Lehigh canals. They plan to create traveling exhibits to take the National Canal Museum to communities along the Corridor and further this historical appreciation component.


Pre-European trading routes

The Corridor has long been a busy crossroads. Native American tribes such as the Susquehannock, Iroquois, Leni Lenape, and others frequently traveled through the northern region. The Delaware Canal parallels old trading routes. Many original Native American villages that developed here in the wilds of Pennsylvania drew European settlers in search of opportunity.

18th - 20th centuries: Coal mining era

Weigh lock with scales to determine tolls, 1873 Weighing the Cargoes in the Weigh Lock on the Lehigh Canal.jpg
Weigh lock with scales to determine tolls, 1873

In 1791, Philip Grinder found anthracite coal in what is now Summit Hill, Carbon County, PA. Coal helped the region develop and contributed to America's iron and steel industries. The anthracite coal in the region is known as "stone coal" because of its rock-like hardness. Anthracite is created over millions of years as countless layers of sediment compress plant debris from swamps until it becomes hard. The Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor follows the route stone coal took from mine to market, winding through northern mountains and along the banks of the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers. [6]

Locktender's House and Guard Lock 8 Lehigh Canal-Glendon.jpg
Locktender's House and Guard Lock 8

In the early to mid-1800s, a lengthy network of locks, canals, and towpaths was built to ship anthracite, further aiding the mining industry's growth. The Lehigh Canal system generated a great deal of industrial development in the form of mining and the accompanying infrastructure. It gave rise to many towns and offshoot businesses, such as timber cutting, sawmills, steel mills, tanneries, etc. The Delaware Canal, on the other hand, was a means of shipping goods and establishing commerce. It supplemented existing overland routes resulting in the lack of an industrial boom along this route. However, the Lehigh and Delaware Canals merged to create part of a grand transportation systems stretching from the Appalachian Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. In 1862 a massive flood, which destroyed dams, locks, canal boats, and villages, helped to shift the shipping of anthracite coal towards the railroads.

Much like the canals, railroads helped to transport goods and contribute to the development of the region. Asa Packer's Lehigh Valley Railroad, which ran from Mauch Chunk to Easton and on to New York City, was the first rail line to have a significant impact. The Lehigh & Susquehanna Railroad, Reading Railroad, and the Pennsylvania Railroad also moved into the area to create competition for the shipping of coal and goods. [7] The canals and railroads that serve as the Corridor's backbone once transported coal, lumber, slate, iron, cement, and steel from mountain to market, fueling the Industrial Revolution and supplying downstream industries for more than a century. Of all the products and businesses born out of the coal and transportation connection, none were as significant as Bethlehem Steel, locally known as "The Steel."

A National Heritage Area

A view of the Delaware Canal, with the towpath at left and the rail in the background Delaware Canal State Park-Railroad.jpg
A view of the Delaware Canal, with the towpath at left and the rail in the background

In 1988, U.S. Congress designated the Corridor as nationally significant, in recognition of its nine National Historic Landmarks, six National Recreation Trails, two National Natural Landmarks and hundreds of sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places. A National Heritage Area is a region that has been recognized by the United States Congress for its unique qualities and resources. It is a place where a combination of natural, cultural, historic, and recreational resources have shaped a cohesive, nationally distinctive landscape. The Corridor is one of forty-nine federally recognized National Heritage Ages.

Heritage areas allow local communities to cooperate on efforts to preserve the resources that are important to them. This partnership approach to heritage development allows collaboration around a theme, industry, and/or geographical feature that influenced the region's culture and history. This strategy encourages individuals and agencies to prioritized programs and projects that recognize, preserve, and celebrate many of America's defining landscapes. [8]

D&L Trail takes shape

In 2013, work was completed on 10 miles of trail from White Haven to Mountain Top. [9] This section of the trail is locally known as the Black Diamond Trail. This is the first trail section that leaves the Lehigh River; it replaces abandoned rail beds. A trailhead and parking lot near Mountain Top were also completed. The trailhead is located on land owned by the PA DCNR Bureau of Foresty and the PA Game Commission. Funding was made possible by a $1.2m grant from the Federal Highway Administration through PennDOT.

Gaps in the trail were also filled. A gap was filled at the crossing of State Route 13 in Levittown. Another gap was filled between Riverview Park in Palmer Township and Hugh Moore Park in Easton.

Merger with the National Canal Museum

In 2013, the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor began operating the National Canal Museum under a management agreement. This marked the beginning of a three-year transition in which the two organizations would become one. The transition allowed the D&L to integrate the management, finance, marketing, and development functions of the two organizations. The merger of the two in 2017 culminated this transition period. The D&L is the surviving entity under which the enterprises will operate. The museum, along with the other operations of Hugh Moore Historical Park & Museums, is now the Signature Program of the D&L. It is located in the Emrick Technology Center in Easton, Pennsylvania's Hugh Moore Park.


The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor was recognized as an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution in 2017. It is the first National Heritage Area to be recognized as a Smithsonian Affiliate.

See also


  1. User Survey and Economic Impact Analysis, p. 2
  2. 1 2 Management Action Plan, p. xiii
  3. Lauer-Williams, Kathy (16 February 2014). "Take a walk on the winter side". The Morning Call. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  4. "Delaware Canal State Park". PA DCNR. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  5. Shealey
  6. Shealey, pp. 5-6.
  7. Shealey, pp. 10-11.
  8. Alliance
  9. D&L Trail Has Biggest Year

Related Research Articles

Morris Canal Canal in New Jersey

The Morris Canal (1829–1924) was a 107-mile (172 km) common carrier coal canal across northern New Jersey in the United States that connected the two industrial canals at Easton, Pennsylvania, across the Delaware River from its western terminus at Phillipsburg, New Jersey, to New York Harbor and the New York City markets via its eastern terminals in Newark and on the Hudson River in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Lehigh River

The Lehigh River, a tributary of the Delaware River, is a 109-mile-long (175 km) river located in eastern Pennsylvania, in the United States. Part of the Lehigh, along with a number of its tributaries, is designated a Pennsylvania Scenic River by the state's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. "Lehigh" is an Anglicization of the Lenape name for the river, Lechewuekink, meaning "where there are forks".

Union Canal (Pennsylvania) United States historic place

The Union Canal was a towpath canal that existed in southeastern Pennsylvania in the United States during the 19th century. First proposed in 1690 to connect Philadelphia with the Susquehanna River, it ran approximately 82 mi from Middletown on the Susquehanna below Harrisburg to Reading on the Schuylkill River.

Lehigh Valley Railroad

The Lehigh Valley Railroad was one of a number of railroads built in the northeastern United States primarily to haul anthracite coal. The railroad was authorized on April 21, 1846, for freight and transportation of passengers, goods, wares, merchandise and minerals in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania and the railroad was incorporated/established on September 20, 1847, as the Delaware, Lehigh, Schuylkill and Susquehanna Railroad Company. On January 7, 1853, the railroad's name was changed to Lehigh Valley Railroad. It was sometimes known as the Route of the Black Diamond, named after the anthracite it transported. At the time, anthracite was transported by boat down the Lehigh River; the railroad was meant to be faster transportation. The railroad ended operations in 1976 and merged into Conrail along with several northeastern railroads that same year.

Coal Region

The Coal Region is a historically important coal-mining area in Northeastern Pennsylvania in the central Ridge-and-valley Appalachian Mountains, comprising Lackawanna, Luzerne, Columbia, Carbon, Schuylkill, Northumberland, and the extreme northeast corner of Dauphin counties. Academics have made the distinction between the North Anthracite Coal Field and the South Anthracite Coal Field, the lower region bearing the further classification Anthracite Uplands in physical geology. The Southern Coal Region can be further broken into the Southeastern and Southwestern Coal Regions, with the divide between the Little Schuylkill and easternmost tributary of the Schuylkill River with the additional divide line from the Lehigh watershed extended through Barnesville the determining basins.

Delaware and Hudson Railway Railroad in the northeastern United States

The Delaware and Hudson Railway (D&H) is a railroad that operates in the Northeastern United States. In 1991, after more than 150 years as an independent railroad, the D&H was purchased by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP). CP operates D&H under its subsidiary Soo Line Corporation which also operates Soo Line Railroad.

Main Line of Public Works United States historic place

The Main Line of Public Works was a package of legislation supporting a vision passed in 1826—a collection of various long proposed canal and road projects that became a canal system and later added railroads designed to cross the breadth of Pennsylvania with the visionary goal of providing the best commercial means of transportation between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Built between 1826 and 1834 by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it established the Pennsylvania Canal System, the Allegheny Portage Railroad, and the Pennsylvania Canal System administrated under a new Commission.

Delaware and Hudson Canal Former canal in New York and Pennsylvania, United States

The Delaware and Hudson Canal was the first venture of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, which would later build the Delaware and Hudson Railway. Between 1828 and 1899, the canal's barges carried anthracite coal from the mines of Northeastern Pennsylvania to the Hudson River and thence to market in New York City.

Schuylkill Canal

The Schuylkill Canal, or Schuylkill Navigation, was a system of interconnected canals and slack-water pools along the Schuylkill River in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, built as a commercial waterway in the early 19th-century. Chartered in 1815, the navigation opened in 1825 to provide transportation and water power. At the time, the river was the least expensive and most efficient method of transporting bulk cargo, and the eastern seaboard cities of the U.S. were experiencing an energy crisis due to deforestation. It fostered the mining of anthracite coal as the major source of industry between Pottsville and eastern markets. Along the tow-paths, mules pulled barges of coal from Port Carbon through the water gaps to Pottsville; locally to the port and markets of Philadelphia; and some then by ship or through additional New Jersey waterways, to New York City markets.

Pennsylvania Canal (Delaware Division) United States historic place

The Delaware Division of the Pennsylvania Canal, more commonly called the Delaware Canal, runs for 60 miles (97 km) parallel to the right bank of the Delaware River from the entry locks near the mouth of the Lehigh River and terminal end of the Lehigh Canal at Easton south to Bristol. At Easton, which today is the home of The National Canal Museum, the Delaware Canal also connected with the Morris Canal built to carry anthracite coal to energy starved New Jersey industries. Later, with a crossing-lock constructed at New Hope, the New Hope 'outlet lock' (1847) connected by Cable Ferry to enter at Lambertville, NJ; where it connected to a feeder navigation/canal that began at Bull's Island opposite Lumberville; which then ran over 22 miles (35 km) south along the New Jersey bank of the Delaware River through Trenton to Bordentown, the west end of the Delaware and Raritan Canal (1834) to New York City via New Brunswick. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania built the Delaware canal to feed anthracite stone coal to energy-hungry Philadelphia as part of its transportation infrastructure building plan known as the Main Line of Public Works—a legislative initiative creating a collection of self-reinforcing internal improvements to commercial transportation capabilities.

Lehigh Canal United States historic place

The Lehigh Canal or the Lehigh Navigation Canal is a navigable canal, beginning at the mouth of Nesquehoning Creek on the Lehigh River in Eastern Pennsylvania. It was built in two sections over a span of twenty years, beginning in 1818. The lower section spanned the distance between Easton, Pennsylvania and the town of Mauch Chunk, present-day Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. In Easton the canal met the Delaware and Morris Canals, with which goods could be brought further up the east coast. At its height, the Lehigh Canal was 72 miles (116 km) long.

Lehigh Gorge State Park

Lehigh Gorge State Park is a 4,548 acres (1,841 ha) Pennsylvania state park in Luzerne and Carbon Counties, Pennsylvania in the United States. The park encompasses the Lehigh Gorge, which stretches along the Lehigh River from a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control dam in Luzerne County to Jim Thorpe in Carbon County. The primary recreational activity at Lehigh Gorge State Park is white water rafting.

Lehigh Gorge Trail

The Lehigh Gorge Trail is a 26-mile (42 km) multi-use rail trail that winds along the valley of the Lehigh River Gorge from White Haven, to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. Much of the trail runs through the Lehigh Gorge State Park, and was originally developed into a railroad corridor after an extension of the Lehigh Canal was first built under the great push of Main Line of Public Works to connect the Delaware Valley to Pittsburgh.

Pennsylvania Canal

Pennsylvania Canal(or sometimes Pennsylvania Canal system) refers generally to a complex system of transportation infrastructure improvements including canals, dams, locks, tow paths, aqueducts, and viaducts. The Canal and Works were constructed and assembled over several decades beginning in 1824, the year of the first enabling act and budget items. It should be understood the first use of any railway in North America was the year 1826, so the newspapers and the Pennsylvania Assembly of 1824 applied the term then to the proposed rights of way mainly for the canals of the Main Line of Public Works to be built across the southern part of Pennsylvania.

Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company

The Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company (LCAN) (1988–2010) was a modern-day anthracite coal mining company headquartered in Pottsville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, U.S. which acquired many of the 'Old Company' (LC&N) properties and re-launched the Lehigh Coal Companies brand in 1988. The LCAN ran strip mining operations in the Panther Creek Valley east of Lansford along U.S. Route 209; with vast properties dominating the coal areas of Tamaqua, Coaldale, and Lansford. These properties are largely the same real estate assets as were acquired in the Panther Creek Valley by the predecessors: the haphazard Lehigh Coal Mine Company (1792-1822) and the builders of the Lehigh Canal and first American blast furnaces, the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company, which spearheaded the U.S. Industrial revolution. The new company was incorporated in 1988 acquiring LC&N assets after bankruptcy proceedings, taking the name of the original.

The National Canal Museum is the Signature Program of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, specifically in Easton, Pennsylvania.

Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company

The Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company was a mining and transportation company that operated in Pennsylvania from 1818 to 1964. It ultimately encompassed source industries, transport, and manufacturing, making it the first vertically integrated company in the United States.

Ashley Planes United States historic place

Ashley Planes was a historic freight cable railroad situated along three separately powered inclined plane sections located between Ashley, Pennsylvania at the foot, and via the Solomon cutting the yard in Mountain Top over 1,000 feet (300 m) above and initially built between 1837-38 by Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company's subsidiary Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad (L&S). One result of the 1837 updates of omnibus transportation bills called the Main Line of Public Works (1824), the legislation was undertaken with an eye to enhance and better connect eastern settlement's business interests with newer mid-western territories rapidly undergoing population explosions in the Pre-Civil War era. But those manufactories needed a source of heat, and the Northern Pennsylvania Coal Region was barely connected to eastern markets except by pack mule, or only through long and arduous routes down the Susquehanna then overland to Philadelphia.

Mountain Top Yard

Mountain Top yard or Penobscot yard is a rail yard in Mountain Top, Pennsylvania. It was built by the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company (LC&N) in response to an 1837 bill authorizing a right of way and was established by 1840, at least as a construction camp for the Ashley Planes, in support of the construction of the Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad trackage and operations to join the northern Anthracite Coal Region from barge loading docks along the Susquehanna in Pittston in the Wyoming Valley with the Lehigh Canal.

Canal Age United States historic place

The Canal Age is a term of art used by historians of Science, Technology, and Industry. Various parts of the world have had various canal ages; the main ones belong to civilizations, dynastic Empires of India, China, Southeast Asia, and mercantile Europe. Cultures make canals as they make other engineering works, and canals make cultures. They make industry, and until the era when steam locomotives attained high speeds and power, the canal was by far the fastest way to travel long distances quickly. Commercial canals generally had boatmen shifts that kept the barges moving behind mule teams 24 hours a day. Like many North American canals of the 1820s-1840s, the canal operating companies partnered with or founded short feeder railroads to connect to their sources or markets. Two good examples of this were funded by private enterprise:

  1. The Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company used vertically integrated mining raw materials, transporting them, manufacturing with them, and merchandising by building coal mines, the instrumental Lehigh Canal, and feeding their own iron goods manufacturing industries and assuaging the American Republic's first energy crisis by increasing coal production from 1820 onwards using the nation's second constructed railway, the Summit Hill and Mauch Chunk Railroad.
  2. The second coal road and canal system was inspired by LC&N's success. The Delaware and Hudson Canal and Delaware and Hudson Gravity Railroad. The LC&N operation was aimed at supplying the country's premier city, Philadelphia with much needed fuel. The D&H companies were founded purposefully to supply the explosively growing city of New York's energy needs.