THE BACK PACKER

Text | Cynthia O. Toliver

Do you ever tire of hearing this question: “But what is there to do in the Catskills?”
If so, just lead your curious questioner to the nearest window and point.

Our pristine rivers, abundant wildlife and magnificent mountains are not just eye candy. Think of all the unfortunate souls who would gladly exchange a workout at that gym under the subway for a hike through our fabulous backyard. Wake them up, people, we live in nature’s paradise.
Fortunately, many of us do appreciate the green grass, breathtaking views and clean air that come as a direct result of living here in the Upper Delaware River Valley. Taking advantage of living in one of the cleanest areas in the Northeast is not a difficult task. It will not only keep you busy, it might just keep you at the top of your physical game. This area is ripe for the active mind and body.
One only has to visit one of our many popular destination points for any number of great activities, including bicycling, hiking, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, tubing, fishing…  the list goes on.

Rick Lander, owner of  Lander’s River Trips, is “still captivated by the wild and scenic Delaware River,” which is protected by federal law and the National Park Service. His parents first opened the business back in 1954. They have four campgrounds and a motel, with the main office located in Barryville, NY on Route 97. Landers is known in particular for its riverside campsites, canoeing and rafting trips, but each location is also perfect for a variety of fun-filled activities, including fishing, biking, kayaking and tubing. If you are planning to come for a day trip, arrive early. The rental locations (nine altogether in between Callicoon and Port Jervis, with camping available at Skinners Falls, Narrowsburg and Minisink) are open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m, and reservations are heartily recommended. Check out the fireworks show on June 30 as part of the July 4 celebrations.

Kittatinny Campgrounds is another popular spot and is the oldest campground along the Delaware River. The parents of owner Ruth Jones first opened the business 67 years ago.  There are seven locations with over 250 acres of luscious campgrounds. Ruth never tires of viewing “the crystal clear water and the year-round bald eagle population.” Kittatinny offers tubing, kayaking, canoeing, camping, paintball and rafting. Take the boats out for more than one day to camp along the Delaware and enjoy the area at your leisure. Go swimming or hike along their trails to get a glimpse of wild turkeys, great blue herons and osprey.
Kittatinny offers some special adventures. For example, some travelers will drive to the Delaware River Gap (in Pike County, PA, just below Milford and Port Jervis, NY), park their cars and hike up to Route 206 at Dingmans’ Ferry Bridge, where Kittatinny staff will provide them with a kayak so that they can take a 28-mile ride back to the Delaware Water Gap (can you say “stroke those paddles?”).
Jerry’s Three River Campgrounds is another family owned and operated place of interest, on Route 97 in Pond Eddy, NY, and has been around for 35 years. They provide great one- or two-day canoe or rafting trips, allowing you to stop, take a swim and picnic along the river.

Indian Head Canoes, which opened for business 33 years ago, is located in Barryville, NY and Matamoras, PA.  Besides all the outdoor activities, they offer unique lodging, including riverside log cabins, deluxe cabins, a group bunkhouse and campgrounds.

This area is full of many more wonderful places to enjoy the outdoors, including Beaverkill State Campground (800/456 -CAMP), Covered Bridge Campsite in Livingston Manor, NY and the 500-acre Morningside Park in Fallsburg, NY,
with a great lake for canoeing and campgrounds.  (And if fly fishing is your art form, keep in mind that the tributaries and streams feeding into the Upper Delaware, including the Beaverkill and the Willowemec, offer some of the finest trout fishing in America.)

If you are ready to tap into your outdoor spirit, you are in the right place. With just a little effort, you can find wonderful hiking trails, and river activities to soothe the soul and challenge the body. Keep your eyes open for wildflowers and wildlife, and be sure to pack a hat, sun screen and bug repellant—the sun by the river can be strong. And don’t forget plenty of water and a picnic lunch. With a bit of organization, you and your friends and family will have some adventures to cherish always—and don’t worry, you will never be bored!

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