Camping in Delaware Water Gap now requires reservations, fees


Beginning this weekend, paddlers who want to camp overnight along the Delaware River within the national recreation area, must have a reservation and pay a fee. 

An increase in visitors to the area who choose to stay overnight has prompted the move.

The 62 primitive river campsites within Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area will cost $16 per site, per night. Starting in 2015, the park piloted a similar system for six of the sites known as Alosa. This new change brings all river campsites under that system. 

“Falling asleep and waking up at a primitive boat-in campsite along the banks of a nationally designated scenic and recreational river is a unique and special experience, particularly within one of the most densely populated areas of the country,” said Elizabeth Winslow, fee program manager. 

The entrance to Valley View campground in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is seen on Friday, May 27, 2022, the day a new reservation/fee system goes into effect for all primitive campsites on the Delaware River within the national park.

Because the Water Gap is part of the National Park Service, the announcement this past week by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy that entrance fees at state parks are being lifted this summer does not apply. 

The Water Gap does not charge an entrance fee, but does have several areas, such as boat launches and beaches, which have user fees. 

Winslow said there are several concerns about the primitive sites, such as flooding, resource protection and operational issues, which have reduced the number of official river campsites over the past 20 years and, at the same time, demand for camping by those making longer trips on the river has increased. 

“This has resulted in conflicts among visitors, resource damage and inappropriate disposal of trash and human waste,” she said. “All of which is made worse by high-water events associated with storms.” 

The expanded reservation and campsite fee were included in the park’s Visitor Use Management Plan to improve access and enhance visitor experiences while also protecting fragile resources along the Middle Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River, which divides the park.

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That plan was put in place before the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to increases in visitors seeking activities to participate in while still being socially distanced.

Winslow said park staff will monitor the effectiveness of this expanded pilot program as it relates to improving visitor experiences and reducing negative impacts on sensitive resources and may make changes to the program along the way based on feedback and observations.   

A kayaker stops for a swim on the Delaware River within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in this August, 2020 file photo.

The new system divides the Delaware River into five zone and reservations can be made for one of the zones. Individual sites are then taken upon arrival. The zoned system is intended to disperse use throughout the entire 40-mile river corridor, whereas current use has been concentrated in a few areas where the impacts of overuse are evident.   

The five zones are: Zone 1, Northern park boundary to Milford Beach; Zone 2: Milford Beach to Dingmans Boat Launch; Zone 3: Dingmans Boat Launch to Bushkill Boat Launch;  Zone 4: Bushkill Boat Launch to Smithfield Beach; and Zone 5: Smithfield Beach to Kittatinny Point.   

“Campers are advised to choose a site early in their trip in the event that sites further downstream within the zone for which they have a reservation are already occupied,” Winslow said.  “Reservations for one zone are not valid in another.”    

Reservations must be made in advance via  Reservations cannot be made in person and cell phone reception in the area is poor.

Fees for parking at launch areas still apply in addition to the campsite fees.

Revenue collected through campsite fees goes back to the park to help monitor, maintain and improve existing river campsites. 

Those wanting to reserve a specific site rather than make that choice upon arrival may reserve individual sites at the Alosa campsites on the Pennsylvania side of the river through the same reservation system and at the same price.

Reservations can also be made for the Rivers Bend and Valley View Group Campsites, both of which are open this summer.  The cost for group campsites remains $100 per site per night.      


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