The Delaware River

The most important historic resource of the Tidal Delaware Water Trail is the river itself. The area adjacent to the river has been inhabited by Native Americans since 12,000 BC, as proven by archeological sites of settlements found along the river. The Dutch and Swedes were the first European settlers in the area, drawn by the lucrative fur trade of the Native Americans. The earliest Dutch settlements along the Delaware River were Burlington Island, NJ (1624), Fort Nassau in Gloucester County, NJ (1626), Lewes, DE (1631), and Fort Casimir in New Castle, DE (1653). The earliest Swedish settlements were Fort Christine in Wilmington, DE (1638), Salem, NJ (1643), and Tinicum Island, PA (1643). The British followed soon after, and the Delaware River area became a British colony from 1664 to the American Revolution.

Philadelphia, founded in 1682, had become the most important port of the American colonies by 1750. The Delaware River was controlled at times by both sides during the American Revolution, as a tactical transportation and supply route to Philadelphia. Following the war, Philadelphia served as the first capital of the United States from 1790 to 1800, the entirety of George Washington’s presidency and most of John Adams’ as well. After 1800, Philadelphia and the Delaware River became a leading manufacturing center, especially successful in steel, shipbuilding, locomotives, and textiles. The Delaware River has a long and fascinating history.

Today, the Tidal Delaware River is home to countless historical and cultural sites. From Colonial settlements and Revolutionary War battlefields to industrial complexes and renowned museums, there are sites for any interest. Explore the Tidal Delaware Water Trail and learn about one of the most important rivers in American history!