EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


May 6, 2007

Fall into the Delaware Gap Largest recreation area in eastern U.S. offers surprising diversity

MILFORD, Pa. - Had the government gone through with its plan to condemn the park here to make a dam in the 1960s, this gem would be deep under water today.

Luckily for tourists, the dam was deemed economically and environmentally unsound. Instead, the National Park Service and citizens advisory commissions from three states got together to clean up and improve the area, and most recently, it has been the subject of a $150 million development program - of the green kind.

Now, five hours southwest of Boston, barely over the New York border into Pennsylvania, lies the redeemed Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, 70,000 acres of unspoiled scenic serenity and the largest recreation area in the eastern United States.

Depending on the season, you can hike here, fish, snowshoe, swim, raft, golf and ski, not to mention picnic all alone with a bucolic view of river and woods.

The Delaware River, which cut through the Kittatinny Mountains over the years to create the water gap, is one of the cleanest and prettiest rivers in the East. Among the few historic structures that remain within the park is its only hotel, the Cliff Park Inn, built in 1820.

While most of us think of the usual national park accommodation as either a tent, a yurt, or at most a rustic cabin in the woods, Cliff Park Inn is a restored 14-room 1820s combination Shaker/Mission-style building with a massive front porch overlooking its own nine-hole USGA-rated golf course. Inside, guest rooms include amenities like bathrooms with free-standing claw-foot bathtubs.

Called one of America's Top 10 Most Romantic Inns by American Historic Inns, it eschews heart-shaped beds like its neighbors in the Poconos for four-posters and a restaurant sophisticated enough to satisfy the New Yorkers who escape the Big Apple for some outdoor adventure.

The inn's owners, Yvonne and James Klausmann, negotiated a long-term lease with the park service in 2003 because they wanted a job that allowed them to do outdoor activities together - ski, snowboard, snowshoe, mountain bike, fly fish, spin fish and hike - close to their home and business.

When we arrived in mid-February, the manager greeted us with an apology that "this is our 'low' season," as if the half-foot of snow outside the front door was a hindrance to outdoor activity.

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