DINGMANS FERRY PA - As is often the case, in Dingmans Ferry you will hear its waterfalls before you see either of them. Think of their low roar as a preface to stunning beauty.
A Sanatoga PA couple joined hundreds of other visitors Saturday (June 7, 2014) in exploring the dark green and lush forest surrounding Dingmans Falls and Silver Thread Falls, during a trip to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area on U.S. Route 209. It is located about 96 miles northeast of Sanatoga, and stretches for 20 miles between Milford PA at the north end and East Stroudsburg PA at the south.
A wide variety of recreational opportunities exist within the park, which straddles the Delaware River as it courses through the center of portions of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Most outdoor activities - boating, fishing, camping, hiking, horse riding, swimming, leisurely car drives, and sightseeing - can be enjoyed at selected, easily reached facilities with plenty of available parking.
Many, like admission to Dingmans, are free.
One of the falls' greatest attractions, besides their height (Dingmans plunges 130 feet, and is the second-highest waterfall in Pennsylvania), is their accessibility. A quarter-mile-long boardwalk extends from a visitors' center parking lot, past narrow-but-tall Silver Thread, and all the way back to the broad eyeful that is Dingmans. It is easily navigated by those who can walk well, as well as those confined to a wheelchair or stroller.
It's almost impossible to get lost in the dense forest, because all visitors must stay on the boardwalk. That's a benefit, though, because the greenery is close enough to examine in detail for those interested in plant life. Informational signs on the route describe the cycle of life in the woodland and the trees' natural enemies.
Although sunlight filters through the trees, and is more abundant at the sites of the falls themselves, the surrounding forest Saturday was pleasantly cool and shady. During warmer or muggier days, it may help to apply insect repellent before venturing out for the walk.
Depending on when you go, you may also want to bring a raincoat, according to the Poconos Mountains tourism website. It reports that, during the spring when snowmelt runoff is heaviest, "there is no way to get to the end of the boardwalk without getting drenched by spray."
Designers of the boardwalk trail apparently knew that nature appreciation often involves well-timed drama and an appealing stage. The forest is as pretty a presentation platform as one might hope for, and the continuous background sound of the cascading falls creates its drama. Visitors must traverse a slightly swaying (don't worry, there's no danger here) footbridge before turning a corner to first witness Silver Thread.
Then they'll walk somewhat farther, up a slight and manageable incline, and turn yet another corner before marching down into a wide reception area at the base of the Dingmans' pool. Be forewarned: it can occasionally be slippery there. Walk or wheel someone else carefully. No swimming or wading is allowed.
Guests who are a little more energetic (and this excludes young children and the disabled) can walk a much steeper flight of stairs from near the pool up to a platform at the top of the falls, and peer down into the depths below.
Bring a camera, of course. You'll want to remember this place.
The Pike County Tourism Bureau reports the falls and its visitors' center are open daily during the summer from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. During autumn, the falls are open on weekends only, and depending on cold or icy weather can close as early as November. The visitors' center is staffed by park rangers and sits at the end of a mile-long entrance at Johnny Bee Road off 209 near its intersection with Route 739 in Dingmans Ferry.
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