Six Waterlogged Days
by Lauren Johnson
It’s August, and the race is on to beat the heat, so pack a picnic, grab a towel and get ready to get wet. Swimming, tubing, kayaking and more are all available as options if you want to leave those hot sidewalks behind, cool down, slow down and reconnect to nature.
Canoeing on Brandywine River
West Chester, Pa.
Keep cool as you cruise the currents of the scenic Brandywine River. For nearly 40 years, Northbrook Canoe Co. has been leading canoe tours through beautiful Chester County, offering refreshing fun for the whole family. Programs include a canoe basics clinic where folks learn proper grips, steering and how to right your canoe. There are also ladies-only canoeing tours and guided family tours, with plenty of time to play in the water as you watch for wildlife. The river is a “Class 1” waterway, which means the current is gentle and meandering, making it perfect for both beginners as well as those who just want to relax. To further put your cares at ease, the average depth is 3 feet in most places, making it easy to hop out and explore. Customized trips for groups and Scouts are also available.
Delaware River Tubing
There’s no better way to enjoy the hot, lazy days of summer than floating carefree down the peaceful Delaware River. Tours are unguided, giving you the choice to float the whole stretch or paddle to shore to explore and cool off along the shady banks. The trek starts in Milford, New Jersey, and ends about 6 miles downstream (it takes about three to four hours to complete), where shuttle buses await to bring you back to your vehicle. Tubers have the choice of single-, double- or triple-passenger tubes, and can customize their experience with special tubing hand paddles and straps to keep their group connected. In addition, no tubing experience is complete without a visit to the Famous River Hot Dog Man—a floating hot dog stand situated halfway down your journey where you can fuel up for the second leg. You can also organize your own tubing trip: Just make sure you have at least one car at the end to take you back!
Delaware River Water Trail
If you’re looking to cool off in more ways than one, the Delaware River Water Trail is just the spot. The trail was used in the 19th century as a way to transport coal and supplies to and from the small adjacent river towns.
It’s extensive, with more than 70 miles of mainly shaded walking and biking trails, as well as dozens of parks, historic sites and recreation areas along the way, including Washington Crossing Historic Park and Bull’s Island Recreation Area, both of which include parking and amenities. Water lovers can pack up their kayak or canoe and put in at one of the many launch sites along the river. The trail runs through many charming Delaware River towns where visitors can veer off to grab a refreshing snack or drink, or simply explore.
For a refreshing summer excursion with the kids, try Bellmawr Lake. A short 20-minute drive from Center City, this family friendly spot makes for an easy getaway to escape the heat of the city. The lake includes recreational activities such as beach volleyball, mini golf, horseshoes and more—not to mention a 100-foot waterslide. Pack a picnic to eat on your beach blanket, stake your claim in one of the many picnic areas, or settle down under the shaded pavilion. For a summertime indulgence, the beach bar and grill serves up classic summertime fare and thirst-quenching beverages.
A day trip away from the city takes you to Nockamixon State Park, where a glistening 7-mile-long lake awaits. Visitors can bring their own gear or visit the boat rental concession to choose from canoes, rowboats, paddleboats, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and more. Picnic tables are dotted throughout the park and all along the water, allowing you to take in the endless view. Though swimming is prohibited in the lake, the park has an impressive pool complex complete with two water slides and a shallow end with fountains for children to enjoy. In addition, the park has more than 35 miles of hiking trails that meander through the woods and along the shoreline, where you can enjoy cool lake breezes while watching for wildlife.
Atsion Recreation Area
Located in Wharton State Forest, about an hour drive from Center City, Atsion Recreation Area offers canoeing, fishing, hiking, birdwatching and more. Atsion’s swimming facilities on Route 206 in Shamong Township are open from Memorial Weekend to Labor Day, while lifeguards are on duty. After a long and relaxing soak, visitors can check out the nearby historic Batsto Village, a former bog iron and glassmaking industrial center from 1766 to 1867, with a visitor center, exhibit gallery, museum shop and interpretive center. There are also designated camping grounds and cabins throughout Wharton State Forest, which is the largest single tract of land in New Jersey’s park system.