Where Does the Delaware River Start

Living a couple of miles from the Delaware River all my life I have seen its beauty and have seen its fury. The Delaware River is the background here in parts of Pennsylvania, New York & New Jersey and runs and ends into the Delaware Bay separating the South Jersey Shore and the state of Delaware but where does the Delaware River start?

The Delaware River begins in 2 branches in the Catskill Mountains of New York. The Western Branch of the Delaware River starts near Mount Jefferson, the Eastern Branch begins near Roxbury at Grand Gorge. Both branches of Delaware merge in Hancock, NY, & flow as 1 river down to Delaware Bay.

If you live for the outdoors as my family does there is no more beautiful spot in the world than the location where I live one hour-20 minute you could be in the Pocono Mountains at the Water Gap fishing for freshwater trout or 1-20 minutes hour south on the Delaware Bay fishing for Weakfish and Blues. This is why I never knew that there was more river above the Water Gap on the Great Delaware River.


Where Does the Delaware River Start


Though the watershed drains only four-tenths of one percent of the total continental U.S. land area, 15 million people about 5 percent of the nation’s population rely on the Delaware River Basin for their drinking water. This includes the largest and fifth-largest cities in the nation New York and Philadelphia.

The Three Main parts of the Delaware River are:

  • Uplands –The Delaware River’s Uplands extend from the Catskill and Pocono mountains where it bubbles forth as cool mountain springs and trickling streams, to Hancock, NY where its East and West Branches meet to form the main stem, which flows down to the Delaware Water Gap where it enters the Piedmont section of the watershed
  • Piedmont-The steep slopes of the Delaware watershed’s Piedmont end abruptly at the Kittatinny Ridge, with the 3,000-4,000 foot peaks of the Pocono and Catskill Mountains giving way to the gently rolling hills and sweeping valleys of Piedmont. The difference between the two regions is dramatically illustrated as the River spills through the Delaware Water Gap, a narrow opening in the Kittatinny Ridge.
  • Estuary-The Delaware Estuary stretches 134 miles from Trenton Falls to the mouth of the Delaware Bay between Cape May, NJ, and Cape Henlopen, DE. Approximately 8 million people live within the Delaware Estuary’s watershed, many depend on it for food and drinking water that is fed by the Pocono and the Catskill Mountains.


Where is the West Branch Start of the Delaware River




The West Branch Delaware River is one of two branches that form the Delaware River. It is approximately 90 mi long and flows through the U.S. states of New York and Pennsylvania.

It winds through a mountainous area of New York in the western Catskill Mountains for most of its course, before joining the East Branch along the northeast border of Pennsylvania with New York. 

Midway or so it is expounded by the Cannonsville Dam to form the Cannonsville Reservoir, both part of the New York City water supply system for delivering drinking water to the City.

It joins the East Branch at Hancock to form Delaware. For the lower 6 mi (10 km) forms part of the boundary between New York and Pennsylvania

Where is the East Branch Start of the Delaware River


The East Branch Delaware River is the other branch that forms the Delaware River. It is approximately 75 mi long and flows through the U.S. state of New York. The East Branch of Delaware is one of the two main branches that combine to form the Delaware River. The East Branch is approximately 75 miles long from its source to its confluence with the West Branch in Hancock, New York.

From its source in Grand Gorge, NY the East Branch winds its way through the western edge of the Catskill Mountains draining an area of around 371 square miles. The East Branch of Delaware averages 75 to 150 feet wide and is flat throughout most of its course.


Map of the Delaware River Basin


Delaware River Watershed


The Delaware River is the longest un-dammed river in the United States east of the Mississippi, extending 330 miles from the confluence of its East and West branches at Hancock, N.Y. to the mouth of the Delaware Bay where it meets up with the Atlantic Ocean. The river is fed by more than 2,000 tributaries, including 216 major ones, the largest being the Schuylkill and Lehigh Rivers in Pennsylvania.

From Trenton to Delaware Bay, the river is tidal. This portion of the river is also known as the Delaware Estuary where the river’s freshwater mixes with the saltwater of the ocean. In Delaware Bay, the tidal change is about six feet, but in Trenton, it is about ten feet. While the entire tidal Delaware River is considered estuarine, salinity levels do change, from saltwater in the bay to mostly freshwater at Trenton, N.J.

The river is considered brackish around Wilmington, Del. The Delaware Estuary is part of the National Estuary Program, a project set up to protect estuarine systems of national significance.


How Deep is the Delaware River


The deepest part of the Delaware River is 113 feet in Big Eddy in Narrowsburg, New York. There is an effort underway to deepen the 102.5 stretches of the river under federal navigation in its channel as deep as 45 feet from Philadelphia and Camden out to the Delaware Bay.

Mostly at the Port of Wilmington, Port of Chester, the Port of Camden, and Port of Philadelphia. Combined with these areas create the biggest areas of shipping in the whole United States.

The Delaware River port complex refers to the ports and energy facilities along the river in the tri-state PA-NJ-DE Delaware Valley region. The Delaware River can freeze in parts mostly along Interstate 80 between Pa and NJ. I’m from Bucks County Pennsylvania and Delaware can also be knee-high deep in some spots north of the tidal water that runs up to Trenton New Jersey.

The average annual flow rate of Delaware is 11,700 cubic feet per second at Trenton, New Jersey. With no dams or impediments on the river’s main stem, Delaware is one of the few remaining large free-flowing rivers in the United States.

The Upper Delaware System is made up of two Tailwater Rivers which are called the East and West Branches which converge in the town of Hancock New York both of which form the Delaware River.


Where does the Missouri River Start and End?

The Missouri River a tributary of the Mississippi starts in Three Forks, Montana, as the confluence of 3 major rivers, Madison, Jefferson & Gallatin & ends in St. Louis, Missouri. Crossing South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, and Kansas, & at 2,540 mi. is the longest river in the US. …………………………………………………………. Read more

How Wide is the Delaware River


The Delaware River reaches a width of 3 to 4 miles at its widest point. Although it is not as wide as the Mississippi or Missouri, it is still impressive, with a discharge volume of 11,550 cubic feet per second.

Also, the Delaware River is among the 19 esteemed “Great Waters” of America’s Great Waters Coalition. This majestic river is the lifeblood of many along its path. So, in this article, we delve into some interesting aspects that are unique to the Delaware River, Atlantic coast, U.S.


Where Does the Snake River Start and End?

The Snake River originates in parts of Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks in Wyoming and runs across southern Idaho before turning north climbing in elevation along the Idaho-Oregon border then diving in elevation turning west as it enters Washington State and flows into the Columbia River ……………………………………………………. Read more

Where Did Washington Cross the Delaware River


On December 25, 1776, General George Washington and a small army of 2400 men crossed the Delaware River at McConkey’s Ferry, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, on their way to successfully attack a Hessian garrison of 1500 at Trenton, New Jersey.

Despite how the famous picture or the painting where Washington’s most famous is portrayed, the Delaware River is very narrow at this location. Durham boats and flat ferries were used to cross. They were probably fixed to a wire strung across the river.

They were probably fixed to a wire strung across the river. The upper Delaware water flows from two branches in the Catskill mountains of new york in the Catskill mountains and eventually flows into Delaware Bay through the center of Philadelphia, truly one of the greatest American rivers. All parts in 3 states were used by the military the Delaware Canal, Jersey Delaware River, Delaware County

The Delaware water into NJ from Pennsylvania until today is less than 300 yards wide I live 10 miles from this spot in Bucks County PA downstream.  General George Washington and the Continental Army’s famous crossing of the Delaware River on December 25-26, 1776, was done during a winter Nor’easter with no bridge on this cold night.

By the time most of the soldiers would reach the launching point for the boats, the drizzle had turned into the driving rain. And by 11 o’clock that evening, while the boats were crossing the river, a howling nor’ easter made the miserable crossing even worse.

One soldier recorded that “it blew a perfect hurricane” as snow and sleet lashed Washington’s army. A full 3 hours behind schedule, temperatures for the crossing ranged starting from 29 degrees to 33 degrees, with brisk winds coming out of the northeast.

George Washington was 44 years old at the time of the Delaware River crossing. Future US President James Monroe crossed river water with the American forces and was wounded at the Battle of Trenton. There were roughly 1,380 Hessian soldiers in and around Trenton at the start of the battle. Because the weather that night was so bad the Hessions feared no attack. They were wrong.


Where is the Sacramento River?

Sacramento River, the largest river in California originates in the mountains of far northern California near Lake Shasta and then flows 382 miles south-southwest through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta the Central Valley past the city of Sacramento & empties into the Pacific Ocean at San Francisco ………………………………………………………………….. Read more


JimGalloway Author/Editor


Reference:  History ChannelGeorge Washington crosses the Delaware River

Jim is a proud member of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network



Related Questions:

How far does salt water go up the Delaware River?

The Delaware River Basin was extremely dry during these months, allowing the salt front to travel upstream to river mile 102, just 8 miles south of Philadelphia’s drinking water intakes on the Delaware River. River mile 102 was the highest recorded location of the salt front.



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