This linear park consists of 45 acres and approximately 3½ miles of trail situated along the historic D&H Canal. Remains of the original locks, drydock & waste weirs are visible from the towpath trail. Interpretive signs are located in the park to assist the visitor identify the various canal structures. Two accesses are open at this time, both are located off Route 209. Hornbeck's basin access is located ½ mile north of Wurtsboro; the Bova Road access is located 4½ miles north of Wurtsboro between the Hamlets of Summitville and Phillipsport. The trail is ideal for hikers, bikers, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, nature watching and fishing. Picnic tables and grills along with porta-johns are available at both accesses.
There is no admission fee, the park is open year round. Hours are from 8:00am 'till dark. Due to the linear nature of this park users are asked to respect the rights of adjacent landowners.
Canal History 1828 - 1898
As a result of the war of 1812 Americans were faced with an energy shortage due to the blockade of shipments of soft (bituminous) coal from England. Designed as a system of transportation between the coal fields of Pennsylvania and the ports of New York along the Hudson River, the Delaware and Hudson Canal was one of many towpath canals constructed in the early years of the nineteenth century. The coal passed over a gravity railroad to haul coal from the mines to the canal terminus at Honesdale, PA. From its opening in 1828 to its demise in 1898, the D&H Canal transported millions of tons of anthracite coal to the industrial and domestic furnaces of New York City, New England, and the river towns located along the Hudson River.
This great engineering feat was the first private enterprise project in the United States to cost more than a million dollars to build. The project was first visualized by Maurice and William Wurts (the Village of Wurtsboro was named in their honor) and financed through the influence of Philip Hone (Honesdale named after him), the Mayor of New York.
The canal was 108 miles long (Honesdale, PA to Kingston, NY) and contained 108 locks, 22 aqueducts, 136 bridges, 22 reservoirs, 16 dams and 14 feeders.
The quest to develop a park began in 1969, when the County on advice from the Sullivan County Park and Recreation Commission acquired 4 acres of property that consisted of the canal, towpath and Locks 42, 43, and 44. In 1986, Orange and Rockland Utilities generously donated 43 acres of canal and towpath. In 1988 the county was awarded a $334,750 NYS grant to purchase additional land and develop a linear park. In 1999, the County was awarded a $670,000 TEA-21 grant to further improve the park. Since its initial purchase in 1969, the County has acquired over 83 acres of parkland, 5 locks, a dry dock and has developed over 5 miles of canal trail, interpretive displays, trail heads, picnic areas, and parking areas.
Sullivan County's D&H Canal Linear Park is operated and maintained by the Sullivan County Division of Public Works. The park is open year round from dawn to dusk. The linear park is located adjacent to the Route 209 corridor in the Town of Mamakating, Sullivan County. Access to the towpath trail can be made from several points located along the trail between the Village of Wurtsboro and the Hamlet of Phillipsport (see location map). The trail is intended to accommodate a variety of users, including hikers, walkers, nature enthusiasts, bicyclists, joggers, cross country skiers and snowshoeing (motorized vehicles and horses are prohibited). The canal itself offers fine fishing (NYS Fishing License Required) and canoeing.
It is important to extend courtesy to all trail users and respect their rights. In order to avoid conflicts, trail protocol dictates that bicyclists yield the right of way to all trail users.
Please help us manage this park for the enjoyment of all our visitors by observing the following rules, regulations and safety tips:
Rules, Regulations and Safety Tips
- Respect the rights of property owners.
- Stay to the right, except when passing.
- Travel at a reasonable speed.
- Keep all pets on a short leash.
- As a courtesy to trail neighbors, refrain from loitering near private property.
- Canoe users must wear life jackets.
- All bicycle operators under age 14 must wear a certified helmet. All bicycle riders are urged to wear a helmet.
- Please do not litter.
- Be aware of poison ivy along the trail.
- Hunting and/or the discharging of any firearm is prohibited without a permit.
- Fires may be built and maintained only in grills suitable for cooking purposes.
- Motorized vehicles are prohibited on towpath trail.
Swimming is prohibited.
Flora and Fauna
The area surrounding the linear park is primarily tree covered with a predominance of deciduous tree species; the major species varying with soil type. In addition, there is a variety of understory and ground cover which adds to the 'wildness' of the forest. The northern hardwoods found in this area include sugar maple, American beech, cherry, apple, white oak, sycamore, shag bark hickory, ashes, white birch, walnut, oak, willow, tulip trees, and dogwood. Other trees found in this area are coniferous and include white pine and hemlock. The ground cover consists of a myriad of species of wildflowers, jewelweed, ferns, berries, milkweed, and such vine plants as poison ivy and grapevines.
The area along the D&H canal is the homeland for a myriad of animals, from the underfoot millipede to the overhead red-tailed hawk. The wet, lower elevations abound with those animals whose lifestyle requires an abundance of moisture. These include the freshwater clam, stonefly, mudpuppy, brown and brook trout, painted turtle, great blue heron, along with waterfowl and beaver.
As the elevation rises along the wetlands an evergreen forest dominates the landscape. The fauna of this habitat include species adapted to life around wetlands, but not necessarily in it. Inhabitants of this region include fireflies, black snakes, re-winged blackbirds, raccoon and gray fox. On higher elevations overlooking the Canal wildlife species are found which live in the deciduous forest zone. This group includes the eastern tent caterpillar, garter snake, upland birds such as ruffed grouse and wild turkey, along with song birds and raptors. Larger mammals are also residents of this zone. Among these species are the possum, weasel, red fox, white-tailed deer and an occasional coyote.
With the exception of the maintained tow path much of the canal and other canal era development has been moving back to a more natural state after a hundred years since canal abandonment.
Where the canal followed the bed of a stream the water is likely to be much like it was before the canal was dug, cold and clear with a gravelly bottom, just the conditions for trout, whether it's browns, rainbow or native brook trout. Sections running through swamps have silted in and are too warm for trout but support bullheads, chain pickerel, pumpkinseed and suckers. Look for trees that beaver have felled or their stick dams, but you are more likely to see a musk rat swimming or feeding on vegetation along the shore then the nocturnal beaver.
Plants along the canal vary depending on soil drainage. On wet sites, like the banks of the D & H Canal, white barked sycamores, speckled alder, and red maples trees can be found. In wetlands where it is wet most of the time, red maple is the most common species. White ash and swamp white oak are also present. Beneath these trees is a shrub layer of spice bush, highbush blueberry, swamp azalia and the holly winterberry. On dryer, but still moist sites, the evergreen white pine has seeded in on abandoned fields. Red oak, white oak, black gum, hemlock and sassafras can also be found.
As the weather warms and the ice and snow of winter begin to melt exposing the icy water of boggy areas near the canal, the red spotted newt can be seen swimming or resting on submerged vegetation. Soon they find their way to secluded pools and begin depositing clusters of jelly like egg masses among the tussock sedges. After several weeks the aquatic larvae emerge and spend up to seven years on land. This is the brightly colored red eft seen in spring and summer, especially on wet or damp days. Don't touch, their skin secretions are very irritating. This is the most common, but only one of more than a dozen species that live in and along the canal. During the warm months, painted turtles and water snakes can be seen sharing sunny spots on fallen trees.
On the tow path the white petaled blood root, spring beauties, and various violets can be found blooming in early spring. Just off the tow path on damp sites the yellow flowered trout lily with it's splotchy leaves can also be found.
In the middle of summer orange flowered Canada lilies and pink swamp rose begin blooming on the berm. In the late fall, the red berries of the spice bush and winterberry are the last color of the season and are soon gone as the last of the song birds pass through on there way south.