One of my favorite outdoor spots in central New Jersey is the Delaware and Raritan (D&R) Canal State Park. The canal runs nearly 70 miles from New Brunswick to Milford. I’ve seen snapping turtles, box turtles, sunfish, pike, bullfrogs, red tail hawk, geese, raccoon, heron, snakes, deer, butterflies, dragonflies, and an unmentionable assortment of spiders and insects at the canal. Unfortunately, parts of the D&R canal are now closed due to the damage caused by Hurricane Irene. The rain from the hurricane overflowed the Raritan and Millstone Rivers which merged with the canal. This created one huge waterway that flooded the adjoining roads and communities, leaving thousands of flood victims to deal with the aftermath.
A few years ago, the depths of the canal were experienced by my husband in a very intimate way. As he was riding his bicycle along the D&R towpath, he tried to veer around a large puddle of water that was left over from previous heavy rains. His bike tire hit something (maybe a tree root?) and he instantly flew off the bike, headfirst into the water. My husband discovered firsthand how deep the canal is, even when it’s not swollen by floodwater. Looking back at his underwater foray, I’d say he had several things to be thankful for:
- He knows how to swim.
- He didn’t bump his head.
- The impact of hitting the tree root caused his feet to pop out of the toe clips on his bike pedals.
- The bicycle stayed on the towpath and didn’t act as an anchor in the water.
- He managed to pop up from the depths of the water and scramble up the slope to return to the towpath.
- His eyeglasses stayed on his head.
- His house keys, car keys and cellphone stayed in his pants pocket. (The cellphone was never quite the same though.)
- He didn’t get poison ivy.
Much to the amusement of the other canal visitors that day, he rode his bike back to his car –soaking wet, covered with mud and debris, with visible red scratches down his arms and across his face from thorn bushes. When he arrived home, he silently walked into the kitchen and just stood there. I took one look at him and burst out laughing.
Experiencing nature and wildlife along the D&R canal is something I really enjoy — hopefully it will soon be restored to its pre-Hurricane Irene condition — but I have no desire to intimately explore the canal’s underwater depths. Your comments are welcome!