About the Lehigh Gorge Trail
The Lehigh Gorge Trail is part of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor that follows historic railroad and canal routes along the Lehigh River from White Haven to Jim Thorpe, PA and provides 26-miles of scenic, flat, and enjoyable biking. The Lehigh River Gorge cuts deep into the Pocono Plateau, and provides unparalleled access to the flora, fauna and geology that makes the Lehigh Gorge a natural wonder and extremely popular visitor destination.
The rocky, fast moving Lehigh River, a designated State Scenic river, is a major tributary of the Delaware River. The Class III Whitewater makes the upper section of the Lehigh River a popular whitewater destination during the late Spring and on summer weekends when the Army Corps of Engineers releases water from the Francis E. Walter Dam just to the North of the Lehigh Gorge State Park.
A Brief History of the Trail
The 19th century saw the introduction of major logging and mill operations. In 1829 John James Audubon, while painting birds, was distressed and remarked about the pace of tree cutting here. The discovery of coal led to rapid settlement and development and of course, the building of the railroads and canals. 20 dams and 29 locks were constructed over the 26 miles between Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe) and White Haven. Five and one-half miles of canal were also built.
When severe flooding in the mid-1800s destroyed the canal system, it was replaced with the new technology of railroads. The Lehigh Gorge Trail was built along a rail line that was originally constructed by the Central Railroad of New Jersey. The line traversed the Lehigh Gorge to tap the anthracite coalfields in the Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre areas. With coal exhausted, other business could not sustain the Central Railroad, which made way for the Lehigh Valley Railroad in 1965. The Lehigh Valley Railroad then abandoned the line in 1972. Today, throughout the corridor, remnants of canal locks, dams and towpath are still visible as well as railroad bridges and old tunnels. The nearby town of Jim Thorpe is a Victorian Era gem with antique shops, galleries and historical buildings.
Historical content kindly provided by Bikekinetix® – Mountain Bike and Rail Trails Pennsylvania