The D&L Blog

Delaware & Lehigh - Winter is the Friend of Trail Design

While trail usage across the Corridor goes way down during the winter months, trail design heats up.

Winter weather provides an opportunity to install signage and other odds and ends.

Field work is an essential part of trail design. This involves things such as surveys and walk throughs with partners, engineers and permitting agencies. Wintertime provides the opportunity to do this without the heavy vegetation that is in some of the undeveloped areas of canal towpath and railbed. It also allows for greater sight distances, which makes for a much more cost effective survey.  We also take the opportunity to put the finishing touches on our projects, like the installation of entrance signs at the new River Road and Cementon trailheads.A new entrance sign welcomes visitors to the new trailhead on River Road.

We are currently taking advantage of the winter time to do survey work on a few projects – the pedestrian bridge in Jim Thorpe and design of the D&L Trail in North Whitehall Township (Lehigh County) and the Boroughs of Catasauqua and North Catasauqua (Northampton County).

The winter also allows a glimpse of what impact future trail projects will have. The photo below shows a section of trail in North Catasauqua that is impassable in the warmer months. You can clearly see how reestablishment of the townpath adjacent to the canal retaining wall unearths the beauty of this section of Lehigh Canal.

In North Catasauqua, an intact canal wall is easily visible during the winter.

Another advantage of winter is the ability to see the canal ruins uncovered. I am constantly amazed at the engineering that went into the canal back in the 1820s when it was being built. One example is the guard lock in North Catasauqua. Designed to prevent canal damage during high water in the Lehigh River, they are a testament to the talent of craftsman of the time. While the timber work has not weathered well, the stonework is largely intact, as you can see in the photo below.

The stonework of North Catasauqua's guard lock is a testament to nineteenth-century craftsmanship.

Finally, working on the D&L Trail constantly reminds me that nature will over time reclaim what was hers to begin with. The photos below show the guard lock area during operation of the canal. As you can see, there are no trees in sight. Trees would have compromised canal and lock wall integrity and impacted the travel of a canal boat, mule and the rope connecting the two. Left to nature the past seventy plus years, the area returns to its previous forested state.An historic photo of North Catasauqua's guard lock shows that during use the area was treeless.

Check back for more updates.  Spring (and great trail weather) will be here before you know it.