Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area – East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania - Atlas Obscura

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

The remains of a community that was forced to move for a dam that never materialized still rot in this Pennsylvania park. 


Situated between the Pocono Plateau of Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Kittattiny Mountains of Northwestern New Jersey is the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DWGNRA). This nearly 70,000 acre park draws close to five million visitors a year from the nearby metropolitan centers of New York City and Philadelphia, making it one of America’s most visited public lands. But the story of its creation is one marked by much sadness.

In the mid-1950s, two back-to-back tropical systems devastated what was then known as the Minisink Valley. Ultimately, the Department of the Interior and the Army Corps of Engineers decided that a dam on the Delaware River could stop similar floods from happening. The proposed Tocks Island Dam was to be one of the largest ever constructed in the United States. The dam, however, was never built due to environmental outcry and a dangerous proximity to a fault line.

Yet the residents of the Minisink were displaced anyway. Through the implementation of eminent domain and condemnation, the American federal government forced the relocation of around 15,000 people, some of whom had familial connections to the Valley dating back hundreds of years.

So what had once been a vibrant, bucolic region thus became the DWGNRA, and the farmhouses and barns and churches and schools of the Minisink that were not demolished, were left to rot. An entire ghost region — replete with multiple ghost towns — came into existence. The eerie remains of the needlessly displaced community still greet visitors to this day.

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March 1, 2016

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