The remnants of Hurricanes Henri and Ida walloped New Jersey in August and September, and the D&R Canal towpath was smack in the path of both. The Millstone River flooded, Canal Road flooded, all kinds of major roads flooded … it was not pretty.
I dreaded seeing the damage to the canal towpath (also part of the East Coast Greenway).
We finally biked the section from Trenton to Princeton after Sunday’s big rally for the Essex-Hudson Greenway. Here’s what we found:
Heading up from Trenton, it didn’t look too bad at first. Oh there were some ruts, but there was no Millstone River that overflowed its banks. The “worst” for a while was that you essentially had one narrow track to bike in; another looked covered in short grass and in between was thicker grass. That felt more like underuse.
But then we crossed U.S. 1 on the overpass. We started hitting thick spots of sand, thick enough that you wanted to put your foot down in case the bike fishtailed or stopped moving. Maybe that could be fixed with some sort of roller or spreader, or at least some manual raking.
We started seeing more ruts, even brief rocky sections.
Then we hit the Quaker Road crossing, and I understood why this road is closed (and will be for a while). The southern side of the road had caved in by the trail. OK, I thought, we can walk around that. And thankfully the bridge is intact, not that we needed to cross it.
But then we got to the other side of the road.
The descent down to the canal towpath was gone. A gaping hole, rocks, a downed tree limb, deep ruts. This was not just a quick walk. The guard railing for the road was mangled.
What to do? We opted for a short stretch of Quaker Road toward Princeton, figuring we could pick up the trail by the parking lot and the George Washington marker. We could, thankfully with a rocky transition.
We found more damage, with more of the crushed stone washed away and rocky terrain exposed on the way to Alexander Road. I took it slow on the road bike. Yet more ruts and washouts, though not as bad, along the short stretch to Washington Road. We peeled off there, leaving the area toward Griggstown (some of the worst flooding in both storms) for another day.
Thankfully New Jersey apparently has gotten quite a bit of federal disaster money and seems committed to making the towpath passable, if not fixed, fairly quickly. Spring 2022?