DELAWARE RIVER — These days, rafting is kind of the new canoeing. People flock to the liveries, rent their rafts, and launch themselves down the Delaware. (For those of us who remember great …
DELAWARE RIVER — These days, rafting is kind of the new canoeing. People flock to the liveries, rent their rafts, and launch themselves down the Delaware. (For those of us who remember great stacks of canoes, it’s a little bittersweet. But all things change, etc. etc.)
As you climb on your raft—wearing a life jacket, please—it’s worth remembering that for 150 years, rafting was a job, and it built the local economy.
River valley trees were cut down. The logs were hauled to the creeks that fed into the mighty Delaware. There they were lashed together and floated downstream (with, of course, raftsmen to drive the thing) to the Delaware and then to Philadelphia, where the raft was taken apart and the wood sold. The raftsmen made their way back upriver and the cycle started anew. This lasted until 1920, when the last commercial raft was floated.
Fun with terms: A small raft was called a ‘crib.’ Five cribs joined together were a ‘colt.’ Two colts were a raft, and two rafts were a fleet. In the Basket Historical Society’s newsletter, The Echo, there’s a sketch of a raft, with a notation that it was about 100 feet long.
Thanks to the Basket Historical Society in Long Eddy, for providing the information and photo.
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