History Along the LHT
LHT Historic Site – A Watershed Moment
A Watershed Moment
At roughly this point along the Lawrence Hopewell Trail travelers cross the boundary between two major east coast drainage systems – those of the Delaware and Raritan rivers. This flat and featureless ground may not look like much, but rest assured, today, water to the north will find its way into Stony Brook and then on into the Millstone River and the Raritan; to the south it will follow a somewhat shorter route via Shipetaukin Creek and Assunpink Creek to the Delaware.
Above: The Delaware River at the falls in Trenton.
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The Delaware drainage basin extends for 419 miles from its headwaters in the Catskills to Cape May and Cape Henlopen on the Atlantic coast.
It covers an area of 13,539 square miles and is fed by more than 2,000 tributaries. In contrast, the Raritan drainage basin at 1,100 square miles is less than a twelfth the size of the Delaware, and at roughly 70 miles is a sixth of the length.
The Delaware basin supports a population of roughly 7.3 million people and is home to the metropolis of Philadelphia and many smaller cities and towns, such as Trenton, Allentown, Wilmington and Dover.
In contrast, 1.5 million people inhabit the Raritan basin, spread across many closely spaced communities, among them New Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Woodbridge, Bound Brook and Somerville. But do the math – 25 times more people per square mile populate the Raritan basin than the Delaware basin.
Pondering the geographical boundaries that separate the regions and sub-regions of the North American continent, one thinks first of those impressive drainage divides that occur in the mountain ranges of the Rockies and Appalachians.
Yet, major divides can be all but imperceptible in the landscape as the one between the Delaware and the Raritan is here in the flat terrain of Mercer Meadows. The highest point in all of Lawrence Township, a mere 238 feet above sea level, is less than half a mile away from where you are standing along the crest of the drainage divide.