D&R Canal Kayak – Blackwells Mills

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Calm paddling in a long, narrow canal along a towpath.

The “main” canal of the Delaware and Raritan (D&R) Canal State Park follows along a towpath from New Brunswick, N.J to Trenton. (The “feeder” portion then continues on to Frenchtown, next to the Delaware River).

Average depth: 10’. Miles available:


Our two cents:

Very easy paddling with nearly no current makes this good for beginners or a relaxing paddle. Tons of turtles and usually a Great Blue Heron or two.

Bridges and locks limit the length of sections along the entire D&R Canal, though if the water is low, you can portage around or limbo under bridges.

White wooden bridge over the Delaware Canal

Paddling south towards Griggstown offers the longer of the two directions from this launch, but either is a nice paddle. We haven’t felt the need to extend in either direction, so we have not tried to shimmy under any of the bridges.

There is a rental place at the other end (doesn’t open until 10am though) so there will be more boats on the water on this section, more towards Griggstown.

Some road noise in sections where the road runs nearby.

Updated: 8/2021 – Page refreshed, re-kayaked the Blackwells Mills to Griggstown section.


Parking: N40.47525° W74.57275°

Blackwells Mills Park Parking Lot. 3 Blackwells Mills Rd, Somerset, NJ 08873.

This is a decent-sized lot but it is popular and may fill up. It has a lot of turn-around, however, as many people come for short walks along the canal towpath. There is another small lot a little further down Blackwells Mills Road or use the Six Mile Run lot nearby on Canal Road.

This is just one of several launch points along the length of the canal, plus you can choose to go in either direction. There is a dirt launch at the other end at Griggstown Causeway across from the rental place. Use a two-car shuttle to go further without having to out-and-back it.


Restrooms:

Portable toilet may be in the parking lot (NOT there 7/2021) or in the nearby Six Mile Run lot (there 7/2021).


Kayak Rentals:

Available at Griggstown Canoe and Kayak Rental. This is nearby on Canal Road at Griggstown Causeway and not at this parking area on the Blackwells Mills end.

Great for beginners or kids, calm paddling, easy to get into the canal – highly recommend. We rented here many times before buying our own kayaks. Can get pretty busy.


Book:

Appears in Quiet Water New Jersey (2010).

Note: Our go-to kayaking book is Quiet Water New Jersey (2010), available as an e-book or a used printed book.

The newer version is “Quiet Water Mid-Atlantic (2018)”. This contains 13 of the 52 locations in the New Jersey-only book and is available both in printed and online formats.


Related: Kayaking NJ overview page.

Launch:

Launch from the west side of the bridge, on either side of the Blackwells Mills Road. Right leads south to Griggstown Causeway, left leads north to Amwell Road.

Requires a short carry down a path from the lot to the canal, or briefly park on the side of the road and drop the kayak at the launch site.

No dock, ramp, or gradual shoreline – plop the kayak in the water and step down from the shore.

There are a few rocks and roots that get in the way of holding the kayak flush against the edge, and it helps to have someone hold the boat while you step in.

Blackwells Mills launch, for heading south to Griggstown – it’s hard to tell, but the water level is about a foot down from the towpath, and not a gradual slope:

Launch at Blackwells Mills

The Route:

The canal is basically calm. There is actually a slight current but you won’t be fighting against it whether starting at Blackwells or Griggstown.

The following photos are from starting at Blackwells Mills and traveling south all the way to the Griggstown Bridge and back, about 7.2 miles. Many kayakers will want to turn around sooner and not do the whole stretch.

Kayaker on a calm canal surrounded by trees

The towpath that runs along the canal is visible on the right (when heading south) and is well used by walkers, joggers, and bikers.

Bike rider on a towpath seen from a boat on the canal

The D&R canal is often shady but where it’s is wider it can be sunny.

Arched branch handing over a canal

The canal seemed sunnier since the last time. A dredging project closed the canal for some time, and possibly some overhanging branches had fallen or been removed since we were here last.

Wide area of a canal

Approaching the bridge at Griggstown Causeway. The rental place is on the left, near the stack of boats.

Kayak on a canal with algae in the water

The bridge at the Griggstown Causeway. With lower water (and bending over) it might be possible to kayak under bridge but we’ve never bothered trying.

The grassy slope on the right is another possible kayak launch location to do this stretch in reverse.

Kayaker on a canal near the white Griggstown Causeway bridge

Heading back after turning around at the Griggstown bridge.

Trees hanging over a kayak in a canal

The bridge at Blackwells Mills seen from the canal. On the right is an old bridgetender’s house.

Blackwells Mills bridge and tender's house
Bridgetenders house at Blackwells Mills


Kayaked 7/24/21 – 6.9 miles. Blackwell Mills to Griggstown; Canal Rd. launch.
Kayaked 7/17/16 – 7.2 miles. Blackwell Mills to Griggstown
Kayaked 8/10/14 – 7.0 miles. Blackwell Mills to Griggstown
Kayaked 7/5/14 – 4.3 miles. Blackwell Mills to Amwell Rd.