Lumber Rafts on the Delaware, 1880

The Delaware River is lined with rafts on their way to Philadelphia. Although the winter was unfavorable for the lumber trade, and the high winds prevalent further up, the stream drove the rafts against rocks and sand-bars, causing many wrecks. Old citizens say they never saw the trade better.

It is estimated that there are now over 2,000 rafts between Lackawanna and Easton [in Pennsylvania]. Each raft contains about 60,000 feet of lumber, so that a total of 120,000,000 feet is on the way to Philadelphia. By the end of the week, if high water continues, there will be scarcely a raft left in the upper waters of the Delaware.

Lumber has advanced very materially since last year, causing the working men along the river to feel highly elated. One firm in this town has gone into the pine and hemlock region intending to purchase an extensive tract of first-class log timber, float it down here, and manufacture it in their steam saw-mill.—”The New York Times,” April 30, 1880.

Raft on the Delaware River near Port Jervis, New York, at the end of the 19th Century. Photo courtesy of Minisink Valley Historical Society.
This photograph, possibly taken during a spring freshet (notice the ice on rocks in the background), shows the enormous size of the rafts that traveled along the Delaware River.
The rowboat in the center of the raft and loose logs in the river may have been the result of a raft that broke up further upstream. Photo courtesy of Minsink Valley Historical Society.
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