Drive New York’s Upper Delaware Scenic Byway to discover quaint river towns, visit rare architectural churches, investigate the haunted Burn Brae Mansion, and chase the unique bridges of Sullivan County.
I was a guest of Sullivan Catskills, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Table of Contents
- 1 Upper Delaware Scenic Byway
- 2 Upper Delaware Scenic Byway Route Map
- 3 Highlights of the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway
- 3.1 French Woods Community Church
- 3.2 Long Eddy
- 3.3 Riverside Cemetery
- 3.4 Route 97 Viaduct
- 3.5 Hankins Fire Station
- 3.6 Callicoon
- 3.7 Fort Delaware Museum of Colonial History
- 3.8 Narrowsburg
- 3.9 Skinners Falls
- 3.10 The Museum at Bethel Woods
- 3.11 Burn Brae Mansion
- 3.12 St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church
- 3.13 Saints Peter & Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church
- 3.14 Stickett Inn
- 3.15 Roebling’s Delaware Aqueduct
- 3.16 Zane Grey Museum
- 3.17 Minisink Battleground Park
- 3.18 Stone Arch Bridge Historical Park
- 3.19 Livingston Manor Covered Bridge Historical Park
- 3.20 North Branch Inn
- 4 Design Your Own Upstate New York Road Trip
- 5 Mazda USA
- 6 Map It!
- 7 We Would Love to Hear From You
- 8 Pin this Post!
Upper Delaware Scenic Byway
It is no secret that I am a fan of scenic byways, and to me there is nothing better than driving through a beautiful landscape, especially with a stocked cooler for roadside pullovers. But scenic byways are not just about driving and picnicking, especially when they offer historical sites, recreational opportunities, and best of all, side trips!
The Upper Delaware Scenic Byway has all the above and more, making it a perfect destination for a day trip or weekend outing.
The 70-mile scenic byway (Route 97) parallels the New York bank of the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, an NPS designated National Wild and Scenic River.
Nestled in the valley between New York’s Catskill Mountains and Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, the Delaware is the last major undammed river in the eastern United States.
From an outsider’s perspective, the UDSB does have room for improvement. Major sections of the roadway are in need of repair, there are few pullovers for overlooks, and an overpopulation of power lines often obstruct the view.
Visitors from southern states might also be reminded that roadside attractions, museums, and restaurants in northern states keep seasonal hours, meaning they are often open only on weekends and completely shut down from late fall through early spring.
Prior to my visit, my host warned me that rural areas of the UDSB had little to no cellular reception, so I downloaded an offline map of the greater region, and I am happy to say my Google Maps GPS worked perfectly, even in locations with no signal.
Even with room for continued development, the byway offered far more opportunities than I could accomplish in one day, and I was determined to fill my allotted time to the max!
Upper Delaware Scenic Byway Route Map
A few weeks before heading to New York, I made an information request at the UDSB website. So armed with a booklet, a foldout map, and an NPS unigrid, I was prepared to explore key sites along the route and keep one eye open for roadside discoveries.
The above map provides a clear and concise depiction of the UDSB. You can click on the map image to download a PDF copy suitable for printing.
Highlights of the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway
I traveled to the Village of Hancock, the northern gateway to the UDSB, to begin my drive. I would not make make it all the way to the southern gateway, the City of Port Jervis, but I came pretty darn close.
My byway drive would also not be linear. There would be detours and backtracking, and along the way I would pick up a hitchhiker, of sorts.
French Woods Community Church
Old churches always get my attention, so I pulled over a few miles outside of Hancock to take a look at the French Woods Community Church, founded in 1895.
Pulling into the hamlet of Long Eddy, I noticed a red barn-like structure with a historical marker and signs on the lawn. The Basket Historical Society of the Upper Delaware Valley is dedicated to preserving the “history, lore and legend” of the region with a small museum and archives.
Bluestone, a variety of feldspathic sandstone, is a natural resource found in the area. Original bluestone sidewalks still line the streets of Long Eddy.
Timber is another natural resource in the Upper Delaware Valley. In the 1760s, timber rafting became the primary means of transporting the felled trees downriver. Workers would lash hundreds of logs together and float them as far south as Philadelphia. The calm waters at Long Eddy provided a resting place for loggers to overnight. Timber rafting was discontinued in the early 1900s.
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Leaving town, I came upon the Riverside Cemetery. Established in 1885, the quaint graveyard with a wrought iron fence, bluestone sidewalk, and Queen Anne chapel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Route 97 Viaduct
Approximately one mile beyond the cemetery, at the Basket Brook Road juncture with Route 97, is a curved viaduct with stellar views of the river. The bridge has wide shoulders to accommodate foot traffic, but there is no designated parking area. I parked at the corner and walked out on the viaduct. Pedestrians should exercise caution with fast-moving vehicles.
The yellows, greens, and magentas of goldenrod and pokeweed were bright splashes of color along the roadway, reminding me how weeds have a beauty all their own.
Hankins Fire Station
If you blink, you may miss Hankins. The tiny hamlet’s most prominent building is its fire station situated on a narrow strip of land between the roadway and railroad. It reminded me of something out of a storybook.
You will pass up the turn-off to the hamlet of Callicoon if you blink, so keep an eye open for Upper Main Street or rely on GPS.
New York state has a unique system of administrative divisions and municipalities with hamlets and villages, in addition to towns and cities, so don’t confuse the town of Callicoon, located about ten miles away, with the hamlet of Callicoon. The hamlet of Callicoon is in the town of Delaware.
I don’t get it, but it is what it is.
Callicoon was a station on the Erie Railway, and its historical appeal is reflected in the vintage architecture that lines its streets. The 1852 Western Hotel and the 1948 Callicoon Theater are two of the most prominent buildings that contribute to its charm.
The Callicoon Bridge has the longest span of any bridge in the Upper Delaware Valley. A broad floodplain adjacent to the bridge provides river access, and a small outfitter offers canoe and kayak rentals.
If you are leisurely driving the byway with frequent stops and side trips, you may want to gas up or grab a bite to eat while in Callicoon.
Note: The Stone Arch Bridge and Livingston Manor Covered Bridge, described later in this post, are easily accessible in a single side trip from Callicoon.
Fort Delaware Museum of Colonial History
You can’t miss the Fort Delaware Museum of Colonial History located on Route 97, just outside the hamlet of Narrowsburg in the town of Tusten. The museum is a reconstruction of the original Fort Delaware, originally built six miles upriver near Milanville, Pennsylvania, for the protection of Connecticut Yankees who settled the area between 1755 and 1785.
Living history reenactors lead tours and present demonstrations of 18th century crafts and skills needed for survival on the western frontier.
The museum hosts a calendar of special events and is open to the public on weekends throughout the summer and early fall.
Narrowsburg is located at a bend in the river that creates a broad natural pool. This community, once called Big Eddy, was a popular spot during the timber boom for hundreds of lumbermen who parked their rafts and went in search of a warm meal and room for the night.
I met up with fellow roadtripper Melody Pittman for lunch at the Tusten Cup, a local coffee and sandwich shop. Melody had explored a separate itinerary during the morning, but after filling our bellies, she would join me exploring the byway for the rest of the day.
After regrouping at lunch, we backtracked a few miles to check out Skinners Falls. We later learned there are no waterfalls at Skinners Falls, but there are rapids and natural swimming pools among the rocks, making this section of the river a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking, and rafting.
We parked at the NPS river access by the Skinners Falls — Milanville Bridge and walked through a tunnel of Japanese knotweed to the water’s edge. Sadly, this invasive exotic plant is the dominant species along the river’s edge and outlying areas.
The river rapids are downriver from the bridge and just around the bend. Local outfitters stock all recreational equipment you will need to enjoy a few hours on the water.
The Museum at Bethel Woods
The Museum at Bethel Woods is the site of the 1969 Woodstock music festival, and it is located 13 miles east of Skinners Falls. You can take a side trip to the museum from several points along Route 97, but if you are looking to leave the byway and later return to complete your drive, this might be the most direct route. Melody and I explored Bethel one day earlier in an attempt to unleash our inner hippies. Navigate to Retaking Woodstock for the full story and tons of pictures from our visit to the museum and concert stage site.
Burn Brae Mansion
At this point, our schedule took us on a major detour off the byway. We had an appointment for a tour of Burn Brae Mansion B&B, a popular destination for paranormal investigations and the subject of multiple ghosthunting shows, located in the hamlet of Glen Spey.
To begin the tour, we met up with owner Mike Fraysee, a career bicycling coach who also served for many years as president of the United States Cycling Federation.
Mike’s collection of awards and memorabilia from his years managing Pan American and Olympic cycling teams totally overshadowed the display room’s supernatural connection, well maybe except for the huge handmade Ouija board table at one end of the room.
I was partial to a framed letter from my favorite president Jimmy Carter, essentially apologizing to members of the US Olympic Team because they would not be competing at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.
Mike led us upstairs to have a look at the bed and breakfast guest rooms, all the while entertaining us with anecdotes about the mansion’s history and supernatural sightings.
I have overnighted at haunted properties and taken ghost tours, but even though I keep an open mind about such things, I have never had a paranormal experience that I know of, other than orbs showing up in my photos. Melody, on the other hand, is much more in tune with the supernatural world.
The doll and clown collections on the upper floors may or may not enhance the ambience, depending on your fear factor.
The third floor Attic of Curiosities is an eclectic collection of everything under the sun, and since our tour was midsummer, it felt almost that hot.
But then my eyes fell on the one accessory no roadtripper’s dashboard should be without, and all my ghostly fears faded away.
“I don’t care if it rains or freezes . . . .”
During the next week, we would tour additional sites along New York’s Haunted History Trail, but for now it was time to head back to the byway.
St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church
This region of the Catskills is known as “Little Ukraine” to the Ukrainian immigrants who settled here, because it reminds them so much of their homeland. Mike had mentioned that we would pass “the churches” along High Road leading back to the byway, but we were totally unprepared for the extraordinary architecture we would discover.
The wooden St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and separate bell tower were designed in the style of churches found in the Ukraine. Although the church appears to be much older, it was actually completed in 1967. The multi-leveled roofs resemble the stave churches of Norway, but the ornate cupolas clearly originate in Eastern Europe.
I could hardly tear myself away from taking pictures, but another lovely church was waiting just down the road.
Saints Peter & Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Completed in 1972, the Saints Peter & Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church features brick construction, a double cupola, and gold accents.
Both churches have erected crosses on their front lawns honoring 1,000 years of Christianity in the Ukraine, from 988 to 1988 AD.
We reached the juncture with Route 97 at the hamlet of Pond Eddy and headed north along the byway. If we had traveled eleven miles south, we would have reached the byway’s southern gateway at Port Jervis.
Our host had encouraged us to stop at the Stickett Inn in Barryville and enjoy a cold signature cider. Unfortunately, the bar was closed, like most places of business on the day we visited.
The Stickett Inn houses four suites and a small cottage for overnight guests.
But even daytrippers passing through cannot resist stopping for an immature selfie at the iconic business with an ambiguous name.
Roebling’s Delaware Aqueduct
Four miles north of Barryville, we came upon the site of the former Delaware Aqueduct. The original structure, designed by Brooklyn Bridge architect John Roebling, is the oldest wire suspension bridge still in existence in the United States.
The aqueduct connecting two segments of the Delaware and Hudson Canal opened in 1849, allowing boats to cross over the Delaware River.
The thought of a ship sailing over a river or highway challenges all of my preconceived notions.
I could not help recalling the time Jerry and I traveled through the Schwarzach Aqueduct above a highway south of Nuremberg, Germany, while sailing with Viking River Cruises on the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal.
When the D & H Canal closed in 1898, the aqueduct was converted to a vehicular bridge. The National Park Service completed a renovation in 1995, restoring the bridge to its original appearance, complete with towpaths and aqueduct walls.
A tollhouse added in 1900 is now a center for interpreting the bridge’s history.
The original towpath now serves as a pedestrian walkway offering stellar views of the river.
But the best way to experience the former aqueduct is to take a drive across the single-lane bridge. This video depicts the drive back to New York from the Pennsylvania side.
And yes, yacht rock is our standard road trip soundtrack.
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Zane Grey Museum
The former home of famed western fiction writer Zane Grey can be reached by crossing the Roebling Bridge to the Pennsylvania bank, taking a right on Scenic Drive, and following it for .4 mile. The property, situated at the confluence of the Lackawaxen and Delaware Rivers, overlooks the Zane Grey Public Access Boat Launch.
Grey lived on this property between 1905 and 1918. His most popular novel, Riders of the Purple Sage, was published while he lived here in 1912. Zane Grey’s ashes, together with those of his wife Lina are interred at the nearby Lackawaxen and Union Cemetery.
The house museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays for self-guided tours with assistance from NPS rangers and volunteers.
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Minisink Battleground Park
After re-crossing Roebling Bridge and reaching Route 97, we took a slight right and continued on Minisink Road for one mile to Minisink Battleground Park. The 57-acre park features three hiking trails at the site of the 1779 Battle of Minisink, the only Revolutionary War skirmish in the Upper Delaware region.
We spotted lots deer in this area!
While at the park, we learned from an interpretive panel that there were even more fascinating bridges in Sullivan County. If we didn’t delay, we could add two side trip destinations to our itinerary and not be late for our dinner reservations.
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Stone Arch Bridge Historical Park
In order to conserve time, we exited the byway south of Narrowsburg, but as I mentioned previously, these bridges are easily accessible in a side trip from Callicoon.
The three-arched stone bridge spanning Callicoon Creek was built in 1873, and the reflections the afternoon we visited were to die for.
The 20-acre park features picnic tables and grills, hiking trails, fishing, and a lovely waterfall.
If you visit Stone Arch Bridge Historical Park, definitely plan on staying a while.
Livingston Manor Covered Bridge Historical Park
The main attraction at Livingston Manor Covered Bridge Historical Park was built in 1860 by John Davidson.
Although the bridge was given a full restoration in 1984, it retains an ancient smell and feel, as evidenced by worn wheel grooves and the experience of a walk-through.
The adjacent small park offers fishing and picnic facilities, and the bridge spanning Willowemoc Creek is a perfect spot for photo ops.
North Branch Inn
We pulled into the North Branch Inn like a pair of weary pilgrims after a full day on the road.
Everything about this historical property gives evidence to the loving care and attention to detail proprietors Sims and Kirsten Foster have put into its restoration.
An unexpected feature of the inn is its vintage bowling alley dating to the early 1900s. And even more surprising is the open kitchen located in the same space. While waiting to be served in the adjacent dining room, guests are free to try their hand at bowling or watch Chef Erik Kinealy-Hill prepare dishes from his locally-sourced menu.
Melody and I enjoyed a delicate, yet hearty dinner including a freekah appetizer, a dry aged ribeye, and goat cheese ravioli. And one of us also sampled a pineapple sage mojito.
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Transportation for our drive along the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway was provided by Mazda USA. The Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD is a perfect ride for a day trip or wild goose chase on the backroads.
We Would Love to Hear From You
We enjoy dialogue with our readers, especially when they share off-the-beaten-path destinations and useful travel tips. Have you ever driven the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway? If so, we would love to hear about your experience. We invite you to leave your comments and questions below, and we always respond!