Hamilton Township

Abbott Marshlands: Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park Towpath – Duck Island
Hamilton Township, NJ 08611

Overview of Selected Trail

This trail is along the D&R Canal tow path from Lamberton Road in the Abbott Marshlands to the south end of Canal Lock 1 near Bordentown. It passes through several areas of second growth wetland woods, and marsh, with the canal on one side and Duck Creek on the other. It is an oasis of wild land for songbirds, waterfowl, reptiles, amphibians and insects (butterflies).

Trail Map
Full Desc
Flora & Fauna
  • Abbott Marshlands: Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park Towpath – Duck Island
  • Distance:

    3.1 miles


    60-90 minutes


    None. The trail is the old towpath along the canal.

    Trail Usage:

    Walking/Hiking, Dogs permitted on leash, Mountain biking




    Easy walking throughout


    Lamberton Road Entrance – 20 + cars (north end of Lock 1); D & R Canal State Park parking lot – 8 cars; Overlook Parking Lot on Interstate 295 North or South – 24 cars each; Bordentown – park at the Light Rail Station


    Insect repellent for mosquitoes is recommended in the warm months.

    For more information about the Hamilton-Trenton Marsh, as well as maps, scheduled field trips, guides, etc. visit the Abbot Marshlands website.


    The park is open from sunrise to sunset.


    To the D&R Canal State Park lot and entrance:
    Take the Lamberton Road exit off of Route 129. At the T intersection, turn left toward the PSE&G generating plant. In one mile from the intersection there is a parking area and trail gate on the left under the electric towers.
    In another 0.2 miles there is another gate to the trail on the left and parking on the road shoulder on the right.

  • This path follows the D & R Canal through woods, marsh, and meadow-like open areas. Duck Creek flows beside the path toward the northern end, and a newly-constructed bridge crosses Lock 1 at the southern end. Continue along the path to the bridge over Crosswicks Creek and into Bordentown City. The Light Rail train follows 1830s railroad tracks along the canal on the east side. Along the path, look for a variety of songbirds, water fowl (ducks, geese, herons), and insects (butterflies and dragonflies). The wildflowers in spring and the colorful trees overarching the canal in the fall make this a photographer’s destination.

    Just south of the interstate overpass, look for a huge beaver lodge on the west side of the path in Duck Creek. Continuing south towards Bordentown, there is a good view of a bald eagle’s nest in a dead tree in the marsh on the east side of the path. This is near a cement mile post on the tow path.

  • The tow path and the surrounding marsh, creek and canal is an oasis for plants and animals. Look for wetlands woods species such as cottonwood, box elder, sycamore, river birch as well as upland large tulip poplar, ash, black locust, tree of heaven and princess trees in the woods at both ends of the path. Where the woods thin, the spring and summer scent of multiflora rose and honeysuckle draw one’s attention. In the canal, there are yellow pond lilies, cat tails and wild rice (late summer). Along the tow path, look for sassafras, elderberry, arrow wood viburnum, Solomons Seal, blue eyed grass, bedstraw and sweet vernal grass. At the northern end of the trail, the invasion of Japanese bamboo is evident in the understory.

    This is a wonderful place to find resident and migratory songbirds including cat birds, redstarts, rose breasted grosbeaks, Baltimore orioles, flycatchers, indigo buntings, gold finches and red winged blackbirds.

    Insects include many dragonflies and butterflies (skippers, swallowtails and sulfurs).

    In the canal and Duck Creek look for Eastern painted turtle and red sliders. Fowlers toads can be seen along the towpath while spring peepers and wood frogs contribute to an early spring chorus.

    Mammals include beaver, muskrat, white tailed deer, cotton tail rabbits and squirrels.

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  • The 44-mile long main canal was built in the 1830s. Dug by hand, mostly by Irish immigrants, the main canal — 75 feet wide and 7 feet deep — carried barges from the Delaware River at Bordentown to the Raritan River at New Brunswick. It was a vital means for carrying coal from the Pennsylvania mines to meet the booming industrial and residential needs of New York City. In the 1860s and 1870s, 80 percent of the cargo carried on the canal was coal. A lake that was used as a turning around basin for the barges can be seen in the marsh about halfway along the trail (east of railroad tracks). There was a thriving brick-making industry here in the 1800s. At the beginning of the Civil War the Canal was critical in moving 10,000 NJ troops to Washington, DC to protect the Capitol from the Confederate Army located in Virginia.

    The D&R Canal as a whole has served three functions since it opened in 1834. First it provided an inexpensive means to move freight between the Raritan and Delaware Rivers. It was a critical link for nearly 100 years in the network of rivers and canals that linked the Pennsylvania coalfields to New York and other cities. Second, it has provided water to meet the growing residential and industrial needs of central New Jersey; shipping on the canal ended in the 1930s, and the canal was then rehabilitated to serve as a water supply system.

    Its third function, and today the most obvious, is that of an informal recreation area. In 1973, the D&R Canal and numerous structures along the canal were put on the National Register of Historic Places; in 1974 the New Jersey Legislature created the Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park and the Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission, beginning the long process of developing a priceless recreational and natural resource with links to many historic sites.

    At two points in the Canal and at the southern tip of Duck Island it is possible at low tide to see remnants of sunken barges.

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  • Photos


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