Rail Trails

Karamac Candy

Story and photos by Bob Koppenhaver

A former railbed just north of the Delaware Water Gap provides another short but satisfying taste of days past in a beautiful setting. Designated as the "Karamac Trail" by the NY-NJ Trail Conference map, most of this trail is the former railbed of the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad Company. A shorter second portion of the Karamac trail passes through the site of a former resort. For most of the way the trail also parallels the Old Mine Road, the oldest public road of any appreciable length in the nation and which possesses quite a few interesting features and mysteries of its own. The flat, one-mile railbed portion of Karamac Trail is described here.

The old railbed is a particularly good trail to hike as sunset approaches because for much of the trail you will be able to see the setting sun through the trees. Also, because it is less than a mile long, you will be able to get back to your car before it becomes too dark. This short trail is also perfect for those who are not inclined to hike longer, more difficult trails. A few sections can be somewhat damp or muddy at times so hiking boots are recommended.

To get there take I-80 West towards the Delaware Water Gap, getting off where the sign indicates "Flatbrookville, Millbrook Village", the last exit before the bridge to Pennsylvania. Turn right at the stop sign onto Old Mine Road and park at the small area along the riverbank just before the traffic light. This is the trailhead(1) for the railbed portion of the Karamac Trail.


Look back from the parking area under the I-80 bridge. Although all traces of the former railroad have disappeared, you will see where it once passed. Just around that curve was the long-gone town of Dunnfield and its railroad station. From there the railroad headed to points eastward. As you begin your hike it's only a few steps before you see an old railroad mile marker that proclaims "JC 96", indicating 96 miles to Jersey City .

The entire length of the trail follows closely alongside the Delaware River dozens of feet below. A look toward the rock cliffs on your right show evidence of a construction technique called "cut-&-fill". Railroad builders blasted away sections of the cliff, partially forming the railbed on which the track would be laid. A look over the edge almost anywhere along the first half of the trail reveals the huge amount of blasted rock that was dumped there to build up the flat railbed on which you are walking.

As you walk down the trail it's hard not to notice the beauty of the river flowing below on your left. But don't let it distract you from the Old Mine Road passing high above to your right, supported by its own cut-&-fill construction. You'll soon see the rough but well-crafted stonework of a very old roadway drainage culvert. The fact that it still stands is testimony to the skill of its builders. Shortly beyond, the rail trail passes alongside a rough-dressed stone wall(2), another good example of some former stonemason's skill. The wall appears to have been constructed to help support Old Mine Rd high above. Just a short distance away you will see modern concrete cribbing placed there a decade or so ago to support the road's collapsing support base at a place where it seems to be suspended from the side of the overhanging cliff above.

A few minutes beyond the modern cribbing, the cliffs on your right suddenly drop back from the road above. This is what was once known locally as "Groundhog Hollow" where a formerly active bear den is located a few hundred yards up the hill, possibly home to a mother bear and her cub even this past winter.

You’re likely to be watched as you saunter down this old railbed.

The trail then passes over three wide areas in the railbed, one after the other. Look at each of these wide areas and the ruins that are present, trying to seek clues as to what was once located there. Peek over the edges of the steep drop-offs and look at the supporting stonework. Imagine what effort went into the construction of these ancient retaining walls.

The first of these wide areas is located just after the rail trail passes through a rock "cut". Look over the edge of the river bank at the toppled cast concrete wall sections below. Notice the decorative concrete work and wonder who went to the trouble of forming these details in what appears to only have been a utility wall. What was supported by the concrete pylon on the bedrock at the river's edge below?

Looking out into the Delaware River, you will notice a large island called Schellenbergers Island on modern topographic maps. It was this island that once held Island Park, a simple amusement park from another era with a bathing beach, merry-go-round, and picnic area. An old Island Park postcard shows bathers and onlookers enjoying the pleasures of the river, including boating and a water slide. Considering the railroad once passed here, is it possible they might have dropped passengers off here, using one of these wide areas as an access point to the island?

A short distance down the trail, after passing a masterfully constructed dressed stone wall(4), you will get to the second wide area, about halfway to the end of the railbed trail. Who placed the Belgian block curb here? Hanging over the steep drop to the river below is an old foundation(5) that is still partially intact in the side of the dropoffdrop-off. Imagine the structure that it once supported, jealously admiring the view of the river that it once afforded.

At the third wide area, notice all the debris on the ground. Here lies the remains of what is probably a railcar frame(6), and not far away lies a heap of sheet metal that looks suspiciously as if it were part of the railcar's body. Notice the remains of guard posts or railing supports right at the edge of the sharp drop to the river. Was this once just a private summer home or was it some sort of concession or station?

For the rest of the trail, you will pass through what might appear to be seemingly featureless terrain, at least if you are looking for signs of human construction. It takes sharp eyes to find the two old foundations up on the hillside near Old Mine Road. Or how about the masterful rockwork of the culverts over which the rail trail passes and through which flow the occasional small streams you pass over? Among the human debris, you might even pass a fox den, hidden in plain sight.

Finally, you come to the trail's end, jutting out high above the Delaware River. There are no barriers or warning signs to let you know that the trail ends abruptly on the first support pier (7) of the former NYS&W bridge over the river. From here, the view is breathtaking. Imagine the amount of engineering and labor it took to build the support piers. Or the effort to place the structure that once connected the pier you are standing on to the next one, way out there in the river. Awesome, indeed!!

The trail ends abruptly where the railroad met the Delaware River and once continued into Pennsylvania.

This is the area of Camp Karamac, a popular resort during the middle 1900s that catered mainly to young adults. Looking around at what first appears to be untouched natural surroundings, it is hard to believe that a camp of Karamac's stature was ever here. (It was the subject of a feature story in a 1951 Saturday Evening Post.) Karamac's attractions included boating from a choice of launch areas, tennis, beauty contests, concerts, dance contests, square dancing, just about any sport imaginable at an outdoor camp and a barrage of orchestrated entertainment. There were tennis courts, and among the cabins was a large recreation hall known as the Wigwam which had a dance floor, stage, and its own band.

Once you are at the bridge piers, you are at the end of the rail trail. If you have taken this hike near sunset, you will have just enough time to hike back to your car before it becomes uncomfortably dark. If some daylight hours remain, maybe you can find the rest of the trail that leads from the area of the bridge pier up to the Karamac parking area(8). The change in terrain for that portion of the trail is dramatic should you choose to take it.

Using a GPS on this trail

If you are interested in developing your skills with your GPS, you can try to locate some of the features mentioned in this trail description by entering the latitudes and longitudes as given below into your GPS. A route for this hike can be established by entering them in the order given.
(1) Trailhead by 3-minute light N40º 58.616', W75º 08.044'
(2) Rough-dressed stone wall N40º 58.751', W75º 07.972'
(3) Decorative concrete ruin on bank N40º 58.898', W75º 07.888'
(4) Dressed stone wall N40º 58.917', W75º 07.887'
(5) Foundation ruins in the river bank N40º 58.949', W75º 07.877'
(6) Railcar frame N40º 59.089', W75º 07.855'
(7) Bridge pier of former NYS&W bridge N40º 59.339', W75º 07.859'
(8) Karamac parking area N40º 59.332', W75º 07.679'

The author would like to hear from anyone who has additional information about the history of this old railbed and its immediate features. Please email.

Nearby accommodations and attractions

  • Jenny Jump Observatory
  • The UACNJ facilities in Jenny Jump State Forest, near Hope in Warren County, are 1,100 feet above sea level, one of the few dark sky locations left in the state.

    , ,

  • Delaware River Family Campground
  • Located on the Delaware River near the Delaware Water Gap, where you?ll enjoy raft, canoe, kayak or tube trips, the campground offers trailer and tent campsites as well as trailer and cabin rentals.

    100 Route 46, Columbia 07832, 800/543-2056

  • Brook Hollow Winery
  • Hand-crafted wines fermented, aged, and bottled at our family farm in the heart of the scenic Delaware Water Gap. In addition to wine tasting and sales, we offer indoor and outdoor rentals as well a full catering services for up to 250 guests.

    594 State Highway 94, Columbia 07832, 908/496-8200

  • Gallery 23
  • A cooperative gallery featuring fine art, paintings, photography, pottery, stained glass, jewelry, fiber art, wood turned bowls, quilting, painted tiles, dioramas, and more by 35 talented local artists. Gifts and note cards for every occasion.

    23 Main Street, Blairstown 07825, 908/362-6865

  • Lakota Wolf Preserve
  • Come for the photo opportunities of a lifetime and the chance to watch and listen to packs of Tundra, Timber, and Arctic wolves near the Delaware Water Gap. Bobcats and foxes also reside at the preserve. Wolfwatches and guided photography or video sessions around each individual wolf compound.

    89 Mt Pleasant Rd, Columbia 07832, 1-877-SEEWOLF

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Comments

Hal Smoker
11 Oct 2016, 12:55
Hello Lovers of Karamac-
I worked there for the summers of '58' '59, '60, '61' and '62 (in the business office). Arthur Feindt ("Cheese") handled the business end and John Neumarker ("Gunga Din") ran the social staff. They were as different as night and day. The secretary in the business office was Esther (?). Gunga Din's Cwife was "Bluebird" and Mr. Feindt's sister was "Bunker" (she ran the gift shop underneath the business office with her assistant, Mildred, who later ran the dining room for at least a year). My co-workers in the front office were Dick Locke and Joe Kinder, and later, Walt Veit and Sterling Smith.
I do definitely remember pillow-punchers Carol, Esther and Ruthie, and John Smoker (a distant relative). And who could forget the "mistress' of all the pillow-punchers, Mary . The male pillow-punchers were Ed and John.
I also remember Jack ("Know-how") well. Other social staff I remember were "Quiver", "Feathers", "Lakewood", "Sharps", "Singing Sam" and "Curly."
Some notable guest campers : "Windy", "Soot", "Puffy", "Raja", "Whale", and "Oaks."
I also do remember "Tango" (my first year) and "Howlin", later (dance instructors).
How about the male and female cabins? Saratoga, Belmont and Rancho (for men) and Mayfair, Betsy Ross and Fairview (for women).
The head of maintenance was Toby . The chef was Milford Reiner (with his brother, Larry, as assistant).
I could go on. Many, many, memories. Don't know if anyone will read this, but, if so, would welcome any replies.


Carole Lindsey-Potter
30 Dec 2015, 15:18
I started a Facebook group for Karamac - so far only 3 members but would love to have more. It is a good place to share stories and photos. Just search for Karamac on facebook and you will find us.
Fran Odyniec
22 Jul 2015, 06:09
The Karamac memories keep coming back. Another great waiter who handled our table was Jim Hecker, a friend of John Smoker. There was also a lifeguard by the name of Buck, whose "Everybody out of the pool" intonation in his southern drawl signaled the end of the day down by the pool. And, ever so often if it weren't too cool, the pool would miraculously reopen for night swimming, perhaps for an hour or two. And who could forget "The Pocono Playboys" providing the music for the square dance night.
Mark Fagnan
21 Jul 2015, 04:06
pillow puncher ruthie would be Ruth Hutchingson Gommel. She is still living. I will have to ask my mother what her camp name was
William Serle
20 Jul 2015, 06:51
Thanks. Great story!

Bill Serle
billserle.com
Fran Odyniec
19 Jul 2015, 07:18
Ours was one of the many families who vacationed at Karamac. What a place it was. Some of the staff names I remember: Sharps, Feathers, Pillow Puncher Ruthie, Howlin, Racquets,John Smoker (a waiter). And, yes , that miniature golf course would put the highlands of Scotland to shame. A highlight of the week was the hike up to Sunfish Pond,followed by the scrumptious buffet picinic and the retelling of Rudyard Kimpling's "Gunga Din," by Karamac's incomparable owner, Mr. Nuemacher. Don't forget how the camp was "divided": Heartbreakers, Charmers, Vagabonds, and Cavemen. There also was that great fireplace in the Wigwam that warmed those early mornings. I remember studying the baseball box scores in the New York papers that were out for the reading in the lower level of the administration building. Ah, there are so many, many more memories of that great "blue collar" resort in the Poconos.
William Serle
28 Mar 2015, 05:37
Hi Jeff. My parents met at Camp K in 1930. I took a few photos of the trail in about 2009. I'm writing a memoir about my mother (Who died too-young, many years ago - age 52) Do you have photos to share? Please let me know if you would like so see mine, share yours, or just chat.
mark fagnan
04 Mar 2015, 07:09
my mother carol tetz fagnan and aunt esther tetz yeats worked at karamac in the 1960's. my mother is trying to put a book together about the place. any information, photos, etc, let me know.
Mary Taylor Tracey
04 Jun 2013, 17:03
I have many fond memories of 4 Summers at Karamac Kamp ( '43.'44.'45,'46), working as cinder and pillow-puncher. I have wondered if any thing remained of the campsite. My camp name was Pigeon.\r\n I would love to hear from Handy, Inky,etc.
Carole Lindsey-Potter
05 May 2013, 19:59
I grew up at Karamac - my parents met there in 1942, married in 1944 and I was born in 1946. My parents were Tango and Gaucho (but he went by Al). I was Ballerina. My mother taught dance and we were all involved in the shows. my sister, Lorraine was a Cinder one year, camp name Dark Eyes.
Patrick O'Flynn
08 Jan 2013, 11:07
My parents met at Camp Karamac in the 1930's and married in 1940. Our family continued to visit the camp for one week every summer until about 1960. My father's camp name was "shrimp" and my name was "little shrimp". My mother's name was "Blue Bird". I will always remember the Wigwam, the steepest miniature golf course on the planet, and the painted rocks along the Delaware River. Mr. Reutlinger mentioned "Gungadin" and I remember him well through my father and mother.These comments have brought back so many memories for me. I was sick to learn that it had been acquired by the government and demolished.
Virginia Bennett Diehl
06 Sep 2012, 09:06
My now deceased husband, Robert Diehl and I meet at Camp Karamac during a weekend visit summer 1962. We were married in October 1965. Have thought about Karamac over the years and how we\r\nmeet at the family style dinner table, what wonderful memories.
John McClain
19 Jun 2012, 14:15
Yes Kathy it was the same place. Although the "campers" came from many places, usually there was a large number from Philadelphia. It was always a great place to meet new people. Did you have "camp name"? Do you have any photos of the camp/buildings? It would be great to have some pictures of Karamac the way it was then.
Kathy D'Annunzio McCaffrey
19 Jun 2012, 11:22
My girlfriends and I went to Karamac in the summer of 1965/66. At that time it wasn't as much families as it was a place for older teens, early twenties to hang out. Is this the same place? \r\n
John McClain
23 Feb 2012, 19:01
Every once in awhile I check the internet to see if there is any new information on Karamac. I came across your site and have enjoyed the comments.\r\nI was a camper in 1957,1958 and 1959. I'm 99% sure I know Jack Cistriano. At least I remember the staffer with the camp name knowhow. I would welcome the opportunity to renew contact with any 1950s/1960s campers. I have pictures of the grounds and "ruins" taken over the past three years, as well as a collection of postcards over the years of the camp.\r\n\r\nBob, it would be great if you would facilitate communications between willing happy campers. Thanks!\r\n\r\nBig (Camp Name}
Jack Cistriano
26 Dec 2011, 17:25
I was a guest at Karamac in 1956 and work there summers of 57,58, 59,60. I was on the social staff, my camp name was knowhow. many wonderful memories of good times htere and many wonderful friends made there. it close when the federal government bought the land for the tocks dam project, but the work never reach the karamac grounds\r\n\r\nWould love to hear from any old Karamacers
Carol
11 Dec 2011, 15:09
I went to Camp Karamac two summers when I was 18 and 19 (summers of 1961 and 1962).....had so much fun and great memories....sorry to see it is no longer there and would love to see some of the pictures (if any available) to have a nostalgic glimpse of my youth.\r\n\r\n
Jeff Reutlinger
06 Nov 2011, 06:38
I worked at Karamac in 1964,65 and 66. Helped close it up the final year and drove Mr Nuemacher "Gungadin" home to Va.\r\nLoved that place. Unfortunately lost touch with everyone from that era. I do remember going to a Karamac reunion in 68 or 69 at another resort in the area. I probably still have keys to the long gone buildings !
Steve
20 Oct 2011, 07:16
Looks like a cool easy trail with great scenery. \r\n\r\nI just wanted to mention that the Google Map insert has the trail head somewhere along the Dunfield Creek at least a mile or two from the 3 minute light (where the real trailhead is located http://g.co/maps/h9m66 <a href="http://g.co/maps/h9m66"> Trailhead </a>). Someone with editor rights might want to go in and fix that.\r\n\r\nCheers
Henry Mensing
26 Sep 2011, 13:00
I worked at Camp Karamac all summer in 1944, 1945, and part time in '46, '48 through '51.\r\n\r\nI know how and why it was razed in the 1960's \r\n\r\nI have been trying to contact some of the people I worked with but the only staff mailing list I have is 1951.\r\n\r\nPlease contact me so that we can share information.
Karen
31 Jul 2011, 11:42
My parents met at Camp Karamac. Both are now gone but I have always wanted to see the area. They talked about how much fun they had and how beautiful it was.\r\nAre there any signs of the old camp? Any buildings?\r\nI want to go to see it so much.
Jeff
25 Jun 2008, 13:23
I just hiked this trail yesterday and enjoyed it immensely. It is wide, level and offers fantastic views of the Delaware River.\r\n\r\nAs a note to potential hikers, the trail is not marked with any blazes, but it is almost impossible to get lost.
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