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The River Mild

Delaware River; May 22-23

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A canoe trip down the Delaware can be as shallow as a beer-fueled tanning contest or as deep as a Wordsworth idyll -- it's up to you. The ideal time to go is the weekend before Memorial Day. Swollen with snow melt, the river moves faster in the spring, its rapids are scarier, and the water, while fine for brief dips, is just icy enough to keep away the hordes of screechy inner-tubers who crowd the river all summer. Pitch your tent at Kittatinny campgrounds in Barryville, New York, just above the Delaware Water Gap and two and a half hours northwest of the city. The sites are primitive enough to generate that roughing-it, Outward Bound feeling (be sure to ask for a spot on the river), but just up the road there are showers, a laundry, and a general store where you can buy such crucial wilderness staples as coffee, suntan lotion, and pre-chopped firewood. Kittatinny offers an assortment of canoe and raft trips: You want the all-day, seventeen-mile whitewater ride. Don't worry: When the river is high, seventeen miles isn't nearly as grueling as it sounds. Experience isn't really necessary. (Memo to seasoned paddlers: There is a bar that sells six-packs on the left bank about two miles below the launch, just before the first bridge. But remember that canoeing while intoxicated is illegal. A pair of uniformed park cops paddled behind me for about a mile after watching me clamber down the bank with a case of Old Milwaukee.) Pack a picnic lunch in a plastic bag, and tie it to your canoe in the likely event that you tip over in the first couple of hours. By the time the bus returns you to your campsite, you'll be so hungry and exhausted, the humblest barbecue will taste like Peter Luger's.

DETAILS Kittatinny Canoes (800-356-2852; campsites, $9.75 per person; all-day, seventeen-mile whitewater ride, $28 per person).


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