The Admiral Wilson Boulevard in Camden used to be famous for cheap hotels and hookers. In 2000, Christie Whitman cleaned it up for the Republican National Convention. They made a beautiful riverside park, which to this day no one can go in. They say 3 of the 16 parcels require environmental remediation, and the DRPA has never transferred it to Camden County so it could be opened.
You pass its beautiful river views while driving to the Ben Franklin Bridge into Philly, and I often dreamed of paddling it.
Everybody paddles (and jogs... And bikes...) the big lake in Cherry Hill. That's the upper Cooper -- the part above the dam. I wanted to do the lower or tidal portion of this short river -- from the dam down to the Delaware.
I found the optimal put-in right in the heart of North Camden at Pyne Poynt Park. Not long ago, this part of Camden was known for drug dealing and murder, but recently they refurbished it substantially and have added a significant police presence. It is also home field for a very active Little League and now has a strong family feel.
Petty's Island with its long-abandoned fuel tank farm is just across from the put-in. Heading to the left (or West) of the put-in, one quickly attains rough water on the full Delaware River. Here you are just above the Ben Franklin Bridge and Penn's Landing.
Our trip is to the right (or East). One first encounters an old lightship: the Barnegat. Just beyond that is a group of docks hosting half-sunk motor yachts and sailboats.
Now you are plying upstream between wooded banks. You expect garbage and slums but you see mostly waterfowl in a serene habitat. Within a mile, you pass Campbell's Soup headquarters at close range. Next is a mile along the Boulevard and its rushing traffic. You pass an Art Deco harbormaster's tower and a swiveling bridge rusted into place, indicative of the bustling commerce Camden once boasted. Finally you emerge into wide-open Farnham Park. Much of it was protected by a dike until a hurricane breached it and flooded it.
A once-beautiful but now dilapidated brick picnic pavilion sits in the water 50' offshore and makes for an interesting paddling destination. Soon thereafter, you arrive at the bottom of the dam. Carry it if you wish to visit the popular lake. We returned to Pyne Poynt.
Get on Rt. 30-W approaching the tolls for the Ben Franklin Bridge. Before you get there, turn right onto N. 7th St. Take to the end and you will be in Pyne Poynt Park.