After all, small is beautiful

Tiny Equinunk has a lot to offer

Posted 9/29/22

EQUINUNK, PA — While the census-designated area of Equinunk stretches miles to the south and east, the tiny, exquisite Equinunk Historic District sits at the intersection of Equinunk Creek with …

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After all, small is beautiful

Tiny Equinunk has a lot to offer


EQUINUNK, PA — While the census-designated area of Equinunk stretches miles to the south and east, the tiny, exquisite Equinunk Historic District sits at the intersection of Equinunk Creek with the Delaware River, eight miles below the birth of the Main Stem of the river at the confluence of the East and West branches.

This northeastern corner of Pennsylvania, known as the Upper Delaware region, is part of the glaciated low plateau section of the Allegheny Plateau, according to the National Park Service. A 2,400 square mile escarpment forms the Pocono mountains.

After glaciers receded in northeastern PA, the first people probably arrived 12,000 years ago, living partly in caves along the river, according to the Equinunk Historical Society. When Europeans began arriving in the 17th century, the Munsee branch of the Lenape people used the area as hunting and fishing grounds rather than as a permanent settlement.

As more colonists arrived, the Munsees moved away, until eventually the remaining Lenape were pushed out by the colonists, who had allied with the traditional Lenape rivals, the Iroquois.

‘Clothes on rocks’

The meaning of ‘“Equinunk’’ is uncertain, adds the historical society. Sources say that in the native language, “nunk’’ means place,  but the remaining syllables could refer to “clothes on rocks” or to trout—the Delaware River is renowned for its fishing and its clear waters.

“Clothes on rocks’’ could describe laundry being dried in the sun; other sources suggest the colonists offered clothes to the Indigenous people. It was said that the Munsee would not accept garments from the hands of those who offered, but would take them if they were left on the rocks. That gave the Europeans both a saintly hue and the privilege of naming the location, and one might say that both seem rather ahistoric.

Preserving the past

Located at the intersection of Pine Mill Road and U.S. Route 191, the Equinunk Historical Society and Calder Museum run public programs, porch sales, musical events and tours. The society preserves pieces of the past and shares them willingly with visitors.

As the museum describes it, “Equinunk’s first growth spurt dates from Alexander Calder’s house and sawmill, as well as D. C. Scudder’s 1847 tannery and the axe factory of Dillon & Cole.

“These two pioneer industries thrived. As more people were drawn to the area, commerce increased rapidly.”

Lordville’s railroad station, dated 1848, is located nearby, as is the 1869 Lordville-Equinunk bridge, built by the Roebling Bridge Company. At that point, “it became easier for city people to vacation in rural Equinunk.” Four hotels were built by the 1880s, as well as seven boarding houses that served the area after 1900.

“By 1897,” the historical society notes, “Equinunk had grown to a population of 445, with two churches, six stores, three saloons, two acid factories, an excelsior mill, a creamery, a furniture store, a millinery, a blacksmith, a carriage shop, a harness shop, two physicians and an undertaker.”

Today that clatter of industry has disappeared, and now the town sits nestled quietly between bosomy hills lining the Delaware River.

 Unlike many former industrial areas, though, instead of fading completely into the landscape, several remaining homes in the town are themselves pieces of history, either preserved or refurbished.

In the historic district

The Equinunk General Store, at the intersection of 191 and Lordville Road, has been a general store since 1876. Restored by the current proprietor, it provides locally sourced meats, cheese, butter, ice cream, pastries, handmade goods, antiques and always fresh hot coffee. There are sandwiches, and Saturday BBQs all summer, as well as fishing supplies and advice, if the staff is available.

The post office is next door. A few steps away in a former barn is a restaurant catering to hearty appetites. Grandma Laurie’s is open early enough even for fishermen.

 Across Route 191 and slightly north is the quiet Equinunk cemetery, founded in 1815.

And travel further

Crossing 191 to the east. Lordville Road runs between the local bar—the Equinunk Inn, itself a historic building with many former incarnations devoted to entertainment—and the Equinunk United Methodist Church, where the stained glass windows are glorious.

Continuing east, Lordville Road crosses the river to New York, where following some winding roads will take you to the trailhead for the Bouchoux Trail. It’s a steep 1 1/2-mile hike that crosses over a creek above a waterfall to Jensen’s Ledges, from which you can see miles of the curves of the river below. (The surrounding land is private, so stay on the trail.)

South down Route 191, the volunteer-created and -run Manchester Community Library is open spring, summer and fall on Mondays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. There, local summer visitors as well as local people can borrow books or purchase bags-full during the library’s monthly sales.

The historical society also owns and maintains the Joel Hill water-powered sawmill and the Cleveland Museum, located on Little Equinunk Creek eight miles south, and restored and run by volunteers.

The sawmill is open for tours several weekends during the year, and reservations are required. Pocono Television network did a short program on the sawmill.

Several miles to the south of the heart of the village, if you turn right on Hellmer’s Hill Road, you’ll find the Browning

Beaver Meadow Sanctuary. The sanctuary is an NEPA Audubon Society 78-acre preserve with a three-quarter-mile trail and a wheelchair-accessible viewing deck overlooking a large pond with beavers. Water birds flit overhead.

Summer living

The area is chock-full of sleepaway summer camps, and many houses in the surrounding townships are used as vacation homes or rentals.

There are no hotels or motels within the town, but vacation rentals on Airbnb and VRBO are abundant, including a former general store just a few steps up the hill from the center of town.

Twelve miles to the west, the Inn Starlight Lake and the restaurant, 289 Starlight Lake Rd., has lovely views and an old fashioned vibe.

There are several fishing lodges and outfitters on the West Branch above Equinunk. Stop at the Delaware River Club Fly Fishing Resort and the West Branch Angler & Resort.

 Campsites in the area are available for short rentals. Soaring Eagle is right on the Delaware River, and you can find a more pristine experience at Quilted Woods.

When you visit, bring cash! Cell service is a gamble at best. The nearest gas station is eight miles south.

Equinunk, Equinunk Historic District


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