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news releases

December 22, 2017

Contact: Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795
Robert Geist (609) 292-2994
Caryn Shinske (609) 984-1795


(17/P126) TRENTON – Visitors can relive a crucial turning point in American history with the annual re-enactment of General George Washington’s Crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas Day, the 241st anniversary of the iconic crossing that helped turn the tide of the Revolutionary War at a time when the fledgling nation’s prospects seemed hopeless.

Re-enactment of Washington’s Crossing of the Delaware River To Be Held Christmas DayVisitors to the park, located in Titusville, Mercer County, will be able to see the restored Johnson Ferry House, the only original structure on the park property that dates to the crossing.

The river crossing, beginning in the late afternoon of Christmas Day 1776, is considered a pivotal event in the War for Independence, leading to strategic victories in Trenton the next day, followed by victories at Assunpink Creek on January 2, 1777 and at Princeton the day after that. This stunning string of victories helped establish Washington’s Continental Army as a viable fighting force that could challenge the British Army and their Hessian mercenaries.

“General Washington’s Crossing of the Delaware was the opening round in what historians call the Ten Crucial Days of the American Revolution, a period when the teetering fight for independence desperately needed military successes to survive,” said Mark Texel, Director of the DEP’s Division of Parks and Forestry. “This annual re-enactment has become a popular part of many families’ Christmas traditions, providing a glimpse into the sacrifices made by Washington’s soldiers.”

Nelson House on the New Jersey sideThe re-enactment is free and runs from noon to about 3 p.m., kicking off with a brief lecture at the Nelson House on the New Jersey side of the river. At 1 p.m., a cannon will be fired from Washington Crossing State Park on the Pennsylvania side of the river, signaling the start of the crossing.

Traditionally, the re-enactment features some 100 re-enactors using four replicas of Durham boats. However, due to low water levels in the river this year, the crossing will be attempted using six shallower draft rowboats provided by Philadelphia Waterborne, a nonprofit that teaches boat-building skills to middle- and high-school students.

“This event allows visitors to witness a key moment in our nation’s history and how our nation was created,” said Park Resource Interpretive Specialist and Historian Mark Sirak. “Many families make this re-enactment a regular part of their holiday celebrations. The view from the New Jersey bank of the river provides an excellent opportunity to view and photograph the boats and re-enactors heading toward you.”

Repairs and staining of the historic Johnson Ferry House, built in 1740, were completed in November 2016. The restoration project was underwritten by the Washington Crossing Park Association-New Jersey, with the generosity of members and donors.

“The Park Service and the public owe many thanks to the Park Association and to its many members and contributors,” Texel said. “The efforts of the association, led by president Joe Carney, were key to the preservation of this historic structure. Their ongoing service to the park is invaluable.”

After the stealthy predawn crossing of the icy Delaware, Washington marched his troops south to Trenton, where they surprised Hessian forces and captured nearly the entire garrison. Prior to the crossing and the ensuing battles of Trenton and Princeton, the American Revolution was thought to be lost. But those victories turned the war around and led to the eventual defeat of the British in 1783.

The first re-enactment was in 1947; severe weather has led to some re-enactment cancellations.

Hot cider will be available. Free parking will be available on both sides of the river. On the New Jersey side, visitors should enter at the park’s main entrance on Route 546, where volunteers will direct traffic. Both parks are easily accessible to each other by a vehicle bridge that has a pedestrian walkway.

For a Discover DEP Podcast on crossing, visit: Washington Cross Podcast

For more information about Washington Crossing State Park, including directions and GPS coordinates, visit:

For more information on New Jersey State Parks, including a link to the free New Jersey State Parks and Forests Pocket Ranger app, visit:



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Last Updated: December 22, 2017