D&R Greenway Land Trust: Technology Meets Nature, Explore Abbott Marshlands with New Storytelling App

Imagine making a journey back in time as you navigate Crosswicks Creek in the Abbott Marshlands, visiting the bluffs that witnessed Lenape Indian life, early English settlers and French royalty. You hear the sounds of a railroad, summer insects and the call of an osprey as you learn about key events that shifted the course of American history and affect our lives today. As your watercraft becomes a time machine, you see and learn about what the area looked like in the 1800s.

This is exactly what you’ll be able to do with D&R Greenway Land Trust’s TravelStorys app for the Abbott Marshlands Paddling Tour this spring. Upcoming adventures will be Wednesday, April 19, Saturday, May 6 and Sunday, June 4.

Support from the William Penn Foundation provided funding for the new app, which is designed by land trust veteran Story Clark whose intent for this interactive audio program was to “get people to look up from their cellphone, where they get much of their news and information, while using this common technology as a portal to learn about the natural world.”

D&R Greenway’s AlumniCorps Fellow Kelsey-Kane Ritsch worked closely with members of the Friends for the Abbott Marshlands Education Committee to write, edit and record 19 three-minute stories. You can download the app when in range of cellular data or wifi, and listen on your smart phone as stories automatically trigger through use of GPS as you paddle through that area. No wifi reception is needed once the app is downloaded.

The engaging stories were compiled by archaeologists, ecologists, historians and others with special knowledge of the area. “The idea is to connect people to place, and to broaden the audience of people who become stewards through education and experience,” says D&R Greenway President & CEO Linda Mead. “The stories relate to the places you are passing as you travel past these interesting points in real time.”

For example, you will learn how the D&R Canal was built in the 1830s and provided a safe passageway for manufactured goods  and people from Philadelphia to New York.  Coal that came from mines in Pennsylvania was transported to New York City or Philadelphia. The D&R Canal was one of America’s busiest navigational channels and occasionally surpassed even the Erie Canal in the amount of freight it transported. You will also find the answer to a local mystery: why a section of the canal has been paved over.

Look up—did you know that Joseph Bonaparte, the younger brother of Napoleon, once had a palatial home up on the bluff? Following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815, Joseph fled to America where he purchased the Point Breeze Estate on Bordentown Bluff. He constructed a lavish three-story home and eventually his estate grew to over 2,000 acres with winding roads, rustic bridges and even a lake for pleasure boats.

Voices heard in the app include Dr. Greg Lattanzi, New Jersey State Archeologist, Mike MacEwan, a local educator, Kelly Rypkyma, manager of the Tulpehaking Nature Center, and D&R Greenway’s Linda Mead who shares stories of preservation and local heroes. The Paddling Tour includes a map showing each of the story sites, as well as 86 images to enhance the experience. In addition to this water tour, there will be a land-based tour coming later this year for walkers and cyclists.

Rider University Biology Professor Emeritus Dr. Mary Leck, a long-time advocate for protection of the Abbott Marshlands, collaborated on many of the stories.  She shares her enthusiasm for the valuable experience that can be enjoyed through the new app: “For new visitors paddling on a sunny day, this is an opportunity to understand the ecological and culture significance of the area. At home or in the classroom, the voice narration coupled with photos can entice and enhance the experience before a canoe even launches.”

You can download the app and click on “Paddling the Abbott Marshlands” to listen ahead of time so you’ll be an expert when you take it on the water. The TravelStorysGPS app is free through the App Store and on Google play. 

The three upcoming trips where you can use the app live are:

Saturday, May 6, 10 a.m.: Canoe/kayak the Abbott Marshlands for Cinco de Mayo, a celebration of the undermanned Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla. The tidal trip is eight miles from Bordentown Beach to Watson Woods/Roebling Park and back. After lunch, tour the Tulpehaking Nature Center, the educational gateway to the Abbott Marshlands. Also celebrate American Wetlands Month.

Sunday, Jun 4, 10 a.m.: Canoe/kayak the Abbott Marshlands. Trip begins on the Crosswicks Creek in Bordentown.  Paddle to Roebling Park and walk the trails before returning to Bordentown. Meet at Bordentown Beach, end of Park Street. This extends National Trails Day, June 3, to a full weekend!

July 19, 9:30 a.m. Canoe/kayak the Abbott Marshlands. Trip begins on the Crosswicks Creek in Bordentown.  Paddle to Roebling Park and walk the trails before returning to Bordentown. During the 8-mile tidal trip explore the Abbott Marshlands and learn about Joseph Bonaparte’s residence at Point Breeze. Meet at Bordentown Beach, end of Park Street.

For all trips: Bring lunch, snacks and beverage. Wear boots and bring gloves. Trash bags will be provided. Bring lunch and beverage. Sombreros optional/ participants must have their own boats (rentals not available). Please contact trip leaders to confirm trip and participation and for further details: George & Leona F., 609-259-3734 or