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By the Way | Them: River Road is quiet, lonely. Me: It’s saucy, magical


Ah, my beloved River Road. It’s always been a part of my life — and now it’s getting a bit of national recognition — but in a light I hadn’t considered.

I’ve been traveling it since my early childhood summers. That was when my mother would drive my brother and sister from our home in Bristol to a day-camp in Yardley — a camp I, the baby of the family, was too young to attend.

And I’d tag along for the afternoon trip home, fascinated by the crafty things they had in hand and wide-eyed, hearing tales of horseback riding and swimming. World War II and gas rationing brought an end to that camp. I never did get to follow in my siblings’ footsteps but I’ve since logged thousands of miles on the River Road and I still love it.

I’ve lived close to the Delaware River all my life — a few blocks away in Bristol and less than a mile now in Durham Township. There’s a spot on our property where I can even see the river. It has always been part of my life, and the road that twists and turns along its banks has been magical — a scenic bonus as I pursue an errand or a quick mood-elevator on an otherwise down day.

It’s a saucy road, lined with natural beauty while still demanding skillful navigation, especially on the northern stretch caught between swift flowing waters and formidable 200-million-year-old cliffs lining the road. I love meeting that little challenge.

I was more than surprised when I stumbled upon all this in an article about America’s Quietest Routes, also called America’s Best, Loneliest Roads. I still have trouble believing it.

There it was, No. 10 nationally, and No. 1 in Pennsylvania. State Route 32, 41 miles from Falls Township to Kintnersville. Route 32 comes to a halt at Route 611 at the foot of our hill.

“How did they ever find it? Who determined its place?” I wondered.

The designation, I discovered, was made by Geotab, a telematics outfit that uses GPS monitors to track fleets of delivery trucks and other business vehicles. Geotab gathered 2015 data from the federal government’s Highway Performance Monitoring System to determine the lowest average annual daily traffic numbers. It included interstates, U.S. routes and state routes more than 10 miles long.

The magic number of vehicles traveling the River Road daily was 4,138, based on a 2018 report, the latest I could find.

So if the River Road is No. 10 on the list, as reported by both Geotab and Road & Track, what’s No. 1?

Alaska’s Dalton Highway, which runs 414 miles from Fairbanks to Deadhorse, with fewer than 200 drivers daily, took the honors. No. 2 is Utah’s 325-mile long Route 50 which zigzags through places like Spotted Wolf Canyon. No vehicle count was listed.

Although no one has asked and I haven’t driven every road in Pennsylvania, my vote for the state’s most scenic road would be Route 6, which passes through the northern tier of the state. We’ve driven it often to visit my husband’s family.

River Road seems a bit tame when compared with these giants, but, still, it’s nice it is noticed for its more gentle beauty. It is scenic and heavily treed, passing through villages like Erwinna and Lumberville. Towns like Milford, Frenchtown and Lambertville hug the Jersey side and bridges and trees are reflected in the water. In spring, it bursts into greenery. In summer, it mostly lies in shadow and is cool. In autumn, it is glorious. Even in the dead of winter there is a stark beauty accented by the northern light.

But lonely? No. I’ve never felt lonely on it and I would never think of it as that. It really doesn’t need to be America’s No. 10.

Kathryn Finegan Clark is a freelance writer who lives in Durham Township. She can be reached at

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