Nockamixon: Miles of open space, water and palisades
The Ferndale Inn, in the village of Ferndale continues to accommodate families and other patrons. It was established around 1827. The area was once known as Rum's Run because of a nearby distillery.
Nockamixon Township’s name comes from an Indian description of the area meaning “the place of three houses.”
Which houses it refers to is not clear, but it may be a reference to the three streams that flow through it: Tohickon Creek, Three Mile Run and Haycock Run.
Nockamixon Township’s origins are similar to its township neighbors to the north and east. Most of its land was purchased through the sons of William Penn, Thomas and Richard.
Although the land was originally deeded to Jeremiah Langhorne and John Chapman in 1717, it was officially settled in 1742, following the Walking (or Penn’s) Purchase of 1732, after which the Penn brothers controlled the deeds to properties.
There is plenty of evidence that the original inhabitants were native Americans, particularly the Leni Lenape, who were eventually forced out of the area because of the introduction of American settlers from England, France and Germany. To those settlers, land was abundant and affordable, mostly because of the “Purchase” results.
Historical references claim that the area’s original landowners were French. However, German families from the north towards Bethlehem, and English settlers from the south towards Philadelphia quickly purchased acreage for farming, milling and other trade work, strategically between the larger cities of Easton, Philadelphia and New York. Thoroughfares towards each of the cities were close by, including ferry service across the Delaware River.
Nockamixon Township still has within its jurisdiction small villages, including Ferndale, Harrow, Kintnersville, Bucksville, Revere and Narrowsville. Each village has its own history of settlement and commerce. Ferndale, for example, had for years, a distillery, and was therefore known as “Rum’s Corner,” while Bucksville and Narrowsville have hosted all sorts of customers, from tourists to canal workers. Today, the township provides services to all of the villages, which continue to have distinct features.
Testament to the history of Nockamixon and its families of origin is the Nockamixon Union Cemetery, that sits high upon an expanse of land at the township’s highest elevation near Ferndale. Markers large and small bear the names of the area’s forefathers and their heirs, and the original plot area was expanded twice since, in the 1930s and 1950s. A sign at the entrance denotes that plots are still available.
Residents of Nockamixon Township are part of the Palisades School District, noted for its excellence in public education performance. Despite its basic rural appearance, a drive through the area reveals investment in new housing and amenities. Once trails for farm equipment or stagecoaches only, several roads now lead to commutable metropolitan destinations such as Philadelphia and New York. There exists no public transportation through the township, even though the township once was a destination or stop for stagecoach and trolley travel before the advent of railroad service between the larger regional cities.
Like most of Upper Bucks County, Nockamixon is blessed with miles of open space. The topography of Nockamixon Township is remarkable. One can be atop a mountainside at one point, then come across a cliff or waterfall that feeds the Delaware River just miles down a road or trail.
The “Palisades” cliffs hover 400 feet above the Delaware and the villages of Kintnersville and Narrowsville, while other rolling hill farming areas within the township seem oblivious to the difference in elevation. Its streams roll into larger creeks, which eventually feed either the Delaware or Lake Nockamixon, just two miles west of the river.
Lake Nockamixon, perhaps most associated with Nockamixon Township’s name, is actually shared with Haycock and Bedminster townships, to the south. Fed by the Tohickon Creek, Three Mile Run and Haycock Creek, the man-made lake is now within a 5,000-acre state park managed by the Commonwealth’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).
Lake Nockamixon was a beneficiary of Pennsylvania’s Project 70, which was an initiative in 1970 for the commonwealth to acquire land for parks, open space and fish and wildlife conservation. The commonwealth ultimately acquired a large number of farms and estates in Bedminster and Haycock townships to create a flood control lake, now Lake Nockamixon.
Most visitors today likely do not realize that the lake and park were built a result of the disastrous Flood of 1955, during which most of the Upper Bucks region suffered irreparable damage to residences and businesses. The lake covers what used to be a village and farmsteads.
Nockamixon State Park now provides area residents plenty of reasons to continue to enjoy the area’s attributes.
The 1,450-acre lake and its park (5,286 acres total) are mostly in Haycock Township but the northeast tip goes through Nockamixon Township. The park offers a multitude of recreational opportunities, including boating, fishing, hunting, hiking, horseback riding and environmental education. There is even the Weisel Hostel dedicated to hosting visiting hikers and bikers.
The number of visitors to the area far exceeds the population of the entire township of Nockamixon. The combination of natural beauty and proximity to urban areas continues to draw tourists and local residents to the area of Upper Bucks County, and to the villages of Nockamixon.
The township today includes Palisades High School and Palisades Middle School. It has shopping areas in Revere and Harrow, and a large antiques market, Gristie’s, in Kintnersville.