Jesse Fried • Sep 16, 2019

Probably a bigger deal before it was cut off from major roads by I-80 and other highway modernization, Columbia is a quiet collection of pretty, old houses on a grid of streets above the Delaware River. It is located in Warren County, just south of the Delaware Water Gap.

The town's main street terminates in a footbridge across the Delaware. This structure appears to be a downgrade from a previous, wider crossing. A modern bridge now carries State Highway 31 across the river a short distance south of the town. The footbridge is very scenic, offering a great perspective on the Water Gap, and and an excellent bird's eye view of the river. We observed turtles, tons of fish - including some huge catfish - and aquatic plants in the clear water.

The town is separated from the water by a short but steep forested slope. We descended this slope with some difficulty to swim, and had an encounter with a bear.

While we were swimming, we saw him(?)/her(?) on the rocky bank of the river a short distance away. We yelled at the bear, and he went back into the woods, only to emerge closer. Deciding it might be time to leave, we swam back to land, only to see the bear reappear still closer to us along the shore. We continued yelling and started throwing rocks at him. He went back into the woods, and shortly after reappeared even closer to us, above us on the slope, not more than 10 yards away. We threw a barrage of rocks, luckily readily available at the water's edge, which finally scared him away. I don't think we hit him at all. We kept on throwing rocks even after he went away, and brought handfuls with us as we climbed back up to the road. Luckily we didn't see him again.

It was surreal to emerge just a few minutes after this encounter onto a civilized street with tourists and homeowners walking and biking around. Clearly having lost his fear of humans, and quite possibly associating us with food, this bear seemed to us to be a textbook "nuisance bear." We reported him to the state Fish and Wildlife Service. This episode serves to illustrate the rural character of Columbia, NJ.