Route 97, "the most scenic highway in the East," follows
the Upper Delaware River through Sullivan County and parts of Orange and
Delaware counties. Built in the early 1930s to link Port Jervis in Orange
County with the town of Hancock in Delaware County, it was envisioned
from the beginning as both a scenic highway and a means of opening up
the southern tier counties through which it passed. Route 97 also connected
with Route 17 in Hancock providing a route to Binghamton and points west.
Its final route over Hawk’s Nest, 150 feet above the Upper Delaware River,
was a significant engineering feat and provided drivers and their passengers
with scenic vistas "comparable to California at its best."
The dawn of the 20th century saw a valley much changed
from a century earlier. A number of villages dotted the river. Transportation
was largely by means of the railroad with a network of roads and bridges.
Gone were most of the forests, cut either for their timber or for use
in tanneries and acid factories.
As the new century brought increased use of automobiles,
more attention was paid to road development. New York passed legislation
in 1907 for new road construction and the first in the Delaware region
to be improved was the old Newburg-Cochecton Turnpike. The Liberty Highway
was constructed at about the same time. Its western terminus was in Narrowsburg
and contributed significantly to the town’s development. These two roads
illustrate the nature of most roads on the New York side of the Delaware.
Most roads ran from the river inland, but there was no through road that
ran parallel to the river for its entire length through the valley. Some
areas had a road that paralleled the river such as the Town of Cochecton.
The Beers 1875 map shows a road paralleling the river and the railroad
for the entire length of the township. However, other towns such as Highland
and Lumberland had only short segments of roads along the Delaware. This
lack of a highway along the river would eventually change.