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Part of the extended area of New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary, draining part of the suburban and urbanized area of New Jersey west of Staten Island, New York, the river is approximately 24 mi (48 km) long. The upper reaches are lined with several urban parks while the mouth serves as an industrial access channel.
The river is also the source of the name for the Rahway Valley Railroad which has a bridge over it on the Springfield/Union border.
The Rahway River rises in Essex County as two separate branches.
The two branches meet at Hobart Gap near Interstate 78, continuing south through the Union County communities of Springfield, Union, Cranford and Clark. In Rahway the river receives the Robinson's Branch and South Branch, which are approximately 10 mi (16 km) long. The river's mouth is at Arthur Kill between Carteret (on the south) and Linden (on the north) and opposite Port Mobil on Staten Island.
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