In this paper, we revisit the utility of the concepts of path dependence and interdependence for the analysis of participatory environmental governance. We investigate the evolution of environmental governance in the Romanian Danube Delta, and, starting from an observation of problematic citizen participation, demonstrate how specific patterns of path and interdependence shaped both the present situation and the reform options. For the Delta, it is argued that direct citizen participation, without working with other institutions, would not solve the problems observed, but would rather reinforce unwanted informal institutions. Theoretically, we utilise a combination of path dependence theory and social systems theory, allowing a grasp of both rigidity and flexibility in the evolution of governance systems. Empirically, expert and lay interviews, long-term observation and analysis of policy documents underpin our analysis.