Paddle on a Peaceful Reservoir

Sticking to the Monksville Reservoir's perimeter, a paddler can cover seven miles on the 505-acre manmade lake.

Monksville Reservoir

The extended Cirillo and von Knorring family enjoys a day on the water at Monksville Reservoir. From left: Kati von Knorring, Antonia Cirillo, Alexandra von Knorring, Emily O’Conner and Frank Cirillo. Also along for the fun, their four-legged friends Sawyer, Ginger, Patches and Calli. Photo by Laura Moss

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Drifting in the vast, deep-blue flatness of the Monksville Reservoir, surrounded by the green hills of the 6,911-acre Long Pond Ironworks State Park, it’s easy to forget the hustle and bustle of your northern New Jersey surroundings.

James Johnson of Hillside and Eric Hernandez of Clifton work in Jersey City, but planned a kayak outing to Monksville for a respite from the city. “In Jersey City, it’s just people on top of people,” Johnson says. “Being out here is so calming. It doesn’t feel like you’re in New Jersey at all.”

The reservoir, formed by the 1987 damming of the Wanaque River in West Milford, is named for the town that was flooded when it was created. It covers 505 acres and measures three miles from tip to tip. Among anglers, it’s known for its trophy-size muskellunge, walleye, bass and trout. The Route 511/Greenwood Lake Turnpike bridge bisects the reservoir; the main part of the reservoir is to the south.

You can rent single and tandem kayaks, dragon boards and stand-up paddleboards (SUP) for one-, two- or four-hour blocks, starting at $20, at Flatwater Paddle Co., adjacent to the South Boat Launch. SUP and kayak lessons, along with SUP yoga classes, are also available, and dogs are welcome. If you have your own watercraft, you can enter the water at the South Boat Launch, or north of the bridge at the North Boat Launch.

“We get a lot of tourists, a lot of people speaking different languages, but also a lot of people from nearby in New Jersey who haven’t been here before,” says Theresa Sparkes, who owns and manages Flatwater with her husband, Charles Corallo. “Every year we get a little bit busier.”

Flatwater caps its inventory at 50 pieces of rental equipment, so the reservoir never feels crowded. According to Sparkes, when it’s warmer than 85 degrees, paddleboards are more popular. On cooler days, people choose kayaks. Still, she cautions, “you’ll get a little wet no matter what.”

As you enter the water at the South Boat Launch, you’ll see the Monksville Dam to your left with Stonetown Road running atop it. It’s best not to paddle too close to the dam, as the water near it can roil up suddenly. No matter, though, as all the best paddling is in the opposite direction. If you stick to the perimeter and go all the way around, it’s easy to log a solid seven miles.

Lindsay Huisman and her boyfriend, Jimmy Grammenos, both of Little Falls, regularly visit the reservoir, dropping their stand-up paddle boards in at the North Boat Launch. “There’s a really cool area of submerged, dead trees north of the bridge that we love to paddle in and out of and explore,” Huisman says. “Cormorants like to perch on top of the stumps, spread their wings, and sun themselves.”

If you’re lucky, you’ll also see great blue herons—the largest wading birds in North America—wood ducks, buffleheads, ruby-crowned kinglets, blue-winged warblers and cedar waxwings. There is also a small island on the horseshoe bend of the reservoir on which you can beach your SUP or kayak and explore.

If you’re still feeling energetic after your paddle, check out the trails that traverse the surrounding hills, passing old stone walls, furnaces, water wheels and other remnants of the ironworking community that existed alongside the Wanaque River from 1766 to 1882; Long Pond Ironworks produced iron for military use during the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Civil War.

The flat and easy 2.4-mile Monks Trail circles Monks Mountain on the peninsula that juts into the east side of the reservoir, while the 2.9-mile Burnt Meadow Trail cuts between Horse Pond Mountain and Long Hill on the west side, making some moderate ascents along the way. A family-friendly, 1.3-mile segment of the six-mile Hasenclever Iron Trail is an easy walk on a woods road with interpretive signs describing historic ironworking operations nearby.

To fuel your adventures, grab sandwiches at the Cupsaw Market & Pizzeria on your way to the reservoir for a picnic lunch along the shore. (Paddleboards and kayaks have bungees to secure a small bag.) Or stop at Smoke Shack at the Greenwood Lake Airport post-paddle for barbecue and burgers, or for one of the legendary hot dogs at local favorite Paul’s Place in Hewitt. All are just minutes from either boat launch and Flatwater Paddle.

 Flatwater Paddle Co., 1081 Greenwood Lake Turnpike, Ringwood, 347-878-7304

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