The Take on Lakes

With hundreds of lakes, ponds, and reservoirs dotting the New Jersey countryside, there is no shortage of freshwater opportunities across the state. Here are some of our favorite water holes to explore.

Spruce Run.
Photo by Peter Murphy.

Lake Carnegie
Made specifically for the Princeton University rowing team, Lake Carnegie is a dammed section of the Millstone River in northeast Princeton and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Though owned by the university (a gift from steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie), the school allows public access for fishing, ice skating, and lakeside enjoyment from the D&R Canal towpath (swimming is not permitted). The towpath, which includes the Millstone Aqueduct and Footbridge, runs along Carnegie’s eastern shore, and visitors can walk, run, or bike the length of it.

Greenwood Lake
Divided between New Jersey and New York, Greenwood Lake is an elongated body of water that extends seven miles, with West Milford at its southern end. Like Lake Hopatcong, it used to serve as a resort area with steamboats shuttling passengers. Today, it still has several marinas and restaurants lakeside, and it is a popular fishing and recreation destination. At Greenwood Lake Marina (538 Lakeside Rd, Hewitt), you can buy or rent a boat, and dock one there for the summer. Moosehead Marina (254 Lakeside Rd, Hewitt) has launching and dock slips, as does Greenwood Small Craft Marina (240 Lakeside Rd, Hewitt). To swim from a beach instead of a boat, you will have to cross the state line into New York to visit one of the two public beaches in the village of Greenwood Lake.

Lake Mohawk
This man-made three-mile-long lake in Sussex County is private, but visitors can enjoy a view from its boardwalk while eating and shopping in downtown Lake Mohawk, which is a part of Sparta township. The state’s official water ski show team, the Ski Hawks, is based on the lake and offers public shows, including an annual Labor Day performance. In addition to forming pyramids and lifts while waterskiing, the Ski Hawks complete wild jumps off of ramps and provide entertainment for all ages.

Shepherd Lake
One of several water holes in Ringwood State Park, Shepherd Lake’s spring-fed waters are open for swimmers when lifeguards are on duty, from 10 am to 6 pm, Memorial Day through Labor Day. The recreation area features bathhouses for changing and restrooms, and there are picnic tables and food concessions as well. Boat rentals are available for fishing, canoeing, or just cruising. The surrounding park offers botanical gardens, historic manors, and more than a dozen trails. To get to Ringwood State Park, take Interstate 287 to exit 57 and follow the signs.

Spruce Run
Located in Clinton, the Spruce Run Recreation Area is nestled in forested hills, and offers opportunities for all types of lake enjoyment. With fifteen miles of shoreline, this reservoir features a beach area (with lifeguards on duty during the summer); boat-launching areas for small motorboats, sailboats, and windsurfers; fishing for 29 different species; camp sites from April through October; hiking trails; and open fields for lawn games. Entrance fees (off Van Syckles Road, between routes 635 and 31) from Memorial Day through Labor Day are $5 per car on weekdays, $10 per car on weekends, and $2 for walking or biking in.

Tomahawk Lake
The Tomahawk Lake water park, which sits in southern Sparta between Lake Mohawk and Lake Hopatcong (153 Tomahawk Trail, off Route 181), is a great change of pace from the bright-blue chlorine waters to something a little more traditional. The water park has a kiddie swim area with cargo-net climbs and water mushrooms, slides for all levels of thrills, paddle and bumper boats, and a beach for lounging and swimming, plus miniature golf, arcades, and a food pavilion. Admission is cash-only, but it is reasonable: $9–$11 per person, plus additional charges for miniature golf, boat rentals ($1–$4), and the steeper slides ($10–$13).

Union Lake

Popular among anglers, its 900 acres make Union Lake the largest freshwater lake in southern New Jersey. Located just south of Vineland in Millville, it features a public beach with lifeguards (beach tags must be purchased for a small fee), concession stands, and recreation fields (Sharp Street and Columbia Avenue). It is surrounded by the state-owned Union Lake Wildlife Management area, which means there are public boat-launching areas and docks as well as miles of unmarked trails through more than 4,000 forested acres.

To read more stories from our Waterfront Getaways issue, click on the links below:

Pinelands Odyssey

Rollin’ Down the Delaware

On the Waterfront

Pleasant Crossing

Walking the Waterfront

Down by the River

Livin’ La Vida Lago

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