Nicknamed “The Garden State” and placed at the heart of the Northeast megalopolis, New Jersey is the most densely populated US State. Located in one of the nation’s most geologically and geographically diverse regions, New Jersey is characterized by the Highlands and Piedmont physiographic provinces in the northwest and the Atlantic Coastal Plain province featuring the Jersey Shore and the New Jersey Pine Barrens in the southeast. The receding of glaciers at the end of the Last Glacial Period resulted in the formation of most of the state’s lakes and rivers. These crystal-clear water bodies offer visitors a variety of recreational activities which they can enjoy with their loved ones in serene natural surroundings.
The state’s most expansive freshwater lake, Lake Hopatcong, is shared by the Sussex and Morris counties and their townships and boroughs, namely Jefferson Township, Roxbury Township, Mount Arlington Borough, and Hopatcong Borough. Situated in the Northern Highlands Region of the state, the lake is approximately 40 miles from the Manhattan Borough of New York City and 30 miles from the Delaware River. Although the exact origin of the lake’s name is not known, it is believed that the word “Hopatcong” has been derived from the indigenous Lenape term “hapakonoesson,” which means “pipe stone.”
Placed at a surface elevation of 950 ft, Lake Hopatcong covers a surface area of 4 sq. miles, has a maximum length of 9 miles, and a maximum width ranging between 800 ft to 1 mile. Formed by the damming and flooding of the Great Pond, the Little Pond, and the Musconetcong River, Lake Hopatcong is currently a “suburban residential lake.” A significant portion of the lake’s shoreline is owned privately, while the lake features several bars and restaurants that can be directly accessed by boats. Publicly, the lake can be accessed only via the Hopatcong State Park and Park Marina of Lee County, and some of the lake’s well-known attractions include Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club and the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum. The lake houses the most incredible variety of gamefish and is stocked with rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, largemouth bass, sunfish, bluegill, crappie, and many more.
Situated in the extreme northeastern corner of Princeton Municipality in the state’s Mercer County, Lake Carnegie is a reservoir created by the construction of a dam on the Millstone River. The reservoir has been named after the well-known Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who donated money for the lake’s construction.
Privately owned by Princeton University, the lake is used by the rowing team of the university as well as the US Olympic rowing team. The lake can also be accessed by the general public and used for various recreational activities like fishing, ice skating, and picnicking. Some fish species found in the lake include largemouth bass, crappie, channel catfish, pickerel, carp, etc. However, litter, goose droppings, agricultural chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides, and automotive waste have led to the pollution of the waters and a decline in the lake’s water quality. Efforts are currently underway to improve the water quality of Carnegie Lake.
This artificial lake is located in Wharton State Forest in the unincorporated community of Atsion in Shamong Township of New Jersey’s Burlington County. Surrounded by Pine Barrens on all sides, this crystal-clear water body forms a part of the 50.6-mile-long Mullica River. The tea-brown river waters, tinctured by cedar bark and the presence of iron in the soil, give this lake an interesting coloration. During summer, Atsion Lake offers many recreational activities like fishing, boating, swimming, hiking, and camping, while cross-country skiing is offered during winter. At the nearby Batsto Village, tourists can learn more about the Pine Barrens’ industrial and cultural history.
Covering a surface area of about 158 acres, Deal Lake is one of New Jersey’s largest lakes and the biggest lake in Monmouth County. This artificial freshwater lake receives its primary inflows from stormwater runoff, Harvey Brook, and Hallow Brook, and finally empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Reaching an average depth of 5 to 6ft, Deal Lake is bordered by seven Monmouth County municipalities, including Asbury Park, Allenhurst, Loch Arbour, Interlaken, Deal, Ocean Township, and Neptune Township.
Although Deal Lake is a freshwater lake, it contains many breeding saltwater fishes like alewives, gizzard shad, and blueback herring. Various recreational activities like boating, canoeing, and paddle boarding are offered for visitors. However, during the mid-20th century, Deal Lake experienced severe pollution problems, and therefore, in 1974, the seven shoreline municipalities formed the Deal Lake Commission to preserve and restore the lake.
Initially named “Quampium” by the members of the native Munsee tribe, this 7-mile-long interstate lake is located in the West Milford township of New Jersey’s Passaic County, as well as in the town of Warwick and Greenwood Lake village of New York’s Orange County. In 1765, the construction of a dam by The American Company increased the size of the lake for the generation of hydroelectric power to be used at the Long Pond Ironworks. In 1837, a second dam was constructed for supplying water to the Morris Canal’s Pompton Feeder. The enlarged Greenwood Lake serves as the source of the Wanaque River and attracts thousands of tourists every year. The lake features a seaplane area, lakeside restaurants with docks, a few large marinas, and some small islands, namely Fox Island, Chapel Island, and Storms Island.
Placed on the boundary between Sussex and Morris counties, this 329-acre reservoir is a part of the Hopatcong State Park. The reservoir was created in the mid-19th century by the construction of Lake Musconetcong Dam on the 45.7-mile-long Musconetcong River. Forming a portion of the Lake Hopatcong watershed, the watershed of Lake Musconetcong covers an area of 14,000 acres, with the lake reaching an average depth of 5 ft and a maximum depth of 10 ft. Initially referred to as the Stanhope Reservoir, the Lake Musconetcong Reservoir was created to provide an additional source of water for the Morris Canal, which linked Jersey City on the Passaic River with Phillipsburg on the Delaware River. In 1924, with other portions of the Morris Canal System, the lake was bequeathed to the State of New Jersey. Some of the popular recreational activities offered by this lake include fishing, swimming, boating, water skiing, and ice fishing. However, the abundant aquatic vegetation significantly impacts the recreational activities in the lake, especially during mid-spring when the aquatic vegetation becomes too thick.
This beautiful freshwater reservoir is located close to the Milltown borough in Middlesex County and is surrounded by North Brunswick, East Brunswick, and South Brunswick townships. The reservoir has been created by the construction of a dam on Lawrence Brook, a tributary of the 69.6-mile-long Raritan River. Named in honor of Edward Farrington - the New Brunswick Mayor, the lake reaches an average depth of 6.6 ft and a maximum depth of 13 ft. Some of the fish species found in the lake include rainbow trout, brown trout, northern pike, channel catfish, yellow perch, crappie, largemouth bass, and chain pickerel.
Hooks Creek Lake
This 6-acre freshwater lake is located at the heart of the 1,610-acre Cheesequake State Park in Middlesex County’s Old Bridge Township. Hooks Creek Lake is placed at the center of the state’s two most contrasting ecosystems: Atlantic Coastal Plain and Piedmont. The lake houses different fish species like sunfish, largemouth bass, catfish, and trout and offers recreational fishing opportunities. Visitors can also take an eco-kayaking tour, crab from the ADA-accessible Crabbing Bridge, hike different trails, and watch a variety of avian species.
Formerly referred to as Swartout’s Pond, this 520-acre natural glacial lake is located in Sussex County’s Stillwater and Hampton townships. Considered to be the state’s third-largest freshwater lake, Swartswood Lake has a maximum length of 3 miles and a maximum width of 1 mile. The lake reaches an average depth of 22 ft and a maximum depth of 42 ft. Placed at the heart of the 3,460-acre Swartswood State Park, the Swartswood Lake is primarily fed by Neldon’s Brook and Indian Creek. In 1790, the lake’s southern end was dammed by Charles Rhodes, Sr., resulting in the formation of Keen’s Mill Brook in a narrow ravine at the lake’s outlet. The scenic crystal-blue Swartswood Lake offers several recreational opportunities, like fishing, boating in colorful sailboats, kayaking, canoeing, and bird-watching.
The above nine lakes are among the several magnificent water bodies in the nation’s 5th smallest and 11th most populous state. Each of these beautiful lakes set in tranquil natural surroundings offers visitors a place to relax and seek a brief respite from the hectic world. So, pack your bags, get ready for a day trip or a weekend vacation, and enjoy all the opportunities these spectacular natural wonders have to offer.