Best Places to Kayak in New Jersey
Gearing up for your next kayaking adventure but aren’t sure where to go? You’ll find plenty of places to kayak in New Jersey, but which is best for you and your kayaking crew?
In this guide, we’ll give you some of the best places to kayak in New Jersey, whether you’re looking for adventure in the northern, central or southern areas of the state. Grab your paddle and get ready to explore kayaking in New Jersey’s rivers, lakes and more!
Places to Kayak in Northern New Jersey
When you’re searching for where to go kayaking in New Jersey, start up north. North jersey offers plenty of places to kayak with access to rivers and lakes, with some popular choices including:
- Overpeck Creek
- Swartswood Lake
- Wawayanda Lake
- Cranberry Lake
Want even more options for kayaking in Northern New Jersey? Here are some favorites, from hot spots to hidden wonders, that’ll get you closer to finding the best kayaking in New Jersey:
1. Lake Hopatcong
As the largest lake in Jersey, Lake Hopatcong has plenty of marinas and places to rent kayaks from for your adventure. This lake is one of the most popular places to kayak in Northern New Jersey, especially in the summer, and weekends could become crowded with boat traffic. Be sure to evaluate the conditions and make sure they’re safe for you and your fellow kayakers before heading out on the water.
While the conditions on a lake are less intense than river water, windy conditions can create some waves on Lake Hopatcong, perfect for skilled and adventurous kayakers. The trip is worth the scenery that extends along the shore, which features beautiful homes. The lake itself is full of coves and islands to explore.
2. Monksville Reservoir
This horseshoe-shaped body of water offers calm conditions for a peaceful paddling experience. The reservoir takes you along a route under a bridge and among a unique area of submerged trees, which you can test your skills and navigate through.
The shores of Monksville Reservoir are undeveloped, meaning you aren’t as likely to see the crowds you would at Lake Hopatcong. Monksville Reservoir’s steep banks surround you with lush greenery in the spring and summer, and in the fall, the amazing colors of the season make for a scenic kayaking trip.
Monksville Reservoir is about an hour away from New York City, making it the perfect location for some low-key kayaking. It’s also located near Ringwood State Park, meaning you can fill a day with other outdoor activities if you’d like.
3. Passaic River
The Passaic River winds throughout North Jersey from Newark to the Passaic River Park and is over 80 miles long. Plenty of sections of the river offer kayaking opportunities, with a region near the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge being suitable for beginners and kayakers with intermediate skill.
Because the river is so long and winding, it takes you through a mix of developed, metropolitan areas and natural wonders. While the Great Falls of the Passaic River is a spectacular sight, it makes for dangerous conditions when kayaking. Map out your kayaking route to avoid being in the water near the falls.
4. Wallkill River
This river starts in Sturgeon Pool in New York, then winds through Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, Franklin Pond and along other parks in Jersey. But it’s also worth noting that the Wallkill River flows north.
On a journey along this river, you’ll see everything from wetlands to steep, rocky cliffs. When planning a kayaking trip in this New Jersey river, talk to the refuge office for updates about conditions as the water level is known to flood and go down with the seasons. If the water is low in some areas, you’ll have to carry your kayak across, watching out for slippery rocks and other hazards.
5. Split Rock Reservoir
Explore hills, cliffs and islands at this North Jersey kayaking destination. With a maximum width of about four miles, the reservoir is the perfect place to paddle around. You’ll also have opportunities for hiking and fishing at Split Rock Reservoir.
Find the public access parking area located near the dam, which is the only area visitors can access the lake through. At just over an hour away from New York City, Split Rock Reservoir makes for a fun kayaking day trip.
Where to Go Kayaking in Central New Jersey
Head a little more south to discover kayaking in Central New Jersey. There are plenty of destinations to check out in this area of the state, like:
- Princeton Canal
- Mercer County Park
- Assunpink Wildlife Management
- Lake Lefferts
You’ll also want to plan your perfect trip with these places to kayak in Central Jersey:
1. Raritan River
Re-live the rich history of the Raritan River as you kayak along its waters. You’ll find charming towns along this river that flows through Central Jersey. There are also plenty of parks and natural spaces along the Raritan River’s run, including North Branch Park and Johnson Park. Try to plan your trip through the Ken Lockwood Gorge, a scenic area that’s home to wonderful scenery.
You’ll find great views along a lot of this river as it widens and narrows through Central New Jersey. Travel under bridges and catch a glimpse of wildlife. Parts of the river are calm, suitable for kayakers of different skill levels, but things do get a bit more tidal, depending on where you are.
2. Merrill Creek Reservoir
Merrill Creek Reservoir is surrounded by woods and fields for a scenic setting close to the Pennsylvania border. Explore the 650-acre reservoir between sunrise and sunset, when the gates are open to allow boating. Whether you’re on or off the water, you’ll catch a glimpse of wildlife among the surrounding environmental preserve.
If conditions are windy when you plan to kayak, you may experience rougher conditions than usual. Only go on the water at Merrill Creek Reservoir when it’s windy if you are experienced or stick near the shore for gentler conditions.
3. Navesink River
The Navesink River’s shores are home to beautiful homes, and the waters host plenty of outdoor activities, from fishing to swimming and, yes, even kayaking. The river is much shorter than others in Jersey — about eight miles long — but offers shallow, tidal kayaking. As a bonus, the Shrewsbury River is close by, giving you even more kayaking opportunities.
While the homes on the shoreline are a great sight to see while kayaking, nothing beats taking in the natural scenery and wildlife. Make your way to Blackberry Bay Park, where you can have a chance to see marine animals while on the water, including dolphins.
4. Manasquan Reservoir
Paddle around this reservoir that sits in Central Jersey. It’s about 40 minutes to an hour from Trenton and features 770 acres of water to explore along with a surrounding natural site to enjoy. The Manasquan Reservoir sees about one million visitors a year to enjoy the nature trails, fishing and more, but most important is the opportunity to kayak.
As you paddle down towards the ocean, you’ll see marinas and beautiful homes. Before that leg of your journey, you’ll get to see natural scenery with cedar trees and marshlands, so plan your visit to see the best of both the developed and natural worlds. The Manasquan Reservoir offers kayak rentals, perfect for beginners or explorers who don’t have their own vessel yet.
5. Spruce Run
Spend the day exploring Spruce Run with its abundance of wildlife from birds to turtles and fish. This location is also popular for picnicking, swimming, fishing and camping, so you can stay at the Spruce Run Recreation area to extend your kayaking trip, which you’ll want to do at this scenic location.
There are plenty of coves to explore at Spruce Run, which makes for a more exciting kayaking trip. The recreation area has varying hours throughout the year, so be sure to check before visiting.
Best Places to Kayak in South Jersey
While we’re ending this list with the best places to kayak in South Jersey, it’s by no means the end of your adventure. Many of the places to kayak in this region of Jersey are tributaries to bays along the Atlantic, giving you the chance to see some great scenery and possibly aquatic life. Here are some kayaking spots you should check out in South Jersey:
- Sterling Harbor
- Spicer Creek and Cape May
- Rancocas State Park
- Wading River
Some of the rivers we’ve mentioned, like the Raritan, also travel down to this area of the state, but for more kayaking locations in South Jersey, head to:
1. Batsto River
Find this river about an hour away from Philadelphia. The Batsto River is a narrow run featuring plenty of bends and sharp turns, perfect for experienced kayakers, but the gentle flow also makes it great for an up-river trip. You can spend about three to four hours with a journey on this scenic route from Quaker Bridge to Batsto Lake, or find chances to pull off onto the shore to take a break and picnic.
On your journey along the Batsto River, you’ll cross under bridges and through the Wharton State Forest. It’s a great way to experience the more natural and scenic routes of kayaking in South Jersey.
2. Maurice River
Follow this 50-mile river from Union Lake to the Delaware Bay. A portion of the river is designated as Wild and Scenic, meaning it has cultural and recreational value for the region and is protected and preserved as a result. Pass a variety of animal and plant life on your journey along the Maurice River, which offers kayak rentals and river access along its route.
3. Great Egg Harbor River
At 55 miles long, this is one of the longest rivers in South Jersey. With 17 tributaries as it flows towards the Atlantic Ocean, the Great Egg Harbor River widens as it goes along. Witness history on your journey as you pass through or begin your journey at the Atlantic County Park. The river ends in the Great Egg Harbor Bay, which is in Ocean City, giving you the chance for even more outdoor fun.
4. Mullica River
Skilled and prepared kayakers can take the seven-hour journey from Atsion to Pleasant Mills. If you’re interested in Barton River, you may also want to check out the Mullica River since it’s also in Wharton State Forest. The Mullica River offers opportunities to camp, useful for those heading out on long journeys.
You’ll find various splits and branches along the river along with a few lakes, and as you travel farther down the Mullica River, you’ll discover that it flows into the Great Bay.
5. Riverwinds Park
Spot majestic creatures like blue herons or river otters at this kayaking location. With parking for kayakers and a walkway to the water, Riverwinds is a convenient location. From there, you can access other creeks and locations along the water.
One popular kayaking spot along this area is the Delaware River, which is convenient if tides are low and you need to launch into the deeper river instead.
Frequently Asked Questions About Kayaking in New Jersey
Now that you know the best places to kayak in New Jersey, you may have some questions about heading out on the water. Check out these frequently asked questions about kayaking in New Jersey to find the answers you need to plan your adventure:
Do You Need a License to Kayak in New Jersey?
Some boats require title and registration in Jersey, but kayaks do not.
Do You Have to Register a Kayak in Pennsylvania?
While you can enjoy plenty of places to kayak in New Jersey, you may want to visit Pennsylvania from time to time. If you do go kayaking in Pennsylvania, you will need either a boat registration or a launching permit.
What Do I Need to Know Before Kayaking?
Whether you’re a beginner or have been kayaking for a while, you’ll need to take the right steps to prevent dangerous situations. Before you kayak, know these precautions:
- Take a lesson if you’re new to get the hang of kayaking.
- Wear the right gear and clothing because the water may be cold, even if the weather isn’t.
- Pick the right kayak for your skill and the water you plan to be on.
- Sit in the kayak and hold the paddle the right way.
- Always kayak with others, never alone.
How Old Should You Be to Kayak?
While there are no age restrictions on kayaking, certain ages may be too young to be in their own boat. Most young kids should ride in a double kayak with an adult, but older skilled kids can ride a small kayak by themselves.
Take kayaking classes with kids and make sure everyone has the right safety equipment no matter their age. Kids under 12, according to state law, must wear a life jacket while on board.
Do You Need a Life Jacket to Kayak in New Jersey?
No matter the length of the kayak you’re in, you need to carry a personal flotation device. Have one for every passenger of your kayak and ensure they are accessible. Even if life jackets weren’t a requirement in the state, it’s in every kayaker’s best interest to wear safety gear.
When Is the Best Time to Kayak in New Jersey?
Spring through fall is best for kayaking as some locations close in the winter due to ice. Summer will be more crowded, especially on the weekends, which may make kayaking difficult or unsafe.
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