Good places to Kayak

I'm looking forward to some outings with the family this Summer. I would love to know of any fun places to Kayak - these could be rivers, lakes, or ponds - any place that I can launch and also set retrieval cars if necessary. They would most likely be day trips within relatively close proximity to Hackettstown (up to a 60 minute drive) but if anyone had a really great place a little farther, we would be up to a weekend camping excursion as well.

We have a range of experience with Kayaking - we would enjoy class 1 and 2 rapids, but 3 would likely be a stretch for us right now.

Thanks for any suggestions!

Probably should look into the Delaware River.

White Lake

zentravl zentravl
Apr '22

Pequest River

The Rhyme Animal The Rhyme Animal
Apr '22

Unless you change your mind about Class 2 max, you will need to launch south of Foul Rift. I recommend the PP&L boat ramp off of 611 in Martin's Creek. From there you can go all the way to the Free Bridge in Pburg which conveniently has a boat ramp as well as a large parking lot for your return vehicles.

there are quite a few exciting but not terrifying rapid sections along this stretch as well as Brainards railroad bridge, which is a good place to stop for lunch and maybe a few jumps, if you're so inclined.

ianimal ianimal
Apr '22

I just bought my first kayak today. Strictly lake and rec. How long before the waters are warm enough? I can't wait to start my new adventures.

Try Mountain Lake.

The Musconetcong is also a popular stream for kayaking, but caution that trout season is starting soon (next weekend, I think). Trout fisherman aren't amused by people paddling by and scaring off the fish; beware the treble hook to the ear response, lol

ianimal ianimal
Apr '22

Second vote for the Musconetcong, although at low water there isn't enough for kayaks. The best place for beginners locally is the pull-off and place to launch about a mile past Saxon Falls on Waterloo Rd:

Cranberry Lake is fun:

There's a launch on Jefferson Lake Rd, and White Lake too.

We mostly go to the Musconetcong since it's so close. You can go downstream to the dam and upstream for a while too.

Josh G Josh G
Apr '22

Jefferson Lake is close by, calm and good for beginning kayakers - access from Waterloo Road by the sign that says Camp Jeff Lake. You put in the water across the lake from the camp. FYI - if you hear slaps on the water and see something brown about 2/3 ft. long swim quickly under your kayak, it's likely one of the beavers that live there! Very cool.
Lake Aeroflex in Byram/Stanhope/Newton area is also very good. I went there with a large group one clear summer night and it was amazing to see the stars in a sky without a lot of light pollution.

Friend Friend
Apr '22

I'm looking at Merrils Creek or Split Rock.
Does Mt. Lake have a launch fee for kayaks?

You can put your kayak on Mt.Lake for free. I know they used to have a launch fee years ago over by the Casino ramp, but even if they still did, which I think they don't, you could just put in over by the Lodge with something that small for free.

The Rhyme Animal The Rhyme Animal
Apr '22

Lake Aeroflex

alpha1beta alpha1beta
Apr '22

Thanks for all the great suggestions! Does anyone have specific put-in/pull-out recommendations for the rivers around here? Specifically the Musconetcong, Pequest, Raritan or Paulinskill? (or any other rivers you can recommend) We like poking around the lakes, but I also really enjoy exploring down a smaller river.

Thanks again for all the great suggestions! I will definitely begin exploring as the temps rise!

For the Pequest, depends on how far you want to go. If you want a short ride, put in at Hot Dog Johnny's and ride down to Belvidere. (You will be getting out by the laundry mat in Belvidere right before the river goes down a barrier drop of about 5 feet right near Uncle Bucks diner).

If you want a longer, yet much more challenging adventure, I once took a row boat(a flat bottom row boat), and put in the Pequest at Tranquility, right above Allamuchy. Interesting ride, but beware- lots of trees across the river that required getting out of th boat, standing on the tree and trying not to fall off in the middle of the river and pulling the boat over the obstacle. After about 10 hours, I had made it to a little before the Riverside Diner in Liberty Twsp when I had to give up for darkness, just to demonstrate the amount of time the river obstacles added.

Another factor, water height. I used the NOAA gauges along the rivers and checked their website for an idea of how high the water is. You don't want to go when the water is too high, but too low, esp in a river full of obstacles like the Pequest will have you scraping the bottom too often. I would try to go a few days after a fairly large rain event to have the best water flow.

The Rhyme Animal The Rhyme Animal
Apr '22

we are very lucky to live near 3 reservoirs each with their own 'personalities'. Well worth it to visit all 3.

-spruce run
- round valley
-merrill creek

my favorite is merrill creek. it's beautiful and great for hiking or paddling and it also has the best visitors center with a nice assortment of stuffed birds and animals that were residents of the reservoir.

be mindful of the winds when on these reservoirs. while the water level is stable, the winds are the factor that makes for unsafe paddling. Enjoy!

friendly mcface friendly mcface
Apr '22

What about tilcon lake

Booster90 Booster90
Apr '22

Agree, White Lake is a good one

Paulinskill - put in at Footbridge Park, end at the viaduct is a really nice trip

Apr '22

Question for kayaking on Merrill Creek. Their website says that kayaks need factory installed floatation. I assume that means internal foam. Do they actively check for that? How would I know if that is in a kayak?

MakoMiller1984 MakoMiller1984
April 13th

Re: Good places to Kayak

“How would I know if that is in a kayak?”

If it’s a “Sit In” kayak, you would probably see the foam/inflatable blocks inside. They take up air space, so even if it gets flooded there’s enough buoyancy to prevent sinking. You can also buy aftermarket float bags but would have to find the right size/shape to fit.

If it’s a “Sit On” kayak, the whole thing is technically the floatation device (hollow plastic hull), so I don’t know how/what they’d expect to see. Pretty hard to sink those unless you pierce the hull (or forget to check the drain plug is secure and all hatch covers are closed).

Mark Mc. Mark Mc.
April 13th

Thanks for the info Mark!

MakoMiller1984 MakoMiller1984
April 15th

Went to Merrill Creek on Memorial Day and had a wonderful few hours paddling the perimeter of the reservoir. Though didn’t think to put sunscreen on my legs so got burnt on my shins. The launch area for kayaks can get crowded as its pretty small and you can only get two out of there at a time. So if people are taking their sweet time it can take a few minutes.

We’re looking at trying either the Musconetcong or Pequest next. For the Musconetcong we were thinking of dropping in at the parking area down the street from Dairy Queen and getting out at Point Mt. Bridge. For Pequest was thinking getting in at Townsbury bridge and stopping at the access next to the White Twp school.

Does anyone have any experience with these stretches, any advice, and maybe roughly how long those stretch's would take?

MakoMiller1984 MakoMiller1984
June 3rd

The bridge by ShopRite and CVS has about 1 foot of clearance and an old damn right before that. If you start at DQ, portage before you pass the Storage Units to avoid the bridge and dam.

A nice run is from Penwell to Shurts Rd on the Musky.

Have a nice day

Mike Herbst Mike Herbst
June 3rd

Good to know, thanks Mike!

MakoMiller1984 MakoMiller1984
June 3rd

Hi, Paddler's Cove in Washington NJ has a plethora of information and can assist.
Give them a call.


for that section of the Musconetcong make sure the gauge at Bloomsbury is a minimum of 2.05

June 4th

Well 2cents I didn’t see your comment before we went yesterday. But thanks for the info.

A little summary of our trip ended up starting at Naughtright road and went down to the suggested Shurts rd.

There was plenty of room underneath the bridge where we started behind the bank there right below the dam. Didn’t have any issue until down by the fishing/parking area across from the Highlands Auto Exchange/Old Turn Pike rd.
A short distance upriver of the parking area is a log jam and a small off shoot that a kayak can get through though its only about 4ft wide and basically an immediate 90 degree turn. In my inexperience I got myself wet there and fell out.

The rest of the way down to Penwell dam was pretty nice. The most annoying/nerve racking section was right above the main stretch of Point Mountain. There was a decent amount of rocks and bopping off of them there.

About 15ish mins down from Point Mtn bridge there is a log jam across the whole of the river where portage is necessary.

It was at the Changewater bridge where I got knocked out the second time on some rocks. That one hurt a little bit and knocked my legs around on some rocks before I could get off to the side. Almost lost my shoe on that one.

The rest of the way was uneventful and pretty pleasant.

In all it tool about 5ish hours for the whole run with 2 15-20min breaks along the way. A few spots where we had to get out to un-beach ourselves, which probably could’ve been prevented if we had more experience reading the water. Only a handful of grumpy fisherman along the way.

Most importantly my girlfriend, who has wanted to kayak for many years, had an amazing day and somehow managed to never fall out of her kayak like I managed to do.

MakoMiller1984 MakoMiller1984
June 6th

I started about 4 years ago and have tried a few, aero flex lake is nice, white lake, mountain lake, but my favorite is Swartswood lake. All have nice launch areas and are free. Swartswood has 3 launch areas,( 1 is very weedy) restrooms (in a building) , beach, play area for the kids, bbq area and picnic area and lots of room to park.

I only do lakes, no rapids for me. But you might want to try Budd Lake, there are boats with motors on the lake (another thing I will not kayak with). But its a huge lake Good luck

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