Summer Swimming In NJ: More Than The Shore!

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by Michele S. Byers, executive director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation

In New Jersey, it’s “the shore,” not “the beach.” Going “down the shore” is one of our state’s most popular summer pastimes. But don’t think the salty surf is the only place to take a refreshing dip on a hot day.

In fact, there are more than a dozen freshwater lakes open to the public for swimming. They’re located at state parks, forests and recreation areas up and down the state, and many also have fishing, hiking, and nature observation.

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In the New Jersey Highlands, go to Lake Marcia at High Point State Park, Stony Lake in Stokes State Forest and Swartswood Lake at Swartswood State Park – all in Sussex County.

In nearby Passaic County, Wawayanda State Park’s Lake Wawayanda offers swimming – and it’s stocked with a variety of fish for those who enjoy pulling things out of the water rather than jumping in.

The 74-acre Shepherd Lake at Ringwood State Park (straddling the border between Passaic and Bergen Counties) offers brisk, spring-fed waters for swimming, boating, canoeing and fishing.  The park is also home to the State Botanical Garden, historic Ringwood and Skylands manors and a network of beautiful trails.

Moving south, you’ll find swimming at Hopatcong State Park in Morris County, with a concession stand for food and beach supplies.

Hunterdon County has two beautiful reservoirs surrounded by the area’s signature rolling hills. There’s Round Valley, which has a special swimming cove on the west side of the state’s deepest reservoir, and Spruce Run, where you can rent canoes, rowboats and sailboats.

Perhaps no swimming area is more accessible to people than Hooks Creek Lake in Cheesequake State Park. Located in Middlesex County, it’s right off the Garden State Parkway and has an interpretive center with historical and wildlife exhibits.

In South Jersey, try Wharton State Forest in Burlington County.  Swimmers will love the Atsion Recreation Area, but the park also includes rivers and streams for canoeing, hiking trails, miles of unpaved roads for mountain biking and horseback riding and many areas ideal for watching wildlife. Wharton is also the site of Batsto Village, where visitors can glimpse 19th century life in the former bog iron and glassmaking center.

Last but not least, swimmers can enjoy the 67-acre Lake Absegami at Bass River State Forest (Burlington and Ocean Counties), Parvin Lake in Parvin State Park (Salem County), and Lake Nummy in Belleplain State Forest (Cape May and Cumberland Counties).  Each offers activities and attractions that will appeal to the non-swimmers in your group, or just help make a full day of it.

Yes, New Jersey is “Shore to Please,” as those specialty license plates proclaim. But its freshwater lakes, rivers and streams are also great places to spend a summer day.

Parks that offer swimming are open daily and have lifeguards on duty. For a full list of locations, directions and up-to-date schedules, visit www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests.

And I hope you will consult New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at info@njconservation.org, if you would like more information about conserving New Jersey’s precious land and natural resources.


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