Five Cool Places to Kayak and Canoe in NJ

New Jersey is home to some of the most calm, scenic lakes and rivers in the northeast. Whether you’re a kayak beginner or have been canoeing for years, you’ll want to check out these amazing waterways. Some are well-known. Others are hidden Jersey gems. All are fantastic. Grab a paddle and let’s go.

Lake Wawayanda, Hewitt
Enjoy a restful paddle at Lake Wawayanda, surrounded by 2,167 acres of rare Atlantic white cedar wetlands in Northern NJ, near the NJ/NY border. Calm waters, lush green vegetation and plenty of lily pads make this spot an absolute paddler’s delight. Take in the beauty of this glacially formed spring-fed lake as you coast along and listen to the sounds of nature. Red-shouldered hawks, barred owls and great blue herons are among the wildlife you’re likely to spot along your journey. 

Union Lake, Millville
Situated on 5,000 acres in historic Millville, you’ll find Union Lake, a favorite NJ kayaking and canoeing destination. On any given day in the summer, spring or fall, paddlers of all levels can be seen enjoying the day at this massive man-made lake. Make your way through the open, calm waters and picturesque scenery to more secluded waters flocked by shade trees. Coast a little farther and discover islands to kick back, take a break and enjoy the breeze. Birdwatchers, be on the lookout for bald eagles, belted kingfisher, osprey, ducks and wild turkeys. Stop back in the fall to see flocks of songbirds begin their migration. 

Monksville Reservoir, Ringwood
This reservoir in northern New Jersey is a hot spot for paddling enthusiasts, especially kayakers who love to fish. Spanning about 505 acres, the reservoir is approximately a three-mile journey with tranquil waters surrounded by serene forests, peaceful hiking paths and challenging bike trails. Kayaking anglers should get ready to brag a bit – trophy-size muskellunge, walleye, bass and trout are reeled in often. And for the ultimate adventure, navigate your kayak through the submerged water forests. 

Sandy Hook Unit, Gateway National Recreation Area Highlands
Noted for clean beaches, stunning landscapes, rich military history and avid birdwatching, Sandy Hook Unit is also a paddler’s paradise. This northern barrier ocean beach (and New Jersey treasure) is one of three units that make up the 27,000-acre Gateway National Recreation Area. Calm waters, shore birds, turtle-sightings and breathtaking views make your time on the water a true adventure. Head out early for a tranquil paddle or make it an outdoor day for the entire family at this birding, fishing, hiking, swimming, sunbathing and boating oasis. 

Parvin Lake, Pittsgrove 
Just outside the Pine Barrens, you’ll find a quiet, relaxed waterway known as Parvin Lake. This kayaker and canoers’ delight boasts an interesting mix of history and restful waters, perfect for a day of paddling. Be greeted by a spectacular assortment of fragrant plant life blooming in spring, including dogwood and magnolia. The endangered swamp pink plant and state-threatened barred owl can also be spotted here. After leisuring around the lake, go for a hike on any of the fifteen miles of trails at Parvin State Park. Need more than a day? No worries. Cabins and campsites are available for overnight stays.

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