Beautiful Kayaking Spots in Northern NJ

Updated: Feb 15

My family grew up going to the Adirondacks in New York. While we would escape there for the summer, we did everything outdoors. Whether it was hiking, swimming, wakeboarding, tubing, and kayaking. As we got older there were no more Adirondack lakes to quickly drive to and a serious lack of knowledge where to kayak in my local area. We did get into paddleboarding, but it was short-lived.

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This all changed when my local outdoor store, Ramsey Outdoors, had a massive post-Labor Day sale in. I got two of my own kayaks from their demo stock sale that summer! If you are looking to get a kayak, paddleboard, or any outdoor gear check out your local outdoor shops to see if they have any postseason major sales!

This forced me to learn about kayaking spots in my area. If you have a kayak and are visiting or live near Northern New Jersey, here are spots you’ll want to check out. New Jersey can be an overlooked spot for kayaking but there are gorgeous lakes! 

When I got my kayaks, my sister did as well and we both got pelican kayaks. We're so happy we got this brand, we love it! Now, we’re all set to go! Just one hold up, we have no idea where to kayak in Northern New Jersey because all of our experiences were the many lakes of the Lake Placid area.

I’ve compiled a list of my go-to spots to kayak and added a list of potential other options I’ve heard of and I hope to visit this summer! Some of these locations also have rental options, I will include a link for info so you can see the operational hours for those rentals. Your local outdoor shop might also have an option to rent from them, so you might want to check that out if it’s a small shop or even REI.

Here is my suggested packing gear for kayaking:

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Recommended Kayaking Spots:

1. Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve, Franklin Lakes, NJ

It's easy to not know this oasis exists in Bergen County, New Jersey. Located on a High Mountain Road, in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey - which is a high trafficked road - be mindful when turning into the parking lot. If you’re coming off 208, take Ewing Ave exit and turn left on to High Mountain Road. The park is open from dawn to dusk which allows you to get the most out of your trip!

Before going be mindful of the rules. You are allowed to fish with an NJ State License, dogs are allowed if, on a lease, you can boat, canoe, kayak, stand up paddleboards, and similar non-motorized vehicles. You can not swim here and lake use is only allowed from April 1 through November 15. If you do not have a board of your own, Ramsey Outdoor does supply rentals, call them to verify rental days and rules.

This preserve offers more than water activities, there is a nice walking trail. The loop has options for an inside loop and a further loop, the wider loop is about 2 miles and is more uneven and a hiking style of walking. If you take the smaller loop you’re able to walk along the coastline of the water, cross over two walking bridges and enjoy fishing!

The inside loop has picnic tables set up where you can enjoy a picnic with family or friends. It's a great spot to set up a hammock where you'll enjoy some peace and quiet. Be mindful that on the weekends and a nice day, this spot will easily be packed.

For enjoying kayaking, you will need your paddle and a lifevest. If you are planning to rent, then all your essentials will be provided for you. As soon as you walk up from the newly paved parking lot, the launch is at the beginning of the walking path. You can either walk right in and launch from the shoreline - mind the rocks! Or you can bring you kayak to the boat launch dock and launch from there. The water is clean, but there is no swimming allowed. The Preserve is 147 acres and the lake is 75-acres.

I’ve always walked into the water and wear water shoes because of rocky shorelines and the convince of taking the shoes off once in the boat. Once you’ve gotten all situation, enjoy the gorgeous views the Upper Lake provides.

The lake is easy to navigate and you can loop the lake, go back and forth from end to end. There are two out coves that are nice to explore. Depending on the day and hour, you can sometimes see standup paddleboard yoga happening in one of them. If that isn’t happening, it is a quiet place to read. The other you can sometimes find turtles sunbathing or a swan. 

My favorite thing to do here is to bring coffee early in the morning. Kayak the area for a decent amount of time, then pick a spot to float, spit my coffee, and read a good book. If it is a still day you can stay put as a whole. Since the lake is so open if it is a windy day the water is choppy and it is more of a struggle to float and read. However you care to enjoy, I hope it’s relaxing for you!

2. Monksville Reservoir, Ringwood, NJ

Monksville has three boat launching spots. No motorized boats can launch here. There is also no swimming here. This launch can easily get crowded with people looking to launch their paddleboards, canoes, or kayaks. I have even seen rowers and sailboats at this reservoir as well so you can get a good mix of people. Just be mindful you cannot bring motorized boats. The water is so clean and when I’ve brought my paddleboard I’ve taken a fall or two and the water was so refreshing.

This Reservoir does not connect to another body of water, nearby there are other lakes you can explore. For example, Greenwood lake is down the road that you can launch at. Monksville can get an array of people being on the border of New York State and Bergen County, New Jersey. With the three different parking lots to launch from, you shouldn’t have a difficulty launching. If it is a gorgeous day, be mindful it can fill up quickly or you’ll need to wait to launch.

Looking at Google Maps, the launch label Monksville Boat launch is your typical boat launch ramp. If you have a trailer for your kayak you can drive it to the water edge and launch your boat. When my family paddle boarded we needed this for getting our board in since SUP paddleboards are heavy! There are kayak and paddleboard rental options through Flat Water Paddle company, which is located on Greenwood Lake Turnpike.

The second boat launch on Beech Road, looking at Google Maps you’ll see the body of water labels as Beech Brook but it is still connected to Monksville Reservoir. There is a parking lot where it looked like people can store their kayaking to stay here. You can still visit for the day. This launch is by dock only. This is not the dock launch that holds the boat for you like Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve or Split Rock Reservoir, this one you need to hold the boat and balance while you enter your boat. If you’re uneasy about this or do not have the experience, I do not recommend this boat launch for you.

The third boat launch is also on Beech road but is called Monksville Reservoir, North Boat Launch, and the body of water is labeled Wanaque River on Google Maps. This has the staple boat launch as well. No dock, just a cement ramp created the goes into the lake for a boat to launch from.

Make a day of staying on the water here. The reservoir is 505-acres, which is almost 7 times larger than the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve. If you are looking for more f a day to be out on the water, breathe in the fresh air, and have a day to with no distractions, this reservoir is for you. You won’t be disappointed by the stillness of the water, the clean air, and the views this spot has to offer. The first day I got my kayak, this is where I went!

Going from the second to third boat launch spots, you get to go through a bridge, you’re going under Greenwood Lake Turnpike which can be a fun adventure. Going through the area call Beech Brook, there is an area of tree stumbles that stick up, be mindful of this, it is the shallowest spot in the reservoir.

During different times in this area, you might see people on the shoreline walking Long Pond Iron Works, which is a great trail to explore. Or you might see a swan enjoying the water making its way through the trees. If you like bird watching which kayaking, many birds will come to sit on the stumps while you kayak by. Depending on the time of day, you might get to see turtles sunbathing too! 

Since this area is so remote, especially going to the Upper parking lot, you can enjoy the quiet of the lake with a good book, or have a picnic on the water. Always be mindful of your trash, leave no trace!

3. Split Rock Reservoir, Rockaway NJ

This hidden gems you wouldn’t just stumble upon, you’d need to seek it out. Off Split Rock Road which is a paved road that turns into a dirt road, you’ll cross a one-lane bridge that brings you out to a beautiful reservoir. The reservoir has a designated parking lot, do not park on the street as you’ll likely be ticketed. Don’t run that risk as it’ll surely put a damper on a fun day on the lake. Other things to note, there is fishing, hiking, and kayaking allowed here. No powered motors, paddleboard, or shoreline fishing is allowed. If you plan to hike, stay on the designated marked trails.

Now that you know the rules, how do you get to the lake from the parking lot? From the parking lot, there is a walking path that splits into two directions. There are two different launches, both launches are the same concept of the dock with set spots to balance your kayak in and launch yourself out. No need to get wet! The launch down the trail to the right does have benches to sit at though, that is the only difference.

Once you launch off to the water you’ll see how clean the water is and be amazed how massive it is. If you go straight across you’ll see the rocky shore and different birds explore the area. While kayaking to this side some hawks were flying in circles overhead with the backdrop the trees and shoreline made the start to kayaking a new lake more appealing.

From there if you head down the lake, you will be surprised how massive the reservoir is! From the trees and still water, it looks smaller than it is, but the reservoir is about 3 miles long. Be prepared to have sore muscles the day after, you’ll get a great workout in!

I went in the spring of 2020 and there was a lot of rain, and area you normally cannot kayak through, this area we were able to. While heading down the reservoir there is a spot where it opens up to split to the left or right, we went left since the opening caught our eye and we saw a few people go straight. On our way back we were going to go the same way but noticed to the left it looked like there was an opening.

You’ll be able to spot it by seeing the trees overlap but don’t touch. I recommend kayaking through if you’re able to. While going through a local told us this spot is normal marshland and you cannot come this way. This spot is great to come in the early hours or near later in the afternoon to get nice photos.

Before going I heard there is a lot of Lilly pads, but due to the amount of rainfall, I barely say any. I hope you kayak here with a friend to catch up and explore. The stillness of the water, and quietness of the lake, will make you feel refreshed.

4. Steenykill Lake

This is located in High Point State Park, it is a gorgeous lake to kayak at. You are not allowed to have any motorized boats here. Parking is along a dirt road to enter the launch. You can drive your car down to launch your kayak(s).

The water is so clear. You won't need to wipe down your kayak after exploring the lake. One thing to keep in mind, on the water there is not much shade, I strongly recommend you apply sunblock and wear a hat. Depending on the time of day you get out on the water this can make or break your experience.

On the water, you have amazing views of the High Point monument. Some people fish from their kayak, but most are going out on the water to kayak around, get feed a little wet and enjoy the day.

There is a walking trail from the boat launch that opens up to a grassy area where people enjoy picnics, enjoying the day, and putting their feet in the water. You are not allowed to swim here so keep that in mind.

Here are other kayaking locations to visit!

Facts about Northern New Jersey::

  • Northern New Jersey is made up of Sussex, Passaic, Bergen, Warren, Morris, Essex, Union, and Hudson county

  • Trenton is the capital of New Jersey

  • American currency is in American dollars and cents

  • The area is known for the battle of Taylor Ham versus pork roll, for the record, it is Taylor Ham

  • Locals enjoy exploring Olympic National Park year-round

I hope you enjoyed hearing about these kayaking options in Northern New Jersey. If you have any questions about the area please email me at

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