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DayTripper: Manasquan Reservoir
05/06/2008 - By Lori Herschman
A water resource for surrounding areas, the Manasquan Reservoir is located in Howell on 1,200 acres of woods and wetlands, where wildlife sightings include many endangered as well as protected species...
A water resource for surrounding areas, the Manasquan Reservoir is located in Howell on 1,200 acres of woods and wetlands, where wildlife sightings include many endangered as well as protected species, and where insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals are all quite plentiful. It is both a water source for towns and utilities and a natural setting for recreation and outdoor pursuits. The 770-acre reservoir is part of the larger site and offers areas for boating and fishing, a Visitor Center, an Environmental Center featuring many nature exhibits, several nature trails for walkers, and a 5-mile, multi-use trail that takes sightseers around the entire reservoir. Boats with electric motors, sailboats, kayaks, and canoes are all permitted on the reservoir and are available for rental as well. Weather permitting, the reservoir is also an ideal place for ice skating, cross-country skiing, ice boating, and ice fishing.
The Manasquan Reservoir is an important part of Monmouth County’s water supply. It currently supplies water to three water companies, serving towns from Hazlet to Point Pleasant, and also provides water and habitats for hundreds of types of plants and animals. Water from the Manasquan River enters and exits the reservoir through the inlet/outlet tower in front of the main dam. With a 4 billion gallon water capacity and maximum 40-foot depth, the reservoir can supply up to 30 million gallons of water a day!
The Visitor Center is the site of all boating activities at the reservoir and houses a boat rental area, a seasonal tackle and bait shop, vending machines, and a fireplace. Individuals can also enjoy spectacular views from the second-level observation deck. Boats with electric motors, sailboats, kayaks, and canoes (at least 8 feet) are permitted on the reservoir from March 1 to November 30. All vessels launch from the Visitor Center, and the purchase of a daily or seasonal launch pass is required. Sold on site, daily boat launch passes are available for $5 each and seasonal passes cost $40. Rowboats (with or without electric motors) can be rented from April 1 to October 31, with kayaks available beginning May 1. Anyone boating is required to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved, hybrid personal flotation device; children ages 14 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Canoe, kayak, and sailing lessons are also available. In addition, park naturalists offer 40-minute weekend boat tours, on the hour, from 1 – 4 pm, starting Memorial Day weekend and running through Labor Day weekend. The tour takes visitors around the reservoir and includes discussion of its history, wildlife habitat, and use as a water source. Guests are encouraged to bring binoculars to observe the reservoir’s abundant wildlife up close and can expect to see osprey, great blue herons, bald eagles, and other interesting creatures. Tours are offered on a first-come, first-served basis and are conducted on a 36-foot pontoon boat that seats up to 30 people. All passengers must wear the life preservers that are provided. Individual tickets for drop-in boat tours may be purchased at the Visitor Center at a cost of $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 12 and under (tax included). Reservations for group tours (minimum of 17 people) can be scheduled on weekdays through the Environmental Center and cost a flat fee of $5 per person ($6 for non-residents of Monmouth County). There’s even more! Park naturalists offer free nature programs on most weekends and, for a fee, various nature programs (from astronomy to mushroom identification) are available for individuals, schools, and community groups, though paid programs must be arranged at least three weeks in advance.
The reservoir, which is open year-round for fishing, is stocked with largemouth and smallmouth bass, hybrid striped bass, tiger muskie, bullhead catfish, and panfish/sunfish. Located near the Visitor Center, a wildlife-themed playground highlights different species of animals found at the reservoir. State fishing licenses, which are required for anglers ages 16 and over, can no longer be purchased at the Visitor Center; however, they may be obtained at any local fishing supply/bait shop, at select sporting-good stores (i.e., Dick’s Sporting Goods), or online through the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife website (www.nj.gov/dep/fgw). Guests are asked to consult signs for any restrictions or advisories.
At the Manasquan Reservoir, visitors have the opportunity to explore wetland ecology and learn about wildlife. The forests there are an interesting mix of pine/oak and maple/sweetgum species. The park also has six created wetlands and trailside wildflower meadows. More than 20 varieties of fish, 20 types of mammals, 25 different reptiles and amphibians, and 200 species of birds inhabit the reservoir and its surroundings. Built along the reservoir bank, the Environmental Center, which opened in 2002, was created to increase the public’s understanding and appreciation of nature and the vital role that water plays in our environment and our daily lives. Through interactive exhibits, multi-media presentations, wildlife observation areas, and educational activities for schools and community groups, the center aims to communicate the importance of water in our world. Using replicas, one exhibit showcases the different types of fish that are found in the Manasquan Reservoir and illustrates why the reservoir is indeed such a popular fishing area. There is a designated place for bird viewing where migration is addressed, along with a separate area to watch the bald eagles in their nests. Another exhibit looks at the water cycle and allows visitors to activate a map to follow a rainstorm through the watershed to the Manasquan River and then to the ocean. Yet another examines aquatic inventions such as fins, masks, and blowpipes that have enabled human beings to experience the water as do fish and other sea life – from under the surface! Using dim lighting and sound effects, the “Day to Night” diorama sets the evening mood as nocturnal creatures (owls, frogs, and crickets) suddenly come alive, while “Streams of Consciousness” actually compares the effects of a town with unmanaged growth to one that has chosen to establish practices designed to work with nature and protect the environment. Furthermore, the center provides news of current wildlife sightings, including seasonal listings of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and “watchable insects,” such as butterflies and dragonflies.
The Manasquan Reservoir also features multiple trails. Among them are the Cove Trail and the Perimeter Trail. The Cove Trail is a 1.1-mile scenic nature trail – for pedestrians only – that explores the lakeshore around the Environmental Center. This walking trail allows people to view plants, wildlife, and different aspects of the environment. The picturesque, gravel Perimeter Trail, which is exactly 5.1 miles, loops all the way around the reservoir and is intended for hikers, equestrians, and all-terrain bicyclists, but may also be suitable for some walkers and runners. Although it has a fairly even, well-maintained natural surface, this trail has been designated as “moderate” due to its length. Guests are asked not to enter any unmarked wetland areas while on a trail, as those are designated wildlife habitats.
Whether you enjoy spending a relaxing, peaceful day boating, fishing, traveling a trail, or if you have a keen interest in the environment, this beautiful, enticing spot in Monmouth County is most certainly the place to go!
311 Windeler Road
Howell, NJ 07731
331 Georgia Tavern Road
Howell, NJ 07731
Visitor Center: Open during regular park hours.
Open 6 am to dusk from April 1 through October 31; 7 am to dusk from November 1 through March 31.
Environmental Center: Open daily year-round from 10 am to 5 pm; extended hours on Friday to 8:30 pm.
From the Garden State Parkway:
From Route 9:
Take Exit 98 to I-195 West. Proceed on I-195 West to Exit 28B, Route 9 North-Freehold. Stay in right lane when entering Route 9 North. At the first traffic light turn right onto Georgia Tavern Road. For the Visitor Center and Boat Docks follow Georgia Tavern Road for 0.3 miles. Turn right onto Windeler Road and continue 1.5 miles to Irwin Recreation Area (Visitor Center) on left. For the Environmental Center continue on Georgia Tavern Road 1 mile. Entrance is on the right, approximately 1 mile from Route 9.
Take Route 9 South to the jughandle onto Georgia Tavern Road. Follow directions as stated above.
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