Our Golden Ponds

Author Kathy Kenley paddles out to find ‘Quiet Water New Jersey.’

By: Susan Van Dongen

With detailed descriptions and an at-a-glance trip locator map, Quiet Water New Jersey reveals 50 spectacular ponds and lakes in the Garden State suitable for canoeing and kayaking.

   New Jersey’s still waters may not run as deep as lakes Tahoe or Geneva, but our state’s lakes and ponds are superb places for enjoying some respite from the encroaching development, crowded highways and hectic lifestyle that seems to be the norm here.
   According to author, veteran kayaker and all-around "water person" Kathy Kenley, "quiet waters" are preferable to rushing rivers or boisterous ocean waves to some folks who want to spend a meditative moment with nature.
   "The serenity of lazily paddling in the middle of a lake, watching and listening to wildlife, is lost if you’re being swept downstream by a current," Ms. Kenley writes in her book Quiet Water New Jersey: Canoe and Kayak Guide (Appalachian Mountain Club Books, $15.95). "During summer months, local rivers overflow with kayaks, canoes and tubes, more reminiscent of an amusement park bumper-car ride than a pristine river. But on New Jersey lakes — even the busier ones on hot weekends — it isn’t too difficult to find a peaceful area to enjoy."
   She says the idea for the book, now in its second edition, was to map out enough New Jersey lakes, ponds and reservoirs so that folks all over the state could drive a fairly short distance, plunk their canoe or kayak in the water and come back to the same launch area.
   "That’s another one of the advantages of ‘quiet water,’" Ms. Kenley says, speaking from her home in Green Bank, on the Mullica River in Atlantic County. "You don’t need a livery service to drop you off and pick you up. Quiet waters also are ideal for families taking children out for the first time, when a trip may need to end earlier than planned."
   With detailed descriptions and an at-a-glance trip locator map, Ms. Kenley reveals 50 spectacular ponds and lakes in the Garden State suitable for canoeing and kayaking. Quiet Water New Jersey lets paddlers spend more time exploring on the water and less time seeking out elusive accesses.
   "Available books covered the many rivers that dissect the state," she writes. "But none mentioned the hundreds of lakes, ponds and reservoirs accessible to paddlers. These quiet waters offer their own ambience."
   As a marine biologist and a life-long naturalist, Ms. Kenley always takes a camera, journal, pen and pencil with her when she paddles, in order to capture the flora and fauna she sees in her travels. The book is sprinkled with her photos and sketches.
   "Seeing what animals live in this little cove or what may be found around the back of that island tweaks my curiosity," Ms. Kenley writes. "With each new site, I discover different habitats and learn the links between ecosystems — their similarities and differences."
   Her drawings focus on the indigenous critters and things you might find while paddling around New Jersey’s waterways — including muskrats, snowy egrets, osprey and pitcher plants. Ms. Kenley dedicates a special page to the Pine Barrens tree frog, a threatened species which dwells in the acidic waters of the Pinelands, particularly in shallow pools in cranberry and sphagnum bogs, slow-moving streams and cedar swamps.
   "I tried to choose the animals that were indicative of that specific area I was writing about," she says. "I’m just trying to help people become aware of and take interest in the (plants and animals) where they paddle. On a lake or pond, you can really watch the wildlife — and watch them watching you."
   Although this region isn’t as blessed as Northwestern New Jersey, there are a smattering of fine quiet waters and still spots in Central Jersey, including Assunpink, Rising Sun and Stone Tavern lakes in Monmouth County, near Roosevelt.
   "Assunpink is quite large, but I particularly liked Stone Tavern lake," Ms. Kenley says. "It was difficult to find and a little bit more hidden, which is what I like — the hidden treasures. I really enjoyed it, though, the way there are a lot of nice little ‘around the corner’ type places. To me, that’s more enticing than a much larger, open lake. I like to look in the nooks and crannies because that is usually where you find more wildlife."
   In Central Jersey, we also have a real gem in the Delaware & Raritan canal.
   "It’s so easy to go up and back," Ms. Kenley says. "There are a lot of launch sites, or you can do a bike and ride, which is what I like to do. I chain my bike to a tree on the other end of the trip, drive to where the start point is, paddle down, then take my kayak and chain that to the same tree. Then I bike back. So I get an upper- and lower-body workout. The towpaths are great for doing just this.
   "The canal is very calm water and you pass so many historic houses," she continues. "It’s amazing because it goes right through some heavily populated areas, but there’s enough greenway on either side to make it just a beautiful paddle."
   In addition to marine biology, Ms. Kenley holds degrees in geology and creative writing. An avid paddler for more than 30 years, she has explored lakes, ponds, rivers and coastal marshes along the East Coast and as far away as Thailand and Fiji. She also teaches paddling and leads guided tours for a canoe and kayak outfitter in the Pine Barrens.
   Although the waters of Southeast Asia were spectacular — as was the Pacific Northwest and Alaska — Ms. Kenley says her favorite place to paddle was the Florida Everglades.
   "I just want to say that, no, alligators do not attack boats," she says. "Although I’ve watched them take down birds. I guess I love the Everglades because I’m an ocean person and you can go from fresh water to salt water there. I also love the mangrove trees, just enjoy the sub-tropic areas in general, much more than the cold and the snow. The only white stuff I want to see is the salt around the edge of my margarita glass."
Quiet Water New Jersey: Canoe and Kayak Guide, by Kathy Kenley (Appalachian Mountain Club Books, $15.95). For information, call (800) 262-4455. On the Web: www.outdoors.org