Swartswood Lake provides tranquil surroundings and opportunities for recreation in a natural rural setting.
Purchased in 1914 for public enjoyment, Swartswood Lake has been attracting visitors long before it was established as a state park. This remote and rural area is off the beaten path and away from all major highways, but worth finding. Don’t expect jet skis or gas-powered motorboats racing across the 519-acre natural glacial lake as only electric motors are permitted. Instead, expect views of colorful sailboats, canoes and kayaks on the still waters of Swartswood Lake. As a bonus, Little Swartswood Lake offers all of the same on a smaller scale (except swimming), just minutes away by car or a short hike. Bring binoculars for a close view of the many resident bald eagles frequently seen flying over the lakes as well as other birds of prey and waterfowl. So, pack your gear for the day or weekend and take advantage of all the opportunities the natural landscape has to offer.
The lake became popular as a summer resort in the late 1800s for urban dwellers seeking respite in a tranquil rural environment. Visitors travelled by horse-drawn carriage, railroad and eventually by automobile to reach the shores of Swartswood Lake. Small cottages, tent platforms and boarding houses occupied the shoreline. Canoes, sailboats and even a steamboat provided leisurely transport on the pristine 519-acre lake. It later became the perfect location for New Jersey’s first state park. It all started with just 10 acres donated by George M. Emmons and his wish ” …that the people may have the use of the premises conveyed as a public park forever…” The lake was purchased in 1914 for $30,000 from Andrew Albright, a wealthy Newark manufacturer, who would not allow public access without payment of one dollar each day. Public outcry prompted the State to pursue the acquisition. Swartswood was established as New Jersey’s first state park in 1915 to ensure public access to the State’s third largest freshwater lake.
The formation of Swartswood Lake began more than 10 million years ago when the limestone and dolomite beneath the valley floor began to dissolve, causing the creation of sinkholes and caverns. Eventually, Swartswood Lake was created as retreating glaciers eroded and scoured the area over 10,000 years ago.
Duck Pond Multi-use Trail
This 0.6-mile-long paved path provides a level surface for walking and biking and is accessible for persons with disabilities. The trail meanders through a forested area along Duck Pond. Wayside exhibits found along the trail provide information on the unique natural features found in the area. A bird blind has been constructed to allow visitors to view birdlife in the area with little disturbance to their habitat.
Spring Lake Trail
This 2.8-mile-long trail begins at the end of the paved Duck Pond Trail. Follow the white markers along the natural hilly terrain through a secondary succession forest to the secluded Spring Lake. We consider this to be a moderate level hike.
Bear Claw Trail
This 0.8-mile-long trail is blazed in yellow and begins at the Duck Pond parking area just to the right of the kiosk. This is an easy to moderate hike on an earthen, hilly path. The trail ends where it meets the paved Duck Pond Trail allowing you to combine the two trails for a full loop back to the parking area.
Limestone Trail; White blaze -.5 mi.
Passage Trail; Blue Blaze -.5 mi.
Sinkhole trail; green blaze -.5 mi.
Grist Mill Trail
This 1.5-mile-long loop trail can be found at the most southern end of Swartswood Lake by the dam. The steep rocky terrain makes this a moderate to difficult hike with rewarding views of Swartswood Lake.
Emmons Path Trail is located in the day use area, yellow orange blaze, 1 mile long.
Willow Crest Trail is located 4mi. (approx.10 min.) outside the park on Hampton Rd., Spring Brook Parking lot access, light blue blaze and is 3.05 miles long.
Winter offers a variety of opportunities and reason to get out and recreate. Visitors can enjoy snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice fishing (at own discretion) and sledding.
Cross-country skiing is permitted on the multi-use trails throughout the park.
Alcoholic beverages are not permitted. Pets are not permitted in overnight facilities.
We offer the choice of wooded or grassy campsites in a natural setting within walking distance of Swartswood Lake and all park amenities. All sites vary in size. Each includes a fire ring, picnic table and lantern holder. Maximum occupancy is six people at each site. Facilities include a boat launch, drinking water, restrooms and showers. Campsites 1-21 are open year-round. Campsites 22-65 are open April 1 through October 31.
Three group sites are located across the road from the park office in a secluded area by Duck Pond. Each site has a large picnic table, fire ring, lantern holder and raised grill to accommodate groups. Minimum occupancy is seven and maximum is twenty. Potable sanitary facilities are available near the sites. Water, flush toilets and showers are located in the main campground within walking distance. Open April 1 through October 31.
Six shelters are located on top of a shady ridge. They are cabin-like structures with wood stove for heat and two double deck bunks and a picnic style table. The shelters sleep up to a maximum four people including children. Each site includes a fire ring, picnic table and lantern holder. Flush toilets are nearby and shower facilities are located in the main campground bathhouse. Additional tents are not permitted on shelter sites. Check in time is 3 p.m. and check out time is noon. Accessible to persons with disabilities. Open April 1 to December 15.
Note: There are no electrical outlets available for cooking, charging or inflating in the park so please plan accordingly
From Memorial Weekend to Labor Day, while lifeguards are on duty, visitors can swim in Swartswood Lake. Swimming hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Adjacent to the beach are facilities with changing areas, restrooms, showers, a first-aid station and a concession building where food and beach supplies may be purchased. The facilities are accessible for people with disabilities.
Inner tubes, rafts and other flotation devices are not permitted in the swimming area. Only Coast Guard approved Personal Flotation Device(PFD) are permitted. Pets are prohibited on the beach.
Rowboats, canoes, paddleboats, kayaks and small sailboats may be rented at the boat concession on a seasonal basis from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. Please call for hours of operation prior to your visit. Electric-powered, small privately owned watercraft may be launched at locations designated on the park map on both lakes. Boating is permitted subject to New Jersey Regulations and New Jersey State Park Service Rules Coast Guard approved personal floatation devices are required for each boat occupant. Boats are limited to electric motors only and require New Jersey Boating Registration.
The freshwater angler can enjoy year-round fishing in Little Swartswood and Swartswood Lakes. The lakes are stocked with brown, rainbow and brook trout in the spring. Summer and fall catches include bass, sunfish, catfish, walleye, perch and pickerel. Fishing is available along the shores or by boat. Fishing also is permitted in the mill pond near Keen's Grist Mill. Fishing is subject to the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife regulations (link is external).
Most of the area east of County Route 619 is open to hunting. Game commonly found in the park include ring-necked pheasant, ruffed grouse, wild turkey, gray squirrel, eastern cottontail and white-tailed deer. Hunting is subject to the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife regulations.
Secluded picnic areas overlooking the lake can be found throughout the park with picnic tables and grills available at each site. Charcoal fires must be contained in the metal grills provided at the site. Visitors are free to bring their own grills. Wood fires are not permitted. Food and refreshments and basic supplies are available for sale at the concession stand. View the menu. Swartswood also offers a group picnic area with a shelter for larger groups and can accommodate a maximum of 80 people. It may be reserved for a fee.
Reservations can be made over the telephone using a credit card or by mail using the Group Picnic Reservation form downloadable here. Payment in full of the appropriate group picnicking fee must be made at time of reservation. Groups of 20 or more people shall notify the park in advance.
A sand volleyball pit, basketball court, playgrounds and open playing fields for Frisbee, kick ball, soccer and softball are located near the picnic areas and are available on a first come first served basis. Bring your own equipment.
The lakes are an important ecological and recreational resource. Visitors come from all around for an opportunity to go swimming, boating or fishing in these lakes. Many just come to relax along the shores. The lakes are also home to a healthy bald eagle population. Daily sightings of a mature or immature bald eagle are common.
Protecting the health of these lakes requires managing their watershed area. Swartswood’s watershed is 11,218 acres/16.3 square miles. Through New Jersey’s Green Acres Program, thousands of acres have been acquired for the primary purpose of watershed protection.
Lakes go through a natural aging process. If left undisturbed, a lake can age and change naturally over thousands of years. However, our lakes are naturally productive, high in nutrients and greatly impacted by human activity within the watershed area that drains into the lake. This combination accelerates the aging process and requires a more aggressive approach to promote biodiversity and maintain a healthy ecosystem. With the help of our partners, the Swartswood Lakes and Watershed Association and other stake holders, we have been successful in adopting an effective integrated approach to lake management. This includes mechanical, biological and chemical methods to control the growth of invasive aquatic weeds while providing the opportunity for native plants to thrive.
Near the outlet of Swartswood Lake is Keen’s Gristmill, built in the 1930s on the site of several earlier mills. The earliest mill dates back to the Revolutionary War. The mill was used to grind locally grown corn into meal. The structure was acquired by the State in July 1976.
Another symbol of the area’s rich history in the grinding of locally-grown grain is the Stillwater Gristmill. Located along the Paulinskill River on Main Street, the mill was rebuilt in 1844 after a fire destroyed the previous structure built in 1776. The mill and surrounding property was purchased by the State and assigned to Swartswood State Park in 2006. Thanks to the Historical Society of Stillwater Township, the mill and surrounding property are now listed in the State and National Register of Historic Places.
In October 2000, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection added 444 acres of Swartswood State Park to the State’s Natural Area System, making it the 43rd designated Natural Area. The area was designated for the preservation of rare sinkhole ponds, pond shore vegetation communities and numerous known occurrences of rare plant and animal species.
Access for Persons with Disabilities
The Swartswood State Park recreational facilities are partially accessible for persons with disabilities. Please contact the park office at 973-383-5230 for further information regarding disability access needs. Text telephone (TTY) users, call the NJ Relay & CapTel Service at 711 or 1-800-852-7897 for English or 1-866-658-7714 for Spanish.
All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)
Recreational use of ATVs is not permitted on NJ State Park Service property. This includes state parks, forests, recreation areas, golf courses, marinas, natural areas, historic sites, and preserves. Thank you for your help in protecting New Jersey’s natural and historic resources. [N.J.A.C. 7:2-3.4(d)]
State law prohibits the smoking of tobacco and use of electronic smoking (vaping) devices in all state parks, forests, historic sites, recreation areas, golf courses and marinas. [N.J.P.L.2005, c.383 (C.26:3D-56)]
Alcoholic beverages are not permitted in state parks, forests, recreation areas, golf courses, marinas, natural areas, historic sites, and preserves. [ N.J.A.C. 7:2-2.6 ]
Keep Your Park Clean and Green
Protect plants and animals and care for your parks by taking your trash with you. Whatever you carry into the park, plan on carrying it out too. It’s like crowdsourcing trash management! Bring a bag or two for trash, recycling and cleaning up after your pet. There are no trash receptacles in this park. Thank you!
Swimming is permitted, while lifeguards are on duty, from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. The beach area includes changing rooms, restrooms, showers, a first-aid station and a concession building where food and beach supplies may be purchased. Inner tubes, rafts and other flotation devices are not permitted in the swimming area. Only U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets are allowed.
Pets must always be on a leash no longer than six feet in length and under the control of the owner. Please clean up after your pets.
Use insect repellent, wear light-colored clothing, tuck pants into socks, stay on trails, check yourself when you get home, shower and wash clothes immediately.
Be Bear Aware
Black bears are found throughout New Jersey. Do not approach or attract bears by making food available. Feeding bears is dangerous and illegal. Never run from a bear! To report an aggressive bear, call 1-877-WARN-DEP (1-877-927-6337) immediately. Please report any damage or nuisance behavior to the park office. Visit the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife at www.njfishandwildlife.com for additional information on bear safety.
1091 E Shore Rd
Swartswood, NJ 07877
P O Box 123
Swartswood, NJ 07877-5230
Gate sunrise to sunset
Park Office Open daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Entrance fees are charged per vehicle from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day.