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  • Kate Munning

Kayaking Hatfield Swamp

Did you know that The Land Conservancy of New Jersey has a secret preserve hidden in East Hanover?

Hatfield Swamp is a vast wetland, over 1,000 acres of marshes and forested swamps bordered by the Passaic, Rockaway, and Whippany rivers in East Hanover, West Caldwell, and Parsippany. The swamp was a part of glacial Lake Passaic formed during the last ice age. Hatfield Swamp Preserve is flooded for most of the year, making it inaccessible to hikers. The Land Conservancy of New Jersey has owned 176 acres of these wetlands jointly with East Hanover since 2009, and the preserve is adjacent to 72 acres owned and managed by East Hanover and an additional 47 acres owned by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection.

It may not be good for hiking, but you can explore Hatfield Swamp by canoe and kayak! You can put in at the Essex County Environmental Center at 621 Eagle Rock Ave in Roseland. The center has a large parking area and a boat launch into the Passaic River. Boaters can head north following a generally modest current crossing under first Eagle Rock Avenue and then Interstate 280.

Once you cross under the highway, you are in Hatfield Swamp. You can paddle downstream 1.5 miles to the Rockaway River. Everything on the left is Hatfield Swamp Preserve, and everything on the right is West Essex Park. You can then paddle up the Rockaway River against a modest current for another mile, where everything on your left is part of the Hatfield Swamp Preserve. When you turn around and come back to the Passaic River, you can travel further north on the Passaic with the current at your back for another half mile through Hatfield Swamp before reaching its terminus at Bloomfield Avenue.

There are many side channels to explore during this journey with significant wildlife to see. Be aware that some of these channels may not be passable during low water levels. Paddling this route should be avoided during flooding, as the currents can be dangerous.

For the truly intrepid adventurer, you can continue to paddle north under Bloomfield Avenue, under State Highway 46, and under Interstate 80 into Great Piece Meadows. This is the largest wetland in northern New Jersey and is a wilderness with many miles of paddling until you reach civilization.

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