The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission’s (NJMC) highly anticipated guided pontoon boat cruises and canoe tours of the Hackensack River and its marshes begin tomorrow, giving visitors an up-close view of the Meadowlands District’s spectacular scenic beauty and the region’s remarkable environmental comeback.
The first pontoon boat trip is Friday, June 1, at 5:30 p.m., launching from River Barge Park in Carlstadt. The season’s inaugural canoe tour is Saturday, June 16, at 8:30 a.m. It departs from Laurel Hill County Park in Secaucus. Boat and canoe tours run through mid-September.
The two-hour boat cruises are led by expert NJMC narrators who explain the history of the river and its tributaries, including its natural and man-made features, and point out wildlife along the way.
Don’t forget your cameras and video equipment: The Hackensack River is a great place to see some of the more than 280 bird species that make the Meadowlands their seasonal or year-round home, including many on New Jersey’s threatened and endangered species lists.
Keep an eye on the shoreline for egrets, herons and sandpipers. Turn your gaze skyward and you might see Peregrine Falcons perched under bridges, Ospreys searching for tasty snacks or, if you’re lucky, a Bald Eagle.
The cruises head south from River Barge Park and pass under historic portal and drawbridges. The excursions also visit the river’s marshes, where muskrats, terrapins and fiddler crabs may be seen. No two cruises are alike, as each takes a slightly different path along the River, at different tides.
The three-hour canoe ride focuses on the river’s marshes, taking participants on a journey through a diverse array of vegetation and wildlife. Paddlers will learn the basics of salt marsh ecology and enjoy the magnificent natural and man-made scenery while rowing past wetlands down creeks.
Pontoon boat and canoe trips are for ages 10 and up. Canoes hold up to three people and it is preferred that at least one person has experience in canoeing. Requests for group trips are welcome. Due to the popularity of NJMC boat and canoe tours, early reservations are recommended. Canoe tours are $15 per person and the suggested donation for pontoon boat rides is also $15 per person.
Pontoon boat rides depart from River Barge Park, 260 Outwater Lane, Carlstadt. Weekday trips are at 10 a.m., 5 p.m., or 5:30 p.m. Canoe tours depart from different locations; all tours launch on Saturdays at 8:30 a.m.
For a complete schedule of trips and to register online, visit http://www.njmeadowlands.gov/environment/tours.html. Registration forms are also available at the NJMC offices and Meadowlands Environment Center, both in DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst.
For more information and directions to launch points, call 201-460-4640. To learn more about the Meadowlands District’s natural beauty and its vast array of outdoor activities that make the region an ideal nature and recreational tourism destination, visit the NJMC’s homepage, www.njmeadowlands.gov, and its nature blog, www.meadowblog.net.