One of my favorite destinations in the Meadowlands is the Hackensack River, and starting on May 19, accessing this winding 50-mile-long waterway is going to get a whole lot closer for everyone who lives in Bergen County.
No, nobody’s moving the river. But the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission is opening a new park in Carlstadt. River Barge Park includes the first public boat ramp on the west side of the Hackensack River since just about anybody can remember.
The 5.5-acre park features all sorts of cool features, like a fishing dock, a 17-slip marina, a stretch of shore line to launch kayaks and canoes, an educational pavilion, and a promenade with picnic tables and wonderful views of the river and the Manhattan skyline just 5 miles away. There’s ample parking on-site for vehicles and trailers.
I have paddled my kayak from River Barge Park on two occasions to preview what’s in store for paddlers, and both occasions were memorable.
What I really enjoyed about my brief paddles was how quickly I started seeing all sorts of nifty birds. Last fall, I saw a peregrine falcon zip by overhead just moments after I had entered the river. As I headed up-river, I saw great egrets and ospreys — more reminders of the Hackensack River’s incredible comeback.
On a paddle two weeks ago, I discovered a new red-tailed hawk nest about 100 yards or so up-river.
Note: One thing to remember whenever you ‘re on the Hackensack River is that the tide can be quite strong. It’s best to time your paddle so the tide works with you.
Fortunately, you can download a free cellphone app that gives you the high and low tides (there are two of each daily) for River Barge Park. The one I use is at tideapp.com. You can also check the website itself for tide information. Just click “web,” then choose “New Jersey” and “Carlstadt, Garretts Reach” from the menu.
To introduce you to the park, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission and the Bergen County Audubon Society are holding River Barge Park Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 19 (rain date Sunday, May 20).
The free, family-friendly event features 30-minute NJMC guided pontoon boat rides, mini kayak lessons by REI, a book talk and signing by “Meadowlands” children’s author Tom Yezerski, and a live barn owl demonstration.
Also on tap that day will be park tours, environmental education activities for children, exhibits on boating safety and going green, and food vendors.
Due to space limitations, all parking for River Barge Park Day will be at Izod Center Lot 28 (a shuttle bus will take you the park, which is just minutes away) and visitors will not be able to bring their own kayaks, boats or canoes.
For more information, go to njmeadowlands.gov or call 201-460-4619.
NJMC Communications Officer Jim Wright maintains the Commission’s daily nature blog, featuring beautiful photography and the latest info on the region’s natural wonders.