By Joan Slowey Dellett~
You may have seen signs for the Manasquan Reservoir while driving around Monmouth County but do you know everything the most popular park in the Monmouth County Park System has to offer?
The 770 acre Manasquan Reservoir, opened in 1991 and visited by over one million visitors a year, is both a vital water source for southern Monmouth county towns and a beautiful, natural setting for recreation and outdoor activities that includes woods and wetlands, trails, areas for fishing and boating, a Visitor Center and an Environmental Center. Entrance to the park is free.
The Environmental Center in Howell is one of two environmental centers in the Parks System. In operation since 2002, the Center features extensive educational and interactive displays that center on the wetlands ecology and local wildlife and habitat protection. Park naturalists offer guided walking and boat tours and a variety of free nature programs – from eagle viewing to pond studies. Popular with school and scout groups, exhibits are designed to connect visitors with their natural world highlighting the importance of clean, unpolluted water sources. To that end, free Spring Nature programs are offered on most weekends.
The Environmental Center also sponsors a photography exhibit for youth, amateur and professional photographers. The theme for the 2020 Photography Exhibit is “Colors of Nature at the Manasquan Reservoir” and has categories for each of the four seasons. Winning photographs are displayed in the Environmental Center.
Visitors can explore the Manasquan Reservoir on their own with a “safari backpack” provided for free from the park system. Each backpack, whose contents change seasonally and is filled with equipment like binoculars and instructional plans, contains all you need to make your self guided nature walk filled with adventure. Or consider a “Nature Birthday Adventure” party led by a Naturalist that will take your child and their friends on a themed birthday adventure of their choice.
Water activities are probably the most popular aspects of the Reservoir. Fishing is permitting year round for large and small mouth bass, striped bass, tiger muskies, bullhead catfish and panfish species. State fishing licenses are required for anglers 16 and over.
With the boat ramp opening on March 1st, visitors can launch their own watercraft or rent rowboats, electric motor powered rowboats and kayaks as of April 1.
There are guided pontoon boat tours of the Reservoir beginning in May. These 45 minute tours are narrated by Park System Naturalists who give an overview of the park and provide opportunities to view local wildlife such as turtles, egrets, herons, ospreys and maybe a bald eagle or two.
The marked trails throughout the Manasquan Reservoir are also popular year round. The 5.1 mile gravel Perimeter Trail offers panoramic views of the Reservoir, looping all the way around the reservoir and is suitable for running, walking or biking. The 1.1 mile Cove Trail is a scenic nature trail which explores the lakeshore around the Environmental Center and is open to pedestrians only.
As part of the larger Monmouth County Park System, the Manasquan Reservoir hosts a multitude of programs for kids, adults, families and seniors. Summer camps, travel programs, therapeutic recreation for special needs populations, school or group outreach, cultural demonstrations, golf, equestrian programs, local history exploration – these and the more than 6,000 other programs offered are accessible by visiting /https://www.monmouthcountyparks.com/ or calling 732-842-4000 ext. 4312. The Environmental Center can be reached at 732-751-9453.
With Spring finally here, whether you are looking to go fishing, boating, take a nature walk on a trail or simply learn more about the wildlife and ecology of the our region, the Manasquan Reservoir is definitely worth checking out.