I have kayaked most rivers in the Pine Barrens. Overall, I prefer the Mullica for its length and diversity. But the Oswego- be it OS-SWAY-GO or OS-SWEE-GO - has caught my breath. Wow! It is unbelievable..the Atlantic white cedars that line the banks from Oswego Lake to Martha Pond are so dense, I feel like I am kayaking with Frodo Baggins on the River Anduin in Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring--so dark and serene and mystical. The gradient/pitch on the Oswego is greater than the Mullica/Batsto/Wading. Prepare for a ride when the USGS gauge at Harrisville Dam (consult http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nj/nwis/uv?01410000) reads higher than 3.1 or 3.2 feet. I kayaked the Oswego on September 2nd with my friend Bruce "P.L." Soboleski. The gauge at Harrisville read 3.06. We were using two Dagger Zydecos with spray skirts. We stopped at a sandy alcove just before Martha Pond for lunch, and Bruce lost his prescription sunglasses when he pulled on his spray skirt.
A half hour later down the river we discovered the loss, but the current was so strong(at 3.06 feet), we couldn't attain up the river to reclaim them. We ran the river again a few days later and found the glasses.
I love this stretch between Oswego Lake and Martha Pond. At 3 feet (Harrisville Gauge) the gravel beds in this meandering section are not a problem. We heard fighter planes from the Warren Grove Bombing Range flying overhead, but, generally, there is utter silence.
Martha Pond is unique. Is it a river? A pond with islands? A river with islands? The darkness of the first leg opens up into the bright panorama at Martha Pond. If you have a group of three or four, you might want to split up and try different routes through the islands(a typical river braiding).At the end of Martha Pond there are several sandy areas where you can lunch. At this point you have probably kayaked 90-100 minutes from Oswego Lake.
From Martha Pond to Harrisville Pond the Oswego River narrows and accelerates slightly. This final leg is not as swift as the first section (with its ripple beds) but it is challenging. A few blow-downs require careful maneuvering. This final section resembles the Mullica and Batsto with a few high sandy banks, and the final push across Harrisville Pond seems like Batsto Lake, although not quite as strenuous. The take-out at Harrisville Dam is clear--you can probably spot your vehicle. Bruce says: "The most convenient put-in and take-out of any river in the Barrens!" I agree. It takes 3-4 hours to run this charming river. The driving and parking between put-in and take-out is a cinch.
If it's your first run in the Barrens, this is the best.
One piece of advice: You'll have more fun if the gauge is above 3.1 or 3.2 feet. Avoid the Oswego at a level lower than this. The entire run takes three hours (including a unch break) with single recreational kayaks. Bruce and I an the same route a few days later with a tandem Old Town oon in 2.5 hours. Be prepared for wildlife. The only time
I have ever seen a beaver in the Barrens was at the head of Harrisville Pond. Red fox, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer and wood ducks adorn this route.
No accommodations. Unlike most Pine Barrens rivers which are surrounded by state forest lands, the Oswego is bordered by private properties, mostly cranberry growers' properties. An occasional sign will warn you not to trespass. The beginning and end of the route are state forest lands. No one is going to hassle you about stopping for lunch or relieving yourself.
Most people in New Jersey know Route 206, which runs north and south. Take Route 206 south from Trenton past the Red Lion Circle(Intersection with Route 70)until you reach the traffic light at Route 532/ Medford Lakes-Tabernacle Road.
Take a left on Route 532 and follow this five to six miles through the center of Tabernacle until you reach the intersection with Route 563 in the village of Chatsworth.
Take a right on Route 563 South and follow this through a number of picturesque cranberry bogs for five miles or so.
About five to six miles south of Chatsworth on Route 563, take a left on Lake Oswego Road and travel approx. three miles to the put-in at Oswego Lake. The take-out is about seven to eight miles south of Chatsworth on Route 679 at Harrisville Pond (Bend left from 563 on to 679 a mile south of the Oswego Lake Road). Parking is excellent at the put-in and take-out. At the put-in traverse across Oswego Lake to the dam/spillway, and portage your boats around the dam to the river.
ADC Street Map Book of Burlington County, New Jersey, 1st edition, 2000