Rockaway River in New Jersey
The Rockaway River flows from its headwaters in Sparta Township, NJ to the Jersey City reservoir in Boonton, NJ. The river continues to run southeast from the Jersey City reservoir until it joins with the Passaic River in Montville Township at West Essex Park.
The Rockaway was an integral part of the Morris Canal that operated from the late 18th century into the middle of the 19th. The Morris Canal allowed boats to haul iron ore and coal across the state of New Jersey from the port at Phillipsburg on the Delaware River to Elizabeth on the Hudson River and then on to New York City and beyond. This long ago history is still evident on the Rockaway as long abandoned bridge piers, canal embankments and in names like "Towpath Rd."
Today, the Rockaway is a tranquil oasis secluded from the North Jersey chaos that surrounds it. Typical wildlife that will be encountered along the river includes wood ducks, cormorants, great blue heron, deer, woodchuck, beaver, and a wide variety of songbirds. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of litter along the river, especially the ubiquitous disposable plastic water bottle. If you ever wondered where all the plastic bottles end up... you will know after an hour on the Rockaway. Please, buy reusable water bottles and a home water filter. The convenience of disposable plastic is just not worth the cost to our environment.
The river is calm and even flowing with only a few minor rocks or riffles to navigate. Between the put-in and take-out locations suggested below, no portaging is required. Our nine-year-old has taken a kayak solo down the Rockaway (accompanied by her father, of course!). If you are feeling energetic, at low water the river is gentle enough you can paddle back up stream to your put-in.
There are four public parks along the Rockaway between Denville and Boonton Township that can be used as put-in and take-out spots.
We recommend putting-in at the western end of Gardner Field at the Savage Rd bridge (N40 53.956 W74 29.220).
Free public parking is available at Gardner Field approximately 100 ft from the river.
For take-out we recommend Griffith Park (N40 54.970 W74 25.625) located on the north side of the river at Main St and Powerville Rd in Boonton Township. A small parking area is available. There is a waterfall 30 feet beyond the take-out point so you MUST start your day by scoping out the take-out spot before going on to the put-in location.
This recommended trip is a leisurely 6.2 miles and will require 2.5 3 hours depending upon how high the river is and how much paddling you choose to do. River gage (or depth) can be checked at the US Geological Survey site at:
We recommend taking this trip when the river gage is between 2.2 feet and 3.5 feet.
An alternative put-in spot is McCarter Park on Bloomfield Ave. (N40 53.432 W74 28.331) which offers free, public street parking along the river.
An alternative take-out is The Tourne River Access (N40 54.760 W74 27.044) but a 0.4 mile portage is required to reach the parking area (N40 54.676 W74 26.641) on Old Denville Rd.
Except for the public parks mentioned, all land bordering the river is privately owned. Please respect private property by not trespassing.
The first third of the trip starting from Gardner Field is through the town of Denville and past the backyards of the towns homes and businesses. The river is generally 40 to 50 feet wide, and although shallow, generally passable by kayak and canoe even in summer. After crossing under the Pocono Rd bridge, the river is bordered by the Rockaway Country Club and woodland becomes more prominent than dwellings. The further you get from Denville, the more tranquil the paddle becomes.
After crossing under the Powerville Rd bridge you will approach the take-out. Look for the round, stone pedestal with the flag pole. This was the center support for the mule bridge that crossed the river at this point during the canal days. Stay to river left for the take-out, just above the dam.
Paddling below the dam at Main St is illegal.
Boonton falls is located 1.5 miles downstream, in Gracelord Park, off Main St. in Boonton.
Stewarts - at McCarter Park on Bloomfield Ave in Denville. Stop for an ice cream, cold drink or burger.
Gardner Field Denville, NJ - I-80W to exit 39.
2nd right from Rt46E to E. Main St/Denville.
Left at 2nd light (Broadway) to Rt46W. Stay right to Savage Rd.
2nd right into Gardner Field parking lot.
Gardner Field at the Savage Rd bridge (N40 53.956 W74 29.220). City park, free parking. Restrooms.
McCarter Park on Bloomfield Ave. Denville (N40 53.432 W74 28.331). Free public street parking. No facilities, Stewart's and Pizza shop across street.
The Tourne River Access N40 54.760 W74 27.044 but a 0.4 mile portage is required to reach the parking area (N40 54.676 W74 26.641) on Old Denville Rd. No facilities.
Griffith Park (N40 54.970 W74 25.625) located on the north side of the river at Main St and Powerville Rd in Boonton Township. No facilities.
- Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
- Skill Level: Beginner
- Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)