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Off the Beaten Path

Manasquan Reservoir, a great place for recreation

Although there isn't much better than a long run along the Jersey Shore boardwalk, sometimes it gets a bit overcrowded, redundant and well, always flat, so I turn to my alternatives. Luckily here in Monmouth County, there are plenty of places to run, but one in particular happens to be my favorite.

The Manasquan Reservoir has become my second home almost.  It is the perfect place to head to when I feel like getting away from the crowds on the boardwalk and going for a nice peaceful run or walk with my dog.

The Manasquan Reservoir is a source of water for municipalities and utilities, as well as a 1,204-acre park located in Howell Township in Monmouth County. It is an important water supply in Monmouth County. Water from the reservoir enters and exits through the inlet/outlet tower in front of the main dam. The reservoir is pretty massive; it has a capacity of 4 billion gallons and can supply up to 30 million gallons of water a day.

Around the perimeter of the reservoir, is a 5-mile gravel trail, where you can enjoy running, walking your dog (on a leash), biking or horseback riding. The trail loops all the way around the reservoir and is relatively flat; there are a few rolling hills, but nothing too serious. The trail is designated as a “moderate” trail due to its 5-mile length and each mile is marked by a milepost. There are offshoot trails as well, providing for a more scenic route, however these are more narrow and not marked like the main trail, so be careful.

It’s a beautiful trail; nicely groomed, fairly shaded all the way around, and very shaded in the flooded forest areas, which is a nice change of pace from running in full on sun. The trail also allows for beautiful panoramic views of the reservoir and the Visitor Center.

The Visitor Center is a beautiful cabin-like facility that includes a full observation deck for sightseeing, a fireplace, restrooms, vending machines and program activity rooms. It’s perfect for resting during your run and washing up, or eating lunch during a long hike with your family.

Additionally, the Center is also where the boat rental area and bait center are located.  The reservoir is open year round for fishing and is stocked with large and small-mouth bass, hybrid striped bass, tiger muscle, bullhead catfish and panfish species. You can bring your own boat, canoe or kayak and launch in the boat ramp near the Visitor Center. Boat tours are also offered for the individual or the group from Memorial Day through October. In the winter months, the reservoir is open for ice-skating as well.

Boating through the reservoir is a great way to see some of the great wildlife that is preserved there as well. My favorite sightings thus far have been an eagle and quite a few blue herons (my favorite bird). There are plenty of deer sightings as well, when running the trail.

Another place to see and learn about the wildlife and nature at the reservoir is in the Environmental Center. It is reachable by car and has its own parking lot. It contains displays of the fauna and fishery in the area, related instructional materials and overlook windows to the surrounding land area and lake. It also contains restrooms and is passed while running the trail.

If you like the outdoors and are looking for a place to take a stroll or run, or go boating or fishing, I highly recommend the Manasquan Reservoir. It is very easy to get to, does not get overcrowded, especially during the week, and has beautiful scenery. It is the most visited site in the Monmouth County Park System, with over 1 million visitors coming to visit each year.

The address of the main parking lot to the Visitor Center is 311 Windeler Road, Howell, NJ and the hours of operation are 6:00am to dusk.

For more information, including directions, boat rentals, regulations on boating and fishing, fees for boat launch passes or current weather conditions, you can call 732.919.0996 or visit the website here.

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