White Lake is a 69-acre glacial lake just northeast of Blairstown, NJ on Route 521 (Stillwater Road) in Hardwick Township, Warren County. The lake lies within the 923-acre White Lake Wildlife Management Area. The property is owned by Warren County and managed by the Division of Fish and Wildlife. The area is open dawn to dusk.
Note: the lake and area on the southern side of Route 521 lie in a Natural Resource Area and hunting is prohibited. However, on the northern side of Route 521 hunting is allowed in the WMA.
The lake was named for the white color that sparkles up through its clear waters caused by shells which cover its entire bottom. The white mineral product, called marl; are prehistoric deposits of aquatic shells, which were once mined as a vital additive to cement.
White Lake can be reached from Route 611 by crossing over the Portland Toll Bridge across the Delaware River into New Jersey. Take Route 94 north (to Blairstown), for 8.9 miles. (Or from Route 80 East in New Jersey take exit 4C, Route 94 north to Blairstown.) At the light in Blairstown, bear left onto CR-521 / Stillwater Road for 2.8 miles. White Lake is on the right side. A portable toilet is available in the parking area.
The lake is an excellent fishery containing largemouth bass, catfish, pickerel, panfish and landlocked salmon. There is very limited shore fishing though. Also many turtles, of which there are some very large ones, inhabit the lake. There is car-top boat access to the lake; no boat ramp, carry-ins only and electric motors only are allowed. It is a wonderful, beautiful and peaceful place to go kayaking.
At the car-top boat access, only handicapped parking is allowed. After dropping off your boat you must proceed to the regular parking area which is back up the entrance road by Route 521, about 100-yards away.
Across Route 521, north of the lake stands a 200-year-old farmhouse made from cut limestone. The house and its companion barn, known as the Vass Homestead are being fully restored to its original state in the 1800s by the Hardwick Historical Society. In 1812, German immigrant John Vass built a house; a two-story stone structure cut from limestone for his family on 550 acres of farmland. The home overlooked a pond in the front field. This body of water was christened White Pond but local residents later changed the name to White Lake.
The rocks under White Lake are mostly dolomite. The Wisconsin Glacier formed the valley the lake lies in about 20,000 years ago. At the southern end of the valley; a till dam was formed, and melting water from the glacier collected forming the lake. Originally, White Lake was much larger after melt waters flooded low-lying areas in the valley in what was called Stillwater Lake. As the glacier receded, water drained away leaving the lake at its present size.
The lake is fed by a steady flow of groundwater through cracks in the rocks and spaces in the soil. Water then flows out from an overflow channel through the glacial till dam on its southern end via a small stream which flows into the nearby Paulinskill River. The water levels are very stable in White Lake, fluctuating less than 2 feet annually. The lake has a maximum depth of 44 feet.
The Knickerbocker Ice Company of Pennsylvania bought a small piece of lakefront property on the south shore of White Pond. They erected a huge ice warehouse which was able to hold, up to, 20,000 tons of ice. But ice production was a seasonal project, and the owners of the ice mill also processed marl, the white mineral product in the form of shells, located deep on the bottom of the lake. The shells were originally used as fertilizer, and also in big-city cesspools. Soon the marl became a vital additive to a new product just coming into use, called “cement”. So the ice warehouse in winter and spring became a marl warehouse the rest of the year.
In the early 1900’s, agriculture in this hilly area of northwest Warren County began to decline as it could not compete with other more level rich-soiled areas nearby and the prosperous ice production here was taken over by other, newer and larger ice plants in the county. Eventually these ice plants gave way to the growth of ice production in the nearby Pocono Mountains, where the winters lasted longer and were colder.
Several hiking trails in the area are maintained by the Ridge and Valley Conservancy. The trails are easy to follow and are marked. An arrowed trail (red and white) leads from a plant restoration area by the shores of the lake into the woods and connects with a grey marked trail. Taking the gray trail left for a short distance leads you to Route 521 by a gate. (A WMA parking area is to the right on the opposite side of the road. This parking area can be reached by going 0.7 miles past the lake on Stillwater Road). Going right on the gray trail leads you on a long (several miles) but beautiful hike through the woods to the marl collecting and ice cutting factory remnants on the lake’s south shore. The trail has a couple of steep hills and a few rocky areas.
As you approach the remnants you will see impressive rock walls rise in the woods, around arched brick window lintels. The wall’s components consist of sedimentary limestone and sandstone mixed with metamorphic gneiss. The walls are in disrepair, and signs warn you not to enter. Still, you will marvel at what you see.
There is a shorter walk to the marl collecting and ice cutting factory remnants. The New York, Susquehanna and Western Railroad ran to the south of the lake along the Paulinskill River. The old railroad bed is now the 26-mile Paulinskill Valley Rail-Trail. The railroad built a connecting spur to the marl factory at White Lake; the remains of the railroad bed are at the southeastern end of the lake. From a small parking area on Spring Valley Road (Route 659), it is about a 1/4 mile walk along a grass trail to the old remnants. To reach the parking area from White Lake, turn left on Stillwater Road (Route 521), and then left onto Spring Valley Road (Route 659), down the hill for about 3/4 miles. The parking area is on the left by the gated trail. Trailhead parking for the Paulinskill Rail-Trail is a short distance farther down Spring Valley Road next to the river.