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Greenwood Lake, West Milford, Vernon

A Scene You Should Make

Story and photos by Mary Jasch

Situated half in New Jersey and half in New York, Greenwood Lake is not about political boundaries. It is a state of mind, a Highlands destination in the with the biggest water in the New York area.

Beyond the shade of old sugar maples on its northern shore, Greenwood Lake stretches and waves for six to nine miles, depending on who you talk to. This glassine water body, made for pleasure, supports every water sport a visitor can think of – swimming, diving, fishing, water skiing, jet skiing, and boating by sail, canoe, kayak, paddle, motor, row, and skull.

Greenwood is an important lake in the Skylands region. Historically known as a resort community and playground for celebrities – Cecil B. deMille, Babe Ruth, the Jeter family, and others in sports and the arts – Greenwood Lake still offers adventure, fun, and relaxation for families and singles. It and the surrounding Town of Warwick and nearby Vernon have everything a vacationer could want for a weekend or a week: entertainment, night life, antiquing, a wine trail, outdoor concerts, festivals, boutique shopping, restaurants with lakeside dining, cozy inns, plenty of outdoors activities, and hiking in national and state parks.

A tour around Greenwood Lake reveals where to have some fun. From 17A south, turn right onto East Shore Drive to check out the East Arm of the lake. A boathouse on the right houses the East Arm Rowing Club, an organization that teaches new members, provides skulls, and sponsors a spring regatta on the lake. Along the drive, notice several marinas that rent slips for boats and also rent the boats themselves.

Pass flashy restaurants of various styles. A 1914 castle at water’s edge, complete with haunting by ghosts of a past owner’s mistress and wife, has waterside dining and live music on the dock, beach volley ball, and for those who prefer indoors, a dining room with colorful murals and a wall of windows to watch the action on the lake.

Greenwood Lake
Moorings at Greenwood Lake. Photo by Mary Jasch

Staying close to the lake, the road rises and runs along a hillside between woodland above and the lake below.  The hillside is part of the 15,973-acre Sterling Forest State Park with hiking, fishing, boating, and scheduled guided events (845-351-5907). On the other side of Sterling Forest, on Route 17A, the New York Renaissance Faire, open weekends August 4 through September 23, occupies 35 acres of Elizabethan pleasure givers and seekers – Shakespearean performers, jousting knights, jugglers, musicians, magicians, artisans, and food and drink of the Middle Ages. A lady may find her knight in shining armor amid the romance. After all, its "Where Fantasy Rules!”

But back to the lake! Soon a grand home appears on Chapel Island where, years ago, a church accessible only by boat held services until it burned. Now the island is home to a judge and local orchard owner. In this Forest Knolls section of the lake, garages become the most visible structures on the road because the houses are down by the lake. Tree-lined hilly streets, and the lake as backdrop for stone and log houses with well tended gardens, lend a European flair to these private communities with their own beaches. So, if you want to swim, go to the town beach at Morahan Waterfront Park in the Village of Greenwood Lake.

Bearfort Ridge
High country at Bearfort State Park. Photo by Mary Jasch

At about half-way down the lake, enter West Milford, New Jersey. Soon you will drive over the Wanaque River, the sole outlet of the lake. The river flows to Monksville Reservoir, then on to Wanaque Reservoir. Here, the Ryerson family dammed the lake in the 1830s, flooding several farms to create the southern half of the lake. (First, Peter Hasenclever, Long Pond ironmaster, dammed the middle of the lake in 1765.) Ryerson’s son was involved with the Morris Canal and Banking Company. After that, luxury steamboats plied the new lake, bringing visitors to the new grand hotels and resorts built on its shores. Rob Sparks, GIS Specialist for West Milford’s Planning Department, calculates that the current body of Greenwood Lake is 7.6 miles long at 620 feet elevation. By contrast, Upper Greenwood Lake on Bearfort Mountain is entirely a man-made lake at 1,100 feet elevation.

This lengthy lake gets a lot of boating action. It’s even perfect for sailing and paddle-boating. Has the thought of learning to sail sailed across your mind? Here’s the perfect opportunity. At the T-intersection, turn right onto Greenwood Lake Turnpike. South Shore Marina, on the right, offers doable, inexpensive sailing lessons. They also rent pontoon boats! Want to learn how to fly? Take Airport Road to the left and find Greenwood Lake Airport. Take a ride in a small plane or sit in the Crossroads Café and watch take-offs and landings while you enjoy lunch. Next to the airport, check out what was once "Jungle Habitat,” a defunct Warner Brothers drive-thru safari open in 1972 and closed four years later after a wild cat killed a man. The sign and other artifacts remain, as do some interesting plantings of exotic species meant to enhance habitat of exotic animals. Most is overgrown now but it all makes hiking there fun, and some established, marked trails exist. To get maps for them, contact the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. Another wonderful place to hike is Bearfort Mountain which runs along the western side of Greenwood Lake. The mountain is part of the Abram S. Hewitt State Forest with exciting trails. This New Jersey-style adventure hike has fabulous views, fun rock-climbing, streams to ford, boulders to hop, waterfalls and habitats to explore, and lots of wild plant and animal life to watch for. It’s one of the Garden State’s best. Get a map from the NY-NJTC. Ringwood State Park and the New Jersey Botanical Garden, New Jersey’s official botanical garden, are to the southeast.

Back along the lake, check out Brown’s Point Park designed for a round of Frisbee or "disc golf” or a quiet picnic with kids who can swing in the playground A little further drive brings you into the center of West Milford with lots of stores for everything you need. After the diner, turn right onto Lakeside Road (Route 210) which hugs the lake back to the Village.  Along the way, note stately homes, more marinas, and restaurants and clubs with lakeside dining and entertainment.

In the mid 1960s and early ‘70s, when the New York drinking age was 18, Greenwood Lake’s streets were crowded with teens from New Jersey who came to the 80 plus bars and clubs here, according to locals. Now, most of the village’s nightlife is on the lake – and in summer, most bars and restaurants feature live bands outside on docks, where visitors can steer their boat right in.

"The restaurants and bars that survived the ‘60s now continue the tradition of live entertainment on the lake,” says Tricia Anton, co-owner with husband, Robert, of Anton's on the Lake , a 12-room hotel built in 1875.

In town, turn right onto Windermere Avenue that dead ends at the Greenwood Lake Public Beach. In summer, swimming, sunning, and getting married in the gazebo are the beach’s major attractions. Evening brings concerts, Saturdays at 7:30. Other festivals of note are Breezy Point Inn Winter Carnival, Annual Boat Parade, the Greenwood Lake Fall Festival, Classic & Wooden Boat Show, sponsored by The Antique & Classic Wood Boat Society in July, and Applefest in Warwick. Approximately 2,000 families live year-round in the Village of Greenwood Lake, one of three villages (and seven hamlets) in the 104 square-mile Town of Warwick.

On a recent spring day at Anton’s, a young man and woman were married. "A lot of people have gotten married here over the years,” says Anton, who arranges weddings. "They bring the bride in by boat and they get married on the front lawn.” In fact, three years ago Anton’s cousin called from England to say she was coming to America to elope in Las Vegas. Anton told her she could get married in Greenwood Lake, right at her hotel. When the family arrived, they were brought in by boat up the lake and married on the lawn. "I did the whole wedding,” says Anton. "My husband was captain of the boat and my son was best man. I was matron of honor. All the boats were beeping their horns. Her father told me it was like a fairy tale wedding.” Anton’s Annex has cozy rooms with country flair with a puffy bed - the kind you want to cuddle up in. The rooms are cheery and well-arranged with three bottles of wine, a whirlpool and wine glasses on the side table.

Mountain Creek Waterpark
Tossin' and tumblin' at Mountain Creek Waterpark.
Photo by Mary Jasch.

For an excursion to Vernon, for the day or week, take 17A toward Warwick. Bellvale Creamery on the top of Bearfort Mountain is a "must-stop,” even for hikers on the Appalachian Trail, which passes through from New Jersey into Harriman State Park. Their ice cream is beyond fabulous, attests this writer – homemade – with dangerously addictive, yummy flavors, (one with chunks of fudge inside) and the view over Warwick is great. Anton picks up hikers here who call ahead to stay a night or two off-trail for a bit of luxury – a comfy bed and shower. "We all like to live vicariously through the hikers. We’ve met so many nice people,” says Anton, who has taken them to get new boots and to doctors. "We shuttle them around. We do it because we like it.” If a visitor wants to do a one-way hike, Greenwood Lake Taxi Service will take her to the trailhead, or to Mountain Creek or any nearby attractions.

In Warwick, turn left onto Route 94 and head toward Vernon. But while still in Warwick, another must-stop is Ochs Farm up the hill on the left for home-grown fruits and veggies and their very own peanut butter with honey, the best you will ever taste, bar none. For that alone, it’s worth the trip. You can explore the Warwick area for farms, pick-your-owns and wineries – many with live music outdoors.

Just into Vernon, Mountain Creek, with every water ride you can think of except what’s on Greenwood Lake, looms large on the side of Hamburg Mountain. Pop in for a thrilling time, then crash for the night at the Appalachian Hotel or across the street at the Alpine Haus, one of the area’s many Bed & Breakfasts. In the Vernon countryside, bakers and cheese-makers at Bobolink Dairy make raw-milk cheeses from grass-fed cows and bake wonderful rosemary wood-fired bread. With a chunk of each and a bottle of wine, you’ll daydream your way to Provence, France. This fertile area is truly a land of plenty. And check out the August Onion Festival in the Black Dirt Region that produces a large percentage of the country’s onions – just on the other side of the Village of Warwick.

Tricia Anton sums it up, "The border between New York and New Jersey is a very open one, because at the end of the day you can’t chop mountains in half. It’s more of a filter that allows people to explore New York and New Jersey.”

Comments

Ginny Graham
08 Aug 2013, 12:34
@Kathy- yes you can rent a pontoon boat on greenwood lake at the Greenwood Lake Marina. they have full day and half day rentals. My husband and I did it just a few weeks ago and had a lot of fun.
Gloria
16 Jul 2013, 20:56
OMG all the wonderful memories come back. My grandparents owned a log cabin on Lakelands Ave. I went every summer. The nightclubs with the best band on the NY side were The Shamrock, and of course Mt.Lakes Inn. Andres was a bar mostly populated by NJ crowds who went just to get drunk. The upscale place was the Linden House and for big summer dances The Brandon House. I remember cruising on Windermere Ave. when we got our cars, then stopping for ice cream. Afterwards we played miniature golf and archery. Gloria
Kathy
05 Jul 2013, 17:53
My mom would like to take a boat ride around the lake. Are there any tour boats on the lake these days? She and my dad built a house in Forest Knolls. She wants to see it from the lake side, which was the front.\r\nAny ideas on how we can do this would be helpful. Not sure if the two of us are capable of renting a boat?
gloria Mc
07 Jun 2013, 15:03
I wish Gloria Listner left a phone number or e-mail. I know where the bungalows were that she is looking for. The bars in greenwood lake were: Mother's, the Hi- spot, the Castle tavern (they made huge hamburgers),Grecks, Rainbow Inn, Murphys to name some of them. Wish I could remember more.
bob deininger
26 Apr 2013, 10:02
The bars were filled with new jersey guys and guys who lived there,fight happened all the time.I had a family home to crash in back in the 50-60s then we sold.we were by the rainbow room,spec's place,,a dump
bob deininger
26 Apr 2013, 09:59
yup mountain lake inn,saw the knockuts there,on the other side of the lake were 3 bars,we went there from Teaneck N.J every errkend,it was 18 to drink,we drank,had fights and danced away every wekend in the 60s
Harry C.
25 Apr 2013, 18:29
Does anyone remember the name of some of the clubs/bars on Greenwood lake in the 60's? I remember one of them was T.G.s. The Unknowns, later known as Truth used to play there in the mid/late 60s early 70's.
trader mike
31 Mar 2013, 19:36
yep the bungalows were moved, some.. near the old a and w root beer stand others were off beach rd edin acers now under water.
Gloria Listner
03 Sep 2012, 09:36
Does anyone remember the Listner family who had a bungalow near Brown's Hotel back in the 1930's? We're trying to find the location of the bungalow. Thanks.
Marty Berberin
19 Aug 2012, 13:34
Is there still a bait shop in NJ?\r\n\r\nAnd is there a boat launch?\r\n\r\nThank you,\r\n\r\nMarty Berberian
Joseph
26 Feb 2012, 10:44
Hi,\r\n\r\nDo you have any early photos of the Awosting area. I'm interested in what the shore line looked like, especially along Long Pond Road.\r\n\r\nThanks
R. Markl
12 Oct 2011, 14:19
Can you tell me on what days the lake will be drained to a lower level for the winter?
DARLENE OLWECK
01 Sep 2011, 05:35
PLEASE EXCUSE THE CAPS AND THE TYPOS AS I HAVE BAD EYESIGHT. THANK YOU DARLENE
DARLENE OLWECK (QUACKENBUSH)
01 Sep 2011, 04:46
DEAR SUSAN SMITH, I LOVED YOUR GRANDMOTHER VERY VERY MUCH!!! SHE WAS A WONDERFULL WOMEN. I KNEW HER WHEN I WAS A SMALL CHILD, AS MY MOM WAS A GOOD FRIEND OF HERS. MY MOM'S NAME WAS ALICE GARRISON.I WENT ICE SKATING BY THE BOAT HOP AND SHE WOULD GIVE ME HOT COCO AND WE WOULD TALK AND LAUGH; I REMEMBER THAT SHE WOULD COOK FOR HER LITTLE DOG'S.SHE WAS SO SWEET,I'M SO HAPPY THAT I WAS BLESSED TO HAVE KNOWN HER. I ALSO WORKED FOR HER AS A TEENAGER AT THE BOAT HOP.WE HAD SO MUCH FUN.I STILL HAVE AN ICE CREAM SCOOP SHE GAVE ME FROM THE BOAT HOP. EVERY TIME I USE IT I THINK OF HER.I ALSO HELPED HER PAINT HER PARTYBOAT I WILL NEVER FORGET HER. I ALSO RENTED THE BASEMENT APARTMENT AT THE RED ROOST REST WITH MY BABY SON.PLEASE EMAIL ME BACK, I WOULD LOVE TO HER FROM YOU.I CAN't BELIVE THAT I FOUND YOU ON THIS SITE AS I WAS TALKING ABOUT YOUR GRANDMOTHER TO MY GIRLFRIEND TWO DAYS AGO. MAY GOD BLESS GERRI (I WILL ALWAYS LOVE HER) AND YOU AND YOUR FAMILY. PLEASE E MAIL ME AND I WILL GIVE YOU MY PHONE NUMBER. I LIVE IN GRENWOOD LAKE DARLENE OLWECK
susan smith
18 Aug 2011, 20:17
My Grandmother lived and owned the original boat hop the village bakery and the Red Roost Restaurant in the 50 and sixties in Greenwood Lake NY.She was a spunky energenic lady who stood 4feet 11inches tall. Her name was Gerri Does anyone remember her or the boat hop?
Melissa
17 Aug 2011, 06:11
How much is the parking
deb
05 Aug 2011, 06:03
Can someone please give me details on kayaking on the lake? Where to park? Fees, etc? Thanks
Barbara
27 Jul 2011, 14:01
What are the fees to swim for the day at Greenwood Lake? also, do you need a permit to fish there?\r\n\r\n
Mike
03 Jul 2011, 12:28
I want to use my inflatable fishing boat there. Please advise me where I should launch it? Because I don't really need a real boat ramp, I hope to launch it without much cost.\r\n\r\nThank you,\r\nMike
Steve
25 Jun 2011, 19:26
Hey all \r\n\r\nCan someone help in finding the beach on greenwood lake NJ side? I love this lake, but haven't found the beach so far. Let me know please \r\n
Harry Dorsch
14 Mar 2011, 13:32
I used to live on lakeside dr on the Jersey side of the lake right across from Brown's Point. I sure miss the old lake and most of my friends from there!!
A.G.
06 Sep 2010, 14:07
By contrast, Upper Greenwood Lake on Bearfort Mountain is entirely a man-made lake at 1,100 feet elevation.\r\n\r\nActually...no. Upper Greenwood Lake is not an entirely man-made lake. It was a natural mountain lake (the section in front of the club house and the Dover Cove drag)that was expanded.
mumu
14 Jul 2010, 19:38
hey guys are we able to fish there or do we need permision
ana gonzalez
10 Jul 2009, 11:00
please send me directions from glassboro n.j.
Ralph
01 May 2009, 09:40
please send travel info, hotels, restaurants, activities etc, thank you

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