Halfway between Chatsworth and New Gretna in the Jersey pines along County Road #679 is Harrisville Pond. This pond is part of Wharton State Forest and according to Google Maps, it boasts 2 miles of shoreline, and 50 to 60 acres of water surface. The headwaters of this pond is Oswego Lake while the pond eventually flows into the Wading River.
What makes this pond different from the other bodies of water in the area is that it offers quiet kayaking; canoeing, hiking and fishing for the resident population of tannic stained pickerel. On a warm summer day, you can catch upwards of a hundred pickerel using a Johnson Silver Minnow lure. The pond is also adjacent to one of the abandoned Pine Barrens towns one of the best hot dog stands around!
If you’re facing the pond with Route #679 at your back, you will see the pond’s dam on your right and a smaller spillway on your left. You can launch your kayak, car top boat or canoe from either the sandy beach to the left of the dam or from another launching area, which is on the left of the spillway. No matter which launching site you use, it would be smart to pick up any litter you may see, be it yours or someone else.
From the two launching sites, you can paddle towards the back of the pond, which links up with the Oswego River. The current at this junction tends to be a little swift, but blown down trees are rarely a problem. Rather than fishing the part of the pond with the most current, I prefer to toss a weed less lure wherever a clump of water lilies are poking their flowers above the waterline. Pickerel in this pond tend to use the leaves of the lilies as ambush spots for the local baitfish.
Adjacent to the launching ramp near the spillway, there is a marked hiking trail, which provides an easy walk around the pond. At the start of the trail, there is a sign warning hikers to be aware of Timber rattlesnakes. While I keep looking for one of these interesting critters, I’ve yet to see one on the trail. Of course, one of the questions I hear most from the kayakers arriving at the pond is “Did you bring the mosquito repellant?” On most days, you will not need the bug juice, but it always a safe bet to have one of these containers handy.
Across Route #679 from the pond is the abandoned town of Harrisville, which endured from 1795 to 1914 when it burned. One of the noteworthy aspects of this town is that they initially installed a gas generator, which in turn illuminated the first set of streetlights in the Pine Barrens. Unlike other area towns, which produced iron products such as pots, pans, and cannonballs, Harrisville’s primary product was fine writing paper, which was made from marsh grass harvested nearby. If your drive the Garden State Parkway south over the Mullica River, you’ll see acres of marshes from which tons of grass was harvested.
One of the “must stops” when visiting Harrisville Pond is the Hot Diggidy Dog food stand in Chatsworth, which calls itself the “Best Hot Dogs in the Pine Barrens.” Established in 1989, we’ve stopped by this stand for decades, and judging by the number of customers parked along Route #563, their claim of being the best may be warranted.
So, if you’re looking for a one day, late summer getaway to the Pine Barrens that is unique, interesting, and fun, toss your canoe or kayak onto your roof rack, and some fishing gear, PFDs and bug lotion into the vehicle, and head to Harrisville Pond.