Oswego River
GOOD FOR: Ages 9-12

Source:Outdoors with Kids Philadelphia (AMC Books)
Address:Lake Oswego Road, Chatsworth, NJ
Hours:Sunrise to sunset daily
Fee: Free; fee charged for camping
Bathrooms: Portable toilet at parking area
Water/Snacks: None


Paddle and swim in the prettiest river in the Pine Barrens.

Oswego River
Photo by: Susan Charkes

Is the Oswego River in Wharton State Forest the most beautiful of the beautiful Pine Barrens rivers? Few would say no. Clear, yet brown in color, it winds through deep pine forests full of birds. The banks are lined with trees, flowering shrubs, and wild cranberries.

A paddle on the river is a moderately challenging but extremely rewarding family trip, suitable for older children who have some experience kayaking or canoeing. A trip down the river will take four hours or longer, so it requires stamina. Bring plenty of water and food.

Start at tree-lined Lake Oswego, where a boat launch is right at the parking lot. A picnic area overlooks the water. You can take a swim in the wide treelined lake, or paddle around to get warmed up. Directly across from the launch is a dam at a dirt road; the river goes under the road in a culvert. Portage the boat across the road and down the other side to the river. Continue down the river, which winds in tight twists and turns. It is often shallow and may require carrying the boat for short distances in times of low water. The cool, clear river is shaded by pitch pines and white cedar trees; the banks are dense with flowering shrubs and low-running native cranberries. In sunny areas, look for carnivorous pitcher plants, which look like vases. Bald eagles and ospreys circle overhead; great blue herons stalk fish in the shallows, and several varieties of turtles bask on logs.

Sandy beaches are along the way, where you can stop and swim or snack. You can continue paddling for several hours, through a long open area at Martha Pond, and ending at the next portage, at Harrisville Pond (or Lake). End the day here with a swim or a picnic.

While no camping is permitted along the Oswego River, families can camp below Harrisville Lake, at Bodine Field, where 250 tentsites are in an unshaded, sandy area with primitive facilities (reachable by car with permits required).

Remember: Canoe and kayak rentals are available in the vicinity from several commercial outfitters (“liveries”). If you bring your own boats, they will also transport you or your boats to put-in and take-out points.

Plan B:

For young paddlers, it may be appropriate to arrange with an outfitter for a take-out prior to Harrisville Pond, shortening the trip. Nearby Atsion Lake provides more-leisurely paddling, as well as swimming and camping with shower facilities.

Where to Eat Nearby:

It’s best to bring food with you.


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