Highland Lakes, New Jersey, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - Mid-Atlantic - New Jersey - Skylands -

Also known as:  Lake Wawayanda, Lake Glenwood, Lake Pochung, Lake Wallkill, Pleasant Valley Lake, Tall Timbers Lake, Lake Panorama, Louemma Lake, Scenic Lakes, Highland Lake, East Highland Lake, Upper Highland Lake, Upper West Highland Lake, Lake Wanda

The Highland Lakes in New Jersey’s Skylands region have always been special. The Highland Lakes area includes the Vernon Valley, known as some of New Jersey’s most productive farmlands since Colonial times. Most lakes are the result of streams flowing from Pochuck and Wawayanda Mountains and dammed before the Revolutionary War. Some lakes are completely man-made while others are the result of small ponds enlarged by damming. Stretching north to the New York border, the Highland Lakes area was for many years the summer getaway destination for the well-to-do who built summer cottages along the many lakes. It is only in the past 50 years that development has increased and created whole communities of Lakelubbers.

Many lakes and large ponds are included in the Highland Lakes Management Area. Those named in most documents include Lake Wawayanda, Lake Pochung, Lake Glenwood, Pleasant Valley Lake, Lake Wallkill, Lake Panorama, Louemma Lake, Tall Timbers Lake, and the two Scenic Lakes (man-made) in the Scenic Lakes community. Five private Highland Lakes are often not listed in the Management Area (Highland Lake, East Highland Lake, Upper Highland Lake, Upper West Highland Lake, and Lake Wanda). The regional Master Plan states that over 122,000 acres of the area are wetlands, lakes and streams, but most lakes are small and only a few exceed 100 acres in size. Pochuck, a Lenape word meaning ‘out-of-the-way place,’ is not actually a mountain but a long ridge and one of the easternmost points in the Appalachian Mountains. The ridge separates the Wallkill River watershed from that of its tributary Pochuck Creek. The Appalachian Trail’s Highland Lakes section travels across this ridge and includes one of its most popular and accessible areas: the Pochuck Boardwalk. This boardwalk across some of the wetlands includes a suspension bridge and a ground-level view of the area’s wildlife and lush greenery.

Most of the area is within Vernon Township. Lake Wawayanda is the only lake of any size that is open to the general public. Many of the lakes have their own unincorporated communities with homeowners’ associations, local necessity shopping and community events. Property ownership varies from community to community, with Lake Pochung primarily building on land leased from the local association. Most of the lakes are private with access limited to members. Property owners enjoy water skiing, fishing, swimming and boating. These communities often have their own beaches and parks for members, with boat slip permits purchased by boat owners. A few private guest rentals are the only options for lodgings on these lakes.

The private Community of Highland Lakes is under the governance of a private association that manages all property and access to the five lakes, seven beaches and multiple recreational facilities. All property owners pay an initiation fee and annual dues to the Highland Lakes Country Club and Community Association. Located just outside of Wawayanda State Park, there is no public access to any of the lakes. However, a great many homeowners in the area offer their homes as short-term guest rentals, making the Highland Lakes one of the areas most often seen by visitors. Unfortunately, there are no statistics published for lake sizes or fish present.

A number of public hiking trails can be accessed in the area. Besides the Highland Lakes section of the Appalachian Trail, Wawayanda State Park on the northeastern edge of the area offers over 60 miles of hiking trails, camping, nature tours and 265-acre Lake Wawayanda for swimming and fishing. Lake Wawayanda is stocked regularly with landlocked salmon and trout. Largemouth bass, yellow perch, crappie, catfish, pickerel and sunfish are also caught. This lake is one of the few lakes in the Highland Lakes area that is deep enough to provide the cooler water necessary to support landlocked salmon, so it draws a large number of fishermen. The Day Use area offers swimming, picnicking, playground, canoe rental, concession stand and boat launch. A Wildlife Diversity Tour within the park’s 18,235 acres encompasses forest, ravines and a 2,167-acre swamp. The park’s trails are popular for winter sports such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, while the lake is used for ice skating. Some areas are open for snowmobiling. A historic iron furnace is located within the park near the camping area. The lake’s dam originally provided water power for the furnace in the 1840s.

One of the most accessible entrances to this section of the Appalachian Trail is located in Wawayanda State Park. A popular hike with steep grades and spectacular views, this part of the Trail is probably best for those in good physical health with plenty of stamina. A less strenuous mountain to climb is Pochuck Mountain with views to the west toward the Wallkill River. The Appalachian Trail runs across this mountain ridge also, so the trails see plenty of visitors in good weather. Bears are common in the area, and many hikers are most excited to report having glimpsed one somewhere along the trail.

Because the Highland Lakes area now faces increasing pressure from development, several local and regional agencies are involved in developing management plans to protect the wetlands, streams and lakes from possible adverse consequences from over-development. Future housing development is to be closely monitored and limited to specified areas. Provisions for new developments, sewer and water supplies must meet new regulations designed to protect both the watershed and the health of native species. The number of lakes leads to a wide range of real estate prices, with something in nearly every price range. Amenities in the immediate area depend on the local community. Highland Lakes community, for example, includes a country club and golf course and seven membership beaches. A few vacation rentals can be found on some of the lakes, while bed & breakfasts and inns exist in the surrounding countryside. The area is noted for excellent farmers’ markets and a generally genial and relaxed population of lake dwellers.

So, if you thought there was no place to vacation within 50 miles of the New Jersey coastline, you must check out the Highland Lakes. Come spend a few days exploring Lake Wawayanda, the Appalachian Trail and the many lake communities in the Highland Lakes region. You will be amazed that these lakes have escaped your notice.

*Statistics are for Lake Wawayanda only. The other lakes have no reliable statistics found.

Things to do at Highland Lakes

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Water Skiing
  • Golf
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Ice Skating
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Snowshoeing
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • State Park
  • Playground
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Highland Lakes

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Pickerel
  • Pike
  • Salmon
  • Sunfish
  • Trout
  • Yellow Perch

Highland Lakes Photo Gallery

Highland Lakes Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Surface Area: 265 acres

Shoreline Length: 3 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,143 feet

Average Depth: 30 feet

Maximum Depth: 80 feet

Completion Year: 1872

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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