at sunset seen from Bertrand Island
|Location||Morris / Sussex counties, New Jersey, USA|
|Type||natural lake, reservoir|
|Primary outflows||Musconetcong River|
|Basin countries||United States|
|Surface area||4 sq mi (10 km2)|
Lake Hopatcong is the largest freshwater body in New Jersey, United States. About 4 square miles (10 km²) in area, the lake is in the state's northern mountains, north of Netcong and along the border between Sussex and Morris counties. The lake sits within four municipalities: Hopatcong, Jefferson Township, Roxbury Township, and Mount Arlington.
In the 18th century, the lake existed in two separate parts known as the "Great Pond" on the south and "Little Pond" on the north. A natural body of water, the lake has been enlarged by damming of the Musconetcong River, its natural outlet, on the southern side of the lake.
The exact origin of its name is unknown, but linguists believe "Hopatcong" to be a derivative of the Lenape word hapakonoesson, meaning "pipe stone". A definition perhaps more widely known is "honey waters of many coves", invented at the beginning of the 20th century to stimulate tourism.
Before the arrival of Europeans, the current lake area contained two separate lakes that were the sites of Lenape villages. The waters of the lakes were important to the traditions of the matrilineal clans of Native American who had lived in the area for thousands of years. They farmed, fished, and hunted here. Following their traditions, many Amerindians came to this lake to drink before significant ceremonies.
In 1750, a dam was built on the Musconetcong River where it empties from the lake, raising the water level by about six feet (2 m) and joining the two lakes into one.
With the arrival of passenger rail service in 1883, the lake became a popular summer resort. Bertrand Island Amusement Park, which flourished until the 1930s, was a major attraction that was open for the late spring, summer, and early fall seasons. After World War II the park was open only during the summer. The amusement park closed completely in 1983, but the lake continues to be a popular recreational destination for the region.
Lake Hopatcong hosted several strong chess tournaments in the 1920s, including the Ninth American Chess Congress in 1923, which was won by Frank Marshall and Abraham Kupchik, and another tournament in 1926, which was won by world champion José Raúl Capablanca.
Lake Hopatcong, unlike most lakes in New Jersey (other than Greenwood Lake on the New York border and Lake Lackawanna in Byram), has bars and restaurants that are accessible directly by boat. Popular tourist attractions on the lake include the Hopatcong State Park, The Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum, and the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club.
Several species of trout are stocked each year, although they have not typically held over and survived the summers, due to an absence of cold, deep, oxygenated pockets of water in the lake. Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, sunfish, yellow and white perch, rock bass, bluegill, crappie, chain pickerel, channel catfish, bullhead, and carp all inhabit the lake. Eels also have been caught. Hybrid striped bass, walleye, and most recently, muskellunge have all been stocked successfully within the last few decades and now are thriving. Catfish also are stocked from time to time. The main forage is the abundant alewife herring, (Clupea vernalis), the basis of the lake's fish food chain.
Every five years, starting the day after Labor Day, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) water level management plan allows the lake to be lowered five feet to allow for inspection of the dam structure, property owners’ repairs to lakeshore structures, aquatic vegetation control, and silt and drainage material removal from areas around the lake.
From December 2008 to January 2009, the DEP left the dam open almost three weeks too long, which caused the water level to drop almost a foot below the normal drawdown level. A coalition of residents and business owners filed suit against the DEP and the State of New Jersey, and it is currently being appealed in local court. The suit claims that the DEP, against their own policy, carelessly allowed an excess of 1.5 billion US gallons (5,700,000 m3) of water to be released through the dam.
On May 11, 2009, the American Power Boat Association (APBA) and the Lake Hopatcong Racing Association (LHRA) decided to postpone their annual races due to the low water level. However, with the large amount of rainfall that was recorded in the month of June, the lake returned to its proper level above the normal average depth. The return of the water level came just in time for the beginning of summer and the arrival of the weather required for boating.
- "EPA brings $745K to Lake Hopatcong". (December 1, 2005). Roxbury Register, pp. 1–2.