Looking towards the creek's mouth as seen from Front Street in Keyport
Keyport, New Jersey
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|Basin size||1,100 sq mi (700,000 acres; 2,800 km2)|
Matawan Creek's main flow begins as Bakers Brook in Marlboro Township, Monmouth County, north of the intersection of Tennent and Woolleytown Roads. From this point it flows northward through Marlboro and Aberdeen Townships to a point near the Middlesex County line, where it turns in a northeasterly direction. Birch Swamp Brook enters from the right; below this confluence is the impoundment, Lake Lefferts. The section of Bakers Brook in Aberdeen Township is also known as Matawan Brook.
Lake Lefferts lies in Aberdeen Township and Matawan Borough and passes under County Route 516 and New Jersey Route 34. Below the dam at Ravine Drive Matawan Creek becomes a tidal estuary, meandering through a salt marsh to its mouth. Here it receives the flow of Gravelly Brook, Clapboard Creek and Mohingson Creek and reenters Aberdeen Township. This section was formerly navigable to commercial shipping.
Between the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Route 35 the creek becomes navigable for small private craft and some residences fronting upon the creek have private docks. Downstream of Route 35 are several marinas, although since both the bridge at Route 35 and that at County Route 6 have a low clearance, vessels with masts must remain downstream of County Route 6. From Route 35 to the mouth Matawan Creek forms the boundary between Aberdeen Township and Keyport Borough. There are no further bridges downstream of County Route 6 and Matawan Creek empties into Keyport Harbor, an arm of Raritan Bay.
Although not a tributary of Matawan Creek, Luppatatong Creek enters Keyport Harbor very near to the mouth of Matawan Creek.
Matawan Creek derives its name from Matawan Neck, situated between Matawan Creek and Whale Creek. During the 17th and 18th centuries this was the plantation of Thomas Rudyard and later Andrew Bowne. This land is now Cliffwood and Cliffwood Beach in Aberdeen Township. It may originate from the Southern Unami Matawonge, "bad riverbank" or "bad hill", a possible reference to bluffs along Raritan Bay which were subject to erosion and collapse prior to the construction of a seawall in the 1970s. Another possible source is Matawan, Northern Unami for "bad fog", which may have referred to fog generated on Raritan Bay.
During the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916, the creek was made infamous due to the shark attack on July 12, 1916, occurring 15 miles (25 km) from the ocean. A shark or sharks killed 11-year-old Lester Stillwell and his 24-year-old would-be rescuer Watson "Stanley" Fisher and severely injured 14-year-old Joseph Dunn later that same day.
This account, in addition to a number of other shark attacks in the local area, were believed to have been the inspiration for the popular novel Jaws, written by Peter Benchley, who in turn co-wrote the screenplay for the blockbuster film of the same name directed by Steven Spielberg. Benchley, however, has denied this. Daniel Magarino, biologist and Professor at Regency University, Staffordshire, England is conducting a study to determine whether the species involved was a bull or white shark. Results are pending.
- Bakers Brook
- Birch Swamp Brook
- Clapboard Creek
- Gravelly Brook
- Mohingson Creek
- Joe's Hole
- Manhattan to Minisink: American Indian Place Names in Greater New York and Vicinity; Robert S. Grumet; University of Oklahoma Press; Norman, OK; 2013; p. 84
- Fernicola, Richard G., Twelve Days of Terror, pp. 45–50.
- "Corrections". New York Times. September 8, 2001.