Lake Hopatcong drawdown allows the discovery of hidden history

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North Jersey residents may have noticed that the state’s largest lake seems a bit empty lately.

This is due to the Lake Hopatcong drawdown that happens every five years. The dam gates between the lake and the Musconetcong River are opened, draining the lake 5 feet. This allows dock owners to do repairs and volunteers with the Lake Hopatcong Foundation to clean up the shallows.

But the drawdown also unveils some hidden parts of the lake, which are normally covered by water. Marty Kane is the foundation’s history expert and says that he loves to take a look at all the hidden aspects of the lake.

Some highlights are the remains of an old ore dock.

“This was a great ore dock where all the ore from Jefferson used to flow down from mines like the Dodge, the Scofield, the Weldon, the Herd Mines, the old Edison Mine. And it all came out here and was loaded on the boats and taken across the Morris Canal,” Kane says.

There are two wood pilings, which were part of a lock that stood at the juncture with the Morris and Essex Canal.

And there is also a rock path that leads to uninhabited Liffey Island. The island was home to a Boy Scout camp in the early 1910s and 1920s. No one knows who build the path, but Kane says that he figures it must have been the scouts.

It is an area of New Jersey that not many get to see.

Jefferson Township officials say that there are plans to build a walkway over the rock path that would allow hikers to have access to Liffey Island even when the lake is at its proper level.

The next drawdown for Lake Hopatcong will be in 2023.

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