Merrill Creek Reservoir is located in Harmony Township, Warren County, New Jersey. It is a popular destination for fishing, paddling and hiking. There are several miles of trails available to hikers offering a variety of terrains.
Kayakers especially love to paddle here on the 650-acre impoundment with its 5+ miles of shoreline, its abundant wildlife and the chance to paddle through several areas of submerged woods.
The reservoir was constructed in the late 1980’s to store water for release to the Delaware River during periods of low flow. During droughts, the stored water is released to replace river water used by several electric utility companies for their generating facilities along the Delaware.
More than 2,000 acres of woods and fields surround the reservoir, including a 290-acre environmental preserve. The preserve has trails for hikers and a bird blind for wildlife observation. Bikes and horses are not allowed on any trails at Merrill Creek, nor is fishing allowed in the preserve area. The trails are color-coded with the ½-mile red and the 2-mile blue trails offering views of submerged woods areas in the reservoir. The blue or Shoreline Trail has a little bit of everything for the hiker; trees, fields, rocky areas, hills and foundations of former buildings.
Sometimes trail maps are available at kiosks in the parking areas. Also, a printable trail map is available.
A variety of songbirds can be seen and heard in the woods along with bald eagles, hawks, gulls, ospreys, herons, ducks, geese, cormorants, loons and belted kingfishers over the water.
Deer are numerous and it’s not uncommon to easily see a dozen or more during a hike. Bear are also present but they are rarely seen. Though, some of the largest bruins in the state inhabit this area.
Hunting is allowed only in certain areas and by special permit only. Camping, swimming and picnicking are prohibited; as is smoking, except in parking areas. Pets are allowed but must be leashed.
There is also a 5.5-mile Perimeter Trail which encircles the entire reservoir and provides scenic spectacular views throughout the seasons, especially in the fall.
The lake is stocked with a variety of fish including lake and rainbow trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass. Fishing for lake trout has become increasingly popular with several notable catches, including some near state record size.
Electric motors only are allowed at the reservoir. All New Jersey State fishing and boating regulations apply, including fishing licenses, boat registration and numbering, and Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices (PFD's). (Non-powered kayaks and canoes do not need to be registered or numbered in NJ waters.) All boats, canoes and kayaks must be launched from the boat ramp, which is located on the east side of the reservoir. Launching is not permitted from the shoreline. The boat ramp is open during daylight hours, as posted.
The Merrill Creek Visitors Center is open 8:30 am to 4:30 pm on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends, year round, except for major holidays. The Visitors Center has restrooms and offers interactive kiosks, nature displays, historical exhibits, and a regular program of nature walks and workshops presented throughout the year.
Outdoor areas are open from dawn until dusk, seven days a week, year round.
Merrill Creek Reservoir can be easily reached from Route 22 in Phillipsburg. Bear left onto Route 57 where Route 22 veers right. Take Route 57 for 4.6 miles and turn left onto Montana Road, just after the Rossini Racing Store - Cycle Stuff, and go 2 miles. Bear left at the Y-intersection onto Richline Road. In 0.3 miles make a left turn on Merrill Creek Road. The boat ramp is straight ahead and the Visitors Center is down the roadway that veers to the right.