White Lake is county park that is managed by Ridge and Valley Conservancy, which participated in the initial purchase of this preserve. The preserve is highly sensitive ecologically, but visitors can paddle and hike on it. The main parking and boat launch area located on
97 Stillwater Rd. / Route 521 in Hardwick near the intersection with Spring Valley Rd. Across the street are White Lake WMA and the historic Vass Farmstead. Additional trailheads can be found north and south of the main parking area on Stillwater Rd., and at the intersection of Spring Valley Rd. and Primrose Rd.
Beginning May 3, 2017
FREE Open Kayaking
Fridays 4:00 - 7:00 pm
Wednesdays 9:00 - noon
Sundays 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Second Saturday of each month 9:00 am - 12:00 noon
A limited amount of kayaks are available on a first-come,
first-serve basis for the public to enjoy. Life vests and paddles are included.
Group Reservations available with a one week minimum notice. Please contact our Preserve Manager at (973) 937-8748
our preserve managers
Preserve Managers Courtney Gabriel and James Watling manage the sensitive ecology at White Lake, assist the public and coordinate volunteer efforts. Look for their distinctive yellow hats.
Moonlight Paddles on the Lake
Join us for a moonlight paddle on the placid waters of White Lake. A limited number of kayaks will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The park will remain open during these hours for other park activities.
Wednesday, September 6, 7:30 pm (moon rise @7:48 pm)
other programs and nature events
For a full list of upcoming events such as yoga, meditative walks, and nature tours, check out our events page.
habitat and Conservation
White Lake derives its name from the white shell deposits (shell marl) that compose the lake bed. The deep deposits of marl which produce elevated pH levels in soil and water have given rise to the lake’s surrounding sensitive limestone fen, forest, and pond shore communities. These ecosystems are home to many rare grasses, sedges, and invertebrates that thrive in calcium-rich sediment, making this property a regional conservation priority. This combination of geological and ecological conditions is responsible for the beautiful clear waters of White Lake, a rare sight created by rare habitat!
The variety of sensitive habitats associated with White Lake require careful stewardship in order to maintain a balance between public recreation and conservation. The Ridge and Valley Conservancy takes on this task by encouraging low-impact, sustainable uses of the property, including kayaking, educational nature programs, yoga and photography, while prohibiting activities that pose harm to sensitive habitats, such as the marl fen skirting the edges of the lake. Compliance with these cautions is imperative in order to preserve ecosystem balance at White Lake, keeping the waters clear and the rare plants thriving. The Ridge and Valley Conservancy also actively works to restore the less-sensitive habitats surrounding White Lake. Whether through invasive-plant removal, native plantings or recreation management, RVC is always working to make White Lake Park Preserve more habitable, not just for public recreation, but also for the animal and plant species that contribute to the property’s beauty and ecological value.
The building that has long since been reduced to the ruins known as the Marl Works at White Lake, was originally built as an ice house around 1888. Local farmers found winter employment cutting 300-pound blocks of ice from the lake, which were stored in the building packed in sawdust to insulate them until they were shipped to market. Although the ice harvesting operation conducted here did not last long, the building remained and was repurposed several times. In 1891 the Marksboro Fertilizer Works was established, utilizing the building to store the marl that was dug out of the lake. After drying out, the marl was shipped all over the state for fertilizer and sanitation purposes. This lasted until 1899, when the company stopped producing marl for fertilizer. By 1900, after a series of experiments to determine what the marl could be used for, and after some local land-owners sold their properties surrounding the lake, the Marksboro Cement Company owned the lake and surrounding areas. In 1904, after thousands of dollars of input, the plant stopped running without any announcement of when it would resume. In 1908 the Warren Portland Cement Company issued a small publication highlighting the economic value of the shell marl deposits at White Lake. These efforts to revive the marl works were unsuccessful, however, and by 1911 the building came full circle by once again becoming an ice house. By 1929 the building was reported to be vacant and in ruins.
People have implemented a variety of practices to utilize the extensive limestone deposits found in this region. For example, in the 17th century early settlers farmed much of the soil to exhaustion. Later on, German immigrants arrived, bringing with them the tradition of “sweetening” their soil with burnt lime as fertilizer, effectively raising the pH of the soil. The spread of this practice along with the easy availability of limestone rock, prompted many farmsteads to construct their own lime kilns. There was even a lime kiln located near the future site of the Marl Works, which can be found on the White Lake property, where the Green Trail meets the Ridge and Valley Trail.
White Lake lies in the Great Limestone Valley in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Northeast-to-southwest oriented ridge formations, rock outcroppings, sinkholes, and caves distinguish the landscape of the Great Limestone Valley. This variable topography was modified by the advance and retreat of the Wisconsin glacier, which receded from the area nearly 15,000 years ago. The glacier may have deepened an existing sinkhole pond at White Lake and, when it melted, deposited sand and gravel around its edges. The dolomite ridges and limestone valleys support unique and globally rare plants and communities found on soils with elevated pH that are derived from weathering of the underlying calcareous bedrock.
White Lake itself is a 69 acre spring-fed sinkhole formed in this -“karst landscape”- of limestone-associated geologic features. It began to form as a small pre-glacial lake dammed by till (mixture of boulders, gravel, sand, and clay deposited directly by glacial ice during an earlier glaciation) along the narrow section south of the lake. The lake was covered by ice during the Wisconsin Glaciation, increasing the lakes depth as meltwater became ponded in the expanded basin. Today the lake’s greatest depth is about 44 feet.