Oradell Reservoir: Everything You Need To Know

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The Oradell Reservoir is a magnificent dam located in the district of Oradell, Bergen County, New Jersey. However, this reservoir goes beyond the borders of the close-by districts, including Harrington Park, Closter, Emerson, and Hawthorn.

It is owned and ran as a public water supply by SUEZ, which is a private company that was formerly known as United Waters. This company is tasked with supplying clean water in Oradell and hosting various recreational activities on the reservoir.

The Oradell Reservoir draws its water from Dwars Kill, Pascack Brook, and the Hackensack Rivers. It neighbors several other reservoirs from upstream. These are the Lake DeForest that’s in New York’s, Rockland County, Woodcliff Lake Reservoir in Bergen County, and Lake Tappan. Oradell Reservoir is encircled by a coniferous and deciduous forest thicket.

A brief history of the Oradell Reservoir

The construction of the Oradell Reservoir began in 1901. At first, it was a mere millpond. Later, it was transformed into a low timber-crib dam by engineers. That was in 1911. Between 1921 and 1923, the low timber-crib dam went through a major overhaul to become a fully-fledged reservoir that’s now known as the Oradell Reservoir.


The Oradell Reservoir and its tributaries enjoy the category 1 water protection in New Jersey. This protection is accorded to water bodies with a recreational significance, exceptional fisheries resources, and ecological significance. And most importantly, clean water sources. In this case, clean water refers to the water bodies that don’t pose a significant risk to human life.

Apart from that, there are active local conservation groups such as the Bergen Save the Watershed Network. These groups have played an integral role in slowing down development projects that would interfere with the Oradell Reservoir. They are more focused on safeguarding and preserving this habitat.

Recreational activities at the Oradell Reservoir

Fishing activities

The Oradell Reservoir is home to a variety of fish. Numerous fishing spots attract dozens of fishermen. The varieties of fish include bullhead, brown trout, largemouth bass, white perch, crappie, and bluegill.

It doesn’t matter how you like to go fishing. Be it fly fishing or bait catching, there is plenty of fish to be caught in this reservoir. However, you require a valid New Jersey or New York state fishing license to fish in the reservoir. This is for everyone who is over 16 years and intends to fish with a bow and arrow, handline, or rod and line.

Besides fishing, there are various recreational activities held at the Oradell Reservoir. Collective recreational activities are held under the SUEZ Watershed recreational program, including hiking, birding as well as fishing.

Those with a permit are allowed to access designated areas, which include the Oradell Reservoir. The others are Lake Tappan, Woodcliff Lake, and Lake DeForest. Participants are granted permission to access the watershed and have fun. Those with disabilities aren’t left behind as there are designated areas they can use to access the reservoir.

Children between the ages of 6-12 years are also welcomed. The program assigns rangers to accompany these children at all times for safety purposes.

To take part in this program, you have to pay. Relevant recreational permits can be bought at www.suez.watershed.com. For detailed information on this recreational program, you can visit their website.

SUEZ (formerly known as United Waters) is responsible for issuing various permits. This includes the parking permits, which must be displayed on the vehicle’s windows. They also provide badges that have to be worn by the public at all times.

The public is instructed not to throw litter and debris in the water. A water body of its significance has to be kept pure because there are millions of people who depend on it.


Birding activities

The reservoir is open for the better part of the year. That is throughout the fall and winter. This makes it a perfect habitat for birds during migration.

Mergansers are some of the commonly seen birds during the fall season. Normally, they appear in large numbers and it is estimated that the area is inhabited by about 7000 birds during this time.

The wintering waterfowl species include Double-crested cormorants, Canada Geese, and Mallards. The woodlands surrounding the reservoir are known for Bald Eagles as they provide incredible perching spots for these birds.

A variety of passerines can also be seen in the woodlands from time to time. Usually, this is just a stopover habitat for this species.

Other birds that have been seen in this area include the Eastern kingbird, greater scaup, snowy egret, tufted titmouse, mute swan, pied-billed grebe, and common loom.

With that being said, the Oradell Reservoir is a great site for bird lovers. There are several strategic birding spots worth exploring.

Hiking and walking

There are some excellent hiking and walking routes in the Oradell Reservoir area. What’s more, is that they are open to the public from April 1 to 30th November. This is seven days a week from morning to sunset.

The Oradell Reservoir is home to several walking and hiking routes. Some groups organize nature walks along the shores of the reservoir. Bikes may not be allowed in the reservoir, but there are neighboring areas with superb trails for biking.

The reservoir has over 90 acres set aside for recreational purposes. Most of it can be explored on foot. It is also suitable for those who fancy dog walking.

People are advised to carry their refreshments for longer walks. This is because social amenities along the trails are limited.


Kayaking challenges are held at the Oradell Reservoir once in a while. People either rent or bring their boats. The challenges are rare events organized at any time of the year. You’d have to stay on the lookout if you want to catch the next one.

Rules to observe while in the reservoir

  • Children below the age of 16 must be accompanied by a guardian
  • Participants are allowed to bring food, but they are required to thoroughly clean up thereafter. All trash should be carried out of the reservoir
  • Alcoholic beverages are not allowed for safety reasons
  • Hunting, biking, barbecue grills, and campfires are strictly prohibited
  • Wading and swimming is not allowed

The importance and beauty of the Oradell Reservoir is undeniable. Millions of people rely on fresh water supplies from this reservoir. Apart from that, it is open for the public to enjoy the watershed and other recreational activities. Since the area is protected, it hasn’t been encroached by developments that would otherwise endanger it as a habitat. This makes it an incredible habitat for birds and fish, as well as a great area for the public to unwind.