When River Edge’s River was a Summer Destination
Journeys into River Edge
These days summer often means time at the Swim Club, Down the Shore or traveling to places known for their outdoor activities.
Once River Edge was one of those outdoor destinations.
After the train arrived in the mid-Nineteenth Century , for a period of almost 50 years River Edge, Oradell and other stops along the new train line were vacation destinations for city folk seeking outdoor recreational activities such as swimming ,boating, canoeing and fishing.
In Musket Anchor & Plow, longtime local residents remembered those days:
“Shad and herring were caught in it (the river)’ a rowboat-full could be netted in a couple of hours. The New Bridge Boat Club held regattas and swimming contests; canoeists could rent boats at both Old Bridge and New Bridge, and residents and summer visitors enjoyed the sandy shore at Sandy Beach (Eden Beach) located on a promontory formed by a graceful bend in the river, south of the River Edge Diner”, wrote the authors, Naomi and George Howitt, describing recollections they collected (Howitt page 34).
In that history and our other one (The 1965 – The History of River Edge by Sigmund H. Uminski), Edwin Herrick, a life-long River Edge resident who was born here in 1896, remembered those summers:
“Almost everyone in town owned a canoe or boat of some kind. On Sundays there were many canoes and boats on the river filled with children and adults, enjoying a day on the river”
Many kids went swimming in the ‘alltogether’ in an area that came to be known as “Bare Bottom Beach’…The pilings of a long ago dock offered a good spot for a diving board”.
Referring to the plentiful fish in the river, Herrick recalled “for the price of a nickel any child could catch one fish and bring it home to his parents”.
That all ended when the pollution started during World War I – much of it from a waste disposal plant built along the river to handle waste from nearby Camp Merritt.
There was a considerable push in the 1970’s to create a Lake Hackensack which would provide for recreational activities but that plan stalled out.
Nowadays, there are occasional boats to be seen on the river, and at times a fishing pole can be seen being dropped into the river at the New Bridge. Moreover, a change is in the works - fishing and kayaking is about to return to the river. However, that is up the river at the long-dormant historic Hackensack Water Works in Oradell/New Milford.
Info Background: Musket Anchor & Plow – The Story of River Edge, Naomi & George Howitt, Arno Press 1976; The History of River Edge, Sigmund H. Uminski, Hauser Printing, 1965
Image: “Hackensack River – 1910” Postcard - Martha Szalay Scannell via Pinterest