From Hackensack River to Oradell Reservoir
A Journey into Oradell
Over the past few months we’ve related how Oradell was once a resort community along the shores of a pristine Hackensack River, and how that all changed when the river was dredged to create what is now the Oradell Reservoir.
We’ve come across some images that help tell the story (Courtesy of J. Irving Crump’s Oradell: Biography of a Borough, 1969).
The first gives an indication of how the river looked during its heyday as a recreational destination. According to local histories, swimming, canoeing and fishing were activities that drew participants from near and far. It was considered as nice a place as there was, and it was all very accessible by rail.
Two other images show what happened next.
A first attempt at creating the reservoir was made in 1900. The bed of the Hackensack was dredged but the effort was deemed inadequate. The project, as well as the once bucolic river, were abandoned
It was not until a John C. Tierney built a second dredge modeled after the type used to construct the Panama Canal that the job was completed.
Eventually, the Oradell Reservoir would become a local water source. But folks no longer came to Oradell to fish, swim and boat as they once did. As described in an earlier “Journey into Oradell”, the Hotel Delford, once a premier destination for travelers, would shortly thereafter be closed and then ultimately razed.
Today, the Reservoir is a peaceful, though fenced in, place (owing to our age of security). A wide array of wild life can be found there. The place is occasionally even opened to scouts for a fishing derby and once a year to kayakers through the River keeper.
Those rare days of fishing and kayaking briefly provide a reminder of what regularly could be seen along the river north of Oradell in those days before it became a reservoir.
This piece was originally prepared for River Dell Patch - where it appeared in August, 2011.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Source Materials - Biography of A Borough: Oradell (1969), by Irving Crump; Oradell Centennial; 1894-1994…..Thanks to Borough Historian Frank Vierling for his guidance. And, a special thank you to Borough Archivist, George Carter for his ear, his support generally and in particular his help in securing historic pictures from the Borough/Library Collection….. The Archives, located at the Oradell Public Library, are open to the public the first Friday afternoon of the month from 1-5 p.m.