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Union Lake is an 898-acre reservoir located in the town of Millville in southern New Jersey. The lake dates back to the 1790s, when the damming of the Maurice River created a small reservoir used to power a local mill. The lake was bought by the Millville Manufacturing Company in 1868 and a new dam was built downstream that increased the lake to its present size of four miles long and one mile wide. In 1982 the lake and 5,000 acres surrounding it were sold to the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, who rebuilt the aging dam and turned the lake and the surrounding land into a wildlife management area. Union Lake is the largest freshwater lake in southern New Jersey and a popular place for fishing, swimming, and boating.
Union Lake is especially known for its bass fishing, and bass tournaments are a common occurrence on the lake. The lake is home to both largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife has placed special emphasis on stocking the lake with smallmouth bass since there a so few places in southern New Jersey that these fish can be found. Union Lake is also home to striped bass, which is unusual for an inland lake. In addition to bass, yellow perch, white perch, crappie, chain pickerel, channel catfish, and sunfish can all be found in Union Lake. The addition of man-made structures such as Christmas tree reefs and tire reefs in the lake have helped make it an ideal habitat for these fish. Anglers can access the lake via two public boat launches. There is a 10 horsepower limit on motorboats in the lake.
Union Lake isn't just for fishing boats: sailboats, canoes, and kayaks are also welcome at the lake. The lake is a popular place for sailing, and local sailing clubs often host regattas there in the summer. Sailing enthusiasts of all ages can be found gliding across the lake's warm waters on weekend afternoons. Canoes and kayaks can be seen paddling the lake, or using it as a starting point for a longer trip down the Maurice River, part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Union Lake is a perfect summertime destination even if you don't have a boat. Union Lake Park has a swimming beach that is open in the summer, complete with a concession stand, playground, softball field, and beach volleyball court.
Nature lovers can enjoy Union Lake's status as a wildlife management area. There are many miles of unmarked trail curving through the forest and along the lake's shoreline, perfect for hiking, biking, or horseback riding. Birdwatchers can expect to see bald eagles, who often nest at the lake, as well as osprey, several varieties of ducks, and wild turkeys. In the fall, the forest is full of birds beginning their migration, and purple martins can often be seen by the thousands. Hunting is available by permit, and deer, turkey, and waterfowl are plentiful at Union Lake.
If you are planning a trip to southern New Jersey, don't overlook this little lake. There's plenty to do, from bass fishing to birdwatching. Union Lake is the perfect place to enjoy a little of the Garden State's natural beauty.
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