The Morris Canal & Lake Hopatcong, Part 2

Lake Hopatcong sat at the Canal’s summit, or highest point.  This allowed water to be fed both east and west from the Lake.  Along the way, other sources of water were linked - such as the Musconetcong, Passaic and Hackensack Rivers,  as well as Cranberry Lake, Bear Pond and Greenwood Lake.  Lake Musconetcong would be created by the Morris Canal Company in the1840’s to furnish an additional source of water for the Canal. 
morris_canal_-_eLake Hopatcong never actually was part of the Canal, but was linked to it by a fully navigable feeder canal which ran from the Lock at the present day Hopatcong State Park to the main body of the canal located just off of Lakeside Boulevard where the Pathmark supermarket is currently located.  Since the Lake was now some twelve feet above its natural level, boats entering the Lake needed to enter a canal lock and be elevated to the Lake’s level.      morris_canal_-_b
By providing a means to ship ore, the Morris Canal furnished a huge lift to the iron mines near Lake Hopatcong such as the Hurd, Weldon, Dodge, Schofield, and Ogden iron mines, as well as the Stirling Hill zinc mine.  Once the ore reached Lake Hopatcong, it had access to the Morris Canal and its route across New Jersey.  In the early years of the Morris Canal, the ore would be taken to the Lake from the mines by horse and wagon.  Much of this ore was hauled to the Lake’s northernmost section.  Known as Wood’s Port (later shortened to Woodport), this part of the Lake was closest to the majority of mines. Here the ore would be loaded onto boats and towed by a steam driven tug down the Lake to the feeder canal.  

morris_canal_-_dSince the Morris Canal required large amounts of water, it was not unusual for the lake to be down several feet or more by summer.  This could make the trip from Woodport to the feeder canal difficult, if not impossible.  This is probably why a second destination for ore developed in Henderson Cove.  From this location, ore would be towed in the same manner down the Lake to the feeder canal.
While the use of Lake Hopatcong allowed the mines to market their ore, it was by no means an optimum method of transportation.  The need to load the ore on horse and wagon in order to reach the Lake greatly limited production at the mines.  Direct access to the Morris Canal was needed.morris_canal_-_a
As railroads began to develop in the United States during the 1800's, the idea was advanced to connect the mines around Lake Hopatcong to the Morris Canal through a rail link.  Spurred by a much larger than average demand for iron ore during the Civil War, such a rail link was chartered in 1864.  At just 10 miles, the Ogden Mine Railroad started at the Ogden Mine in Ogdensburg, ran past the various mines in Jefferson, and ended at Nolan’s Point on Lake Hopatcong.  Nolan's Point was chosen as the Lake terminus because of its deep water location, which would allow the ore filled boats to be easily pulled across the Lake to the feeder canal.  No longer would the boats have to deal with the shallow water at Woodport.

morris_canal_-_cFrom its opening in 1866, the Ogden Mine Railroad became the largest single source of cargo for the Morris Canal.  It is a rare example of a railroad being built to support a canal rather than as a replacement.  However, as railroads emerged as the modern transportation alternative, it became clear that a railroad to support a canal contained an unnecessary step - the canal.  In 1881, the Central Railroad of New Jersey entered into a lease agreement with the Ogden Mine Railroad and took over operation of the line.  A connection was constructed from the Central Railroad’s main tracks to the east and was completed to Nolan’s Point in August 1882.  Ore from the various mines now proceeded to its destination without need for the Morris Canal.  For all intent and purpose, the fate of the Canal was now sealed. 
The first ore was taken out via the new Central Railroad service on August 18, 1882.  It did take long for operators of the railroad to realize that iron ore was not the only profitable cargo which could be carried.  After all, the former terminus of the Ogden Mine Railroad was located directly on New Jersey’s largest lake, just over one hour from numerous large cities.  On September 6, 1882, the first passenger service was conducted to Nolan’s Point.  On June 25, 1883, the Central Railroad commenced regular passenger service to Nolan's Point and the tourist boom at Lake Hopatcong was on!
While never realizing the future its founders had hoped, the Morris Canal created the Lake Hopatcong we know today and set in motion the events which led to the Lake’s rise as a great resort.

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