The Nieuwkoop Lakes
Nature reserve and recreational area
The Nieuwkoop Lakes is both a nature reserve and a recreational area. The area covers 1400 hectares and is enclosed by the towns of Nieuwkoop, Noorden, Woerdense Verlaat and De Meije. The lakes were created in the 16th century through local peat extraction. In the meantime, it has grown into a true paradise for recreation and nature lovers.
It’s a wonderful place to sail or fish with the chance of catching a pike, pikeperch or carp. If the temperature allows it, the lakes freeze into a big skating rink and skating tours become very popular. Ice-sailing is also a popular pastime in the winter, and the boats for this sport are built right here in Nieuwkoop. People from all over the country come to Nieuwkoop for such an experience!
The Nieuwkoop Lakes are protected by the government. This means that not every area may be accessed by the public, because it’s a place where rare birds breed, or vulnerable plants grow. However, there is more than enough nature for everyone to explore. A short walk from the Dorpsstraat (mainstreet) of Nieuwkoop, two fairly shallow lakes are situated, the Noordeinderplas and Zuideinderplas. From the small town of De Meije, with the water tower which was given the nickname ‘The Pencil’, runs a path, the Meijepad, straight across the Zuideinderplas, with a wooden bridge in the middle to let boats pass from one part of the lake to the other.
The big lakes are very popular with locals and tourists. The smaller waterways and lakes are perfect for trips by rowing boat or canoe. Along the Zuideinde lie several harbours and boat rental areas. A little to the north and east there are a few lakes that are considerably smaller, such as the Maarten FreekeWeije. These can be reached by canoe, rowing boat and electric boat. On the lakes normal boats are allowed as well, as long as you have a permit. Close to the town of Noorden there is a sheltered area where a route for canoes has been laid out.
Next to the lakes and waterways, this area also contains a huge area of beautiful, waving reed lands. The cultivation of reed still uses a large part of the area and is a big source of work for the locals. Often, these ‘rietsnijders’ or reed cutters also work as roofers, and sometimes as a fishermen or entrepeneurs.
The Nieuwkoop Lakes change to meadows and swamps with narrow waterways along the small, winding river ‘De Meije’ in the east. This river runs from Woerdense Verlaat to Zwammerdam. Next to the river lies the traditional town of De Meije, where many individual farms can still be admired. On the north side, this town changes back to open water. This can also be seen from the road, and you have the possibility to explore the area by walking through De Haeck. This is a unique opportunity, because this is usually not possible in areas such as this.
Bring your binoculars! Bird lovers will have the time of their lives here. The reed lands are a popular breeding area for many marsh birds, such as the large and small reedwarbler and Savi’s warbler. The increasingly rare black stern also breed in sheltered places that have been created for them. On the smaller lakes, seagulls have been spotted breeding as well. Hidden in the reeds live the bittern, reedwarbler and Savi’s warbler. In the winter, this area is known for attracting huge amounts of geese and many kinds of ducks, grebes and cranes.
In tall trees, large breeding colonies of cormorants can be found. The purple heron seems to prefer bushes of chokeberry to breed in. The area has been appointed as a special reserve where birds are to be protected, and certain areas may not always be accessible because of this.
Information for sailors
General information about bridges and locks, permits, speed limits and others can be found here.
The Nieuwkoop Lakes are a part of the Natura 2000 area: Nieuwkoopse Plassen & De Haeck and covers 2078 hectares.