Native Lenape Native Americans were known to travel the Minisink Trail for centuries before Europeans arrived in New Jersey. Part of that trail cut across what is now southern Denville, roughly following the course ofRoute 10 and Mount Pleasant Turnpike. Some research has indicated that there was a Lenape campsite along the trail in Denville, on or near the Ayres / Knuth Farm Historic Site along Route 10.
When Dutch and English settlers began to arrive in the new world in the early 17th century, the Minisink Trail was the likely route they traveled to explore the interior. Daniel Denton, one of the purchasers of what is known as the Elizabethtown Tract in 1664, led an expedition into the interior of northern New Jersey. In 1670, he wrote the first English language description of the area. Some researchers conclude that the name "Denville" derives from Denton.
hman in the year 1800, recounts some of the oral history of Denville from 50 years earlier, as stated to him by some of the elders of the time. Hinchman explains in his letter that the naming of Denville can be traced to a "den" of wild animals located in the swampy regions along the Denbrook and Rockaway River. The animals would bask on a knoll that juts out into the meadows where they were hunted by the native Lenape. This "den", Hinchman states, was the basis for the name of Denville and the Denbrook.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the township had a total area of 12.641 square miles (32.741 km2), including 11.867 square miles (30.736 km2) of land and 0.774 square miles (2.005 km2) of water (6.12%).
Unincorporated communities, localities and place names located partially or completely within the township include Cedar Lake, Cooks Pond, Cooper Lake, Franklin, Indian Lake, Lake Arrowhead, Lake Estling, Lake Openaka, Openaka Lake, Rock Ridge, Snake Hill and Union Hill.
Neighboring towns include Morris County communities Mountain Lakes and Parsippany-Troy Hills to the east, Randolph to the south and west, Rockaway Borough to the west and Rockaway Township to the north and west as well as Boonton Township to the north.
The Tourne county park is in portions of Denville, Boonton Township and Mountain Lakes. The park covers more than 540 acres (220 ha) of undeveloped land and offers a view of the New York City skyline from its peak standing 897 feet (273 m) high.
Denville has 11 named bodies of water within township limits. The four major residential lake communities are Cedar Lake, Indian Lake, Rock Ridge and Lake Arrowhead (including Great Bay and Bay of Deep Waters). Estling Lake is a private summer community, which has some full year residents. The three minor lakes are Cooper Lake, Hollstein Lake, and Openaki Lake. The town also has Cooks Pond, a recreational lake available for public use by membership.
Most residents of Denville live in the non-lake communities in the township, including Bald Hill, Union Hill, Beacon Hill, Ivy Crest, and Denville Farms communities among others.
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