“Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.” – Napoleon Bonaparte.
When Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated at Waterloo in 1815, he was exiled to the island of Elba; but did you know his brother Joseph was much more fortunate? He fled to the US and established a 60-acre estate at Point Breeze in Bordentown. All that remains today is the gardener’s house on this land, now occupied by a missionary group. The State of NJ and several other groups have recently organized to reclaim this land and establish what is soon to be our newest state park.
Before the Bonaparte Estate, the 3,000 acres of open space known as Abbotts’s Marsh was called Lenapehoking by the Lenape tribe. They freely roamed the area between Trenton and Bordentown with its abundance of marsh wildlife and chestnut oaks, mountain laurel, and great rhododendron.
In 1996 the area was named “Abbott’s Marsh” after the famous naturalist and archeologist Dr. Charles Conrad Abbott, and it is now part of the vast Delaware & Raritan State Park system. Having lived in New Jersey for over 40 years and not knowing about the Bonaparte connection, we decided this was an excellent time to make our first visit to this area to see it before things changed here.
The trail is called “Bordentown Bluffs,” The trailhead is on a bit of side street right off Rt. 206. It is 2.8 miles out and back and runs along the bluff overlooking the marsh and Crosswicks Creek. We went in the summer, and hearing the word “marsh,” we loaded up on bug spray. This proved to be almost unnecessary because, as the name implies, Point Breeze was more excellent due to the heavy tree canopy, and the breezes did prevent any bugs from annoying us at all. It was fantastic, breezy, and shady – perfect for a summer hike.
At the beginning of the trail, we heard lots of summer songbirds but couldn’t spot them as they hid in the thick tree cover. A box turtle walked right in front of us across the trail, which was an incredible surprise.
During the summer, the views from the bluffs are obscured by the heavy foliage but don’t worry; there’s still plenty to see here. Besides the beautiful trees, this forest is alive with mushrooms! It’s a mycologist’s dream due to the wet, dark soil. I’m no mycologist (and I don’t play one on TV), but there were a couple I could identify and some I had to look up. The colors ranged from white, brown, blue, black, red, and bright orange. On this trail, my advice is – look down! Among our findings: Russula Perugina, black trumpets, Russula emetica, Russula virescens, amanita frosting, and my favorite, turkey tail.
There’s an only well-trodden trail through here, and they do have a couple of arrows up to assist you. It’s a nice hike for a summer’s day. I can easily see why Bonaparte would choose to retreat to this pastoral setting.
We’re looking forward to the opening of the new park, and we’re glad we had our chance to take our little walk through history so close to home.