This diverse 3,500-acre preserve is not only the largest Nature Conservancy Preserve in NJ; it is also home to 32 rare plants and 15 threatened or endangered species of birds. The reason this area is so very special is due mainly to the pristine water quality and the undisturbed nature of the area.
The preserve was established in 1983, additions came later as former industrial sites were closed down. The park borders the Manumuskin River which is 12 miles long and empties into the Maurice River and ultimately to the Delaware Bay.
How To Access This Trail
There are lots of paths in this preserve, none of them well marked. I’m going to tell you where we went and how we got there, but this place is a good advertisement for using the AllTrails App.
We parked in a dead end and walked into the woods on a sandy path surrounded by Virginia pine trees. The river was to our right and the pine forest had an other worldly quality. The sounds of birds were everywhere.
Bear right at the first fork. From here there are nice views of the river and the wild rice wetlands. We heard more red winged blackbirds than we could spot. Follow along the river. Occasionally we saw white oak and northern bayberry bushes as we walked. At this time, we had not had rain in the area for 12 days so the river was pretty dry and the mudflats were in plain view.
Cross the little plank bridge and you’ll come to the railroad tracks. If you head to the right, you can do a nice little out and back to get a good view of the river from the train bridge. Head back the way you came along the tracks. You’ll see a sandy path on the right.
This path will lead you to the first blue hole. For those of you, like me, unfamiliar with blue holes, time for a little education. Blue holes are former mine sites. They are brightly colored due to the high sulfate content and abundance of blue-green algae. The water is not safe to drink or swim in (dogs either). Blue holes have unpredictable currents, sand like quicksand and there’s always the possibility of industrial debris at the bottom. So blue holes are beautiful for, look don’t touch observation.
After this blue hole take the trail to the right and you’ll come to the buried car. Further along this trail you’ll see the remnants of a large concrete industrial site. There’s a lot to explore here. European development began in this area around 1720. We didn’t go there today, but there are remnants of the Fries Mill gristmill and other homes on another part of the trail. This area was once a hub of industrial activity.
Follow the trail to the right and cross the tracks again. You’ll cross a large sandy area and come to a second blue hole. You can walk along the lake to the left here which leads to a nice pine needled trail beside a stream bank. Make a right and you’ll soon be back on the initial trail you came in on.
This preserve is large, there’s a lot to see, almost too much for one day. The terrain includes mudflats, rivers, blue holes, sandy beaches, forest and grassy meadow. The Lenape named the Manumuskin River and made this place their home. After just one visit, it’s easy to see why.