Cranberries aren’t just for Thanksgiving; Whitesbog Preservation Trust is not just “a restored historic village in the Pine Barrens.” Originally founded in 1857 by the J.J. White Company as an active cranberry/blueberry production center, there’s so much more to see on these 3,600 acres located in Browns Mills.
The land for this preserve was purchased in 1960 as part of the former Lebanon State Forest. This diverse parcel includes; active cranberry bogs, blueberry fields, reservoirs, sugar sand roads, boardwalks, bridges, and white cedar forests. The village normally hosts a large Blueberry Festival every July.
Finding The Boardwalk Hike in Whitebog
Although maps are provided at the Main Entrance, there are not really blazed trails. We began our hike from the parking lot on the “Nature Trail.” The trail has a thick moss covering and is surrounded by swamps on both sides. The long boardwalk will wind you through lush ferns, holly, and white cedar trees under a canopy of bird song. There are benches along the way and more boardwalks eventually lead to a beautiful large tree framed this time of year by flowering rhododendron and mountain laurel. (Thank you Boy Scouts Troop 100 for the restored boardwalks!)
Explore The Footbridges in Whitebog Historic Village
At this point, we headed right and crossed several more footbridges. A field of the yellow wild iris was on the right and ferns and flowering shrubs were in abundance. This is where Elizabeth White had her native plant garden. The house where Elizabeth White lived from 1923-54 has been restored and the blueberry fields she began years ago still flourish here, as do her wildflowers.
It looked like there was a lot of work being done to clear these trails recently, lots of branches were removed. Since there are no blazes, we did wander a bit until we found our way to the old “Blueberry Trail.” Unfortunately, we didn’t get far before we found it too flooded out to proceed.
We headed back on the road towards the house again and walked down the sand road. Here is where we came to the first active cranberry bog. We walked to the right around the bog. You are allowed to walk or drive on these sandy roads. We saw lots of red-winged blackbirds and turtles out in the water and we heard the croaks from tons of frogs.
The vegetation we encountered at this preserve was truly noteworthy. The lakes had both white and red water lilies. We passed a magnolia tree as the first flowers were starting to bloom. Elizabeth White’s native plant garden was really lovely, but we now have a new favorite plant. The purple pitcher plant is a carnivorous plant that dwells on the edge of the bogs here looking for unsuspecting insects. We will be searching for these plants as we venture out into future bogs.
After walking the roads around the bogs, we headed back the way we came out. We then proceeded to drive for a while along these sandy trails to get a sense of the vastness of this property.
The cranberry is one of only two Native American fruits grown in wetlands, the other is the blueberry. Indigenous people used cranberry for food, medicine, and most fittingly, as a symbol of peace. Take a stroll through Whitesbog Preservation Trust woods and enjoy the peace on a lovely summer day.