New Jersey is home to four national recreation areas (designated U.S. National Park Service land) and over fifty state parks and forests. However, the real hidden gems are the hundreds of other smaller county and township parks tucked into the neighborhoods all over our state.
Davidson’s Mill Pond Park in South Brunswick is a 482-acre park built on the site of — yes you guessed it — an old mill. Explore this park by walking Mill Pond Trail, an easy dirt path. Along the way, you’ll encounter trees labeled with clear identification markers. At this time of year, the trail is leaf strewn and the rocks that line the path are helpful markers for keeping on track.
We followed the Mill Pond Trail along the water until we came to the White Trail — which is flat and much like an unpaved road.
This park is perfect for wildlife photography! While exploring here, we came across two young deer that seemed unfazed by our presence, as well as a second pond with a large population of geese, signs of beaver activity, and several turtles sunning themselves on the floating logs. The biggest surprise was the black rat snake we appear to have unwittingly disturbed. This was my first snake encounter and even though I have since learned this type of snake is harmless, I will forever be more careful when hiking near a water source.
After catching our breath, we continued through a grove of tall thin trees. We took a right connecting us to the Yellow Trail. This led to yet another small pond where two pairs of mallard ducks were enjoying the unseasonably nice weather as much as we were. The pond borders on a field and we watched as hawks circled the surrounding field looking for prey. We reentered the woodland Yellow Trail after rounding the field; four more deer stood off to the side watching as we passed.
In the 2.3-mile loop of this park along those three trails, we encountered more deer and other wildlife than humans.
In addition to easy, flat trails, the park offers a small boat launch ramp, access for fishing and ice fishing and open play areas. However, the best part of Davidson’s Mill Pond Park is that it’s the kind of place you can lose yourself, and reconnect with your soul.