Wharton State Forest, which is part of an area known in New Jersey as the Pine Barrens, is the largest single tract of land within the New Jersey State Park System. It is also the site of Batsto Village, a former bog iron and glassmaking industrial center from 1766 to 1867 that currently reflects the agricultural and commercial enterprises that existed here during the late 19th century.
Throughout Wharton are rivers and streams for canoeing, hiking trails (including a major section of the Batona Trail), miles of unpaved roads for mountain biking and horseback riding and numerous lakes, ponds and fields ideal for wildlife observation. Bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, marsh hawks, ospreys, great blue herons, swans, screech owls, great-horned owls, bluebirds, hummingbirds, purple martins, goldfinch, turkeys, beavers, river otters, fox and deer are only some of the wildlife the alert visitor can see. Wharton is easily accessible within Southern Jersey.
My son (pictured at left -- notice the 2 kayaks in the water off in distance behind him -- and below with Jeep) and I decided to take the afternoon to go off-roading on some of the miles of trails within the park that are open to wheelers (using existing trails cut by the forest service for access and to fight fires). The size of the park and the variety of trails means that you have areas where you will see no one else and can have a relatively private experience enjoying nature.
For off-roading enthusiasts, while lacking in mountain-terrains, there are many levels and varieties of challenges which can not be fully accessed without a 4-wheel drive vehicle. This includes deep sand, flooded sections of trails during wet seasons, steep banks and deep gullies or crevices; and you are always surrounded by protected sections of God's creation that are almost as they were when first seen by man.
We took our 6-cylinder, '90 Jeep Wrangler (which has been upgraded for off-roading) for a spin and had a great time. We had a chance to test our off-road driving skills, extend the known limits of our vehicle, and took in the beauty and serenity of the park.
We had a great time together, enjoyed the outdoors, and are determined to soon return and explore more trails and "discover" new territories that relatively few others have seen or experienced.
Here are some additional links to resources for experiencing New Jersey's parks and pinelands areas:
The ParkDay Organization
Plan To Take A Hike
Batona Trail Club Batona Trail Guide (Text Only)
Hiking In New Jersey
Visit South Jersey - Camping and Hiking
NJ State and National Parks
PineyPower - New Jersey Pine Barrens
Trail Report: Pine Barrens Jeep Jamboree
4x4 Now Trail Reports - Pine Barrens
Jamboree USA - Schedule
Jersey Devil 4x4
Jeep Jamoree Video of Pine Barrens
and visit BestHomes-NJ.com for the latest New Jersey Real Estate property listings (residential, commercial, multi-family, farm, land)
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