While the Pine Barrens are rightly known for their wild beauty, there’s not much virgin wilderness there. The Pine Barrens were the site of a great deal of early American industry (hence the profusion of ghost towns) and agriculture. We took a quick late-fall hike this morning in one such area, the Franklin Parker Preserve, which was a major cranberry growing operation in its past life.? You can still see the canals, raised levees, and even old railroad tracks, but the land is very much reverting to a natural state.
The area we explored is now a mix of grassy wetlands and pitch pine forest. We started at the trail head across the road from Chatsworth Lake and followed the red trail west and then south, connecting with the green trail for a short 3-mile loop?the perfect hike to enjoy Tim’s birthday and still get home in time for Mae’s afternoon nap.
The 16-square-mile preserve, New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s largest, is a beautiful, fascinating network of sandy trails, short bridges and roads through pitch pines, blueberry fields, swamps, lakes and tributaries of the Wading River. According to the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Franklin Parker Preserve is home to more than 50 rare, threatened or endangered species.
The preserve is just over 30 miles from Collingswood, mostly down Route 70, which means it takes about 50 minutes. It’s worth every minute.
We didn’t see all that much wildlife on this morning’s hike, save for a kingfisher and lots of dragonflies, but she loved all of the talk about the turtles and snakes that live there. One of the highlights was when a dragonfly kept flying around us and landing on her hat.
I could keep telling you how wonderful the trails around Franklin Parker Preserve are, but some things are best said through photos. Enjoy.