The Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park is one of central New Jersey’s most popular recreational corridors for canoeing, jogging, hiking, bicycling, fishing and horseback riding. The canal and towpath are part of the National Recreational Trail System. The 70-mile linear park is a valuable wildlife corridor connecting fields and forests.
With its 19th-century bridges, bridgetender houses, past and present locks, cobblestone spillways and hand-built stone-arched culverts, the canal is a tremendous attraction for history lovers. The upper reach of the feeder canal wanders through quaint New Jersey towns along the Delaware River such as Stockton and Lambertville. The main canal passes the Port Mercer canal house, through the charming village of Griggstown to Blackwells Mills, ending up in New Brunswick. Canoes can be rented at Griggstown and Princeton from private concessionaires.
Most of the canal system remains intact today and is a reminder of the days when the delivery of freight depended upon a team of mules or steam tugboats. Nearly 36 miles of the main canal and 22 miles of the feeder canal still exist, with many historic structures along the canal.
On December 25, 1776, the icy waters of the Delaware River provided the setting for one of the pivotal events of the American Revolution. The Continental Army had little to celebrate that Christmas and seemed beat by hunger and cold. After crossing the rough winter river at night, General George Washington and the Continental Army landed at Johnson’s Ferry, at the site now known as Washington Crossing State Park. At 4 am, they began their march to Trenton where they defeated the Hessian troops in an unexpected attack. This battle was quickly followed by the Second Battle of Trenton on January 2, 1777, and the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777.v
On January 3, 1777, the peaceful winter fields and woods of Princeton Battlefield were transformed into the site of what is considered to be the fiercest fight of its size during the American Revolution. During this desperate battle, American troops under General George Washington surprised and defeated a force of British Regulars. Coming at the end of “The Ten Crucial Days” which saw the well-known night crossing of the Delaware River and two battles in Trenton, the Battle of Princeton gave Washington his first victory against the British Regulars on the field. The battle extended over a mile away to the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University).
Shaped by storm and tides, Island Beach State Park is a narrow barrier island stretching for 10 miles between the restless Atlantic Ocean and the historic Barnegat Bay. Island Beach is one of New Jersey’s last significant remnants of a barrier island ecosystem that once existed along much of the coast and is also one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier beaches on the north Atlantic coast. Over 3,000 acres and 10 miles of coastal dunes remain almost untouched since Henry Hudson first described New Jersey’s coast from the ship, the Half Moon, in 1609.
Double Trouble State Park offers an outstanding example of the Pine Barrens ecosystem and a window into the Pine Barrens history. The park provides the protection and interpretation of over 8000 acres of significant natural, cultural, and recreational resources representative of the Pinelands National Reserve.
Its location and resource base afford an opportunity to introduce visitors to southern New Jersey’s natural and cultural heritage. Both the natural environment, consisting of a high quality Pinelands watershed, and an extremely well preserved historic village associated with New Jersey cranberry agriculture and Atlantic White Cedar logging and milling industries are available to visitors at Double Trouble State Park.
Allaire State Park is probably best known for its historic 19th-century ironmaking town, Allaire Village, and its antique steam trains on the Pine Creek Railroad. The Manasquan River, which winds through the park, attracts canoeists and fishermen. The river’s floodplain provides habitat for over 200 species of wildflowers, trees and plants as well as habitat for birds and other wildlife. Hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders enjoy the many trails in the park.
Formerly known as Lebanon State Forest, visitors are greeted by the fresh scent of pines. Today’s forested acres are a strong contrast to the barren, cleared land that existed in the 1800s. The Lebanon Glass Works was established in 1851 and was successful until 1867, when it shut down after depleting the supply of wood necessary for the furnace to operate.
A section of Bearfort Ridge reaches into Hewitt State Forest, offering hikers a challenging climb with a rewarding view. The forest is isolated and untouched, accessible only on foot. Marshes and wetlands are scattered throughout the forest with several brooks and streams crisscrossing the lower areas. Hemlock and oak are the dominant species of this relatively undisturbed forest.
Bass River State Forest was the first forest acquired by the state of New Jersey in 1905 for public recreation, water conservation, and wildlife and timber management. Lake Absegami, a 67-acre lake created in the 1930’s, is the center of the forest’s recreational activities and provides an area for swimming and a serene setting for boating and canoeing. A trail through the Absegami Natural Area wanders through a pine/oak woods and a small Atlantic white cedar bog