1.1 Million Acres of Outdoor Adventure
You could look in Maryland or New York to find the largest tract of open space from Richmond, Virginia to Boston, Massachusetts. You might pore over a map of Delaware, but you won't find it there. In fact, the largest tract of open space on the Mid-Atlantic Seaboard is the 1.1-million acre Pinelands National Reserve in southern New Jersey. New Jersey may well be the most densely populated state in the country, but the Pinelands actually occupy more than 22 percent of the state's land area. That simply means that an outdoor adventure in pristine wilderness is never far from life's finer pleasures. How many other states can say that?
The Pinelands National Reserve is unlike any other natural habitat on Earth. It supports a unique spectrum of wildlife, including orchids, carnivorous plants, the threatened Pinelands tree frog and rare pygmy pitch pines, prompting the United Nations to name it an International Biosphere Reserve in 1983. Its ecology, history, people, art and culture are unique to New Jersey and are a vital part of the state's identity. It is home to Jersey blueberries, renowned cranberry bogs and the ubiquitous Jersey Devil. Visitors to the Pinelands find forests, rivers, streams, lakes and hiking trails along with unique towns, historic sites, campgrounds and wildlife.
To begin your Pinelands exploration, start at the New Jersey Pinelands Commission's website and click on Visiting Recreation. This will be your definitive guide to a Pinelands adventure. Get your feet wet and your hands dirty. Try canoeing, kayaking, biking or hiking. Load up your field guides, canteens and binoculars, and set out for the tea-colored waters of the Wading River or the estuarine banks of the Great Egg Harbor and Mullica rivers. Many canoe liveries in the Pinelands offer rentals and information on reservations, river conditions and pricing. If the feel of land and sand under your heels and wheels is more your speed, the Pinelands folks have mapped out trails for you. To obtain a printed map, contact the visitor's center at Wharton State Forest (609-561-0024) or Brendan T. Byrne State Forest (609-726-1191).
Thirsty for more than a day's worth of adventure? Try camping under scrub pines and starlit skies. Visit the Pineland's website to learn which parks offer camping facilities or log onto the website New Jersey Campgrounds to find campgrounds throughout the state. Explore the Pinelands' rich history. Its unique people and culture offer colorful and fascinating stories that are just waiting to be told. Visit Batsto Village, a center of industry in the earliest days of American history, and explore its visitors center. Set along the Batsto River, the village had the resources necessary to create ironware that supplied the Continental Army.
What Batsto was to the early days of American industry, Whitesbog was to the early days of American agriculture. This veritable outdoor classroom traces the very beginnings of the first cultivated blueberries that we purchase at farm stands and supermarkets today. Learn about Elizabeth C. White, who set the state's blueberry industry in motion. New Jersey is currently the second-largest producer of the fruit in the world, with virtually all of the production occurring in the Pinelands. Ponder the universe stargazing next to a fire, scare the pants off the kids on a Jersey Devil tour, cool off in tranquil lakes and fish in serene rivers. Refresh your spirit, challenge yourself and make memories in New Jersey's Pinelands.
Pinelands Activities to Consider: - Bird watching at the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge - The Red, White and Blueberry Festival in Hammonton, "The Blueberry Capital of the World" - Pinelands Short Course, an annual program to raise awareness and appreciation of the wonderful treasures of the Pinelands - Visiting in October (Pinelands Discovery Month), when a variety of events take place — including the Pinelands Discovery Festival, Pinelands Jamboree and Chatsworth Cranberry Festival.