The Pine Barrens of New Jersey cover 1.1 million acres (about 22 percent) of the state’s land area. The sandy-soiled pine forests are kind of sacred to those of us from Southern New Jersey. They’re the source of a lot of our best stories (The Jersey Devil, crazy parties within its clearings, plane crashes, and more) and the host of a lot of our recreational activities- only second to the Jersey Shore. Let’s take a look inside.
Ever heard of the Jersey Devil? When I moved to South Jersey in 2001, my friend’s stepdad made me swear to search for this devil. Everyone in Philly and Jersey knows the legend of the Jersey Devil. It’s the first scary story we tell at our childhood sleepovers and the best way to scare your friends around the campfire.
Wikipedia explains it best, “According to popular folklore, the Jersey Devil originated with a Pine Barrens resident named Jane Leeds, known as Mother Leeds. The legend states that Mother Leeds had 12 children and, after finding she was pregnant for the 13th time, cursed the child in frustration, crying that the child would be the devil. During 1735, Mother Leeds was in labor on a stormy night while her friends gathered around her. Born as a normal child, the thirteenth child changed to a creature with hooves, a goat’s head, bat wings, and a forked tail. Growling and screaming, it killed the midwife before flying up the chimney and heading into the pines.”
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I’ve spent a lot of time hiking through the Pine Barrens over the years that I’ve lived in NJ and, despite several witness accounts of this terrifying creature, I’ve never turned up anything. Drat! -mock surprise-
What I can tell you is that the Pine Barrens are gorgeous. The thick forest is a lovely escape from our densely populated state. With many miles of hiking trails, it’s a great place for Philadelphians and New Jersians alike to get away from the hustle and bustle of the cities.
Photos from the Pine Barrens
Now, this isn’t about photos of nature and trees, oh no. There’s a lot of weird stuff in the Pine Barrens.
Walk through the woods and you’ll find abandoned buildings, not-so-abandoned-buildings that look like they should be condemned, old railroad tracks, weird clearings with odd objects that appear to be some kind of ritual, old party sites, and so much more. Walk deep enough and you can find some pretty weird stuff.
Again, my best friend was nice enough to allow me to post some of her photos from some of our photo tours through the Pine Barrens. You can check out some of our other photo tours here.
At the Atsion Lake section of Wharton State Forest, you’ll find Atsion Mansion, a summer home built in 1826 by Samuel Richards. You can tour the mansion and see it as it was built – no plumbing, electric, or heat. On the grounds of the mansion is an old carriage house that I’ve taken many photos of throughout the years and seasons.
Here are some of Kim’s photos, courtesy of Dark Star Photography:
Follow the yellow Mullica River Trail markers behind the mansion for a little while, passing an old church and a gun club. We chose to follow the dirt road (heavily used by off-roaders) instead of following the trail into the woods this time. A short while down the path, you’ll see an old red car that’s been overtaken by nature tucked into the woods on the right.
Continue on further and you’ll find old railroad tracks that pass through Wharton State Forest.
Kirby’s Mill was built and operational in 1778. Registered on the National Register of Historic Places in the US, it was the last commercial operating mill in New Jersey and closed in 1969 when it was purchased by the Medford Historical Society.