Tag Archives: Atsion

Six Pine Barrens Ghost Towns to explore!


South Jersey Trails is four years old!   In celebration, I highlight an area I’ve been blessed enough to spend the last 24 years exploring – the Pine Barrens.  I started with a post on the Best Hikes in the Pine Barrens.  But hiking isn’t what hooked me on the pine barrens all those years ago (and boy, what great hiking there is there), it was the history.

So when you think of ghost towns, you probably think like me: cowboys, swinging doors, tumbleweeds…


You know, this. (Note – Bodie State Park in California).

But the pine barrens have dozens of ghost towns of their own.  Sure, there weren’t many shootouts in the pine barrens (except Hampton Bogs that one time).  And they are definitely short on tumbleweeds.  But they all have their own, fascinating history.

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Best Hikes in the Pine Barrens

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So today marks FOUR YEARS of this ridiculous blog.  I’ll type that again for dramatic effect- FOUR YEARS.

Four is an important number for this blog, because, when I started, I figured that was about top end estimate for how many people would ever look that this big, dumb prestigious project of mine (and that was counting on my mother being able to find it on the Internet to see cute pictures of her grandson). But my, oh, my, how we’ve grown up.  In the past four years, nearly EIGHT PEOPLE have read this blog.

Okay, it’s a few more than that, and sometimes I worry about you folks because of that.  But thanks just the same for coming along for the ride.

In celebration, I highlight an area I’ve been blessed enough to spend the last 24 years exploring – the Pine Barrens.  Sure, the pine barrens aren’t as sexy as some natural areas in North Jersey.  You won’t find many clear flowing rivers (just iced tea colored), mama bears followed by lines of cubs, or breathtaking vistas.

Instead, it’s hundreds of square miles of pine trees, the more subtle beauty of a pitch pine, the reclaimed cranberry bog, the carnivorous plant, the nearly forgotten ruins of a once prosperous town.  It’s the wild flowers at Friendship, the collapsing packing house at Whitesbog, the abandoned tracks of the Central Railroad of New Jersey, and the sweeping views from Apple Pie Hill.  It’s the cedar water of the Wading River, the iron slag along the trail at Martha, the cedar swamps at Wells Mills (oh, how I love cedar swamps), and the pine snakes by Bricksbrae.  It’s hearing coyotes howling while camping at Bodine, a dip in the river while backpacking through Lower Forge, watching the American Legion Post carry Emilio Carranza’s body from the woods yet another July day, the beautiful stars in winter above Goshen Pond, looking at the raccoon prints in the fireplace bricks at Buzbys General Store, or the peeping of the frogs in the Spring.

If you haven’t spent time here, or haven’t spent enough time here, or simply are looking for some places you haven’t explored, I’m offering a series of three posts on the pines, starting with ten fourteen trails to get you started (it was really hard to narrow them down)…

I have, of course, ranked them (for fighting with each other on the Internet’s sake), cutting down a list of 46 hikes I’ve done out in Jersey Devil country, but these are all winners!

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Filed under Backpacking, Hiking, History, Outdoors., pine barrens, South Jersey

Atsion in the Fall – Shamong, NJ

I spent last weekend with the Scouts, camping out at Goshen Pond as part of an open house weekend for the Cub Scouts.  We did the “A Walk Through Atsion” hike previously covered in this blog, only now featuring the colors of Fall.  It was a great day to be hiking, camping, and taking pictures, a triple threat.


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Atsion Lake Paddle – Shamong, NJ


Atsion Lake Paddle –  Atsion Recreation Area, Wharton State Forest, Shamong, Burlington County, NJ
Distance:  The lake is over a mile long and up to a 1/4 mile wide. Can also come in from the Goshen Pond area, which Dan kayaked in from (roughly two miles, one way).  We did a mile and a half in two relatively short trips, and we didn’t even get more than halfway down the lake.
Type: Out and back
Difficulty: 4 of 10 – Middle of the lake lack of current can be a pain in the arms.
Total score: 6 of 10.

Fees – If putting in at Atsion, $10 on weekends and $5 on weekdays to get into the lake area (in season)

Rentals – A boat concession rents out canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, and pedal boats right at the put in at Atsion Lake.  Cash only I believe!

Terrain – pine forests, marshes, beautiful lake.

Directions – Atsion Lake Recreation Area is located on Route 206 in Shamong, NJ.  Drive straight down the driveway to the end of the parking lot, then turn left.  The entrance to the boat launch is a small dirt road on your right (it’s labeled!).  If bringing your own, drive down and drop your canoe/kayak off at the water, then come back to the lot to park.  If renting, park your car before heading down the road.

Short road to boat launch.

Short road to boat launch.

Put ins –  39°44’23.37″N,  74°43’53.07″W (dock at Atsion Lake Recreation Area)
39°44’34.91″N, 74°45’25.66″W (Ephraim Road past Goshen Pond Camping Area) – Note – I haven’t done this in a canoe, so not sure if a canoe can make it down. A kayak definitely can.

Lake put in.

Lake put in.

Standouts – birds and beautiful cedar water

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Filed under Canoeing, Fishing, Outdoors., pine barrens, South Jersey

Mullica River Trail – Atsion to Batsto, NJ – Backpack or hike!


Mullica River Trail – Wharton State Forest – Atsion, Shamong, Burlington County to Batsto, Hammonton, Atlantic County, NJ
Distance: 9.5 miles (can be done as a one night backpacking trip or as a day hike)
Type: One way
Difficulty:  3 of 10
Total score:  7 of 10

Terrain – forest, swamps, meadows

Trailheads – Atsion –  39°44’30.37″N,  74°43’33.55″W (next to ranger station/general store) –   (5.5 miles to campsite from here)
Batsto –  39°38’33.67″N,  74°39’18.61″W (on dirt Batsto Lake Road) (4 miles to campsite from here)

Note – you can also

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Filed under Backpacking, Hiking, History, Outdoors., pine barrens, South Jersey

A Walk Through Atsion – Wharton State Forest – Shamong, NJ

Topo map of the area.

Topo map of the area.

A Walk Through Atsion – Shamong, NJ
Type: Out and Back
Hours: Always open

Distance: 1.0 miles round trip
Difficulty: 2 of 10.
Total score: 7 of 10.

Terrain – Flat.

Trailhead – 39° 44.526’N, 74° 43.548’W – Parking lot at the Atsion Ranger Station off of Route 206.

Standouts: Old mansion, old barn, old schoolhouse, old railroad bridge, old church and graveyard.

Markings – None.

Description: This is not an official trail, but it’s pretty easy to follow the route. Start at the parking lot at the Atsion Ranger Station (open Spring to Fall). Then go into the ranger station. This is the old company store of Atsion, and town that you are standing in, yet no longer exists.

Walk around the ranger station to check out the old Richards Mansion behind it. The Richards family ran an iron empire in the pine barrens for decades, and Atsion was one of their main holdings. You can tour the mansion one day a week during the season, it’s well worth going in.


After this, head down the dirt Quaker Bridge Road (in front of the mansion). Today, Rt 206 is the major highway, but in the 1800s it was Quaker Bridge Road that was well traveled. Hence, the mansion fronting it. If you followed this road down for four miles into the woods, you would hit Quaker Bridge. We’ll do that, but not in this post.

Quaker Bridge Road.

Quaker Bridge Road.

The stops come quick on this hike, one of the reasons it’s such a nice one to take. Your first one will be the old church on the right. It looks new (the front is fairly new, as is the wheelchair ramp), but its roots and the main part of the building are quite old. Take a look around through the graveyard, there are several veterans gravestones from the Civil War.




Getting back on the road, a few hundred feet up is the Atsion Schoolhouse. This served the local community well, and still serves vandels who break into it every few months. Be respectful, don’t go in, even if there is a giant hole in the boards.


Be respectful, or this cat will get you.

Be respectful, or this cat will get you.

You’ll then continue down the road until the railroad tracks intersect with it. At this point, turn right and follow the tracks through the swamp.




In less than 0.2 miles, you’ll come to the old railroad bridge. If you’re brave, you can walk across it. Be careful!




When you’re done, turn around and came back the way you came. When you reach the mansion, walk around to the back and check out the old concrete barn built by Joseph Wharton. You know, the guy they named the forest for. It’s then just a short stroll to your car.

Almost back!

Almost back!


Overall, this is a nice, easy, leisurely walk through the old town of Atsion with plenty to do and see. It’s a great one to do with kids, as they’ll have a lot to look at!


Filed under Hiking