Mullica River and Batona Trail Loop
Directions to trailhead
Take the Garden State Parkway South to Exit #52 (New Gretna). Turn right at stop sign onto E. Greenbush Road. Make left at stop sign. Go over two small wooden bridges. Pilgrim Lake Campground will be on right. Make left onto Leektown Road. Continue two miles to a stop sign. Stay straight on Leektown Road., then continue for another three miles to a stop sign. Turn right onto Route 542 West. Stay on Route 542 for approximately nine miles. Batsto Village is on the right.
The Batsto Village Visitors Center, located adjacent to the parking lot, is the starting point to visit the historic museum and settlement. It is also the trail head for this hike into Wharton State Forest. At the parking lot begin to hike southeast towards the dam at the end of Batsto Lake. You will pass restored 19th century buildings that date back to when Batsto was an important iron and glassmaking center. After crossing the dam, look for yellow blazes marking the Mullica River Trail. The trail quickly turns right and you will cross the Mullica River on a wooden footbridge.
The trail parallels the Mullica River for approximately 4.5 miles. However, thick stands of Atlantic White Cedar trees on your left often obscure views of the river. Its acidic waters (4.4 mean pH) are tea-colored as a result of tannic acid present in plants, especially Atlantic White Cedar, and by naturally forming iron present in the streams. (The Mullica River and other Pinelands waterways are all part of the Kirkwood Cohansey Aquifer, which contains 17 trillion gallons of water covering 3,000 square miles of southern and central New Jersey.) The trail traverses some open areas of soft sand and pitch pines; be on the alert for equestrians here.
About five miles from the parking lot you will reach the green-blazed connector to the Batona Trail that also leads hikers to the Lower Forge campsite; turn right on the connector and head up a gentle slope through a thick pine forest lined with blueberry bushes.
Dog owners take note: You will soon cross Quaker Bridge, which is served by an unimproved sand road that sees a lot of vehicular traffic. Quaker Bridge has a metal deck that some dogs may be wary of crossing. If the water level permits, you may want to let your pet wade across the Batsto River or actually carry it across the bridge if you are able.
Just ahead, you will reach the pink-blazed Batona Trail that runs 50 miles from Ong’s Hat in Brendan T. Byrne State Forest, through Wharton State Forest, to Lake Absegami in Bass River State Forest. Here, the Batona Trail parallels the Batsto River on your right as you turn right and walk south six miles back to Batsto Village. Be especially mindful of the pink Batona Trail blazes, as two sand roads (Goodwater and Quaker Bridge Roads) intersect here and it is easy to wander down a sand road to get lost in the pines.
In about three miles you will cross a small bridge over a Pinelands stream. Again look for the pink Batona Trail blaze immediately on your right after crossing the bridge and follow it, as another sand road heads southeast away from the trail.
In 0.7 mile, you can turn right to follow a white-blazed trail south along Batsto Lake or continue south on the Batona Trail. Both lead back to the starting point at Batsto Village parking lot.
Date of hike: February 20, 2011