The New Jersey Pine Barrens are also known as the Pinelands. Its an area that has the highest point of 205 feet and the lowest below sea level as it sits in a sandy basin. It is also called the Pinelands or Pineys. Within the great basin are pine trees, blueberry bushes growing along the trails, orchids, blackjack oaks, scrub oaks, Jack Pine, Pitch Pine, Red Pine. Their has been many fires and still many species survive like Karner Blue Butterfly, Barrens Buck moth and even plants like the Sand-plain Geradia. When the glaciers retreated outwash plains, lakebeds, streams, and outwash terraces along rivers ere formed.
The Pine Barrens cover 1.1 million acres of coastal plain in southern and central NJ. The pine barrens refers to the areas sandy, acidic, nutrient poor soil which later made it hard for European settlers to farm here. The area also has carnivorous plants and some pretty harsh thorn brush. It also is known for the rare pygmy Pitch Pines. Unfortunately I did not put up this page to talk about its ecosystems I came to talk about its ghost, legends and unexplained. But first I would like to go into a little more in depth history. The pine barrens are no vacation spot by many means but much like the Grand Canyon this is a forest that deserves a look and an experience.
The pine Barrens are very harsh, cold, rainy certain times a year and mystical. Back since the prehistoric times the Native American Lenape tribe would cross them to make their annual migration to the sea shore. They would camp and hunt here. Most of the mounds, tribal villages, ghost towns, bogs, etc etc all reside in the pine barrens overgrown and forgotten. In the 19th and 20th century many towns were established by colonist with homesteads, furnaces, farms, iron works etc etc Cranberry farming here has become the 3rd largest in the country due to the abundance of many cranberry bogs throughout the Pine Barrens. Some of them ghost towns like Friendship, Washington, Whitesbog, Batso, Smithville, Apple Pie Hill etc are some major ones. Then we have many ironworks like Hanover, Weymouth, and Hampton's Furnaces. Many of the main sites we visited to try got bring everybody a variety of places.
Today most of the places in the Pine Barrens remain desolate and abandoned much like the train tracks that are over grown. I sat down at the end of one set of tracks looking all the way up them. I let my mind wander picturing what a steam engine would like like coming into town. Alot of history remains today some places are harder to find then others. I mapped out the trip and found almost every place. But you often read stories about those who venture here end up dead, lost, suffering from the harsh cold like hunters, and the main topic is getting stuck. The roads in the pine barrens are sometimes so narrow that the brush scrapes both sides of your vehicle. Then some of the old wagon trails have giant holes so when it rains those holes become equivalent to small ponds sometimes 4 feet deep trapping your vehicle from further movement. I love adventure and pushing my limits so for our team to be able to go in here drive at least 100 miles down the Pine Barrens stage coach roads and off roading trails was really adventurous. Seriously you just do not know what you might see the Pine Barrens are full of lore, legends, mystery and history.
The first ever cultivated Blueberries were developed here in 1916 by Elizabeth White of Whitesbog an earlier investigation during that day we entered the Pine Barrens. Today they are just as common as cranberries thus making NJ the third highest producer in fruit in the US. Despite the industrial towns in the Pine Barrens life was harsh if a mill closed the town was abandoned. Settlements usually only grew to a couple hundred people and the locals were often unfriendly towards outsiders. If you notice from reading the history everybody who owned the tracks, traded, etc all were related or were within a few miles of one another.
During the colonial times the Pine Barrens were home to Bog Iron which was mined out of bogs, streams, waterways and was worked in furnaces at Atsion, Batso, Hampton's Furnace etc. This iron was instrumental in supplying the American Military with weapons and camp tools during the American Revolution and War of 1812. In the 1800s that industry almost died when cheaper iron was to be found in PA. The rivers have a tea like color and high in acid content. You see what happens is it rains then the acid from the pine trees is created. That seeps into the rivers and ponds mixing with the detritus on the forest floors creating bog iron. The acidic water that is created leaches the iron from the sand.
Alone with the iron industry man paper mills, saw mills, grist mills were also built. They also fell much like Harrisville or Pleasant Mills. Other industries were charcoal making and glassworks much like the Estell Glassworks ruins we visited. On my trip I wanted to make sure that we visited glassworks, iron bogs, furnaces, ghost towns, and papermills. That way we could experience what life was like in the early pioneer days. The roads are made of sugar sand and the terrain is very harsh definitely a challenge.
The Pine Barrens were home to the Kallikaks a poor backwoods family which was said to have a genetic inferiority by the eugenicist in the 20th century. Later it was found that the facts of this case study were misrepresented and those residents called the Piney's by outsiders was just a derogatory term. Now today m any people reside in the pine barrens in many of the small history towns throughout them. The locals are very nice although I have heard stories of people being chased, shot at with rock salt etc I could see that things were a little slower down here even at the gas stations and restaurants. But the hospitality in the Pine Barrens shocked me it was actually better then what I see in FL.
The people learned to live off the land based on what was available and when you visit here your like why would anybody want to live here. Even locals still today get stuck on lumber roads and stage coach routes where villages traded with one another. Some roads lead to charcoal pits and even illegal stills dating back to the 1970s when contraband was driven along these roads.
Almost all of the towns have odd names or appear on the map. Ongs Hat was named after Jacob Ong who had an argument with a girl at a dance. She took his hat threw it on the ground he picked it up then tossed it in the area and it landed in a tree. It hung in that tree for months and eventually the surrounding community took on the name called Ongs Hat. The area is very undeveloped roads go off to nowhere for miles some are so wild that even getting a tow truck back here could be impossible.
The Barrens are composed of many state parks and national forest such as Wharton State Forest which is 110,000 acres, Bass River State Forest, Penn State Forest, Double Trouble State Park, Lebanon State Forest and Belleplain State Forest. The longest trail you can hike on in the Barrens is the Batona Trail. The pinelands are also full of waterways holding 17 trillion gallons of water within the basis. Some of the water is the purest in the country where white cedar trees grow. Rivers like the Mullica and Batso stretch for miles in the heart of the Pine Barrens. With its 100 endangered species including the Pine Barrens Tree frog anything could be hiding back in these woods.
The Pinelands designated it as an international Biosphere Reserve in 1979 for worldwide scientific study. In 1978 it was the nations first reserve. Since that time its ghost towns and forest have been protected. Then you have stops in the Pine Barrens like Egg Harbor City which has a winery. Then on the Mullica river is a place called the Sweetwater Casino. Just outside the Pine Barrens is Atlantic City.
Two of the most famous places are said to grace the Pine Barrens besides well known ghost towns. The first one is Quakers Bridge. The Quakers of Burlington, Mount Holly, and Medford would go on annual meetings to Tuckerton. The Quakers build the original bridge over the Batso River in 1772 in memory of numerous Quakers who drowned while trying to cross the stream. Do there ghost still haunt this area more then likely. Atsion is only 4 miles down the road as stage coaches would come into town crossing Quaker Bridge.
There was a tavern located near the bridge over looking the Batso river from 1808 till about 1849 till it was destroyed by a fire. That stage coach stop was important for those that were heading to Atsion, Batso and other parts of the Pine Barrens. The tavern was called Tompson's Tavern. Their are no remnants remaining and further down stream is a collapsed bridge we found hidden in the woods some say it was the old bridge to Hampton's furnace. . One of the first post offices in the area was also not to far from the bridge.
Then there is the famous Carranza Road and monument. Almost anybody who visits the Pine Barrens tends to visit here. In 1928 Emilio Carranza Rodriguez's plane crashed in the Pine Barrens. He was on his way back to Mexico from a goodwill flight to NY. The monument is about 10 feet tall and each side has an arrow carved into it symbolizing his flight. The other side has a descending Aztec Eagle indicating his plummet to the earth. Under the eagle are two footprints which are for his final moments on earth. The one side has English writing on it and the other side in Spanish. Which tells about the date of the tragedy and a few words of honor about the pilot who was called The Lindbergh Of Mexico. The 2nd Saturday of July each year is a commemoration which is the anniversary of the pilots death.
Besides all the history and possibilities of ghost of Carranza Road and Quaker bridge you also have other strange occurrences in the area. I have read Bigfoot accounts seen in the Pine Barrens, Heard stories about a giant that chases you around, UFO's hovering over the pines. Even the forest has areas that are very mystical they compare the barrens to a European type of forest as the trees blow in some way or another one can feel them talking to you. There is an old ghost story about the girl in white and the white stag. Often those are seen near Quaker bridge perhaps its a residual ghost trying to tell the local village the bridge is out. Alot of people died or were swept away in the current especially when those dared to travel at night in the pine Barrens.
Besides all of the history to the Pine Barrens the most famous legend of all was born here the Jersey Devil. When over the years I read about the sightings, history to this creature etc I felt compelled to one day camp here no tents just me out in the Pine Barrens absorbing all the noises, sights, smells, and feel to this forest. I felt compelled to make a separate Jersey Devil Page since their is alot of lore, legends, stories etc associated with this Cryptid. Our whole main basis for our expedition was to not only conquer the Pine Barrens but to learn more about the Jersey Devil if the stories are true. You will find some of the best written articles on this creature by clicking the Jersey Devil Page above so make sure you read the articles so you understand the basis for our reasoning behind camping out here.
One of the greatest tales shared amongst the locals is many years ago the Lenape Indians had a village here and the Jersey Devil was terrorizing their live stock. The warriors set out to kill this beast came back never catching it. Over the months to come each warrior vanished without a trace the village assumed they died or the Jersey Devil got to them. So perhaps the Jersey Devil has not only terrorized the locals for a couple centuries but maybe some of the disappearances that have taken place here were brought on by the Devil himself. The woods are mystical vast even dismal in the day as you see rolling hills full of trees and slow moving streams.
Another story I heard from a member is of a road in the Pine Barrens with a creature called the creeper. He is often seen walking the road at night covering his face. Not sure if its true but he told me alot of cars have been found with drivers missing. Supposedly this creature will attack cars or act like he is hitchhiking then mutilating his victims. The guy who told me this story told me that this thing jumped on his hood and chased there car one night. He said he got a glimpse of it and it was not human. So urban legends in the Pine Barrens? or Truth? Its hard to say but one thing is for certain the Pine Barrens are one of the most mysterious woods in the country and we bring you photos taken from deep hikes and long drives down impassable roads!!!
Their have been various movies filmed in the Pine Barrens for example the 13th child. Not to far away the television series Point Pleasant. I do have to admit that I have never seen anything like the Pine Barrens ever in my life their is nothing that compares to this place. Well Florida matches the pine barrens except that in Florida you have scrubs and palms mainly.
There are parts of the Pine Barrens that have not been walked on in 1000 years areas that have many secrets. Their are all together over 30 to 40 sites hidden deep within the Barrens that are worth seeing. Some of them you just cannot get to by vehicle they take backpacking and alot of off roading. The dirt roads have no signs on them sometimes you can go down a dirt road and it leads to other ones. Some roads we were on you could tell it was years since anybody drove down them quite a scary scenario to be in but at the same time being in this mystical forest gives not only us a sense of freedom but those who dare to venture into it to uncover its secrets!