Wharton State Forest
Wharton State Forest is the largest state forest in the U.S. state of New Jersey. It is the largest single tract of land in the state park system of New Jersey, encompassing approximately 115,000 acres (470 km2) of the Pinelands northeast of Hammonton. Its protected acreage is divided between Burlington, Camden, and Atlantic counties. The entire forest is located within Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecoregion as well as the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve. The forest is located in the forested watershed of the Mullica River, which drains the central Pinelands region into the Great Bay. The forest is under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry.
The forest is also the location of the historic Batsto Village, a former bog iron and glass manufacturing site from 1766 to 1867. The forest includes extensive hiking trails, including a section of the Batona Trail, which connects the forest to nearby Brendan T. Byrne State Forest and Bass River State Forest. It also includes over 500 miles (800 km) of unpaved roads. The rivers, including the Mullica, are popular destinations for recreational canoeing.
The forest is named for Joseph Wharton, who purchased most of the land that now lies within the forest in the 19th Century. Wharton wanted to tap the ground water under the Pine Barrens to provide a source of clean drinking water for Philadelphia; however, the New Jersey Legislature quashed the plan by passing a law that banned the export of water from the state. The state bought the vast tract from Wharton's heirs in the 1950s.
Within the state forest, once a residence and cranberry packing facility, Atsion mansion has been vacant since 1882. In 1960, the building lost even more of its glory when its west porch was torn down. Under the guidelines of the State of New Jersey, area contractors Wu & Associates, Inc. undertook the restoration of the site. The existing exterior stucco was removed and replaced with new material; the interior plaster, wood windows and shutter were restored; fireplace mantels, stone and wood floors in the basement, and the existing cedar roof were all repaired; and a new exterior sidewalk was added to a handicap ramp. The reconstruction of a western porch provided an accurate historic interpretation of the building to represent the way it was originally. With sparse use of modern mechanics, the restored mansion has the electrical capacity to illuminate the building and support smoke detectors to make the facility safe for visitors.
In the forest is a monument marking the location where Mexican aviation pioneer Emilio Carranza crashed on July 12, 1928 while attempting to fly his Ryan Brougham airplane, the Mexico Excelsior, non-stop from New York to Mexico City, final leg of a historic goodwill flight to the United States.
The forest has ten campgrounds, ranging from family camping at Atsion Recreation Area, with showers and a guarded beach, to wilderness camping that can be reached only by hiking or canoe/kayak.
Apple Pie Hill is a popular hiking destination along the Batona Trail in the forest. The hill, topped with a 60-foot New Jersey Forest Fire Service fire tower, provides impressive panoramic views across the Pinelands region.
- Official site
- "Shaft to Carranza Unveiled in Forest," The New York Times, July 13, 1931.
- "Mexican Lindy Killed As Plane Falls in South Jersey Pines During Storm,” Evening Courier, July 14, 1928 (Camden, NJ)
- Emilio Carranza Crash Monument, RoadsideAmerica.com, undated. Accessed July 24, 2008.
- "New Jersey Birding and Wildlife Trails - Wharton State Forest - Apple Pie Hill". Retrieved September 17, 2014.
- "Apple Pie Hill". SummitPost.org.
- Official site
- NY-NJTC: Wharton State Forest Trail Details and Info
- HJGA Architectural Firm's page on scope of work on Atsion mansion
- Wharton State Forest as related to the Jersey Devil
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