Cranberry bogs, trees, animals, Martha Forge, bridges...
The walk into Buttonwood at the end of this day is killer.
Distance: End to end is 52.7 miles, plus side trips for campsites (our total was 57.2 miles or so with campgrounds and side trips).
This is section 1 – Dan Bridge Road in Bass River State Forest to Buttonwood Campground – 16.4 miles
Look here for:
Section 2 – Buttonwood to Lower Forge
Section 3 – Lower Forge to Brendan Byrne
Section 4- Brendan Byrne to Ongs Hat
Difficulty: 8 of 10.
Terrain – Pine forests, cedar swamps, open areas, dirt roads, rivers, swamps.
Trailheads – Southern Trailhead – Bass River State Forest – Bass River, NJ at Dan Bridge Road and Stage Road ( 39°37’28.96″N, 74°26’36.79″W)
Markings – Pink, usually on trees. Sometimes disappear or hard to follow, but much improved the last few years thanks to the amazing people at the Outdoors Club of South Jersey, especially this section.
Description: The Batona Trail is South Jersey’s PREMIER long distance backpacking trail. It is South Jersey’s ONLY long distance backpacking trail, but lets not get bogged down by that. I used to think that I was the only idiot that would walk the whole trail end to end in one go, but apparently there are not only people who backpack the whole thing (I met four of them last weekend), there are even people who run the whole thing in one day. This trail doesn’t offer the same views that New Jersey’s other premier long distance backpacking trail (the 70 miles worth of Appalachian Trail in the Northwestern part of the state), but it has it’s own charm.
I’ve been fortunate enough to backpack the whole Batona Trail three times (2011, 2013, and 2016), as well as to have done a few one night trips on it previous to those years. Each time was as an adult with a group of Scouts (five of whom finished in 2011, 13 of whom finished in 2013, and 2 who did the whole thing in 2 days in 2016). I’ll present here our 2013 hike plan, which covered the two new reroutes. If you plan to do the whole thing, you might be faster (2 or 3 days for some folks) or slower (you can space it out over 5 days if you wanted to), but this plan is for four days.
Bass River State Forest to Buttonwood Campground (16.4 miles)
There used to be a lot of confusion with which way to go at the start, but thanks to amazing volunteers, just follow the arrow and head down Dan Bridge Road.
After a short walk down this road of roughly a mile, you’ll turn left into the start of the first Batona Reroute completed in four years ago. The trail meanders through a recent burned out areas, crosses come bridges, passes old bogs, and pops out three miles later where the old trail is. The new trail section is a mile longer than the old trail, but well worth the extra walking.
Once we get back to “old trail”, the Batona wanders for a few more miles, following a flooded out road next to a pond, which is fun.
Soon after that, it meets up with Martha Road, which it more or less follows all the way up to the site of Martha Furnace. This site (and along the trail preceding it) was once the home to an iron furnace and a village of several hundred that ran it. Check the ground at your feet, and you’ll find bits of iron slag from the furnace days. The furnace is now buried under a massive pile of dirt inside of the chain link fence.
A short distance brings you to the Martha Bridge over the lower Oswego River, 7.7 miles from your start.
From here, it’s a little more than a mile through the woods (watch out, the trail leaves the dirt road, don’t miss it!) to Route 679/Chatsworth Road. A little more than a half mile later, you’ll hit Route 563/Green Bank-Chatsworth Rd. The trail turns left and follows this highway down to Evans Bridge at mile 9.7 for the day. This is a great spot to stop for lunch, watching canoers go by on the Wading River under the bridge, refilling your water from the river if you need to, and enjoying this lovely spot. From here, it’s only 6 miles left into camp at Buttonwood!
The rest of the day is fairly uneventful. You’ll cross Evans Bridge, then the highway, walk through some lovely forests, come down through a nice patch of cedar swamp with a tire in it (2016 update – no more tire), hang a right and walk “steps” up then down the trail (not literal steps, the trail does a wonkly little step pattern), then run straight down into Buttonwood.
The walk into Buttonwood from the trail is 1.1 miles, for a total of 16.4 miles your first day.
– Buttonwood Campground, Wharton State Forest – 15.4 trail miles from the start with the new reroute, plus a 1 mile walk in. Water is available across the highway at Crowley’s Landing… if the water is turned on. Otherwise, it has to be filtered out of the Mullica River, also located across the road. There is an pit toilet at the site. Very small campsite, capacity is only 25 people or so on 5 sites. $3 per person, per night plus $10 registration fee. You can refill with fresh water at Batsto the next day, where you have to pick up your permits and can use the beautiful flush bathrooms.
Next campground – Lower Forge – 10 trail miles (12 with walkout, walk into Batsto, and Lower Forge walk).