WWI munition plant ruins, beautiful boardwalk, swamp plants, and views of the river. Also blueberries.
Bugs in the summer.
Swamp Trail (Loop with Oak Ridge Trail and Artesian Well Road ) – Estell Manor County Park – Estell Manor, Atlantic County, NJ
Distance: 2 mile loop (Can continue further on the Swamp Trail or can hike a lot more on the other 18 miles of connecting trails in the park)
Difficulty: 2 of 10
Total score: 9 of 10
Website – Estell Manor Park
Open – 7:30 AM to dusk
Terrain – Swamp and forest
Trailheads – 39°24’55.42″N, 74°44’0.31″W
Directions – Park is located at 109 State Highway 50, Mays Landing, NJ 08330. This trailhead is on Artesian Well Road, the turn for which is located almost exactly a mile toward Mays Landing from the main park entrance. It’s a dirt road and gated at night.
Parking – Lot is in an open field near the end of the road, shared lot with the group campsite.
Markings – None, just stay on the boardwalk!
Description – A bazillion years ago, I saw this trail and said “I should hike that soon.” I, of course, waited too long and Hurricane Sandy did major damage to the trail, damage that took years to fix. I got super happy a few weeks back when Barry of Old and Historic Places in South Jersey (Facebook) posted pictures he’d taken on the trail just that day, the trail was back open! Even better, I knew I’d be nearby in just a few weeks when I camped out at the old Camp Acagisca. Woohoo!
The weekend arrived, I spent the morning and early afternoon canoeing the Little Egg Harbor River with the Scouts, and then a few scouts and leaders went to go check out this trail. We knew just how to get there, as it starts just behind a campsite that we’ve used many times (although always since the boardwalk trail was damaged). Park in the field (port-a-potties will tell you that you’re in the right spot) that serves as a parking lot for the trail, group campsite, and boat launch. From the lot, continue down Artesian Well Road on foot. You’ll see the very after a minute or two.
The trailhead is to your right. Before getting on it, check out the ruins of the loading building from when this whole area was a WWI Munitions complex. Foundations, old walls, and other remains of the complex are scattered throughout this park.
It’s now time to get onto the trail itself. Simply walk up onto the boardwalk. For just about the next mile, stay on the boardwalk! There’s not really a lot of places to get lost or off. Make sure to stroll down the side boardwalks for views of the Smith-Ireland Cemetery (almost right away) and views of the creek.
Just after you cross Frog Pond Road and hit the small building, you’ll arrive at an intersection. The boardwalk continues straight, heading on for a while, a great way to turn this into a longer hike or access the more civilized parks of this park (see pictures at the end). It was getting near dinner time, so we turned right onto the boardwalk running perpendicular to the one we’d be walking. On the maps at the trailside, each part was labeled “Swamp Trail”. The way we chose was a short spur that hooked right a bit and ended at the dirt Oakridge Trail.
The Oakridge Trail will parallel the river, only well away from the water and swamps, instead providing pretty much a straight shot through pine forest. Most of the trails in this park were old roads on the Belcoville Munitions Plant grid, and I’d suspect this is one of them. You’ll follow it all the way back to Artesian Well Road, where it will pop out just next to the parking lot.
With side trips to the Smith-Ireland Cemetery, this comes in at a hair over two miles, and is well worth it.
In the area – Don’t leave Estell Manor Park yet! If you have the time and energy, explore some more trails on this end of the park! If not, drive back down Artesian Well Road, make a left, drive a mile, and pull in the main entrance of the park. You should drive the loop road, taking the time to check out the old Estell Glass Works, the Steelman Cemetary, the veteran’s cemetery, and the nature center! There are also picnic areas and some nice playgrounds! There are even some camping spots if you want to spend more time here (registration through Atlantic County Parks, can be made in person at the office of Lake Lenape County Park, about 7 or 8 minutes down the road).
Most of these shots are from my first camera and were taken back in 2004, the first time I visited Estell Manor. It was part of a larger group outing based off the book Absegami Yesteryear by Jack Boucher, which can be found pretty reasonably on Amazon.com . A great way to part with some money is to buy that book, camp out at Estell Manor or Lake Lenape, and use it to go exploring around the area.
Eleven years later, still well worth thanking the good people that led the various parts of the tour and were willing to let a long haired 22 year old tag along for the day, especially Teegate and the gang from njpinebarrens.com and Barry from Old and Historic Places in South Jersey (formerly Ghost Towns of Southern NJ) .
Once on the loop road –