Spring Lake Trail – Roebling Park – Hamilton Township, NJ

 

Welcome sign by Watson House.

Welcome sign by Watson House.

Spring Lake Trail – John A. Roebling Memorial Park – Abbott Marshlands – Hamilton Township, Mercer County, NJ

(Formerly the Trenton-Hamilton-Bordentown Marsh)
Distance: 4 miles of trails in the park (we did 2 1/2 miles – the Spring Lake Trail.  Will be back for the Watson’s Woods Trail)
Type: Web of interlocking trails.
Difficulty: 4 of 10 – some parts slippery and muddy, some parts of the trail (especially on the island portions) can be a little difficult to follow.  Elevation is no problem.
Total score: 7 of 10.

Terrain –Swamps, swamps, swamps, lake, and woodlands

Trailheads –  40° 11.695’N,  74° 43.936’W (Spring Lake trail head),  40° 11.358’N,  74° 43.636’W (Watson’s Woods Trailhead)

Directions: Listed in my GPS as “Roebling Park” (but won’t take you to an access point).  One parking lot is at the end of Sewell Ave (looks at first like a dead end, but you can curve left and drive downhill to the parking lot).  Another lot is located just past the Watson House at 151 Westcott Ave, Hamilton Township, NJ 08610.   

Standouts – birdwatching, beaver lodges/dam, swamps and marshlands, oldest house in Mercer County (built 1708), National Historic Landmark area

Markings – lines painted on trees, signs.

Weird line system I've never seen before.

Weird line system I’ve never seen before.

Little signs.

Little signs.

Bigger signs.

Bigger signs.

Sometimes a little confusing.

Sometimes a little confusing.

Map: Download a printable PDF here (from njtrails.org).
roeblingpark

Description:

There are three things that drew me to this park – 1) hey, it’s a hiking trail 2) swamps, swamps swamps and 3) it was the site of the former White City Amusement Park.

We opted for hiking around Spring Lake, because that had been part of White City (and because to walk to the Abbott home was supposed to have some tidal issues, and we weren’t prepared).

I think we made a good choice.

I think we made a good choice.  And this is just from the parking lot!

Reading the signs, just like daddy!

Reading the signs, just like daddy!

We started off walking the West side of the lake, under the trees that may or may not be willow trees (I really have to get better on my plant ids).  It’s a short walk of 0.2 miles.  Spring Lake is freshwater, created by building a dike to block this area off from the marshes in the late 1800s.  A freshwater spring then filled the lake with freshwater, and thus a beautiful picnic spot was born.  Today, it’s still a great spot for a picnic – there are tables at the parking area, and benches along this stretch of the lake.

Prime picnicking area.

Prime picnicking area.

Trail is nice too.

Trail is nice too.

But who wants to keep an eye on the trail?

But who wants to keep an eye on the trail?

Pond life.

Pond life.

At the end of the straightaway, keep going straight, cross the bridge, and enter the island portion of the trails.  Lots of birds on either side as you cross, keep your eyes open!

No trolls under this bridge... no room.  Ignore how it looks like it blocked off, I think that's just to keep bikes off the trails.

No trolls under this bridge… no room. Ignore how it looks like it blocked off, I think that’s just to keep bikes off the trails.

View to the left off of the bridge.

View to the left off of the bridge.

View to the right off of the bridge is also pretty good.

View to the right off of the bridge is also pretty good.

There were some geese nesting just on the other side of the bridge.  I think they may have been nesting on one of the side trails, so I kept going.

There were some geese nesting just on the other side of the bridge. I think they may have been nesting on one of the side trails, so I kept going.

Trees aren't doing well.

Trees aren’t doing well.

From here, the trails crisscross all over the island.  However, the only way off is the way you got on… the bridge.  I decided to keep hanging left and stay along the outside of the island.  I certainly wasn’t disappointed with the results.

Trail gets much more narrow once your on the island.

Trail gets much more narrow once your on the island.

On the East side of the island, you’ll have great marshland views with what I think is the Trenton Power Plant.  Keep an eye out for birds. Keep hanging left when you have a chance, and you’ll walk down that side of the island until you reach the point at the south end of the island.

Trenton Power Plant.

Trenton Power Plant.

Trails get better and better as you go on.

Trails get better and better as you go on.

Nice spot to rest and keep an eye on things.

Nice spot to rest and keep an eye on things.

At the end of the island, the trail ends, bizarrely, in a cul-del-sac.  I have never seen that anywhere.

At the end of the island, the trail ends, bizarrely, in a cul-de-sac. I have never seen that anywhere.

Nice view though.

Nice view though.

Use the cul-de-sac to turn around (you kinda have to, you might never have this opportunity again) and head north on the island.  You’ll continue to stay left whenever possible, keeping you on the West end of the island.  The trail will go up and up and up (at some point you’ll transfer from the yellow trail to the red trail) until the red trail loops back on itself.  As stated before, the trails on the island itself are a crazy web.  The big things to look out for on this side of the island are the beaver lodges and dam.

Stay left young man (or woman)!

Stay left young man (or woman)!

I keep saying it, but I love Spring.

I keep saying it, but I love Spring.

Ultra-rare Canadian goose.  Some people can go three whole minutes in a day without seeing on.

Ultra-rare Canadian goose. Some people can go three whole minutes in a day without seeing on.

Cool hollowed out (burned out?) tree with metal piping around it.  I have no idea what was going on here.

Cool hollowed out (burned out?) tree with metal piping around it. I have no idea what was going on here.

Flowers are lovely this time of year.

Flowers are lovely this time of year.

Just a beautiful day to be out and about (although a little cold at 50 degrees).

Just a beautiful day to be out and about (although a little cold at 50 degrees).

Beaver lodge and swan in one shot- how's that for luck?

Beaver lodge and swan in one shot- how’s that for luck?

There are TWO lodges next to each other.

Neighbors.

More or less at the beaver dam, the red trail will loop back on itself, rejoining itself further down the island (the trails get a bit crazy, seriously).  When you get back down to the next trail junction, hang a left.  This will take you back to the bridge, which you’ll cross and be back at Spring Lake.

Swamp with a red winged blackbird.

Swamp with a red winged blackbird.

Swamp trees are photogenic.

Swamp trees are photogenic.

Consensus from plant friends is that this is a type of fern (probably fiddler).

Consensus from plant friends is that this is a type of fern (probably fiddler).

Back at the junction, hang a left!

Back at the junction, hang a left!

Dumped trash or old artifact?

Dumped trash or old artifact?

Back at the bridge!

Back at the bridge!

Of course, you could walk right back to the parking lot from here, but why would you?  Take a right and walk down the South end of the lake.  This is the dike that was built up to create the lake.  You’ll cross over the release area and reach the SE corner of the lake.

Spillway.

Spillway.

I can almost see my car from here.

I can almost see my car from here.

'merica.

‘merica.

At the Southwest corner, a spur trail splits off, heading back into the swamp.  We took this, because why not?  It was a little muddier that the other trails, just be careful that you don’t slip.  The end of the trail is a nice view of the swamp from a different angle.

Trail starts nicely.

Trail starts nicely.

Reeds along the way.

Reeds along the way.

Power lines.

Power lines.

End of the line (unless you are good at climbing things - NOT suggested).

End of the line (unless you are good at climbing things – NOT suggested).

Again, nice view.

Again, nice view.

Back at the lake, you’ll be walking down the east side, then the north side of the lake.  Nothing super interesting here, just peaceful lake views.  At the Northeast corner, the connector trail for Watson’s Woods heads off toward that part of the park.  The Pres was getting a bit tired, so we decided to forgo that for today.  On the north side of the lake, you’ll be passing under the bluff, with houses built on top.  More on that after some pictures.

I like this lake.

I like this lake.

Easy walking.

Easy walking.

Toward Watson's Woods.

Toward Watson’s Woods.  It’s an old carriage trail.

Also, a drainage area is in that direction.

Also, a drainage area is in that direction.

On those bluffs above you were the rides and attractions of the White City Amusement Park.  They had a roller coaster and various other entertainments,which you could take a convenient trolley to for only 5 cents.  Today there is almost no sign of White City…

Homestretch.

Homestretch.

Extremely well protected port-a-potty.

Extremely well protected port-a-potty.

… except for the grand staircase that led from the attractions down to the lake and the mansion.  You can see both here in this picture:

roebling53

The staircase is in the park, and is public property.  The rest of the staircase is still there, buried under years of yard droppings.  The part that is covered is private property, so don’t go up any further!  Tens of thousands of people use this staircase while the park was a popular local attraction.  And while the mansion is private property, you can tour it thanks to an awesome blog and shutterfly account that the newest owners put together when they purchased the property.  In addition to chronicling the rehab project, they also have amassed an impressive collection of old photos and newspaper articles about White City.

roebling54

After 2 1/2 miles, the Pres and I sat on the bench next to the lake and had some pretzels and water.  We then drove around the corner to take a look at the Watson house (you can hike there if you’d like).  It is the oldest house in Mercer County (built in 1708) and is the headquarters for the New Jersey chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution.  It’s furnished with 18th century furniture and is open for tours the second Sunday of the month, April to June and September to November.  Groups can also schedule tours.

The Pres is happy to be here (he's just ducking from the wind), but he will never be a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  His family was digging potatoes in Ireland at the time.  Also, he's not a girl.

The Pres is happy to be here (he’s just ducking from the wind), but he will never be a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. His family was digging potatoes in Ireland at the time. Also, he’s not a girl.

Overall recommendation: Beautiful swamp walk.  Well worth going to, but probably not as much fun during bug season.

Resources:
Friends of Abbott Marshlands – help promote and maintain the park
Mercer County Parks Website – official park website
NJTrails.org – Roebling Park – great map for parking
White City Overlook Mansion Blog – blog of the folks who bought the mansion that the park was centered on. Chronicles their rehabbing efforts and TONS of great, historic photos of the park when it was open.
The Abbott Farm National Historic Landmark Interpetive Plan– all the fun that a government plan can be.
WeirdUS Message Board post with pictures and a short history

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7 Comments

Filed under Hiking

7 responses to “Spring Lake Trail – Roebling Park – Hamilton Township, NJ

  1. Pingback: Bordentown Bluffs Trails – Bordentown, NJ | South Jersey Trails

  2. Pingback: Abbott Marshlands – Northern Community Park, Bordentown, NJ | South Jersey Trails

  3. This one looks like fun! Little bridges, beaver dams, interesting history. Im going to have to visit this one myself.

  4. This is EXACTLY the information I am looking for! If you collect these blogs and put them into a book, I’d be the first person to buy a copy!

  5. Pingback: Top 10 South Jersey Trails! | South Jersey Trails

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