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Wheelabrator Wildlife Refuge – Westville , Gloucester County, NJ
Distance: 1.5 miles (one way)
Type: Out and back
Difficulty: 1 of 10.

Terrain – marshland and meadows

Trailheads –  39° 52.288’N,  75° 8.223’W
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Directions – 600 Crown Point Rd (Intersection of Rt 130 and Crown Point Road) Westville, NJ.  At that address turn down the driveway (road).  Just before entering the gates for the trash incinerator, make a right turn into the Parking lot.

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Parking – Large lot
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Markings – None, follow the directions in the description

Description:

This is the trash incinerating company’s little wildlife refuge that they put together, and it’s pretty nice (even more so for being next to a trash incinerating plant).  It’s so nice we went there twice!  The first time my brother-in-law and I got soaked in the rain while stumbling around a trail system we didn’t understand (although we spotted a deer! And poison ivy!  And rain!).  The second time, I went back along with The Pres after carefully reading Yummygal’s adventure there (and noting that she managed not to end up in a mucky marsh or poison ivy patches).

The front end of the park is very neat and tidy, with a good sized picnic pavilion and a butterfly garden.  Head between the two and follow the mown path all the back to the fence.  Along the way, look for butterflies and dragonflies in the high grass, and admire the smokestack of the plant.

Butterfly garden entrance.

Butterfly garden entrance.

Inside the butterfly garden.

Inside the butterfly garden.

This trail brought to you by these fine, civic-minded organizations.

This trail brought to you by these fine, civic-minded organizations.

Follow the mown path.

Follow the mown path.

Dragonfly. Butterflies were too quick for me this day.

Dragonfly. Butterflies were too quick for me this day.

The trail will narrow down and go into the trees through a gap in the fence.

The trail will narrow down and go into the trees through a gap in the fence.

As soon as you enter the woods, you have two options – right or left.  Right is not a real option, it’s a game trail, stay off it!  It peters out at rotting logs and what I suspect was poison ivy (I check things out so that you don’t have too!).  Go LEFT and follow the fence.  You’ll have trees to your right and the fence/factory to your left along this long stretch of trail.  A bridge breaks up the monotony a bit.  After 0.2 miles, you’ll come to the corner of the fence, where the trail will again split left and right.

Fence to the left and run, run, run, run, run.

Fence to the left and run, run, run, run, run. (running optional for those of us who are not two years old).

Onto the bridge and run, run, run, run, run.

Onto the bridge and run, run, run, run, run.

Split in the trail at the end of the fence.

Split in the trail at the end of the fence.

At this split, either way is fine to go.  For the sake of organization, go right.  You’ll walk about 0.1 miles and get a view of the marsh reeds.  That’s it, turn around and go back the way you came (again, we headed down into the marsh where there is no trail while looking for one – making mistakes so that you don’t have to!)

If you immediately see this post, you went the correct way.

If you immediately see this post, you went the correct way.

It's shady back here. We also saw a deer wandering around these parts.

It’s shady back here. We also saw a deer wandering around these parts.

Have fun on the side trail?  Great!  We rejoin the main trail back at the fence.  Make the turn and continue to walk right along the trail, over another pair of bridges, until you emerge on a non-paved road.



Run, run, run, run, run, of course.

Run, run, run, run, run, of course.

I'm not exaggerating, stay right along the fence... but out of the barbed wire.

I’m not exaggerating, stay right along the fence… but out of the barbed wire.

We made it!

We made it!

When you hit the road, make a right AWAY from the fence (don’t cry too much, I know all of the time that you and fence spent together is meaningful, but sometimes you just have to move on).  From this point on, it’s a road walk along a barely used road.  Admire the meadows and marshes on either side, and make sure to climb onto the observation platforms for slightly better views and informative signs (although some of the signs are pretty sun bleached).  The little side trails to these platforms are not always clear, so if you end up mucking through waste high grass, it doesn’t mean that you missed the trail.

The trail will go through several open meadows before turning to follow Big Timber Creek.

The Pres strongly recommends dragging a stick behind you and walking through any mud puddles that you can find.

The Pres strongly recommends dragging a stick behind you and walking through any mud puddles that you can find.

Not a total wilderness.

Not a total wilderness.

Flowers! I don't really miss those winter hikes with bare trees.

Flowers! I don’t really miss those winter hikes with bare trees.

An easy stroll.

An easy stroll.

A find open meadow (as seen from a platform).

A find open meadow (as seen from a platform).



Shady lane (s feel good on hot summer days)

Shady lane (s feel good on hot summer days)

Big Timber Creek.

Big Timber Creek.

Eventually, the trail/road will hook back to the left and run parallel to the Delaware River.  There is a platform that’s a little tough to get to, but it’s worth it.  There was also a little trail sign for what I assumed was a side trail, but I couldn’t find a trace of it.  After checking out the viewing platform, keep on going.

You’ll see a building coming up, with a blue steel building.  Turn right in front of the steel box and you can make it onto the shores of the mighty Delaware River.  Great views of the Philly skyline, the football and baseball stadiums, the Walt Whitman Bridge, and river traffic from here.  You can also kinda spot the Naval Yard, but its mostly around a bend of the river.  This spot is worth hanging out in for a while to check out the view, the boat boats, and throw rocks into the river (last two suggestions are from The Pres).

Viewing platform.

Viewing platform.

Cut in front of the trailer to the river's edge.

Cut in front of the trailer to the river’s edge.

View from the platform.

View from the platform.

Nice beach (minus the washed up trash).

Nice beach (minus the washed up trash).

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The road goes a little further, but little legs get tired, so we headed back toward the car.  Simply retrace your steps down the road, then follow the fence around the Wheelabrator plant to get back to the parking lot.

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When do I get carried?

When do I get carried?

This area also has a fascinating history as an amusement park. For more info, check out South Jersey Explorer’s post on WHEELABRATOR WILDLIFE REFUGE and also, WHEELABRATOR WILDLIFE REFUGE Part II on the refuge.  Thanks to Yummygal for posting about this place, I hadn’t heard about it until I read about her adventures there!

The Good

Butterfly garden and great views of the Delaware River and Philly.

The Could Be Better

Long walk around the trash incinerator isn't really nice.

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Bottom Line

Great little hike, love the platforms with the information, and really love the view of the river. Well worth it.

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