Walking Tour Trail and Parados Trail – Fort Mott State Park – Pennsville, NJ

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Walking Tour Trail & Parados Trail – Fort Mott State Park – Pennsville, Salem County, NJ
Distance: 1.2 miles (Walking Tour Trail)
0.3 miles (Parados Trail)
Type: Loop
Difficulty: 3 of 10 (for stairs)
Total score: 7 of 10

Website – Fort Mott State Park
Open – 8 AM to 4 PM daily

Terrain – flat riverside areas, but trail climbs on top of fortifications.

Trailheads – Walking Tour Trail –  39°36’12.09″N, 75°33’0.86″W (next to main parking lot)
Parados Trail –  39°36’14.49″N,  75°33’2.68″W (from parking lot, walk down behind main batteries.  Turn right onto the road for the Welcome Center.  Trail will start at the stairs to your left).

Directions: 454 Fort Mott Road, Pennsville, NJ 08070

Parking: Large lot just off Fort Mott Road.

Standouts – Old Spanish-American War era fortifications. Nice views of the Delaware River.

Markings – Marked by signs along the way
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Map – Official State park trail map can be found here

Description: On our way back from Pea Patch Island this Saturday, we stopped at Fort Mott.  It would have been impossible NOT to stop, as this is where the Three Forts Ferry drops you off.  Fort Mott is an awesome place, and if somehow you have never been there, open up that planner right now and put in a date in non-erasable marker.

Fort Mott from the Delaware River.  Doesn't look like much... until your boat is full of holes and on fire.

Fort Mott from the Delaware River. Doesn’t look like much… until your boat is full of holes and on fire.

Historically, Fort Mott was the answer to post-Civil War defense of Philadelphia.  Paired up with it’s sister forts in Delaware (including Fort visible on Pea Patch Island), it guarded a narrow neck of the Delaware Bay turned river.  The fort’s construction began in earnest just before the Spanish-American War and was manned through both that war and World War I.  Never used in warfare, it was turned over to New Jersey for a park in the 1950s.   The fort was named for Gershom Mott who, as many notable historians agree, had a first name that is fun to say.

I can’t remember who first told me about this place, but I’ve been here probably half a dozen times in the last ten years.  It was one of my favorite places to go to test out any new camera or lens that I got, I loved dragging unsuspecting friends down here to explore, and my wife and I even had one of our very first date here (no, I don’t know why she married me either).

There are three trails within the park – the Walking Tour Trail, the Parados Trail, and the Interpretive Trail (a nature trail).  We share two of them.  For fun, I’ve occasionally thrown in one of my old pictures to show the changes over the last decade.

The Walking Tour Trail

As you would expect, this trail explores the fort and is by far the most popular thing to do here (although the twisty slide at the playground looks pretty sweet).  You’ll start at the parking lot, walking behind the defensive emplacements.  Your first stop is the first defensive work, Battery Gregg, which housed a lookout area and a large coastal gun.  Climb the stairs in back to get up to the top.  Here, you can see where the gun was placed and climb inside the bunker where lookouts would have been posted.

Front of batteries.

Front of batteries.

Back of Battery Gregg, climb those steps!

Back of Battery Gregg, climb those steps!

Where a gun once defended the great city of Philadelphia, toddlers now try to escape pictures with their mothers.

Where a gun once defended the great city of Philadelphia, toddlers now try to escape pictures with their mothers.

Down the fortifications.

Down the fortifications.

Just three guys keeping a lookout.  No Spanish or German ships attacked on our watch.

Just three guys keeping a lookout. No Spanish or German ships attacked on our watch.

Doo doo doo looking out my backdoor.

Doo doo doo looking out my backdoor.

Doing a good job.

Doing a good job.

Climbing down the steps, you’ll head across the road (turning right would send you toward the visitors center.  Left will send you toward the ferry dock) toward the next set of fortifications.  You’ll enter the door at the back corner of the batteries.  That’s right, inside trail!  Inside, you can read the description, then head up the stairs to see where the disappearing guns were located.

Head across the street to the next set of batteries.

Head across the street to the next set of batteries.

Go through that gate (not supposed to be closed, The Pres has OCD about closing doors).

Go through that gate (not supposed to be closed, The Pres has OCD about closing doors).

There you'll find the disappearing gun batteries.  Also, you'll find my buddy Adam.  But only if it's 2007 still.

There you’ll find the disappearing gun batteries. Also, you’ll find my buddy Adam. But only if it’s 2007 still.

The gun would have popped up over that wall to fire.

The gun would have popped up over that wall to fire.

The trail will NOT backtrack here, but will instead continue up the steps to the roof of the embankments.  The trail will run to the front area and continue between the grass and the fences the length of the fortification.  Signs along the way will tell you about different aspects of the fortifications.  You’ll also have a grand view of the Delaware River.  Continue onward until you come to the wooden steps, which will take you down the front side of the fortifications to the concrete walking path along the river.

Up the steps.

Up the steps.

Just came from here.

Just came from here.

Heading around the fence to the front part of the fortifications.

Heading around the fence to the front part of the fortifications.

Trail will head straight down the front here.

Trail will head straight down the front here.

Nice views up here.

Nice views up here.  Pea Patch Island and it’s Civil War era fort are visible in the middle of the river.

Lots of Swallows out today.

Lots of Swallows out today.

Keep on hiking.  Definitely the first hike we've covered that's on the top of a building.

Keep on hiking. Definitely the first hike we’ve covered that’s on the top of a building.

More gun emplacements along the way.

More gun emplacements along the way.

Nice stretch of river.

Nice stretch of river.

Educational signs.  If you rest your head on them, the knowledge immediately transfers to your brain.

Educational signs. If you rest your head on them, the knowledge immediately transfers to your brain.

Places to rest and enjoy the view.

Places to rest and enjoy the view.

End of the line, down, down down to...

End of the line, down, down down to…

The concrete path.

The concrete path.

From here, you’ll walk along the concrete path toward the tower.  When a gap appears in the defenses, you’ll walk through it.  To the right will be a lookout tower that’s worth walking to the base of.  From there, you’ll turn around and walk back the way you came, only this time behind the defensive works.  Almost immediately, you’ll pass the Peace Bunker (used for storing ammunition) and head into the tunnel used to transport ammunition.

Look who's catching up.

Look who’s catching up.

Through the gap.

Through the gap.

To the left, an old observation tower.

To the left, an old observation tower.

To the right, the Peace Bunker.

To the right, the Peace Bunker.

Immediately after is the ammunition tunnel.

Immediately after is the ammunition tunnel.

Once you are through the tunnel, you’ll turn right and climb the steps.  You’ll turn right at the top of the steps and go into the tunnel.  Partway through, you’ll turn left and climb the stairs.  Check out the pillbox, then head through the trench to the gun emplacement.  Here, you’re out of real estate and will head back the way you came to the concrete walking trail on the ground

Just after the tunnel.

Just after the tunnel.

Coming out of the tunnel.  Turn right up ahead and head up the steps.

Coming out of the tunnel. Turn right up ahead and head up the steps.

Into the tunnel, then turn right.  Remember to stick your head back so your dad can get a picture.

Into the tunnel, then turn right. Remember to stick your head back so your dad can get a picture.

In the pillbox.

In the pillbox.

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Through the trench.

Through the trench.

Last gun emplacement on this part of the fortifications.

Last gun emplacement on this part of the fortifications.

As the trail sign says, about face and head back the way that you came.

As the trail sign says, about face and head back the way that you came.

From here, the trail will follow along the back of the bunker, between the parados (used to defend the rear of the works from attack) and the front defenses (pointing toward the river).  There will be opportunities to duck into buildings, so why not take them?  When you get to the end of the wall, you’ll turn left and walk up the road.

We're back!

We’re back!

Tree Rider and I checked out the inside of this one.

Tree Rider and I checked out the inside of this one.

We were both scared that it was haunted.  Wooooo!

We were both scared that it was haunted. Wooooo!

However, there is a toilet in there.  This is one of my favorite pictures ever, entitled "Untitled (Dysfunctional Toilet)" (2005) .  I will happily sell you a print for absurd amounts of money. Also, they have a bit fence in front of this now, so you can't get this picture anymore.

However, there is a toilet in there. This is one of my favorite pictures ever, entitled “Untitled (Dysfunctional Toilet)” (2005) . I will happily sell you a print for absurd amounts of money.
Also, they have a bit fence in front of this now, so you can’t get this picture anymore.

 

Old steps.

Old steps.

Same steps, 2005.

Same steps, 2005.

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To the left is the Parados, the rear defense for the guns.  The Parados Trail runs along the top of it.  The middle of the hill is hollow, as you can see from the doorways in.

To the left is the Parados, the rear defense for the guns. The Parados Trail runs along the top of it. The middle of the hill is hollow, as you can see from the doorways in.

Headed back in.

Headed back in.

Shell storage.

Shell storage.

Winch to lift ammo.

Winch to lift ammo.

Same lift, 2005.  Where'd the color go?

Same lift, 2005. Where’d the color go?

Snake skin found while wandering.

Snake skin found while wandering (2007)

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Didn't see this one this time (picture from 2007), but may have just missed it.

Didn’t see this one this time (picture from 2007), but may have just missed it.

When you reach the end of the fortifications, you’ll be back at the intersection that you hit just after Battery Gregg.  Turn left and head away from the river.

The first thing you’ll see is a good sized hill with stairs leading up to the top.  This is not natural, but is the rear defenses for Fort Mott, called a parados.  This set of stairs is also the beginning of the Parados Trail, but more on that later.

Parados Trail beginning.  Also a swell Eagle Project by Chris Whitzell.  Well done Chris.

Parados Trail beginning. Also a swell Eagle Project by Chris Whitzell. Well done Chris.

The next spot on the Walking Tour Trail is the moat, which is directly behind the parados.  The moat, dug out by hand (the soil was then used to build the parados) was used to present yet another obstacle.  The parados also held the toilets for the men on duty.   The toilets emptied directly into the moat, the grossest defense that I can think of from attack.  Because the Delaware is tidal here, the moat would flood and self clean twice a day.  In the event of attack, the outlet to the river would be cut off, making this one giant cesspool.

Canal (winter 2005... much easier to see when the plants are not in full glory).

Canal (winter 2005… much easier to see when the plants are not in full glory).

Next up is a double whamey.  The park office will be to your left.  To your right will be another observation tower.  The sign lets you know that the observation tower (with it’s many sensitive instruments) was actually built with shock absorbers so that the instruments weren’t thrown off when the guns were fired.

Park office.

Park office.  Formerly the Guard House.

Observation tower.

Observation tower.

Next up is the welcome center.  I remember it having exhibits, but it seemed to be closed yesterday, and the porch looks weird.  Maybe they are remodeling, or maybe I just didn’t understand their hours.  Regardless, the wayback machine shows us what the exhibit looks like (or at least what it looked like in 2007).

Welcome Center.

Welcome Center.

There's Adam again.

There’s Adam again.

fortmottwelcomecenter02
fortmottwelcomecenter03
Immediately behind the welcome center, you might notice a field full of large guns.  Are they going to eventually clean them up and remount them (like they have with the one at Sandy Hook)?  Let’s hope so!fourtmott53
The last stop on the trail is the old house out on the road, which I think was the Base Headquarters (but I could be very wrong).  Regardless, here it is.fortmott57

That’s it for the trail!  But going backward, we can walk…

The Parados Trail

This is a short trail, maybe 0.3 of a mile, if that.  It’s short, but worth the walk.

Head up the steps.

Head up the steps.

Interesting views toward the river.

Interesting views toward the river.

Peace Magazine in 2007, a few months after arson did a real number on the building.

Peace Magazine in 2007, a few months after arson did a real number on the building.  This part of the trail is neat because you’re walking over the tunnel.

View from up high.

View from up high.

Trail is done already!

Trail is done already!

I like this trail, because it gives you a different view of the fortifications.  It’s also surprising when you’re on top that it’s man made.

There is one more trail here at the park, but alas, I have yet to hike it.  For next time!

Overall recommendation:  This is one of my favorite places in South Jersey, and when you visit, it’ll quickly become one of yours too.  There’s a little bit of everything – history, birdlife, and urban decay- something for everyone!  Combined with Pea Patch Island, this is a solid use of a day!

Sources: Interpretive signs in the park.

For better historical coverage than this, I suggest checking out The History Girl’s Blog post Defending the Delaware

Nearby: From Fort Mott, you can take a ferry over to Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island. This was part of the same defensive works of Philadelphia, but also was used as a prisoner of war camp during the Civil War. Very well preserved and worth the trip!

Supawna Meadows WMA with it’s three trails is practically next door!

At the edge of Supawna Meadows, visit Finn’s Point Lighthouse. A few days a year, you can even go up it (I’m not sure how often, but I climbed it during the New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge).

Just a 1/2 mile further up the road is Finn’s Point National Cemetery. Many Civil War veterans are buried here, including Confederate prisoners from Pea Patch Island, their Union guards, and some Nazi POWs from WWII.

Finns Point is also home to an anomaly… on the New Jersey side of the Delaware, there is a little slice of Delaware. This goes all the way back to the king’s grant, which gave Delaware an arc of land up to the low tide mark in New Jersey. When dredge spoilings later expanded the New Jersey coastline into the river here, that new land became part of Delaware.

Pictures of the same exact places, only in the snow (2005):

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Dredging.

Dredging.

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2 Comments

Filed under Hiking, History, Outdoors., South Jersey

2 responses to “Walking Tour Trail and Parados Trail – Fort Mott State Park – Pennsville, NJ

  1. Hi- My husband and I went to Fort Mott State Park on Memorial Day thanks to your post! Also found the National Confederate Cemetery on the dirt road… Checked out Maurice River Bluffs a few months ago as well.. thanks for the inspiration!
    I was hoping you could help me out with something? …My husband and I are really trying to get into (lightweight) backpacking. We are basing our trips out of Wharton to gain backcountry experience. I was wondering if you could tell me what you use to keep food odor/bear/rodent proof? I know you have been backpacking as well as day hikes and generally stay in the same areas we will venture too, which includes Bear country in PA/NJ … I use Loksak aLoksak and Opsak bags for day hikes now, but am thinking they should be put into a bear/rodent proof bag when in bear country on backpacking trips. Thinking Ursack to tie to a tree instead of wasting time finding a tree to hang it in.. I really just wanted to pick your brain a bit, hope thats okay. I appreciate your help and posts!

  2. Awesome! Glad you found some new places to explore.

    For food storage while backpacking, I’ve stayed pretty low tech. I just put everything in a large “zippered” ziplock bag, then seal it in another ziplock bag. When I bear bag, I put it all in a back trash bag and use the usual techniques. I’ve never had a problem with bears (even though I’ve seen them in some of our campsites). I’ve never had rodents get into my food either, other others on my trips have. Might just be luck though.

    The only time I’ve used a different system was in Wyoming, where you must use bear canisters. They were very, very efficient at their job (and I had zero interest in wrestling a grizzly), but weigh a lot and are a pain to make sit nicely with the rest of your pack.

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