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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)
Type: Loop
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.

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Markings – None, just stay on the boardwalk!

Map –

Trail is highlighted

Trail is highlighted

Click for larger image of full park map.

Click for larger image of full park map.

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.

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Down the road.

Made it!

Made it!

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.

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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.

Trailhead, very hard to miss.

Trailhead, very hard to miss.

Almost immediately, there is a split in the trail. You can go right a short distance to check out the tiny Smith-Ireland Cemetery. You'll come back the way you came.

And we’re off!

Almost immediately, there is a split in the trail. You can go right a short distance to check out the tiny Smith-Ireland Cemetery. You'll come back the way you came.

Almost immediately, there is a split in the trail. You can go right a short distance to check out the tiny Smith-Ireland Cemetery. You’ll come back the way you came.

The cemetery. We didn't go this time, this picture is a few years old.

The cemetery. We didn’t go this time, this picture is a few years old (2012).

Back on the Swamp Trail.

Back on the Swamp Trail.



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View from the first platform.

View from the first platform.

Warm day, but nice and cool along the river.

Warm day, but nice and cool along the river.

Also shockingly few insects. This might have been the weather or time or day or plain dumb luck, I was eaten alive in this same general area of the park the first time I came to see the munitions plant ruins.

Also shockingly few insects. This might have been the weather or time or day or plain dumb luck, I was eaten alive in this same general area of the park the first time I came to see the munitions plant ruins.

Cedars.

Cedars.

Another platform view.

Second platform view.

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Blueberries were ripening by the handfuls.

Blueberries were ripening by the handfuls.

Third viewing platform.

Third viewing platform.

Third viewing platform, other direction.

Third viewing platform, other direction.



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Frog Pond Road. You can use this to cut a few tenths of a mile off the hike, but I wouldn't.

Frog Pond Road. You can use this to cut a few tenths of a mile off the hike, but I wouldn’t.

Ruins of a small, mysterious building. This is one of the few in the park that they don't have a clear picture of in its heyday, and aren't quite sure what happened in.

Ruins of a small, mysterious building. This is one of the few in the park that they don’t have a clear picture of in its heyday, and aren’t quite sure what happened in.

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.

More boardwalk, but not much more.

More boardwalk, but not much more.

Last short side trail view.

Last short side trail view.

And now we're dirt.

And now we’re dirt.

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.

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With its maps at intersections and trail signs, this park makes it so easy.


With its maps at intersections and trail signs, this park makes it so easy.

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Popping out at the road next to where the cars are parked.

Popping out at the road next to where the cars are parked.

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) .

Same ruins at the beginning of the trail, only 11 years younger.

Same ruins at the beginning of the trail, only 11 years younger.

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Lots of other ruins scattered throughout the non-loop part of the park.

Lots of other ruins scattered throughout the non-loop part of the park.

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Note the "concrete-cicles". I was told that was the lime leeching out over time.

Note the “concrete-cicles”. I was told that was the lime leeching out over time.

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Once on the loop road –

Old glassworks.

Old glassworks.

Glassworks.

Glassworks.

Glassworks.

Glassworks.

Glassworks.

Glassworks.

Glassworks.

Glassworks.

Atlantic County Veterans Cemetery.

Atlantic County Veterans Cemetery.

Making new friends at the nature center.


Making new friends at the nature center.

Steelman graveyard. Steelmans can be found throughout South Jersey history, and Steelmanville and the remains of the Steelmanville Tavern were other stops on this trip.

Steelman graveyard. Steelmans can be found throughout South Jersey history, and Steelmanville and the remains of the Steelmanville Tavern were other stops on this trip.

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The Good

WWI munition plant ruins, beautiful boardwalk, swamp plants, and views of the river. Also blueberries.

The Could Be Better

Bugs in the summer.

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9.0
Bottom Line

If this trail had been repaired before my “Top 10 Hikes in South Jersey” post back in March, it would have made the list. Beautiful trail, great views, lots of interesting nature to study, and ruins of old buildings lurking in the vegetation – could it have any more draw?

9.0
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southjerseytrails
  • July 21, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    Nice. I haven’t made the back trails in awhile, I have to get back. My now-11 has done scout-related orienteering there a few times.

    • July 21, 2015 at 1:55 pm

      Awesome! Does the park have a standard course, or did the troop set up their own? We camp there every Fall when we help out with the multiple sclerosis bike ride, the orienteering course might be something for them to do in the afternoon…

  • Brenda Thorn
    March 26, 2016 at 7:35 am

    The boardwalk has been repaired. The trails are very well maintained. I run there a few times a week with my dog. Beautiful place.

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