Wishbone Trail paddle – Rancocas Creek – Mt. Holly to Hainsport, NJ

rcnwt16

Wishbone Trail – Rancocas Creek National Water Trail paddle – Mt. Holly to Hainsport, Burlington County, NJ
Distance – roughly 8 miles
Time – usually 3 to 4 hours (took us just over 3)
Type – down the North Branch of Rancocas Creek, then up the South branch!
Difficulty:  7 of 10 (for paddling against the current the last mile and a half)
Total score: 10 of 10

Website – Ranococas Creek National Water Trail (proposed)
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.

Terrain – the river passes through the middle of town, as well as through forests and swamps.

Launches – 
Mount Holly – Launch at 39°59’24.58″N, 74°46’46.55″W (end of Wollner Drive in Iron Works Park) OR just the other side of the dam at Iron Works Park at the footbridge at 39°59’31.00″N, 74°46’55.59″W. We chose the first put in, which required taking the canoe out to portage around the dam.

rcnwtlaunch

Take out –  Hainsport at Walnut Ave and Spruce Ave – 39°59’5.79″N,  74°50’37.40″W

Parking – Parking located at the put ins and take outs.  There is no way from the end to the beginning, so work out a shuttle ahead of time!

Standouts – Beautiful stretches of river… and we saw a bald eagle!  Winds through Rancocas State Park.

Markings – None (it’s a river)

Map – Can be found at http://www.rcnwt.com/wish-bone-water-trail

 

rcnwtmap

Our GPS track laid out over Google Earth.

 

Description – One of the online places I like to hang out is the Jersey pine barrens facebook group, where a lot of folks post pictures that make me want to cut work and run out into the pine barrens to… well, the choices are endless.

One fellow on there keeps posting photos of his kayaking trips on Rancocas Creek at “the wishbone”, coming down the North Branch of that creek to the forks at Rancocas State Park, then paddling upstream on the South Branch to the landing in Hainsport.  Finally, able to stand it no longer, I called up my buddy Ray.  We grabbed the canoe and The Pres, and, on the weekend after Labor Day, went out to try this run for ourselves.

The set up, as usual, is the trickiest part.  We placed a car at the end of the run at Hainsport (at Walnut and Spruce), then shuttled the crew and canoe to Iron Works Park in Mount Holly, where we opted to put in at the canoe launch above the dam (you can also put in below the dam at the same park, to avoid a portage).

rcnwtlaunch

With the set up done, time for the fun part!  The first part of the paddle is a short run around the perimeter of Iron Works Park to where the dam is (we didn’t realize this before hand, but totally would have gone this way even if we had known).

rcnwt01

Canada geese.

rcnwt02

Awesome tree.

rcnwt03

Getting close.

rcnwt04

Old footing for something.

rcnwt05

The way is blocked.

rcnwt06
To the left of the dam, there is a clear little path where its very clear where people beach their boats to portage around the dam.  There’s then a short carry around.  We opted to go down the first worn place that we saw, but once on the water, we realized it probably would have been easier to go back in at the pedestrian footbridge connecting the parks on either side of the river (although we didn’t scout this out on foot, so this may be an untrue statement).  Regardless, we were back in the river without much trouble.

rcnwt07

About this time, I also learned that Ray had only ever kayaked before, never canoed.  Glad I picked an 8 mile run with part of it upstream.

rcnwt08

Worn path toward the river.

rcnwt09

rcnwt10

Someone is excited to get going again.

rcnwt11

Next landmark – footbridge.

rcnwt12

Bridge from the water.

Back in Rancocas Creek, the next part of the paddle was an interesting bit though Mt. Holly itself.  Because I’m so used to woodsy canoeing or paddling through people’s backyards, I find my rare trips through more built up town centers or urban areas to be really fascinating.  For many of these towns, the river you’re on was the original highway for folks to travel on, and it lends an interesting perspective to look up at a town!

This stretch saw us go under many bridges and flat past many an old building.

rcnwt13

Mt Holly is such a great town.

rcnwt15

The poor shopping cart looks like its mulling over its lost and lonely life. It’s okay little shopping cart, its okay.

rcnwt16

Favorite shot of the trip.  Ray gets credit for this one, had to hand my phone up to him to get straight ahead shots without him in the way!  Oh, and this is still in town.

rcnwt17

Lighting is bad, but another stone support there at the river’s edge.

rcnwt18
Once out of town, the river switches between a very woodsie feel (although you are very close to civilization) and floating through folks backyards.  This lasts for several miles until you reach the edge of Rancocas State Park, which the North Branch of Ranocacas Creek bisects.  It was on this stretch that the three of us had a BALD EAGLE take off from a tree to our side, then cross in front of us.   I know they are way more common than then once were, but it was such an amazing moment.  I didn’t even try to take a picture, because camera phone.

rcnwt20
rcnwt21
rcnwt22

rcnwt23

Last stretch of houses before entering Rancocas State Park.

And then there is coming into Rancocas State Park.  As stated many times, this is one of our favorite parks to hike in anywhere in the wonderful world of South Jersey.  Well, I can now report that its a darn good spot to canoe in as well.

Once you’re in the park, the park is on both sides of the river.  To the right will be mostly swampy marsh grasses.  To the left, you’ll sometimes have grasses, but also sometimes have more solid ground.  When you see solid ground, look closely, because many of the spots are old homesteads from when this river was the highway through Burlington County.  We pulled up in one spot near the final point of land before “the forks” to have a snack, and to admire the remaining timbers from a pier.

rcnwt24
rcnwt25
rcnwt26

rcnwt27

Much needed snack and cool down break.  The sun was HOT the weekend we went.

rcnwt28

The way we came.

rcnwt29

The way we are going – “the forks” are just around that corner.

rcnwt30

Happy camper… err, canoe-er.

Our snack complete, it was back into the canoe to head down to the hardest stretch.  We covered the last bit of distance to “the forks” where the North and South branches of Rancocas Creek meet without any difficulty, completing the 6 1/2 miles from Mt Holly.  But we immediately made the turn and began to head UP the South Branch of Rancocas Creek.  And that creek has some flow.

rcnwt31

Our GPS track laid out over Google Earth.

rcnwt32

Our GPS track laid out over Google Earth.

rcnwt33

And coming back to non-marshy land after furiously paddling upstream.

I won’t lie to you, this is the part of the trip where you are a complete idiot to be in a canoe.  Paddling upstream in a kayak is hard enough, but in a canoe… well, the looks from the people motorboating past us said it all.  Luckily, I’m not easily discouraged by hard canoeing, and my buddy Ray has good upper body strength, so we made very respectable steady progress up the South Branch of Rancocas Creek.  Also luckily, while the downstream part of the run is 6 1/2 miles, the upstream part is only 1 1/2 miles.

A good spot for a warning – the South Branch of Rancocas Creek was filled with motorboaters… like, easily a half dozen of them.  They were all really considerate, and slowed down (they had to be careful, there were boats stopped fishing, and a crew of tubers out there too), but there might be an idiot out there, so stay alert.

Back to our regularly scheduled adventure report – when we neared the edge of Rancocas State Park and the old whatever-it-was building, we needed to stop and rest our burning arms for a few minutes.  Ray had never been in the park before, so we walked the twenty or thirty feet down the trail to take a peek up at it.

rcnwt34
rcnwt35

rcnwt36

Pieces of an extensive old dock system.

rcnwt37

Parked!

rcnwt38

rcnwt39

A good stretch of the legs.

rcnwt41

Someone is ready to keep going.

Back in the canoe, it was one last push to freedom.  There was a large bend coming up (hooray for topo maps on the phone), but with a cut through to cut to corner.  We decided to risk it (our arms hurt), and made it back to the main channel without so much as touching bottom.  Yay!

We passed a group of tubers, then rounded the final corner to the boat ramp at our take out point.  Hooray!

rcnwt42

Time to go.

rcnwt43

Around the last bend.

rcnwt44

Boat ramp ahead… yay!

Forty-five minutes later, after getting the other car back from Mt Holly and some cold, cold, cold drinks from the convenience store, we put the canoe up and happily headed for home.  Despite the final leg of the trip, great times were had by all!

Overall recommendation – Loved, loved, loved this paddle. Rancocas State Park is beautiful from the water, you get a really interesting look at Mount Holly, and we saw a bald eagle!!!!  Just know that you’ll have to paddle upstream.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Canoeing, Outdoors., pine barrens, South Jersey

3 responses to “Wishbone Trail paddle – Rancocas Creek – Mt. Holly to Hainsport, NJ

  1. John Burton

    We are kayaking the Rancocas from BCC to Birmingham today and saw this story, I enjoyed it . Planned with the out going you could leave the northbranch and pullout at Milll Creek parks (Muscle beach)its maybe 150yards to the A parking lot and that would be alot easier paddle. I live about half way between the fork and the park in Willingboro (Irish Wharf) Martins Beach and you can often see the eagle , king fisher and even the new local osprey.

  2. arlene Pfeiffer

    love this paddle and paddle all year long on the north branch. love riding the tide out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s