Manumuskin River Preserve – Millville, Cumberland County, NJ
Distance – 4 miles total (trail was probably 3, plus some wandering)
Type – lollipop
Difficulty: 3 of 10 – walk along the stones over the swamp is a pain
Website – Cumberland County
Open – Sunrise to Sunset?
Terrain – swamps, woods
Surface – dirt, gravel, and more
Trailheads – 39°20’7.28″N, 74°57’41.94″W
Directions – Port Elizabeth-Cumberland Road (Rt 646), Millville, NJ
Parking – Roadside parking along Port Elizabeth-Cumberland Road (Rt 646)
Dog friendly? Unsure.
Stroller friendly? Definitely not.
Markings – Trail markers and white painted blazes
Map – No official map.
So I’ve been sitting on this trail since about six weeks after I started this blog. Why? Well, the official-ish page from Cumberland County states that it’s not open to the public. Also, when I’d look into it, there was never a whole lot of concrete information about it. So I just kept putting it off and putting it off. But after six years (and after watching everyone and their grandmother post beautiful pictures of this place), I decided to take off my Boy Scout hat and put on my Indiana Jones hat and go for it.
NOTE: If you get arrested by the deer police (don’t ask, don’t ask), you never heard of me.
Anyway, one rainy April morning, the boys and I roared in on a fleet on motorcycles, helmetless of course, our matching new motorscycle gang tattoos fresh on our upper arms (the Pooh Bears. I shouldn’t have let the boys pick). The Pres and Tree Rider flicked away their candy cigarettes (into trash bags, of course), I strapped the baby on my back, and away we went into the woods, heading in on a trailhead right next to the railroad tracks.
This first stretch of trail was, well, weird. There were shoes hung like Christmas balls on the trees along the way, leading to a giant pile of beer bottles. Luckily, we were bad dudes now, so no shoe decorations were going to scare us. Because Pooh Bears! The trail ran out of woods by the edge of the marsh, and merged with the small cleared space next to the trains.
When you run out of woods, you have no choice but to walk on the gravel next to the trains until you cross the marsh. These tracks are active but, according to a neighbor I talked to, it’s only very sporadically (he also let me know that nature groups go in this way all the time to bird watch). Be extra careful watching your kiddos (or fellow gang members) when you cross the bridge, as the area to walk gets much narrower for a dozen feet or so.
Once you cross the river (keep an eye out for birds!), you’ll be able to step off the gravel. On your right will quickly come a clearing, revealing the trail head for the horseshoe trail through the preserve. Turn right here to take the trail.
The trail heads into the woods, flirting along the edge of lake and swamp for the first stretch. Keep an eye out for foundations, non-native plants, and cellar holes. Your first chimney will be on the right side of the trail by the water.
If you continue walking (and why wouldn’t you?), more ruins will soon appear on the left side of the trail.
Another short walk will put you in the middle of historic Fries Mills. Each side of the trail sports foundations and cellar holes.
Another highlight of this stretch is that there was a very noisy owl somewhere in the swamp. We never managed to catch a glimpse of him, but we heard him plenty.
The trail then curved around to the left at this point, then curved around to the right. At the curve to the right, you want to make a left turn into the woods to stay on the trail (getting off the old road the trail had been following up to this point). There was a downed tree at this point that blocked the trail, but the going was easy go -around at this point that made for easy walking but tough being-able-to-spot.
The trail is now large and sandy and leads to a famed “blue hole”. This isn’t a real blue hole (like the one in Winslow), but is instead a quarry filled in with water. The effect on this cloudy day was… well, slightly disappointing.
Luckily, there are folks who plan around the weather better than I, so here it is in its full glory:
The trail then runs along the edge of the lake all the way back down to the railroad tracks. Lots of cool plants and swampy areas along the way.
Once we hit the train tracks, we took a left turn and headed back out the way that we came in.
My kids, who are better people than I am, started picking up trash during the hike. Good job guys!
Nearby: Nearby are the lovely Maurice River Bluffs Preserve, the Harold Peek Preserve, and the Maurice River Walking & Biking Trail.
Beautiful lake, lovely swamps, old ruins, and some great wildlife... what's not to love?
Go at your own risk.
How are you accessing this from 646? The entrance is from Barth Road off of 47
Hi Ben! We followed the OCSJ trio plan and went down the railroad tracks. Started at 39°20’7.28″N, 74°57’41.94″W