Cramer Hill Waterfront Park – Camden, NJ

Cramer Hill Waterfront Park – Camden, Camden County, NJ
Distance – A bit over 2 miles of trails, I did about 1.8 miles
Type – Interlocking loops
Difficulty: 3 of 10

Website – Official Website
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.

Terrain – Grassy hills
Surface – Paved trails

Trailheads – N 39° 57.066′ W 75° 6.442′

Directions – Two entrances near Harrison Ave and E State St, one on State and one on Harrison.  Harrison is near the playground, State is near the kayak launch

Parking – Two good sized lots.  Trailhead coordinates are for slightly smaller one near the kayak launch

Dog friendly? Leashed dogs allowed
Stroller friendly? Paved trails are stroller friendly, but there are inclines
Benches? Several benches along the way

Facilities?: Playground, kayak launch, port-a-potty

Rules –

Markings – None, but trails are paved in a relatively small area
Map –

 

Description –

Alright, we’ll get this out of the way right away…

This park is located in Camden, NJ.  As everyone in South Jersey know, Camden, NJ is a tough place.  It’s been the murder capital of the country on more than one occasion in the last few decades.  It’s the dumping ground for every awful thing that the Camden County government doesn’t want to put in “nice areas” for at least the past 50 years (see also: why there was land available for this park).  There are poverty issues and drug issues and crime issues. Many people in South Jersey are terrified to set foot in Camden.

That being said, I felt fine here.  The vast majority of people in Camden are lovely, and almost everyone I saw here had either kids on the playground or were fishing.  The park bends around the Salvation Army’s KROC Center, which has been a very safe place since it opened and has been a great resource for the city. The park is very clean in good shape and has clearly been well taken care of since it opened about a year ago.  But I’m also a 6’1” guy with a beard who worked just around the corner for years teaching kids from Camden and who used to be in Camden on a fairly regular basis for work.

So if you’re worried about hiking in Camden, bring a friend, or just pick another park to go hiking at.

With that out of the way…

Cramer Hill Waterfront Park

So back to Camden being a dumping ground, this 82 acre tract of waterfront property perched at the confluence of the Cooper and Delaware Rivers  was earmarked in the 1950s for… a landfill?  Unfortunately, yes, and for 20 years it served as a largely unregulated landfill.  But in 2011, a new vision came to the forefront for the property, and over the next ten years the landfill was capped and developed into a brand new park in the city of Camden, featuring walking trails, a pond, fishing areas, a playground, and even a kayak launch.  I had my doubts when I first heard the plan, but when I saw what had been done with part of the property with the construction of the KROC Center (not part of the park) and their sports fields, I was a hopeful.  After all, I’ve never met a hiking trail in South Jersey I wasn’t excited to try!  The park officially opened for business in November of 2021.

My chance came in September of 2022 after a guided history hike at nearby Pettys Island. The nearby Cramer Hill Nature Preserve (not to be confused with this park) had their trails overgrown after all the rain, so I found my car pulling into the parking lot here as it drove past on the way home.  Since I didn’t have the kids today (sadly, none of them are old enough to be allowed on the Pettys Island hikes yet), I opted to park near the kayak launch rather than the playground.

 

I immediately noticed a bridge over the tidal area, so you know which way I was walking first.

Good guess.

 

Pond from the bridge.

 

Tidal creek on the lower end of the tide. Would have to time a kayak launch pretty well to not get stuck?

 

Yep, it’s a good bridge.

I followed the trail down around the side of the pond, which included a sitting area with pavers and benches until I reached the playground, when I took a sharp left turn to access the main parts of the trails.

Nice.

 

Playground! None of the kids with me to enjoy it today.

 

Sharp turn and then heading up the hill.

At the split, I decided to keep to the left and walk toward the top of the hill and then down to where the trails follow the Cooper River first.  A nice surprise along the way were chunks of the old 1906 2nd Camden County Courthouse that had been demolished in the 1950s and put into the landfill which are now on display around the park.



I skipped the top of the hill for now, but I shouldn’t have.  So let’s pretend I made a better choice and went to the top of the hill and take in the view.



What a view! I’m so glad I took this in now and saved myself a second walk up the hill in the sun at the end. That’s the kind of great planner that I am!

After the view at the top of the hill, it’s time for a walk along the Cooper River.  The park did a great job of stabilizing the area with plants, as the tides here would make many manmade barriers not work as well, let along be as scenic.  The trail follows the Cooper River and then curves around where the Cooper River flows into the Delaware River (except when the tides change, when the Delaware River flows into the Cooper River).  This offers views of the old marina on the other side, which has the old Barnegat Lightship resting in the mud.  If I ever win Powerball again, I’m buying it and fixing it up (I won 20 cents on Powerball about a decade ago… life changing, almost made my money back on the ticket!).






The trail then follows the Delaware River.  Here, you get a view of the back channel of the Delaware River with Pettys Island on the other side.  At various times, this would have been the main channel of the Delaware River used by ships!  Pettys Island was home to CITGO’s storage areas for about a century, but is currently being cleaned up and will be donated to the state of New Jersey, hopefully for a state park.  The only way to access it at this time is on guided hikes led by the Center for the Aquatic Sciences, which are well worth getting tickets for.

When I reached the last spot to turn back up toward the heart of the park, I took a sharp right and went back uphill (you can continue another 1/3 of a mile straight as the trail runs behind the KROC Center, but there is no loop that brings you back).

I skipped the two trails to the right, which would have taken me back down to along the Delaware River and, at a four way intersection, headed left to what looked like more trails.

Alas, I realized when I saw the locked gate that these are actually the KROC Center fields, which you can’t access from here (hence, the locked gate).

Foiled.

Back to the intersection, I went with what would have been straight originally.  I opted to stay left at the next three splits to stay to the outside of the trails, which eventually looped me around past a good sized picnic area.


 

I finally stayed right when the path the other way would have taken me to the KROC fields again.  A weird little jog took me past the playground where, thanks to amazing planning earlier, I totally didn’t have to go back up the hill again to see the views I’d missed the first time.

Such a good planner.

I opted to walk around the back side of the pond this time to complete the first little loop from when I’d start the hike.



Finally, I arrived back at my car.  I headed over to check out the kayak launch before hopping in to head for home.

Nearby:

Cramer Hill Nature Preserve is a short drive away with about a mile of trails.  Pettys Island, home of a future state park that will open some time in the next thousand years but isn’t open yet as of 2022, is also nearby.  And there’s also the fun Ben Franklin Bridge Walk that begins in Camden and heads into Philadelphia.

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