Department of Defense (DOD) Ponds WMA – Pedricktown (Oldmans Township), Salem County, NJ
Distance – Miles and miles of trails (we did 7.2 miles total – popular loop is about 3 1/2)
Type – loops and spurs
Difficulty: 7 of 10, but we did some not easy exploring of “trails” that aren’t there anymore. Sticking to the easiest paths, would be closer to a 3 or 4. Coming at high tide and trying to go the whole loop might be a 10 out of 10 difficulty.
Website – https://www.nj.gov/dep/fgw/dodponds.htm
Open – “Wildlife Management Areas are closed from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. unless engaged in lawful hunting, fishing or trapping activities.”
Terrain – forest, wetlands, beach
Surface – paved, dirt, sand
Trailheads – N 39° 44.965 W 075° 26.940 (entrance road). N 39° 44.750 W 075° 28.070 (Beach access)
Directions – located on Old Crown Road near the intersection with Perkintown Road, Pendricktown, NJ. Directions to parking just outside entrance or directions to entrance road with parking available at the very end of the road (road might not be good for all vehicles, some good sized potholes)
Parking – I parked at the baseball fields outside the WMA entrance – N 39° 44.905 W 075° 26.800. Limited parking also available inside the preserve near the water – N 39° 44.725 W 075° 28.037
Dog friendly? Dogs should not be brought to WMAs during hunting season. Check individual WMA regulations for whether dogs are permitted during other times of the year
Stroller friendly? Parts along the road are, parts on the beach are not.
Facilities?: No facilities.
Markings – None
Map – None, but our track is below.
*IMPORTANT – Wildlife Management Areas are actively used for HUNTING during hunting season. If visiting during hunting season, avoid dusk and dawn whenever possible (most popular times for hunting), wear blaze orange, and it’s strongly recommended you avoid them during gun hunting week*
*IMPORTANT – Many sections of trail are overgrown, but you can complete a loop using the beach during low tide. Check the tidal charts for nearby Penns Grove to properly plan.*
*IMPORTANT – the adjacent Camp Pedricktown Property is not open to the public, please do not tresspass (by the time you read this, it might be gone anyway). If you’d like a peak of what it looks (of looked) like, Yummy Gal’s blog has a great post from 2015 where she (with permission) explored and photographed the site. It’s well worth a visit. Hey! After this post! After this post!*
After those important notes from my crack team of lawyers (it’s easy to afford a crack team of lawyers when they work for graham crackers), on to writing about hiking!
It was the end of December (in 2022). I could use one more adventure before the year ended. It was going to be cold so I wouldn’t have to worry about ticks. What’s on the list? Oooooh! The DOD Ponds WMA! So one cold December day, Brian joined me for 6+ hours of exploring this spot. There wasn’t too much info online, and the trail maps were hazy at best (and, it turned out, wrong as many of the “trails” are now overgrown and impassable). I’m not sure why he thought this was a good plan.
But explore it we did, setting out in the chilly morning. We parked across the street at the baseball fields, crossed Route 130, and walked in on the entrance road, which would make up the first section of the hike until we reached the water.
The trail quickly curved to head southwest, paralleling the edge of D.O.D. Lake. when we got chances, we’d get a peak at lake while dodging frozen puddles underfoot.
About halfway down the lake, a short spur leads to a spot closer to the water.
Back on the road, we continued southwest. It would curve to head northwest, then cut back to southwest again, the turn back northwest in a straight shot to the Delaware River.
Having done EXCELLENT PLANNING, we arrived at the river near low tide, leaving plenty of room to walk up the beach. Which was good, because the trails we saw on our map were too overgrown to be assessable. Not that we didn’t try. We try so that I can write on this blog and then you don’t have to try the really dumb things that we try. How did you think this turned into a 6+ hour hike?
Anyway, the beach part was very pretty. I love hikes with views of the Delaware River, which I somehow always forget is so huge. You also get views of Delaware, because everything past the low tide mark is part of Delaware, at least until the Big War comes between the Republic of South Jersey and Delaware.
Eventually, the beach ends and you can get onto the road that runs around the north side of the DOD Pond. You could take this back to the car, but why not do an out-and-back and explore more? Well, didn’t take much to convince myself (it rarely does).
When we got a chance, we took a side trail back down to the water and walked toward Oldmans Point, which as a nice wall there to let you know you are in the right spot.
From here, we walked down the wall to explore a little more of the beach before turning around and backtracking to that nice, wide road from many pictures back now.
Backtracking to the road, we followed it backward the way we’d come until cut southeast along the north side of DOD Pond, entering us into new (to us) territory!
The sun was getting low in the sky, so we made our way down the road, skirting the edge of the fenced in Fort Pedricktown (property to be auctioned off in 2023) and reached Route 130 again, safely crossing back to our cars.
Overall, some very tough terrain that, if you plan well, you shouldn’t have to do on a really neat patch of property. Or maybe that’s just what the mouse told us we had to say.
Oldmans Creek Preserve is a short drive away.
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Beautiful views of the ponds and the river! Interesting stuff all along the way.
Some of the "trails" definitely don't exist anymore, even in winter with the plant life at low ebb. Bugs might be bad in the warmer months, especially ticks. Plan well for the tides or be smart and turn around when you can't keep going.