Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Water Trails in New Jersey

If you're one of the people who paddles along a New Jersey lake or river, you're probably not all that different from the oldest inhabitants of this area. Long before roads,  Indians and then settlers to this area traveled on our waterways across the area. These water trails became the places for towns and eventually paralleled the paths, roads and highways.

When most people think about "trails" they imagine paths through the woods. But some of those paths through wilderness are liquid and the mapping of "water trails" is happening more and more.

This mapping and designation can help protect natural areas as well as provide places for kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddling.

In New Jersey, we have designated water trails including ones on the Delaware River, the South Branch of the Raritan River, the Egg Harbor River, the Maurice River and the Hackensack River.

But we don't have any water trails that are designated such by the National Park Service.

There are two in New York, but none in NJ or Pennsylvania. The Bronx River Blueway which passes directly through the New York Botanical gardens, the Bronx River Forest, cityscapes, and the Bronx Zoo is one.

The other NY water trail is the Hudson River Greenway Water Trail which is designed for day-users as well as long-distance paddlers. It includes 94 designated access sites, wildlife marshes, islands, historic sites, cities, downtowns, and hiking trails.

Some paddling enthusiasts in Burlington County are trying to get the Rancocas Creek to become New Jersey's first nationally-designated water trail. Certainly our Jersey waterways must have more than a few places suitable for the designation!

The National Park Service loks for sites with boat landings in protected areas, existing parkland and multi-use recreation areas along the creek, and also educational and cultural heritage opportunities along the way on the shore or nearby.

The Rancocas Creek watershed is one of the state's largest, covering 360 square miles.

The North Branch flows about 30 miles, from its headwaters in the pitch pine lowlands of the Pine Barrens in western Ocean County to the main stem in Hainesport.

The Burlington County park system maintains a 14-mile canoe trail with access points in Pemberton, historic Smithville and Mount Holly.

The South Branch of the Rancocas flows for about 22 miles to the main stem, and the Southwest Branch is about 18 miles long. The three branches join the creek's main stem, a wide, tidal waterway used by motorized boats as well as canoes and kayaks.

For more about the efforts to get the Rancocas Creek designated, go to

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