Lacey township, Ocean County
Acres protected: 3,104
Managed by: The Nature Conservancy
Why Is This Land Special?
In the Pine Barrens of Ocean County, two gentle slopes rise prominently amid an otherwise flat terrain. These 180-foot-high sand and gravel hills, blanketed with pitch pine and scrub oak are the Forked River Mountains, which divide tributaries of the Cedar Creek and Forked River watersheds. The riverine areas are covered by cedar, black gum and maple swamps. Forked River Mountain Preserve lies in a J shape along the Factory Branch of Cedar Creek, northwest of the Forked River Mountains. The preserve helps form an impressive greenway by linking two state wildlife management areas. A variety of state-rare species have been recorded on the property, including pine-barren gentian (Gentiana autumnalis). The threatened northern pine snake (Pituophis melanoleucus) also has been sighted here. State-rare curly grass fern (Schizaea pusilla) and globally rare Kniesekern's beaked rush (Rynchospora knieskernii) have been found near the preserve.
Stagecoach routes, railroads, taverns, charcoal pits, cedar logging and forgotten towns all have been the substance of local legends and songs about the Forked River Mountains. Historical records show that during the pre-Revolutionary War era, Native Americans revered the mountains as a sacred burial site. By the late 1700s, German colonists began to harvest wood to produce charcoal, which became one of the chief means of economic production. The Tuckerton Railroad wound through the mountains during the 1800s. A tower was erected temporarily on the eastern mountain to overlook ballistic experiments during World War II. But a more far-reaching change came to Forked River in the 1950s when the Garden State Parkway cut through the area. Today, Forked River still encompasses thousands of acres of uninhabitated cedar woods and swamp.
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
In May, 2004, the Conservancy celebrated the opening of the Forked River Mountain Preserve Interpretive Trail. The interpretive trail meanders through the Preserve's pitch pine forests and hardwood swamps. It includes wooden boardwalks built by Conservancy volunteers and students from Southern Regional High School to help hikers traverse the wetlands along this trail. Eleven numbered stops along the way bring the landscape to life explaining its history, fire and ecology.
Hike the interpretive trail that meanders through Forked River.
The preserve is open from dawn until dusk.
From North: Take Garden State Parkway South to Exit 67. Proceed on Route 554 West for 4.7 miles. Merge with Route 72 West. Continue 0.3 of a mile and make right onto Route 532 East. Follow Route 532 East for 1 mile. Turn left onto Jones Rd. (dirt road). Proceed 3.2 miles on Jones Rd. The preserve begins on left. Look for orange and black boundary signs on trees.
From South: Take Garden State Parkway North to Exit 63A/Route 72 West (Camden). Proceed for 6 miles. Turn right onto Route 532 East. Follow Route 532 East for 1 mile. Turn left onto Jones Rd. (dirt road). Follow directions from Jones Rd. above.
From West (Burlington County): From Route 70 and 72 circle, take Route 72 East for 16.2 miles. Turn left onto Route 532 East. Follow directions from Route 532 East above.
*Because of road conditions, a four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended.