The forested woodlands and unusual ponds of Muckshaw Ponds Preserve in New Jersey.
Muckshaw Ponds Preserve The forested woodlands and unusual ponds of Muckshaw Ponds Preserve in New Jersey. © The Nature Conservancy

Places We Protect

Muckshaw Ponds Preserve

New Jersey

Muckshaw Ponds Preserve’s sinkhole ponds host an interesting array of plants and animals.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

The unusual geology of the area hosts a number of plant species that are unusual in New Jersey. The Muckshaw Preserve protects one of the best remaining spots for these plant communities. Muckshaw Preserve is nestled within a landscape of many family farms, and the Conservancy works with a farmer to sustainably farm lands on the edges of the preserve. Protection of this site is important for providing a buffer between agricultural areas and sensitive plant communities.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

Recently, the Conservancy constructed the southern, steepest portion of the trail system with significant help from Pass It Along youth volunteers. A kiosk at the trailhead contains newly-developed brochures that map the color-coded trails and provide additional information about the preserve. Deer hunting occurs at the preserve. The Conservancy has reforested former agricultural fields.

Why You Should Visit

A few miles south of Newton, the county seat of Sussex County, the Muckshaw Preserve is home to a series of unusual ponds surrounded by steep forested limestone ridges. The bedrock that underlies the ponds and the surrounding ridges has dissolved slowly over thousands of years, making the groundwater mineral rich and the soil highly alkaline. This ongoing process has formed sinking streams, caves and sinkholes. Marked trails lead up steep hills and over narrow, rocky ridges that provide excellent views of several sinkhole ponds.

A large rock shelter on the southern edge of Muckshaw Ponds Preserve is said to have served as a hideout and headquarters for Revolutionary spy Lt. James Moody. Many legends arose about Moody and his exploits during his stay in a Muckshaw cave and have become part of the area's folklore.

Visiting This Preserve

The preserve is open from dawn to dusk; parking for trailhead is located on Fredon-Springdale Road (CR-618) at Whittingham Wildlife Management Area. Trailhead is located across the street from parking area by large wooden Nature Conservancy sign.

Please note: The preserve is closed from early September to the end of January due to hunting. No hunting on Sundays; open to the public.