Autumn Updates: New Deer Photos and Information!

A couple weeks ago, my horse’s trainer was driving home one night in Shamong when she collided with a large buck bolting in front of her car. He did not survive, and her car received significant damage. Luckily, she was not hurt. 

Be careful out there! Rutting season and hunting season are beginning. I have updated my Close Encounters of the White-tailed Kind post with the following safety information from the U.S. Forest Service along with new photos and additional fresh content.

  • Wear bright clothing. Make yourself more visible. Choose colors that stand out, like red, orange or green, and avoid white, blacks, browns, earth-toned greens and animal-colored clothing. Orange vests and hats are advisable. 
  • Don’t forget to protect fido. Get an orange vest for your dog if he/she accompanies you
  • Make noise. Whistle, sing or carry on a conversation as you walk to alert hunters to your presence. Sound carries well across mountain basins, and hunters should be listening for any sounds of animal movement.
  • Be courteous. Once a hunter is aware of your presence, don’t make unnecessary noise to disturb wildlife. Avoid confrontations.
  • Make yourself known. If you do hear shooting, raise your voice and let hunters know that you are in the vicinity.
  • Know your own comfort level. If hunting makes you uneasy, choose a hike in a location where hunting is not allowed, such as a national park or a state park, or schedule your outings for Sundays.
  • Know when hunting seasons are. Continue to hike, but learn about where and when hunting is taking place. Here is the schedule from the New Jersey state website, which contains more detailed information, including regulations:
    • Fall Bow, September 11 (Early Zones Only, Regulation Sets #4-8)
    • Youth Deer Bow Hunt, September 25
    • Fall Bow, October 2 (Statewide)
    • Permit Bow Season, October 30
    • Youth Deer Firearm Hunt, November 20
    • Permit Shotgun/Muzzleloader, November 22 (Varies by zone)
    • Six-day Firearm Season, December 6-11
    • Winter Bow, January 1, 2022

Bending with the Seasons: Industries in the Pines

When I first discovered Pinelands Adventures and their educational tours in 2019, the first tour I went on was the Industries in the Pines tour led by Jeff Larson. Jeff, a long-time Pine Barrens resident with extensive knowledge of the area and one of Pinelands Adventures most senior tour guides, developed this tour about five years ago. Also a professional musician and music teacher, Jeff released two albums of music he composed with a Pine Barrens theme: Leeds Devil Blues and The Barrens.

Deep Run Cranberry Bog, Industries of the Pines Tour, April 2019

With Pinelands Adventures slowly relaunching its educational program after a hiatus during the pandemic, I had the opportunity to revisit this tour, which covers some lesser known areas of the Pine Barrens, with a friend. Precautions were still in place with masks required on the bus.

Harvesting a “Barren” Land

Jeff explained that the Pine Barrens are part of New Jersey’s outer coastal plain with sandy acidic soil known as “sugar sand” that is too sterile for most crops. The Lenni Lenape people who lived there harvested what the land offered such as sphagnum. They utilized the absorbent properties of this moss for diaper material and wound dressings. Although American colonists did not find the area desirable for agriculture, they began building sawmills to harvest the vast timber resources, making lumber production the first industry established by English settlers. The mills supplied wood to shipyards and other customers, such as Benjamin Randolph, a cabinetmaker born in Monmouth County. Randolph crafted the lap desk Thomas Jefferson used to write the Declaration of Independence in his Philadelphia workshop. 

Atlantic White Cedars

Ship builders especially prized Atlantic White Cedar trees, a member of the cypress family that thrives in the wetlands of forests. These tall conifers grow straight and strong, making them excellent ship masts. When growing in abundance, they form cedar swamps where the towering trees darken the forest, making it cooler than the surrounding area. Their root systems form a watery carpet of hummocks and hollows. 

I asked Jeff about a stand of dead cedar trees I noticed, and he explained that this species is somewhat delicate. Too much water can kill them. 

“It can’t be too wet, and it can’t be too dry,” Jeff said.

In the case of this particular stand, a broken beaver dam flooded the trees. They also grow slowly so when the practice of clearcutting stripped an area of cedar trees, hardwoods grew in their place, altering the natural ecosystem. Jeff informed us of an initiative to re-establish cedar swamps starting in the Atsion Lake area.

In 2003, Jeff discovered an enormous cedar tree while exploring the Pine Barrens. He contacted George Zimmermann, professor of environmental studies at Stockton University, so the tree could be documented. The measurements of the tree qualified it as the largest living Atlantic White Cedar in New Jersey, and it was recorded with the New Jersey Official Big Tree Registry.

Atsion and the Iron Industry

Philadelphian Charles Read dammed the Mullica River in 1766 when he built an iron furnace at Atsion, creating Atsion Lake. Fellow Philadelphian Samuel Richards purchased the ironworks in 1819. A community known as Atsion Village blossomed where employees could live around the iron furnace, beginning the practice of establishing town communities around the industry centers. 

Atsion Village, May 2021

Fueled by the plentiful bog iron found throughout the Pine Barrens, the iron industry thrived and dominated the area for a period of time. According to the Tabernacle Historical Society, Benjamin Randolph, the same cabinet maker who made the Jefferson desk, moved to Burlington County in 1784 and “started the Construction of an iron furnace on his Speedwell property,” which originally had operated a sawmill. 

Hampton Park and Deep Run Cranberry Bog

After Atsion, Jeff drove us into the woods and to an old cranberry bog at Deep Run along the unpaved Hampton Road where he began described another chapter in the industrial history of the Pines. The use of anthracite coal in Pennsylvania proved to be more efficient than the bog iron used in South Jersey. Recognizing that the iron industry in the Pine Barrens couldn’t compete with the better quality iron in Pennsylvania, some property owners turned to another source of income that thrived in wetlands: cranberries.

Andrew Rider, first president of Rider University, built Hampton Park along the Batsto River near Deep Run in 1888. Originally an iron furnace, cranberry operations eventually supplanted the ironworks. To capitalize on this new enterprise, Jeff told us that Rider cultivated a relationship with the British royal family in order to promote cranberries. Queen Victoria liked and endorsed the fruit, and Rider became known as the “Cranberry King.” Rider University honors this legacy with its cranberry and white colors

“Cranberries picked up big time,” Jeff told us.

These activities were not without impact on the ecology. Jeff showed us the invasive plants at Hampton and Deep Run such as yucca plants, explaining that their presence indicated human activity in areas where there was nothing left but overgrown ruins such as the James McGinn house. Jeff surmised that McGinn, who probably was a bog manager at Deep Run, most likely planted the yucca. 

A fire ravaged the Cranberry packing house at Hampton, which now lies in ruins. Friendship, another nearby cranberry town, survived into the 20th century before it too was destroyed by fire.

Hampton Ruins, Industries of the Pines, October 2021

Bending with the Seasons

The people left behind when the company towns disappeared became known as “pineys.” They discovered new ways to subsist by “bending with the seasons.” In the fall, they harvested cranberries. In the winter, they collected mountain laurel to make wreaths and pine cones to create Christmas decorations, an activity called pine balling. Some pineys became “woodjins,” a name for local guides who offered their services as forest guides to botanists and other researchers. Jeff noted that folklore grew around some woodjins such as stories about the ability to navigate by tasting blueberries. 

More nefarious activities also took root such as moonshining during the Prohibition era, contributing to a reputation for lawlessness in the area. In the most notorious incident, Andrew Rider’s family fell victim to tragedy in 1916. While delivering the payroll to workers at Hampton Park, Rider’s brother Henry was murdered when robbers ambushed his group and a shootout ensued. 

Ghosts of the Wading River

As the iron industry faded, paper manufacturing became important. Philadelphian William McCarty bought land near the Wading River and built a papermill. Richard Harris later acquired and expanded the settlement and factory, and it became known as Harrisville. The Pinelands Commission hired Jeff to design and conduct a tour of Harrisville for the Pinelands Short Course offered annually by Stockton University, his alma mater. He calls it Ghosts of the Wading River, a name inspired by Barbara Solem’s book Ghost Towns and Other Quirky Places in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Harrisville and nearby Martha Furnace, which had also evolved into a paper mill, eventually burned down and became a YMCA camp.

Harrisville Ruins, Industries of the Pines Tour, October 2021

Batsto Village and Glass Making

Glass manufacturing also developed. A glass factory at what is now Crowley’s Landing produced some of the first Mason jars. Thomas Richards founded the Jackson Glassworks in Waterford, NJ. Other historic glassworks include Hermann City and Bulltown. The remains of three glass boats from this time period called the Jemima Harriet, Argo, and Mary Frances still exist. 

Batsto Village on the Batsto River, another iron furnace founded by Charles Read, began producing glass. Philadelphian Joseph Wharton purchased Batsto, renovated the Batsto Mansion and started buying land throughout the Pine Barrens. His vast holdings would eventually become Wharton State Forest.

Batsto Village, October 2020

Blueberry Capital of the World

Elizabeth Coleman White, the eldest daughter of a New Jersey Quaker family, graduated from Friends Central School in Wynnewood Pennsylvania and furthered her education at what is now Drexel University in Philadelphia. She then worked at her family’s Whitesbog property where she collaborated with botanist Frederick Vernon Coville to successfully cultivate wild blueberries.

Fields in Hammonton that had been cut for peaches by Italian immigrants ended up being used for blueberries. Hammonton is now known as the Blueberry Capital of the World. Today, agriculture is the biggest industry in the Pine Barrens with blueberries and cranberries among the most important crops in New Jersey.

Tourism is another important modern industry, although not as big as agriculture. Jeff, who is originally from Monmouth County, recalled visiting and kayaking in the Pine Barrens with his church youth group.

Now, acting as something of a modern day woodjin, Jeff works weekends as a tour guide, educating people about the Pine Barrens, driving them out for kayaking trips and occasionally performing river rescues. He told us about one notable incident when he had been working at Pinelands Adventures for a year. A customer on the Mullica River called 911 in distress. Police and park rangers, including a rescue helicopter, swarmed the area. Jeff had a boat on his trailer and was asked to paddle the river to assist the search effort. He came upon the customer who turned out to have nothing more than a scratch but felt “tired.”

In addition to rescuing tired customers, Jeff said he often comes to the aid of turtles. The famously slow reptiles inch across roads in the Pine Barrens, frequently becoming roadkill victims. The recommended practice if you find a turtle is to move it to the other side of the road. Near the end of our tour, Jeff spotted a turtle on the roadway, pulled the bus over, and moved it to safety. All in a day’s work!

Jeff Larson, Industries of the Pines Tour, October 2021

Kayaking on the Mullica River

I kayaked a couple weeks ago for the first time since breaking my ankle and couldn’t have asked for better weather. While paddling the Mullica River from 1st Beach to Lock’s Bridge, my group encountered many basking turtles along the way. 

Red-bellied Turtle on the Mullica, September 2021 (photo by Beach and Barrens)

The 1st Beach launch is accessible via Quaker Bridge Road, a dirt road leading from Route 206 in Shamong, some of which is best accessed by four wheel drive vehicles. According to Ghost Towns and Other Quirky Places in the New Jersey Pine Barrens by Barbara Solem, the road takes its name from a bridge constructed in the 1700s. After a tragic drowning, a group of Quakers built it to provide a safer crossing.

Mile Marker 1 at 1st Beach, September 2021 (photo by Beach and Barrens)

Lock’s Bridge, another popular kayak launch and pick up, can be found by turning off Quaker Bridge Road onto a dirt road leading to the Mullica River and marked by the Mullica River Campsite sign. Just don’t look for an actual bridge there. It’s long gone.

Sign Pointing the Way to Lock’s Bridge, September 2021 (photo by Beach and Barrens)

I used Pinelands Adventures for a livery service as I frequently do. It was good to see old friends there. I also got to meet Allison Hartman, the new assistant director. 

Pinelands Adventures calls the 1st Beach to Lock’s Bridge trip the Shorty and recommends it for beginners. I took this trip several times with friends last year, some of whom had never been kayaking. One young friend expressed a love for the outdoors, a passion her family didn’t share. During the summer, I suggested this trip to her and she called it “super fun.”  In the fall, another friend and her husband accompanied me. Both love kayaking and have done the Outer Banks. Originally from Saugerties, New York, my friend didn’t realize so many kayaking opportunities existed in South Jersey, in spite of living here for years. She couldn’t wait to do a longer trip.

Sweet Bay Magnolia Growing on the Banks of the Mullica, June 2020 (photo by Beach and Barrens)

This year, I went solo but met fellow Philadelphians and Temple grads, Sal Sandone and Giselle, along the way. While we admired the American White Water Lily, Nymphaea odorata, Sal mentioned that the water lily (Lotus flower) is an important symbol in Asian culture and martial arts. Sal, a martial arts instructor at Zhang Sah dojo, told me about an art project he was working on involving Judo katas, patterns of martial arts movements. The project will create a visual representation of Nage-no-kata movements. Martial arts practitioners covered in paint partner together and perform all of the kata techniques and falls. Mapping out this pattern forms a lotus flower, symbolizing benevolence and Judo as a benevolent martial art. Sal hopes to use the symbol to promote Judo.

American White Water Lily on the Mullica River, September 2021 (photo by Beach and Barrens)

Atsion Lake to Lock’s Bridge: My first paddle on the Mullica

A longer, more challenging trip on the Mullica is Atsion Lake to Lock’s Bridge. Pinelands Adventures provides livery service for this as well but does not recommend it for beginner’s because it includes a more difficult mile at the start with more twists. 

This was actually the first river kayaking trip I took in 2019 as the Mullica 101 guided paddle with John Volpa, the retired education director of Pinelands Adventures. The trip begins at the Mullica River kayak launch on Route 206 near Quaker Bridge Road. Last year, as summer wound down, I paddled this way again with a friend I met through the Outdoor Club.

Mullica River Launch off Route 206, September 2021 (photo by Beach and Barrens)

Beyond Lock’s Bridge: Future Mullica Kayaking Plans

Right before my injury, I had decided to take the plunge and buy a kayak. Obviously, that plan got postponed. Buying a kayak will be a goal for next year. I’m in no rush, and it’s easy and convenient to rent a kayak from any of the local livery services. I’d also like to try longer trips on the Mullica with paddling to Pleasant Mills as another goal. You can launch at Lock’s Bridge and paddle eight miles down the river to this spot. An even longer paddle is from Atsion Lake to Pleasant Mills, about 10 to 12 miles, a trek that some do overnight. Pinelands Adventures provides livery service for both trips but recommends them for the experienced paddlers. 

Pleasant Mills, September 2021 (photo by Beach and Barrens)

You can also paddle from Pleasant Mills to the famous Sweetwater Marina and Riverdeck, which has docks and a boat ramp. The river widens at this point after receiving the waters of the Batsto River.

Sweetwater Marina and River Deck, September 2021 (photo by Beach and Barrens)

Kayaking the Upper Mullica

The upper Mullica includes the portion of the river above Atsion Lake stretching into Camden County. Here it forms the north/northeast border of Waterford Township where I live, passing under Jackson Road near Atsion Road. The river’s source in Berlin, NJ is about five minutes from my house. 

Mullica River under Jackson Road between Waterford and Shamong, September 2021 (photo by Beach and Barrens)

Kayaking on this part of the river is more limited. It’s narrow and full of obstacles as this intrepid kayaker experienced. Some kayaking is done on and around Goshen Pond between Jackson Road and Atsion Lake. The pond is best accessed via a dirt road off Atsion Lake marked by a sign. There’s a kayak launch near the campsite. The Mullica then passes under a one lane bridge between Goshen Pond and Atsion Lake. 

View of the Mullica from the Kayak Launch Spot near Goshen Pond, September 2021 (photo by Beach and Barrens)

Shortly after Goshen Pond, the Mullica feeds into Atsion Lake, which is a popular kayaking spot. Atsion Lake has a kayak launch. The Atsion Lake spillway funnels the river under Route 206. If you use the Goshen Pond or Atsion Lake camping facilities, you can rent kayaks or canoes from Pinelands Adventures.

Atsion Lake with Spillway on the Left and Beach on the Right, September 2021 (photo by Beach and Barrens)

Close Encounters of the White-tailed Kind

‘Tis the season for white-tailed romance! That’s a polite and poetic way of saying it is the time of year known as “the rut” for New Jersey’s white-tailed deer population. Bucks lose their minds and throw caution to the wind in pursuit of mates. It is a bonanza for hunters, a great opportunity for photographers, and a potential nightmare for motorists.

NOTE: A couple weeks after the date of this post, my trainer was driving home one night in Shamong when she collided with a large buck bolting in front of her car. He did not survive, and her car received significant damage. Luckily, she was not hurt. Be careful out there!

Another note of caution: New Jersey’s hunting season for white-tailed deer is beginning. If you venture into the woods this time of year, follow these safety tips from the U.S. Forest Service:

  • Wear bright clothing. Make yourself more visible. Choose colors that stand out, like red, orange or green, and avoid white, blacks, browns, earth-toned greens and animal-colored clothing. Orange vests and hats are advisable. 
  • Don’t forget to protect fido. Get an orange vest for your dog if he/she accompanies you
  • Make noise. Whistle, sing or carry on a conversation as you walk to alert hunters to your presence. Sound carries well across mountain basins, and hunters should be listening for any sounds of animal movement.
  • Be courteous. Once a hunter is aware of your presence, don’t make unnecessary noise to disturb wildlife. Avoid confrontations.
  • Make yourself known. If you do hear shooting, raise your voice and let hunters know that you are in the vicinity.
  • Know your own comfort level. If hunting makes you uneasy, choose a hike in a location where hunting is not allowed, such as a national park or a state park, or schedule your outings for Sundays.
  • Know when hunting seasons are. Continue to hike, but learn about where and when hunting is taking place. Here is the schedule from the New Jersey state website, which contains more detailed information, including regulations:
    • Fall Bow, September 11 (Early Zones Only, Regulation Sets #4-8)
    • Youth Deer Bow Hunt, September 25
    • Fall Bow, October 2 (Statewide)
    • Permit Bow Season, October 30
    • Youth Deer Firearm Hunt, November 20
    • Permit Shotgun/Muzzleloader, November 22 (Varies by zone)
    • Six-day Firearm Season, December 6-11
    • Winter Bow, January 1, 2022

Franklin Parker Preserve

The Saturday after Thanksgiving last year I decided to hike in Franklin Parker Preserve. On a trail near the parking lot, I suddenly heard hoofbeats running up behind me. I turned expecting to see someone on horseback but instead saw an eight-point white-tailed buck! We both froze for a moment. I ducked behind some bushes by the side of the trail in case he decided to continue charging down the path. Instead, as I began shooting photos, he leaped off the trail and took off into the woods. It counts as one of my most memorable encounters in the woods with a wild animal to date.

On the Run

Deer on the Farm

This was not the only exciting moment I witnessed of a white-tailed buck last year, though. Not long before crossing paths with this buck at Franklin Parker Preserve, I captured a great sequence of another eight-pointer chasing a doe through a pasture on the farm where I keep my horse. Once she eluded him, he jumped the fence and took off into the woods, all of which I photographed.

This big guy was familiar to the neighborhood. A friend of mine captured him on his security camera visiting one night. A fellow boarder thought it looked like the same buck who approached her and her horse out on the trail, unnerving her with his brazenness. She nicknamed him “Cujo.”

The farm is home to a herd of deer, and I have had good luck photographing them. During the summer, I photographed a buck with velvet on his antlers hanging out with a group of does and fawns. This was my very first photo of a buck.

White Tails

I snapped this doe and her fawn during the summer last year as well. This was near where I saw the fence-jumper later that year.

A doe and her fawn

This is my only photo of deer at the farm this year so far. This pair of does were in the mare pasture. When they saw me, they took off for the woods. I broke my ankle a few weeks later so unfortunately have yet to hike around the farm since then.

A Pair of Does in Shamong

Waterford, Goshen Pond, and Quaker Bridge Road

My first deer picture last year was of this doe in the morning mist during a walk in Waterford near my house.  I have frequently encountered deer along this road.

Doe in the Morning Mist

I got this nice close-up of a doe while driving near Goshen Pond in Shamong in my Jeep. Wish I could have swatted those deer flies off her face.

Goshen Doe

Just a few weeks ago, I came upon this doe while driving in the woods with my Jeep near Quaker Bridge Road. She was quite brave, and I tried to inch by and take photographs without scaring her. Once she saw the camera, though, she bolted and I got this shot of her. The buck I saw at Franklin Parker Preserve also bolted when I aimed my camera at him. I have to wonder if they confuse it with a gun.

Doe Near Quaker Bridge Road in Shamong

See more photos of White-tailed Deer in this Beach and Barrens Facebook album.