The Best of Both Worlds in Waterford

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! Last week, Waterford Township repaired the sewer lateral that caused some plumbing issues for me so I was able to enjoy the holiday with visits to family in Egg Harbor Township and Sicklerville. I wanted to write more about my new home town and share additional photos before putting this blog on hiatus for December.

The Mullica River, which starts in neighboring Berlin, separates Waterford from Evesham, Medford, and Shamong to the north and northwest. The river flows into Wharton State Forest, which comprises much of the eastern portion of my township. Waterford shares a small section of Atco, its most famous unincorporated community, with Winslow Township to the south. 

The entire municipality of Waterford lies within the state-designated Pinelands area and is subject to six of the nine Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) land use designations. These are the CMP designated management areas within Waterford along with their descriptions from the CMP website:

  • Agricultural Production Area: “These are areas of active agricultural use, generally upland field agriculture and row crops, together with adjacent areas with soils suitable for expansion of agricultural operations. Farm-related housing on 10 acres and non-farm housing on 40 acres are allowed. Permitted non-residential uses are agricultural commercial and roadside retail within 300 feet of preexisting commercial uses.”
  • Forest Area: “Similar to the Preservation Area District in terms of ecological value; this is a largely undeveloped area that is an essential element of the Pinelands environment. It contains high quality water resources and wetlands and provides suitable habitat for many threatened and endangered species. Clustered housing on one acre lots is permitted at an average residential density of one home per every 28 acres. Roadside retail within 300 feet of pre-existing commercial uses is permitted, as are low intensity recreational uses.”
  • Pinelands Village: “Forty-seven small, existing, spatially discrete settlements that are appropriate for infill residential, commercial and industrial development compatible with their existing character. Most Villages are not sewered; therefore residential development is permitted on lots between one and five acres in size.”
  • Preservation Area (Wharton State Forest): “This is the heart of the Pinelands environment and the most critical ecological region; a large, contiguous wilderness-like area of forest that supports diverse plant and animal communities and is home to many threatened and endangered species. No residential development is permitted, except for one-acre lots in designated infill areas and special “cultural housing” exceptions, on minimum 3.2 acre lots for property owned by families prior to 1979. Limited commercial uses are also permitted in designated infill areas, which total approximately 2,100 acres in size.”
  • Regional Growth Area: “These are areas of existing growth and adjacent lands capable of accommodating regional growth influences while protecting the essential character and environment of the Pinelands. Permitted residential densities range from two to six homes per acre with sewers. Sewered commercial and industrial uses are also permitted.”
  • Rural Development Area: “This is a transitional area that balances environmental and development values between conservation and growth areas. Limited, low-density residential development and roadside retail is permitted. Clustered housing on one acre lots is permitted at an average residential density of one home for every five acres. Community commercial, light industrial and active recreational uses served by septic systems are also permitted.”

Waterford’s location near the western edge of the state-designated Pinelands area puts it close to the more densely populated and heavily developed areas of Camden County. The White Horse Pike (Route 30) enters Waterford from Berlin Borough at the intersection of Route 73. 

Chew Road goes through Wharton State Forest where it enters Hammonton and connects to Route 206. Jackson Road (County Road 534) enters the township close to the Mullica River, goes past the Atco Dragway, and crosses the river into Shamong.

C.W. Haines Boulevard crosses the White Horse Pike and leads to Atco Station and Route 73’s strip malls and shopping centers. The NJ Transit Atlantic City Line runs through Waterford with a stop at Atco Station, connecting the township with the Atlantic City Rail Terminal in Atlantic City and 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. As someone who grew up in Philadelphia accustomed to the convenience of public transportation, having a train station connected to Philly as well as the shore minutes from my house was definitely a plus when I made my decision to move to Waterford.  

Although the train runs along C.W. Haines regularly along with the 554 bus, birds and deer make this patch of woods their home. Walking or driving along this road, I’ve encountered bluejays, cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, catbirds, wild turkeys, red-tailed hawks, and turkey vultures along with white-tailed does. At night. Intermingled with the sound of the train and its whistle, I’ve heard great horned owls hooting in the fall when their breeding season begins, peepers welcoming the spring and awoken to the dawn chorus of birds in the summer. With the natural beauty of Wharton State Forest to my east and the amenities of civilization to my west, I feel I discovered a place that offers the best of both worlds.

Waterford and the Camden County Pine Barrens

Two years ago today, I moved into my newly purchased townhouse in Waterford Township. It was the Friday before Thanksgiving. I looked forward to getting to know my new hometown after the bustle of the holidays subsided. Instead, within months, I was in lockdown with the rest of the state as the COVID pandemic swept the world. 

While working at home, I rekindled a lifelong interest in photography with a Nikon D3500 that I bought shortly after Christmas. With so much shut down, I took most of my shots doing socially distanced hiking in the woods or simply sitting on my deck and catching whatever backyard bird stopped by for breakfast or lunch.

I planned to publish a post about Waterford full of photos, but my time was limited over the past few days due to a broken sewer lateral leading from my house. Contractors from the Waterford Department of Public Works are diligently working in the street to repair it. I’ll publish more Waterford facts and photos at a later date. In the meantime, I do have some photos from one of my favorite encounters last year.

Early one morning last year a neighbor texted me excitedly that she spotted a family of bald eagles on the nearby water tower. Unfortunately, I got out there with my camera too late and missed them. It became a goal of mine to  get a photo of a bald eagle. Whenever I went hiking or kayaking, I kept a sharp eye out trying to spot one but came up empty. Then on a Friday afternoon in early October as I sat on my deck eating lunch, I noticed a raptor circling directly overhead. It was brown, not solid black like a vulture, with white streaks on its chest. It was too big to be a red-tailed hawk. I grabbed my camera and clicked away. When I posted the pictures later on Facebook,  someone commented that it was indeed a bald eagle, a juvenile with a brown instead of a white head. I had to laugh at the irony of trying to spot an eagle all year out in the forest and then just having one come to me in my own backyard. I knew I chose my new hometown well. Waterford was a place where a bald eagle dropped by for lunch.

Proud Past, Promising Future

Established in 1694, Waterford Township was created by royal charter and named for Waterford, Ireland. The inclusion of Waterford in the Township Act of 1789 made it one of the original 104 municipalities in the state of New Jersey.  At that time, it was part of Gloucester County. The township then became one of the original townships of newly established Camden County in 1844 with the settlement of Long-a-coming (then part of Waterford but now part of Berlin Borough) as the first county seat. Subsequently, Cherry Hill, Chesilhurst, Voorhees, and Berlin Township were formed from Waterford with Berlin Borough later created from Berlin Township. Encompassing 36 square miles of land and .22 square miles of water, the population counted in the 2010 census was a little over 10 thousand with a density of 295.5 per square mile. 

Waterford contains Atco Lake, a man-made lake within a 77 acre park adjacent to the White Horse Pike. As with other lakes in the Pine Barrens, it was most likely dammed to serve the needs of a nearby mill.

Philadelphian Thomas Richards founded the Jackson Glassworks, named after President Andrew Jackson, leading to the establishment of Atco, now an unincorporated area within the township. The glassworks operated from 1827 to 1877. Other unincorporated areas include Bishops, Dunbarton, Fisher, Jackson, Louden and Pestletown.


Waterford is home to the famous Atco Dragway, a ¼ mile dragstrip located on the edge of Wharton State Forest. When it opened in 1960, it was the first dragstrip in New Jersey. According to this article, the location was originally intended to be a horse racing track. The track was “grandfathered in” when the state passed legislation to protect the Pine Barrens.  Actually, this is the only landmark in the township I knew of before I moved here. I remember commercials about it while growing up. The dragway received attention recently after being put up for sale with the potential of being converted to an automobile auction site, a plan that stirred controversy.


The unique ecology of the Pine Barrens makes it susceptible to wildfires. In 2008, a wildfire broke out in Waterford Township’s section of Wharton State Forest. It burned a swath of 1400 acres through Camden, Burlington, and Atlantic counties. To safeguard against future wildfires, controlled burns are conducted, especially in anticipation of the spring fire season. I’ve witnessed controlled burns along Jackson Road in the two years I’ve lived here.

Camden County Pine Barrens 

Camden County borders Center City and South Philadelphia. The city of Camden across the Delaware River from Penn’s Landing is the most populous municipality in the county, 12th in the state, and 487th in the United States. Out of the county’s 37 municipalities, five lie at least partially within state-designated Pinelands area and are subject to Comprehensive Management Plan designations: Waterford, Chesilhurst, Berlin Borough, Berlin Township, and Winslow. Waterford and Chesilhurst fall entirely within the Pinelands area.

“The Pinelands area located in Waterford Township is part of the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer system. It is an unconfined freshwater aquifer, meaning it is not capped by rock but is located within a surface layer of highly permeable sand and gravel. The Cohansey aquifer contains 17 trillion gallons of exceptionally clean water located approximately ten feet below grade. It has a major role in the Pinelands, supplying 90% of the water in streams, rivers and wetlands in the form of base flow. This impacts the Pineland’s fauna and flora, creating a rare wetland habitat, and why any disturbance to the water table level could disrupt the entire groundwater-dependent ecosystem. The high acidic nature and the low pH of the groundwater is also responsible for the vegetation that is native to the Pinelands area. Some of this unique vegetation cannot be found in other areas of the country.”

Waterford Township Environmental Resource Inventory

Being one of the seven Pinelands counties entitles Camden County to appoint a representative on the Pinelands Commission. The county is currently accepting applications for a new representative. Anyone Camden County residents interested in serving have until November 30th to apply. Visit the county website for more information.