Get Back to Nature Less Than an Hour from Atlantic City

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September 7, 2009

General Info: Wharton State Forest in southern New Jersey preserves 122,463 acres of native pine barrens and wetland bogs. It is the largest single tract of land in the NJ state park system, sprawling across parts of Atlantic, Burlington and Camden counties. The forest also includes the reconstructed Batsto Village, the site of a former bog iron and glass making industrial center from 1766 – 1867. The village consists of 33 historic buildings and structures that are open for tours.

indian-branch-campground-lake-viewHours and Fees:Entrance to Wharton State Forest is free. There is a $5 vehicle fee to enter Batsto Village between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The park has two offices: the Batsto Village office (609-561-0024) is located on Route 542, eight miles east of Hammonton, while the Atsion office (609-268-0444) is on Route 206, eight miles north of Hammonton.

Activities: Take a self-guided walking tour of Batsto Village by following the numbers on the village brochure, which you can pick up at the visitor center. The village museum, gift shop and visitor center are open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Mullica River offers excellent boating for electric motors, trailer launch, and car-top launch. Canoeing is permitted on the Mullica, Batsto, Wading and Oswego rivers. A launch fee of $10/day is charged on Mullica River between Memorial Day and Labor Day (inclusive).

The Atsion Recreation Area allows swimming daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (between Memorial Day and Labor Day) with lifeguards on duty. Summer entrance fees are $5 on weekdays, $10 on weekends and $2 for walk-in/bicycles.

indian-branch-lakeside-rv-campsiteExplore the Batona Trail, a 50-mile dirt road through the pine forests where you can hike, bike or ride your horse. The trail, lakes, ponds and fields give you ample opportunity for wildlife viewing.Bring the binoculars and a camera to get a glimpse of wildlife like marsh hawks, purple martins, river otters and deer, to name a few.

Pets: Your pets are not allowed in campgrounds, except for select campsites that are part of the park’s pet-friendly camping pilot program.

Camping Info: The Atsion Campground features flush toilets, showers and a dump station for your holding tanks. Each RV campsite measures 15×40 ft. (back-in) and has its own picnic table and fire ring.

If you’d like to camp outside the park (with a few more amenities), stay at Indian Branch Park Campground in Hammonton, which features dirt RV campsites with full hookups (30 amp) and room for slideouts. Back-in sites measure 40×50 ft. and are mostly shaded.

If you’re from the Garden State or have visited Wharton State Forest in the past, please chime in with your stories and tips! Your insights can help others have a fantastic trip.

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