New Jersey: Paddle the Pine Barrens

Canoeing in the Wading River in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey; Photograph by Ellen McKnight, Alamy
Canoeing in the Wading River in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey; Photograph by Ellen McKnight, Alamy

See a different side of the Garden State with a paddle trip down the Mullica River.

What Is It? Escape the hustle and bustle of the nation’s most densely populated state with a paddle trip through the Pine Barrens (aka Pinelands), a 1.1-million-acre wilderness valued for its clean waters, rich plant and animal life, and undeveloped land. Push off below Atsion Lake and leave your worries behind as the narrow Mullica River snakes its way through the lush and secluded Jersey jungle. After a mellow and enjoyable 5.5-mile float through huge pine groves, cedars, oaks, and swampy meadows, make camp at the Mullica River Campsite, a spot open only to those on foot, boat, or horseback. Revel in the soothing song of the whip-poor-wills and the eventual silence that comes with darkness. The next morning, float another four miles down toward Batsto Village, a town built in the mid-1700s with a historic ironworks—both worth exploring.

Why Do It? The Pine Barrens make up the largest expanse of open space on the East Coast between Boston and Richmond. That’s reason alone to spend some time gliding silently through this sanctuary’s waters. Other draws include the chance to relish in gorgeous scenery made even more enchanting by densely forested banks, soothing birdsong, and tea-colored water that gets its reddish hue from the iron and tannins excreted from shoreline cedars. If you’re lucky you may catch a glimpse of a strange and rare Pinelands critter like the venomous timber rattlesnake, the Pine Barrens tree frog, or the carnivorous pitcher plant.

Make It Happen: To do it yourself, pick up a copy of Paddling the Jersey Pine Barrens, 6th Edition by Robert Parnes. For rentals or guided options visit Bel Haven Paddlesports.

See all the summer weekend adventures.

More: See America’s 100 Best Adventures and Long Weekends Like a Local

***
50 Best Summer Weekend Adventures: Great adventures are all around us—and summer is the ideal time to seek them. To give you some ideas and inspiration, every weekday we will be sharing a different U.S. summer weekend adventure, state-by-state from A to Z. We invite you to share your favorite summer weekend adventures in the comments section below when your favorite state is featured. Report back after the weekend to tell us about the outdoor adventures you had.