Six Pine Barrens Ghost Towns to explore! (2023)

Six Pine Barrens Ghost Towns to explore! (1)

South Jersey Trails is four years old! In celebration, I highlight an area I’ve been blessed enough to spend the last 24 years exploring – the Pine Barrens. I started witha post on the Best Hikes in the Pine Barrens. But hiking isn’t what hooked me on the pine barrens all those years ago (and boy, what great hiking there is there), it was the history.

So when you think of ghost towns, you probably think like me: cowboys, swinging doors, tumbleweeds…

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You know, this. (Note – Bodie State Park in California).

But the pine barrens have dozens of ghost towns of their own. Sure, there weren’t many shootouts in the pine barrens (except Hampton Bogs that one time). And they are definitely short on tumbleweeds. But they all have their own, fascinating history.

Note before we start, all of these are state or county parks and nearly all are manned continuously by park employees. You won’t need dirt roads to get to any of these, or need to venture deep into the woods where your car will get stuck. So don’t let those worries get in the way of exploring!

Without further ado, here are SIX ghost towns you can go explore!

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Weymouth – Weymouth Furnace County Park
Weymouth Road near the intersection with the Black Horse Pike
HamiltonTownship, NJ

Weymouth is the site of an old iron works. Afurnace and a forge were both in operation here by 1802, and were taken over by Samuel Richards (remember that name, it’ll be back a lot this post) early in the 19th century. After the furnace and forge closed down, a pair of paper mills was established here. The remains visible today are the remains of those two paper mills. With the stack sitting by the Great Egg Harbor River, this is perhaps the most picturesque of the pine barrens ghost towns on this list.

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You can also explore the John’s Woods Preserve across the way, which has some more of the remains of Weymouth.

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Exploring Weymouth and John’s Woods

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(Video) Exploring Ghost Towns in the Pine Barrens

Belcoville – Estell Manor County Park
Route 50
Estell Manor, NJ

Sure, there are eighteen miles of hiking trails here, but forget looking for nature and start looking for a munitions factory. That’s right, this whole park was part of a massive ammunition factory complex during The Great War (aka World War I). You can’t wander more than a hundred feet in this park without running into the remains of one of these old buildings, many of which are still pretty intact for being 100 years old.

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As a bonus, the Estell Glass Works remains are also in the park. Drive right up to the parking area on the park loop and take a walk around. The glassworks come complete with explanatory signs to help you understand the glass blowing process!

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Glassworks.

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Atsion – Wharton State Forest
Route 206 and Quaker Bridge Road
Shamong, NJ

Another old furnace town, this one was started by Charles Read before the War for Independence. Like most iron towns in the pines, it was later acquired by the Richards family. The centerpiece of the village is the 1824 Richards mansion, which has an imposing location on the dirt Quaker Bridge Road, which would have been the highway through the area at the time and not Route 206. After the iron era, there was a shortlived farming community here called Fruitland, followed up by a cotton mill here, and finally the purchase of the property by financier Joseph Wharton, who used it for various enterprises.

Even during my lifetime, the village has been disappearing, but you can still see the concrete Wharton era barn, the old church, the schoolhouse, and the remains of the cotton mill here. One of the improvements that has come to Atsion of that period is that the old Richards Mansion is open for tours now, which is a great way to spend an hour if you can make one of the correct times during the season.

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Wharton Era concrete barn.

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Old church… still active.

(Video) Exploring Ghost Towns in the NJ Pinelands

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Old schoolhouse.

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Cotton mill.

A Walk Through Atsion

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Smithville – Historic SmithvillePark
801 Smithville Rd
Mt Holly, NJ

Q: What does a bicycle factory, a moose-drawn carriage, and a bicycle railroad have in common?
A: Hezekiah Smith and his model village in Burlington County.

Before Mr. Smith, there were mills here and well as a cotton cloth manufacturing center named Shrevesville. But it was when Hezekiah Smith brought his company here at the end of the Civil War, a company who was here late into the 20th Century, the whole area was renamed in his honor. While his machine works were very successful at this location, the most famous product made here was the Star Bicycle, a successful early model of that contraption.

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A Star Bicycle going down the steps at the capital building. Because public domain.

Now a county park, you can wander past the remains of the various factory buildings here, check out the Worker’s House Museum, and take a tour of the Smith Mansion.

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Smithville Mansion.

(Video) Harrisville ~ Ghost Towns of the Jersey Pine Barrens

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Hiking trails of Smithville– which will get you to the historic buildings

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Whitesbog Village – Brendan Bryne State Forest
120 W Whites Bogs Rd #34
Browns Mills, NJ

This was the site of one the earliest cranberry operations in the area, going back to almost the Civil War. However, it’s true claim to fame came when Elizabeth White developed the commercially viable blueberry here. Now part of Brendan Bryne State Forest and run by the Whitesbog Preservation Trust. This village is different from our other ghost towns, in that severalof the buildings are leased as private residences, even if the old workers homes, schoolhouse, and collapsed cranberry packing house are vacant of residents, children, or cranberries. When you are tired of looking at old buildings, make sure to take the self-guided driving tour of the bogs.

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A great time to visit in during the Annual Blueberry Festival held each June.

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General store.

Batsto Village – Wharton State Forest
31 Batsto Road
Washington Township, NJ

As author Barbara Solem states right in the title of her book on Batsto, this is the “Jewel of the Pines”. A New Jersey Colonial Williamsburg, this old iron/glassmaking town goes back to the pre-Revolutionary War days. It made canonballs for George Washington’s army during the War for Independence and throughout its history produced iron slag that was later made into stoves and other products in the early days of the United States (including the fireplace backs for Washington’s home at Mt. Vernon). When bog iron was no longer as profitable, the Richards family (of course the Richards family) started making glass, which extended the life of this pine barrens town. The whole complex found a new life as the home base for Joseph Wharton’s pine barrens business empire, at which time the mansion was used as a summer home by the Wharton family.

Today, Batsto is the best preserved of the old pine barrens towns, a place where you can visit the Richards/Wharton mansion, walk through the blacksmith shop, or wander through the old sawmill (which still functions) or gristmill. The visitors center features a beautiful museum that was redone a few years ago, which explains the history of Batsto and the pine barrens.

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Sawmill.

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General store from the mill.

(Video) PINE BARRENS: Sparse Southern New Jersey (Including Batsto Village)

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Mill and corn crib.

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Workers homes.

Batstoalso features one of favorite events – the Batsto Country Living Fair – each October, which is well worth attending for the antique engines alone.

Want to learn more about the history of the pine barrens and its ghost towns? Check out some of these great books:

The Pine Barrens by John McPhee
Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jerseyby Henry Charlton Beck
More Forgotten Towns of Southern New Jerseyby Henry Charlton Beck
Family Empire in Jersey Iron by John Pierce
Iron in the Pines by John Pierce
Batsto Village: Jewel of the Pines by Barbara Solem

If you are like us and you LOVE bookstores, some great ones to check out for these and other fine books on South Jersey history are:
Old Book Shop of Bordentown – Bordentown, NJ
Second Time Books – Mt. Laurel, NJ
Batsto Museum Shop– Batsto, NJ
Pinelands Preservation Alliance Bookstore – Southampton, NJ
And, of course, the annual Lines on the Pines event

Support local businesses!

RIP to our favorite local history bookstore – the Cheshire Cat at Buzby’s Chatsworth General Store.

FAQs

What towns are in the Pine Barrens? ›

Towns of the Pine Barrens, including Chatsworth, Hammonton, Barnegat, Tuckerton and more.

Are there any ghost towns in New Jersey? ›

Some of New Jersey's most famous ghost towns are Feltville, Walpack Center, Waterloo Village, and Batsto Village. Each of these spots has a unique history, and visiting them transports you to a special part of New Jersey's past.

Where are the Pine Barrens? ›

The Pinelands National Reserve is the largest forested area on the Eastern Seaboard between Maine and the Florida Everglades. The New Jersey Pine Barrens is the “ecological” term that describes the unique, beautiful and fascinating ecosystem and natural treasure that covers most of southern New Jersey.

Why are the Pine Barrens famous? ›

The first shipbuilding operations began in the Pine Barrens in 1688, utilizing the cedar, oak, and pitch trees, as well as local tar and turpentine. The first sawmills and gristmills opened around 1700, leading to the first European settlements in the Pinelands.

Does anyone live in the Pine Barrens? ›

Only today's sand and gravel mining operations harken back to the early, pervasive industrial exploitation of the Pine Barrens. Today over 400,000 people live inside the Pinelands boundary.

Are there any abandoned towns in New York state? ›

1) Doodletown, New York

Currently the ghost town is part of Bear Mountain State Park and a popular destination for hikers, birdwatchers, botanists, and local historians.

What happened to Sea Breeze NJ? ›

The Department of Environmental Protection put up a seawall along Beach Avenue in 2006 that failed to hold back the encroaching tide and was wiped out almost immediately. In 2010, most of the remaining homeowners sold their property to the DEP and the houses were razed.

Why is walpack NJ abandoned? ›

In the 1960s, the government forced people out of their homes in order to build a dam on the Walpack property for nearby Tocks Island. Ultimately, after the government spent over $100 million on the project, it was abandoned after reports of unsafe conditions for the project.

How many bodies have been found in the Pine Barrens? ›

The Central Pine Barrens Of Manorville, NY

As many as 11 bodies have been found in the forest overall. The deaths are thought to be the work of the Butcher of Manorville.

Where is the Jersey Devil House? ›

Deborah and Japhet Leeds also lived in the Leeds Point section of what is now Atlantic County, New Jersey, which is commonly the location of the Jersey Devil story.

How deep is the Blue Hole in New Jersey? ›

At its deepest point, the Blue Hole is 100 feet (30 m) The bottom appears to consist of sand rather than mud. Swimming and diving in the Blue Hole are both illegal, but not enforced. It remains a popular swimming spot during the summer.

Who lives in the Pine Barrens in New Jersey? ›

Piney is a historically derogatory term for the inhabitants of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, but is now considered a cultural demonym. The Pine Barrens have sandy, acidic soil considered unsuitable for traditional farming by early settlers, who called the land "barren".

Who owns the NJ Pine Barrens? ›

New Jersey Conservation Foundation has been active in land preservation in the region for over three decades and owns and manages more than 12,000 acres in the Heart of the Pine Barrens, including the Franklin Parker Preserve, the Michael Huber Prairie Warbler Preserve and the Evert Trail Preserve.

Where did the Russian go in Pine Barrens? ›

OK, this is what happened. Some Boy Scouts found the Russian, who had the telephone number to his boss, Slava, in his pocket. They called Slava, who took him to the hospital where he had brain surgery. Then Slava sent him back to Russia.

Are there bears in the Pine Barrens? ›

The Pine Barrens today is home to 34 species of mammals. Share: The Pine Barrens lost its top predators black bears, cougars and wolves, long ago to hunting and trapping, though black bears are still seen occasionally.

What's a piney slang? ›

(slang, derogatory) A native or inhabitant of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. noun. 1. Alternative spelling of piny. adjective.

Why is cedar water tea colored? ›

As with most Pine Barrens streams, the water of Cedar Creek is “tea colored” because of tannic acid from the roots of the cedars lining the river banks. According to the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, about 89% of the Cedar Creek drainage area is forested land.

Is New York a ghost town? ›

Whether you're a historian or interested in the paranormal, New York is the home of some of the most interesting ghost towns in the world.

Why is Doodletown abandoned? ›

The seven square mile hamlet was ultimately abandoned in the mid-1960s after a long period of land acquisition by the Palisades Interstate Parks Commission. The Commission had planned to create a cross-country ski network in Doodletown but was never able to start the project.

Are there any ghost towns in Pennsylvania? ›

Yellow Dog Village is a ghost town in western PA. Of all the places on this list, Yellow Dog Village might be the most like what you think of when you think of ghost towns.

Why is ocean so cold in New Jersey? ›

The winds that are the source of the hot air have helped churn the near-shore waters all along the Jersey and Delaware coasts, with cold lower layers routing the warm waters on the surface, Crowley said.

Does anyone live in Sea Breeze NJ? ›

The hamlet is home to a small community of seasonal homes and does not have many year round residents. There is one road in Sea Breeze, Beach Avenue and it is unpaved. There are no marinas or businesses, but Sea Breeze is still used by salt water fisherman and bird watchers.

Is Fortescue beach free? ›

Fortescue Bay is located in Fortescue. There's a fee to enter, but the experience will be worth the money.

Does anyone live in Walpack NJ? ›

Population. With 5 people, Walpack is the 555th most populated city in the state of New Jersey out of 565 cities.

Who owns the Walpack Inn? ›

“I moved here when I was 12-years-old with my family from Rutherford, New Jersey,” Jim Heigis, owner and son of original owners Louise and Adam, shared.

What happened to walpack New Jersey? ›

Approximately 72,000 acres (29,000 ha) of the surrounding land, including Walpack, were claimed under eminent domain by the government for this project and thousands of area residents were forced to move out. Although the dam was never actually constructed, the township's population has been on the decline ever since.

What is considered the Pine Barrens? ›

Pine barrens are plant communities that occur on dry, acidic, infertile soils, dominated by grasses, forbs, low shrubs, and small to medium-sized pines. The most extensive barrens occur in large areas of sandy glacial deposits (including outwash plains), lakebeds, and outwash terraces along rivers.

Where does the Pine Barrens start? ›

The 1.1-million-acre Pinelands Natural Reserve stretches south and west from northern Ocean County and makes up 22 percent of New Jersey's total land mass. Created by Congress in 1978, the reserve was designated an International Biosphere Reserve in 1988. It's bigger than either Yosemite or Grand Canyon national park.

Is Medford NJ in the Pine Barrens? ›

The historic village of Medford, N.J., in Burlington County is nestled in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

Is Medford in the Pine Barrens? ›

Nestled within the beautiful landscape of the South Jersey Pine Barrens, Medford is conveniently located in Burlington County in close proximity to both the Jersey Shore and the city of Philadelphia.

How many bodies are in the Pine Barrens? ›

The Central Pine Barrens Of Manorville, NY

As many as 11 bodies have been found in the forest overall. The deaths are thought to be the work of the Butcher of Manorville. In 2007, these unsolved cases were featured in an America's Most Wanted episode.

How deep is the Blue Hole in New Jersey? ›

At its deepest point, the Blue Hole is 100 feet (30 m) The bottom appears to consist of sand rather than mud. Swimming and diving in the Blue Hole are both illegal, but not enforced. It remains a popular swimming spot during the summer.

Where is the Jersey Devil House? ›

Deborah and Japhet Leeds also lived in the Leeds Point section of what is now Atlantic County, New Jersey, which is commonly the location of the Jersey Devil story.

Who owns the NJ pine barrens? ›

New Jersey Conservation Foundation has been active in land preservation in the region for over three decades and owns and manages more than 12,000 acres in the Heart of the Pine Barrens, including the Franklin Parker Preserve, the Michael Huber Prairie Warbler Preserve and the Evert Trail Preserve.

Are there bears in the Pine Barrens? ›

The Pine Barrens today is home to 34 species of mammals. Share: The Pine Barrens lost its top predators black bears, cougars and wolves, long ago to hunting and trapping, though black bears are still seen occasionally.

Why is cedar water tea colored? ›

As with most Pine Barrens streams, the water of Cedar Creek is “tea colored” because of tannic acid from the roots of the cedars lining the river banks. According to the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, about 89% of the Cedar Creek drainage area is forested land.

Where does the NJ Devil live? ›

Share: There have been many depictions of the Jersey Devil over the years. The New Jersey Pinelands is home to miles of pine trees and sandy roads, but it is also home to New Jersey's most infamous resident… The Jersey Devil.

Why are the Pine Barrens sandy? ›

The southern extent of the most recent glaciation is marked by a terminal moraine -- a low rise in the landscape running approximately east-west across central New Jersey. As this ice sheet melted, outwash plains formed, and coarse sands from the terminal moraine collected in what would become the Pine Barrens.

How big is the NJ Pine Barrens? ›

The Pine Barrens, also known as the Pinelands, is an enormous and all-encompassing tract of open space that covers 1.1 million acres, or 22 percent of New Jersey's land area.

Is Toms River in the Pine Barrens? ›

Ecological Features. Much of the headwaters of the Toms River is in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Habitats of the Pine Barrens found in the Toms River subwatershed include cranberry bogs, Atlantic white cedar swamps, and pine-oak forests.

Where are the Pinelands in NJ? ›

New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve (also known as Pinelands National Reserve) is a national reserve that encompasses the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
...
Pinelands National Reserve.
New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve
LocationNew Jersey, U.S.
Nearest cityHammonton, NJ
Coordinates39°45′N 74°45′W
6 more rows

What is Medford NJ known for? ›

Medford has a bustling Village area, where unique shops and restaurants line our original and historic “Main Street.” The residential areas in Medford have been created with respect for the woodlands, streams and lakes surrounding us. Homes of log cabins, Victorian estates and contemporary facades dot the landscape.

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