Located in the center of New Jersey, Wharton State Forest is the largest single tract of land within the state’s park system. It offers a wide variety of outdoor activities to participate in, from canoeing and kayaking to hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. The park’s numerous lakes, ponds and fields also make it ideal for bird and wildlife observation.
Within park boundaries, history buffs will find several remnants of villages from the 1700s and 1800s to explore. Atsion Recreation Area can also be found within Wharton State Forest and is a very popular summer recreation place for area residents.
Nearest major city: Hammonton, New Jersey (10 miles south); Atlantic City, New Jersey (50 miles southeast)
Famous for: The park is the location of historic Batsto Village, a former bog iron and glass manufacturing site from 1766 to 1867.
Batsto Village charges a weekend admission fee of $5/person from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Atsion Recreation Area also charges a fee during the summer of $5/vehicle on weekdays and $10/vehicle on weekends.
Families with children will like: Take the guided tours of both Batsto Village (which includes the Batsto Mansion, gristmill, sawmill, general store, workers’ homes and post office) and Harrisville Village (a late 1800s ghost town that includes a paper mil, bording house and several mansions).
Other travelers will like: The wealth of outdoor activities to indulge in. Hiking the park’s portion of the Batona Trail is popular, as is canoeing Mullaca River.
Easy sightseeing: Enjoy a lazy day on the beach at Atsion Recreation Area or explore Atsion Mansion, which was built in the early 1800s.
Camping information: Atsion Lake is where the park’s main campgrounds are. Most campsites here are suitable for tent or RV camping, and there are communal restroom/shower facilities. 2010 rates are $20/night.
Further into the park are several primitive tent-only camp areas with no running water and pit toilets. Rates for these sites are $2/person per night.
Other park lodging: Nine cabins are available for rent at Atsion Lake from April 1 until October 31. All come with screened porch, fireplace, outdoor campfire rings, refrigerator, hot and cold running water, and bathroom with toilet and shower. They’re also all ADA accessible. 2010 rates range from $45-$85/night or $315-$595/week. Call 609-268-0444 for more information.
Other nearby lodging: The town of Hammonton, NJ, has a wide variety of lodging available.
Best months to visit for weather: Late spring and early fall are best for moderate temperatures.
Best months to visit to avoid crowds: Peak tourist seasons are the summer months. Spring and fall weekdays are probably the best if looking to avoid crowds.
Nearest major airport: Within a 70-80 mile radius are the major airports of Atlantic City, NJ and Philadelphia, PA.
More info can be found at: New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry
[Photo courtesy of New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry]