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When people go canoeing and kayaking, they often comment about the water. Cedar water. Organic tannins and acids leached from cedar trees, coupled with the naturally high iron content of surrounding soils, stain the water a deep reddish-brown. This process makes for some unique flowers and bushes that visitors will see along the trails.


The river's current usually measures two to three miles per hour. It's gentle flow makes it ideal for all travelers to enjoy. As for the depth of the water, usually three to six feet is the average under normal conditions, but deeper where the river channel cuts through. The water's current and depth depend upon recent rainfall in addition to usage or runoff from nearby farms.


Along the waters edge are an abundance of amphibians. The Southern Leopard Frog, Green Frog and Fowler's Toad are found everywhere. The Carpenter Frog and Pine Barrens Tree Frog are unique the forest. As for reptiles, turtles are the norm. The most common is the Box Turtle. Others such as the Painted, Spotted, and Snapping Turtles can also be found. The Eastern Fence Pine Lizard is very hard to spot because it's skin resembles the bark found on Pine trees. As for snakes, the Common Water Snake and Pine Snake appear in the Southern Wetlands. The Scarlet, Black Racer, Corn, Eastern Hognose, Milk, and Rough Green Snake are also found. Poisonous snakes have been reported.


The most common during spring include Eastern Phoebe, Carolina Chickadee, Cedar Waxwing, and Eastern Bluebird. Summer brings and abundance of Canadian Geese, American Goldfinch, Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows. Look and listen for Belted Kingfisher near the lakes. During the fall migratory season, Swallows pass on their way south. Some other birds include Blue and Green-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, Hermit Thrush and several Warbler species.


Extensive White Cedar and Pitch Pine forests border the Oswego and Wading Rivers. Small trees like Persimmon, Magnolia and American Holly are plentiful. There are more than twenty tree species in the Wharton State Forest.


The rivers of Wharton State Forest are shallow and therefore not ideal for fishing. The Oswego and Harrisville Lakes offer the best chance for anglers. Trout might be the most common fish with Channel Catfish, Chain Pickerel and Sunfish also having been reported.


White-Tail Deer and the Eastern Cottontail Rabbit are very conspicuous. Often, Wild Turkeys can be seen scurrying through the brush with their young ones in tow. Beavers and River Otters are common but rarely seen, although you will find evidence by their dams and gnawed trees. Coyotes and Black Bears are appearing more frequently. Raccoons and Gray Foxes also populate the area.


Leatherleaf, Blueberries, Fetterbush, Maleberry, Staggerbush and Sheep Laurel bloom from mid-April to early June. Come early in the summer and find the Turkey Beard in full bloom, along with Sheep Laurel, Huckleberries, Staggerbush, Fetterbush and other heaths. With the fall season there are Goldenrods, Asters, Golden Asters, Joe-Pye Weed, Snakeroots and Bonesets at their peak. Look for the Pine Barrens Goldenrod in September and the endangered wand-like Goldenrod later in the month.



We recommend these web sites for more information on the plants and animals of Wharton State Forest and the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

Garden State Greenways

Connecting people and places, protecting wildlife and water.

The Nature Conservancy

Preserving plants, animals and natural communities on earth.

NJ Forestry Associtation

Promotes woodlands management throughout New Jersey.

Pinelands Preservation Alliance

Protecting and exploring New Jersey's Pinelands.

NJ Conservation Foundation

Preserving New Jersey's land and natural resources for all.

Plants of the NJ Pine Barrens

Operated by Nature Photographer Mike Baker.

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