How bad have the recent rains been in South Jersey?
Bad enough that many of the roads around the state’s largest and most popular park, Wharton State Forest, are so underwater that the New Jersey Park Service is warning visitors to simply stay way.
“Due to flooding from persistent rainfall, the New Jersey State Park Service is advising visitors that many of the unimproved roads within Wharton State Forest are impassable and that they should consider postponing their visits if they plan to use these roads,” the Department of Environmental Protection said Thursday in a statement. The DEP oversees the park service.
Wharton comprises almost 123,000 acres in the Pinelands and is visited by hikers, bikers, boaters, birders, campers, and even horse riders. It reaches parts of Atlantic, Burlington and Camden counties and has hundreds of miles of rivers, streams, and sand roads including a major section of the Batona Trail.
Wharton has been deluged with nearly a foot of rain just in November in what has already been an excessively wet year.
Many of the entrances to the park near the Batsto, Mullica, Oswego, and Wading rivers are closed and the rivers are so swollen that visitors should wait until waters recede, officials said.
The park service has found that roads, many of them dirt, are either washed out or resemble small ponds at points. Some bridges are completely underwater.
Officials fear off-road riders and boaters could become stuck if they try to drive or paddle through the area with its fine sand roads and swampland. Those planning to visit should call ahead for conditions and accessibility at (609) 561-0024.
The good news: Batsto Village, a preserved former bog iron and glassmaking center, is open. Atsion Recreation Area, however, is closed for the season.