What makes the Pine Barrens special?
This large and heavily forested area stretches across the southern coastal plain of New Jersey in the USA and is renowned for its unspoilt nature, abundant and diverse wildlife and the frequent forest fires that play a vital role in the ecology of the area.
The area has escaped development and urbanization, thanks to the poor quality of its sandy and acidic soil, hence the `barren` part of its name. The earth here is so poor in nutrients that the crops brought in by early settlers yielded unimpressive harvests. Yet the unusual conditions were ideal for a unique and wide ranging array of plant life to thrive, such as orchids and carnivorous plants.
Dwarf pine trees grow everywhere and these tiny trees, never more than 4 feet in height, are dependent on the area`s frequent forest fires as part of their life cycle and reproductive pattern. The fires keep undergrowth at a low level and enable mature trees to do better. Additionally, pitch pines survive fires much better than other species such as oak because they can resprout directly through their bark and the cones they produce only open after they have been heated up by fire.
Wildlife is rich here and there are many species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, including 43 species that are considered endangered, such as bald eagles, eastern timber rattlesnakes and bobcats.
The Pine Barrens is almost entirely dependent on agriculture and tourism for its revenue. It`s a prolific producer of cranberries and blueberries. In more recent years efforts have been made to preserve the untouched nature of the area by restricting development and the creation of the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve
Folklore has played an important part in the culture of the area and the legend of the Jersey Devil remains strong to this day. This unfortunate creature was apparently the 13th child born in 1735 to a woman named Mrs Leeds and superstitious locals said he was cursed. Another tale has it that the Jersey Devil was a monster which attacked the poor mother and her nurses because flying up the chimney and escaping. There have been numerous `sightings` of the infamous Jersey Devil in the area.
For many years, outsiders called residents of the Pine Barrens, `Pineys` which was certainly not meant to be a compliment. People here were held to be slow and somewhat inbred, a view largely attributed to a now discredited study into a poor backwoods family called the Kallikaks, who were labeled as genetically inferior. Subsequently the whole study has been shown to be a misrepresentation and these days `Pineys` have reclaimed the name for themselves as one they are proud to identify with.
The Pine Barrens is very much an outdoors type of place to visit, with opportunities for walking, horse riding, canoeing, kayaking and staying in woodland refuges. There are many wildlife trails to explore both on foot and by car.
The Popcorn Park Zoo is a sanctuary for rescued animals including tigers, monkeys, black bear as well as many domestic creatures.
Whitesbog Village located within the Brendan T. Byrne State Forest, is an historic company town, founded in the 1870s. In the early 1900's, Whitesbog was the largest cranberry farm in New Jersey. It was here that in cooperation with the the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the first cultivated blueberry was developed. Open year round there are many museums, trails and nature sites to explore and learn.
Also worth visiting is Tuckerton Seaport where there are several original and replica historical buildings including a lighthouse.
Isaac Hilliard House Bed and Breakfast
A charming circa 1749, four unit B & B with a swimming pool
Locust Hall Farm Bed and Breakfast
A six room charming B & B in a rural setting
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