It's a Jungle Out There

Wawayanda State Park

by Mary Jasch

The Jersey Jungle waits at Wawayanda State Park in Sussex County. As wild as its name, the land of "winding, winding water" is home to Indian shelters and some of the best bear dens in NJ, a lake to swim and boat on, great gobs of pudding stone to climb, rock to scramble, ledges for leaping, primeval forest, 20 miles of Appalachian Trail and so much more. It's a 16,679-acre garden-like jungle gym, a land of natural marvels and a dynamic showcase of human history. Its wildness survives us.

Terrace Pond, edged in pudding stone and rhododendron, is a treasure worth climbing for. Photo by Mary Jasch

Wawayanda's beauty lies in its rough and rugged terrain, decorated with wild versions of garden flowers on top of bedrock that is 1,150 million years old. It's the oldest geography around, part of the Reading Prong that starts in Pennsylvania, becomes the New Jersey Highlands, and ends in Vermont's Green Mountains. The hills in Wawayanda were over 28,000 feet tall until their tops eroded and washed away to the valley before the Kittatinny Ridge, and into PA and New York. All that's left are their trunks.

Terrace Pond

On the trail with my Appalachian Trail hiking buddy, Kathleen Casey, we meet at the parking lot south of the pipeline, 7.8 miles up Clinton Road from Route 23. Across the road is the Terrace Pond Trailhead. We take the blue trail. The path starts soft through hardwood and evergreen forest, but soon there are tree stumps and boards to traverse sphagnum wetlands, then down through a rocky ravine where, in wetter times, hikers cross a stream on logs.

The Tennessee Gas PipeLine is a fun hike in itself with great views. Photo by Mary Jasch

The trail breaks out onto the pipeline and we follow it uphill, almost vertical. "If you want to enjoy the view, you have to do it while you're at the top of the first rise, which is the highest climb," advises K. It's more difficult going down than up with loose gravel and rock. As we gab, we miss the spot where the path goes back into the woods, a half mile up. (Stay to the right to see the blazes.)

We soon wind up on suspicious ground--mud--and we don't think we're on the trail anymore. We continue anyway, stopping briefly for blueberries. Feels like bear habitat, this hidden bowery enclave, and here's bear tracks to prove it! Up another rise, there are pudding stone outcrops, pitch pine, sweet pepper bush, laurel, hemlock, chestnut oak, hair grass, ferns, birch. Some plants here are also found in the Pine Barrens in the central part of the state, for although the soil differs, the fast drainage is similar. Greenwood Lake appears before us. We've come over the mountain and are heading down the other side.

Thankfully, we see blue blazes. This is really the other end of this long, winding trail. (Suggestion: get a map and understand where you're going before you do it.) We go into the forest on a rock trail that doesn't look like anyone's ever been here before. "This is my idea of a walk in the woods," says K. The overgrown trail curves around rock walls and becomes a long slab of rock that looks lifted up and turned on its side. Virginia creeper grows through its mossy cracks. This is a trail of surprises indeed. Pipewort, a tiny white button flower on a single stem, grows abundantly in the wetlands with 4-foot tall ferns.

We stop for lunch at Terrace Pond, altitude--1380 feet. On the way back down, a pile of pudding stone rises two stories high before us like a huge melted sand castle. The sedimentary pudding stone is the surface rock here.

Two weeks later we come back and do the 1.5 mile white trail loop around Terrace Pond. through massive rhododendron, outcrops, and dense shrubbery. We take a side trail to the lake where we have another lunch on a pudding stone outcrop. People dive from the rocks and swim in the pond, which sits on top of Bearfort Mountain, a state-designated Natural Area that encompasses several types of forest and endangered species, including the red-shouldered hawk and barred owl. It's a fun 5-6 hour hike like a natural obstacle course. Bring lots of water, lots of daylight, a flashlight and hiking boots.

History Hike

The Wawayanda charcoal blast furnace was built by the Ames Brothers toolmakers in 1845. Photo by Wilma Frey.

For those who don't want to clamber up rocks, but still want a backwoodsy feel, the Laurel Pond Trail is perfect. At Lake Wawayanda turn left to the boat access parking lot. Today, I meet Ron DuPont, Jr., Vernon resident, historian and author for a walk on the Laurel Pond Trail to look for clues of yesteryear. To get there we take a wide path along the lake to the old village of Wawayanda. The path was once the main road to Highland Lakes.

Once called Double Pond, the lake was dammed in 1846 to provide power for an iron furnace and a few mills.. Waterpower was so valuable they didn't want to lose a foot of it, so they packed the mills in as tight as they could. You can still see the sluiceway. "The water came over the dam in a "trunk," a square wooden pipe," says Ron. Water doesn't go through this dam anymore because it would deteriorate the ruins. Now, water from the lake spills over the Wing Dam into Laurel Pond and then flows down the mountain.

In the old industrial village below the dam there was the furnace, a sawmill, a mill that made boxes for cheese, a stamping mill that smashed iron ore into little pieces, company store, blacksmith shop and a mule barn. Families occupied houses along the creek and single workers lived in a bunkhouse. The furnace was surrounded by buildings, and, during its lifetime, over 6,000 acres of timber were cut down to feed it. All that remains are foundations and the furnace. "In its time, Wawayanda was a big operation. It was a little industrial village where quite a few people lived and worked. Once the industry disappeared, the village disappeared with it."

The Laurel Pond Trail begins here and crosses over the "Double Kill" that comes out of Laurel Pond, a glacial lake. It's the main creek that flows from Wawayanda. The trail was a public road in the early 1800s that went east into Passaic County until it was abandoned in the 1920s.

We pick up slag in the roadbed. It's porous and looks like lava. Small clearings in front of the rhododendron look like someone's front yard. Ron says they were parking areas for the water-front cabins, once built and owned by employees of the NJ Zinc Company who owned the land from 1917 until the state bought it in 1963. The cabins varied from shacks of plywood nailed to 2-by-4s to rustic lodges with porches.

The woods are dramatic with steep rocky rises and soft dips, but the old road is easily negotiated. They hauled ore and charcoal on this road with strong horses on this steep grade. If you take it slow in Wawayanda, you can walk almost any terrain.

We turn onto the Wing Dam Trail uphill through grassy outcrops to the top. The forest is open. There's a flat semi-circle to the left and Ron says that it was probably a "charcoal bottom" where workers made charcoal in a circular pile.

The zinc company bought this property to provide "prop timbers" for the Franklin and Ogdensburg mines. "This required tons of timber. From 1917 through the early 50s, they were taking timber out of here. You wouldn't guess from looking at the forest today that it was being commercially timbered only 40 years ago."

Wawayanda Lake appears on the left as we come out of the woods. Around 1900, Camp Wawayanda, the first YMCA summer camp in the US, was here. For 17 years, the camp had a cable ferry that took kids out to an auxiliary camp on First Island in the middle of the lake.

We leave the trail and walk along the shoreline by the dam on an unmarked path, as Ron searches for evidence of the ferry. There are foundations of various sizes here, a stone platform and a structure that looks like a barbeque, and a brick doorstep. There was a lodge here in 1910, set on piers. Part of the retaining wall remains, plus an icehouse foundation. Follow the shoreline on whatever trail looks good. We hook up with the Wing Dam Trail back at the main dam.

If you don't want to tromp through the woods looking for pieces of yesterday's puzzle, you can take the Laurel Pond Trail to the Wing Dam Trail and back to the parking lot for a nice 3-mile walk.


Above: For fall color, walk Wawayanda Lake or bring a boat.
Below: A great view from the top of the ancient landscape of Bearfort Ridge.
Photos by Wilma Frey

I take the Laurel Pond Trail this day in quite a different fashion. I meet Wawayanda State Park Superintendent Bill Foley for a hike on his turf. As we pass the dam, he tells me that during the winter otter used to play on the spillway and shoot down into the water on the ice ­ "their own little bobsled run."

A big old pipe crosses the trail that Bill says is historic and may have been one of the air ducts for the hot air blast. The iron industry was very consumptive and fuel was the most important commodity. "Every stick of timber was taken off this landscape between 1860 and 1900. You wouldn't recognize this landscape if you went back in time 100 years. There wouldn't be a tree growing anywhere except along a hedgerow or between fields. It had all been harvested for the charcoal blast furnace." The iron industry denuded the land the first time, then The NJ Zinc Co. denuded it again. These woods have been stripped twice.

We take an offshoot through laurel and hemlock down to Laurel Pond. The hemlock stand is deteriorating dramatically, says Bill, and in an attempt to save it the Department of Agriculture is releasing the Pseudoscymnus Beetle, a wooly adelgid predator. Soil borings indicate that hemlock has been the only species growing here for the last 6,000 years, and it wasn't timbered with the rest of Sussex County. It's primeval and it looks it­ open forest with a ground cover of ferns.

Bill Foley admires the dens along an outcrop. Photo by Mary Jasch

"Geology's one of my passions," says Bill. And for geology, Wawayanda is perfect. "The geological record here is filled with gaps. A non-conformity is an erosional surface that breaks the geological history. We got a lot of that right here. There were Himalayan-size mountains here about 300 million years ago, 28-29,000 feet. Volcanoes interspersed along the coast. It was a real wild archipeligo."

The landscape in Wawayanda still has that wild feel. The outcrops are smooth on the north side and fractured on the downhill--a hallmark of a glacier. "There's no question you'll find glacial erratics through here." Bill says that Stokes Forest is the edge of the outwash plain from these once-massive peaks. "Where these mountains were, is now what makes PA a flat place. It washed out all the way to Lake Erie. This, Wawayanda, is older than the Kittatinny Ridge. This, when it was tall, made the Kittatinny Ridge."

Bring a magnet and see if it sticks to the rocks. If it does, it could be iron ore that's shiny black from the crystal faces of magnetite. Bill picks up a rock and hammers it, looking for chert that was once collected and used by indigenous people to make tools.

We check out a ridge of bedrock on the right. "This is what makes Wawayanda so incredibly different from any other state park. You don't have this kind of terrain. You can do a rock scramble here all day." He points to openings in the bottom of the ridge. "Wonderful bear denning, and probably Native Americans stayed here too."

We look at large smooth breaks in the rock--cleavage planes--natural weaknesses. Quartz crystal faces are all over this rotten granite rock. The outcrop eventually joins you back on the trail.

We plunge down the hillside across a small primordial-looking valley on the left. Shelters line the bottom of the outcrop. There's a phoebe nest right on it. "It's home to a lot of things. The remains of charcoal soot on the roofs leaves no doubt that they were used as shelters, probably by Native Americans during their journeys." In the 1930s, the Boy Scouts found and collected American Indian artifacts from them.

The granitic rocks are breaking apart from weathering, from wind and water. Trees root in the cracks. Hemlock grab the tops of boulders. Yellow birch shoots out of a corner where perhaps a bit of soil collected. There are no fossils here, because this is a non-conformity--the sediments are missing. They're in the Poconos and Catskills and the Sussex County valley.

We climb back up the hill to the trail, clambering over rocks, roots and hillocks, fallen shallow-rooted trees, vines and a mesh of roots. It's a New Jersey jungle out here. Sugar maple's coming in thickly as an understory. There are a few stone walls here, built by farmers who cleared them from the land to plow. Once the iron industry cleared out the trees, farmers set up subsistence farms in the hills. Seems like trying to build a home on a sand bar.

Back in the car, we go to see a great waterfall not too deep in the woods. Park on the right shoulder of the road just after leaving the lake and crossing a small bridge. Go into the woods on the right and follow the topmost contour of the hill. In about fifteen minutes, you'll get to a steep stream-cut valley with water spilling down around a flat, moss-covered table-top rock that looks like an altar­certainly large enough for a sunbath and a good book. No trail leads here, so solitude is yours. Bill and I took the harder way along the almost-vertical hillside, jumping from rock to root. This neophyte mountain goat crashed through the forest floor again.

For information call the park office at 973-853-4462. Wawayanda State Park, 885 Warwick Turnpike, Hewitt, NJ 07421

Easy Walking:

Take an easy hour loop that starts at the Hoeferlin Trail head. Get a map from the office and cross the road to a large pail blue blaze. The wide trail goes through shady and cool hemlock woods. Mountain bikers like it here too, and are respectful. Go right on the Black Eagle Trail, #18 on the map. Laurel, yellow birch, and unmarked beech comprise the forest. Make a right onto the macadam bike path on Wawayanda Road which may appear dull at first, but a close look in the ditch alongside reveals an abundance of wildflowers and dragonflies.

Natural Areas:

In addition to the 1,325-acre Bearfort Mountain Natural Area, there are two others. Wawayanda Swamp is 2,167 acres and harbors a globally-rare Atlantic white cedar swamp. It's home to beaver and several state-endangered plants and animals. Wawayanda Hemlock Ravine is 501 acres of steep ravine with state-endangered plants.

Wawayanda Lake:

There's fishing for large and small-mouth bass, pickerel, perch and trout. BYOB (boat!) after September 30.

Nearby accommodations and attractions

  • The Great Divide Campground
  • Private, family friendly campground with amenities for tents, RVs and seasonal guests. Fully furnished cabin rentals available. Open from early May to mid October. Heated pool, fishing & boating lake, playground, planned events and activities.

    68 Phillips Road, Newton 07860, 973/383-4026

  • High Point Mountain Motel
  • Pet friendly, AAA-rated motel offers all the comforts of home on seven country acres on a spectacular hillside location minutes from High Point State Park and Appalachian Trail. Cozy, warmly decorated rooms with up-to-your-door parking offer free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs, plus microwaves and minifridges. Kids age 12 and under stay for no extra charge.

    1328 Route 23, Wantage 07461, 973/702-1860

  • Wooden Duck Bed & Breakfast
  • Secluded ten-acre mini-estate adjacent to Kittatinny Valley State Park offers ten spacious guest rooms with private baths, some with fireplace, 2-person tub, and balcony. In-ground pool, country breakfast, free wireless Internet, bike/horse/walking trails. Corporate meetings are also welcome!

    140 Goodale Rd., Newton 07860, 973/300-0395

  • Tall Timbers Seasonal Resort Community
  • Private campground community offering affordable vacations that include central water and sewage disposal, boating, hiking,fishing and planned activities throughout the summer for all ages. Located minutes from Mountain Creek and only 55 minutes from New York.

    100 Tall Timbers Rd, Sussex 07461, 973/875-1991

  • Lafayette Mill Antiques Center
  • 55 antique dealers in a rambling 1800's gristmill featuring furniture (traditional to mid-century modern), art, antique advertising, lighting, tools, dolls, china, jewelry - the old, the odd, the unusual. Open daily 10-5, closed Tues. and Wed. Cafe on premises.

    12 Morris Farm Rd., Just off Rt 15, Lafayette 07848, 973/383-0065



Mary Walsh
10 Jul 2016, 08:24
I am researching pipelines for the Sierra Club, and would like to know if anything has grown in the area that was destroyed to put in the Wayawanda pipeline.

Thank you,
Sussex Local
11 Nov 2014, 20:24
Very nice place to hike. Fishing good. Kayaking is almost always windy. Great place mt bike. Be mindful of the BEARS! There are plenty of them. They are not pets and should be treated accordingly. Discovery channels monster quest did a story on monster black bears at lk Wanda. Lake Wanda backs up to Waywayonda. If you plan on romping around the woods make sure you know how to conduct yourself accordingly in there presence. I go there a few times a month and see bear about 50 percent of the time. You have been forwarded.
30 Jan 2014, 07:16
03 Aug 2013, 22:06
I am currently a lifeguard at wawayanda state park and have been for 3+ years now. First and foremost, wawayanda has seemingly endless miles of trails for hiking/walking/running. We ARE STRICT on allowing balls and swimmies into the water (floaties, swimmies, beach balls, etc.) dogs are allowed however they are not allowed on the immediate beach area, they are allowd in the water 200 yards to the left of the swim area. There is a boat rental about a 5 minutes walk from the swim area (not sure about the price... around $50/day). lastly, wawayanda is a great place to camp out or to bring the family for a weekend of cooling off. enjoy your time at the park and PLESE RESPECT THE LIFEGURADS.... we dont agree with the rules, we just simply enforce them.
Geralen silberg
22 Jul 2011, 19:27
hi,can you give me the direction how to get there?
Bob Beck
20 Jan 2011, 12:31
I believe I started fishing at Wawayanda lake around 1968 or so.I was in 9th or 10th grade. Anyway..It was called an "undeveloped" state park back then on N.J. maps. Great too because you could enter the lake at any time,day or night. No guard shack back then.Went night fishing till after 9 p.m.there once. You could enter AND leave by Canistear road. Use to ice fish there often also. Beautifull lake and surrounding hills.Too bad they didn't leave it primitive with just a boat and tackle shack.
James Sullivan
23 Nov 2010, 19:11
My family and I had a summer house at 745 Squam Road in Highland Lakes, N.J. in the 1960's We would shop at the General Store where Ronnie DuPont worked. He would always say "Hello". My brother Gerry and I would do sleep over's on Waywayanda Mtn.; what a great view of Vernon Valley and High Point in the distance. Great memories! JS
David Cole
31 Oct 2010, 03:59
I'm an avid outdoorsmen who enjoys hiking, hunting and fishing. I've been doing all of these activities at Waywayanda for ove 30 years. I find it disturbing that someone is blazing new trails through the forest for mountain bikers and hikers. What is the reason for this? I thought there were more than enough trails the way it was. It's very upsetting to be interupted when deer hunting by someone coming through the woods making new trails. I believe this is doing more damage to the environment. Please look into this. Thanks, Dave.
mauricio hernandez
05 Sep 2010, 22:23
Does anybody kno if I can bring my dog...
Alan Jaffe
07 Aug 2010, 14:59
Would you happen to know of a camping ground that would have the following for a family of 4: cabins, lake with pedal boats,a waterfall, and hiking? I live in Morris County, NJ. Thx
24 May 2010, 20:17
Great hike! I did this beautiful hike in September 2009 and enjoyed every minute of it.\r\n\r\n
Bill G
05 May 2010, 09:07
Wawayanda is a wonderful place. I live nearby and am probably there 3-4 times week, year round. Great trails. Get there early on summer weekends; it's usually filled and closed by 11:00AM. There is no individual camping although there is a group campsite for groups to reserve. As ar as kayaking goes, there is a boat launch area. The swimming area is relatively small and is more of a cool off area. The rules in the swim area are many and strictly enforced, e.g. no pool toys, floats, rafts, etc.
Selena Sousa
14 Apr 2010, 15:00
Hi!\r\nWe were at the lake last week and kept stepping on these very pointy black things that seem to be seed pods of some sort. They are all over the beach right now. Does anyone know what they are? My son wants to bring them to school for show and tell, but we need more info so he can do the "tell" part.\r\nThanks!
02 Jan 2010, 17:50
I went up there this summer. Yes it's a beautiful place. But if you can't swim or you think you wont be able to make it, please follow your instinct. My cousin drowned up there this summer. I wish there was something I could of done but since there isn't anything I can do now. Please who ever goes up there follow your instinct. Rest In Peace Haxhi Agastra, i miss and love you big cuzz.
Ruth Howard
28 Jul 2009, 09:26
I have a paper weight with a picture of Jersey Boys Camp on Lake Wawajanda....taken around 1911. My father spent summers there at the boys'camp 1913-1916.\r\nIs anyone interested in the paper weight?
Jennifer Beekman
13 Jul 2009, 08:09
what is the charge for taking out the rowboats/canoes/paddle boats??\r\n
paul harvey
12 Jun 2009, 06:22
how much does it cost to spend the day at waywayanda?and how much to camp?
Jose Morales
08 Jun 2009, 09:06
I want to go there. Can we arrive close by car, or there is to reach there walking?
09 Feb 2009, 13:45
hows the trout trout fishing? any particular hot spots? im lookin to go up there for some fishing
21 Dec 2008, 18:01
Camp Wawayanda is now a part of the Frost Valley YMCA in Clairyville, NY.
21 Oct 2008, 19:09
My friend and I would like to kayak on the lake, we have never been there before, where is a good location to launch our kayaks.
07 Oct 2008, 10:31
I believe what was Camp Waywayanda is now, at least in part, Kittatinny Valley State Park (in Andover).\r\n\r\nFor those of you who have specific questions about Waywayanda, go to the official website at\r\n
17 Sep 2008, 10:58
Yes, you can use your own boat. It's electric only, and the gates open at 8:00 AM.
Jim kahora
12 Sep 2008, 07:35
what time does the park open and can you bring your own boat and is it electric motor only? Thanks Jim
sal riggi
08 Sep 2008, 05:02
I attended Camp Wawayanda in Andover(I think) in the years '43,'44' &'45 and haven't been back since. I would like to revisit the camp if I could find it. Can anyone help?\r\nSal
25 Aug 2008, 10:30
I noticed and heard there are no fish in Terrace Pond. Is this true? Why?
John carey
21 Jul 2008, 06:29
What time does the Lake open to fisherman? I am hearing it is pretty late and I like getting out on the water early to fish. Any information is appreciated.
17 Jul 2008, 07:57
What time does the water area close or should i say what time do people have to get out of the water.
Lindy Smalley
12 May 2008, 19:34
My cousins and I spent many happy summers at Wawayanda. They had a place on Beach Island, and we were on Scott Island right across from them. We didn't call it Scott Island. It was always Huckleberry Island to us. Mom would send us out to gather the blueberries in the morning along the edge of the island and then fix pancakes.\r\n\r\nWe had the best campfires at night, and you could see every star in the sky. The lake sounds were awsome.\r\n\r\nMy summers at the lake were the happiest of my life. I'm glad to see the State of NJ has taken such good care of it. I miss our little cabins though.\r\n
david levavi
22 Apr 2008, 11:28
Wawayanda lake was originally two bodies of water which were connected by Corps of Engineers. There are no cabins left standing on the islands. As I heard it from Bob Goodman who had Foley's job until he retired, the cabins leases were grandfathered to former employees of the mining company that sold the park land to the State. I was also told that ownership by a mining company accounts for the maturity and naturalness of the surrounding forest. The business being minerals, the timber was never intensively harvested. Our family has camped in Wawayanda since the park opened. We do longer term camping in the Adirondacks, but Wawayanda remains our favorite downstate park.
Helen Swapp
18 Apr 2008, 20:48
Just checking for new comments. Thanks, Helen
Helen Swapp
11 Apr 2008, 17:04
I spent several summers in a large log cabin on an island in Lake Waywayanda. I think the cabin and dock may have been the remains of the YWCA Camp that you mentioned above. I often wonder if it still stands but my guess is that it is gone. I have so many wonderful memories of that time. My Dad worked for the New Jersey Zinc Company. If you know any more about the island tell me more. It was great to read your comments!!\r\n Helen Swapp\r\n\r\n

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