Saturday, May 30, 2015

Muckshaw Ponds Preserve, NJ

Muckshaw Ponds Preserve - The Nature Conservancy

GPS Coordinates to Whittingham Wildlife Management Area parking - 41.02196, -74.78779
Whittingham Wildlife Management Area parking directly across the street from the Muckshaw Ponds Preserve trailhead.

When I called the Nature Conservancy to see if they had a PDF file of the map since all I could find online was a blurry picture on a geocaching site, I was told there are maps at the trailhead.  As much as I NEVER count on that, I took my blurry copy and went anyway, with backup hikes in mind, just in case.  Indeed, the kiosk was well-stocked with maps but you should never assume that will be the case.  Besides, how can you plan your hike without a map?  So here you have it!  By the way, dogs are not allowed in the preserve but I did not know that until I got home and had a chance to read the brochure.  There was nothing at the preserve (see sign above) or online that said no dogs, it's only in the brochure.
Click this link for a PDF file of the entire brochure. 

HIKE DISTANCE:  5.9 miles

Across the street from the Whittingham WMA parking lot, the trailhead for Muckshaw Ponds Preserve.
The start of the red-blazed Sink Hole Pond Trail with a kiosk a few steps in.
Some short, steep sections early on.
An abundance of wildflowers everywhere in the preserve.
A sink hole down below.
A little tree frog!  Had he not been at eye level right off the trail I would have never seen him.
The yellow-blazed Upper Woodland Trail.
This sign was 1.55 miles into the hike and it says 0.8 miles to the Whittingham parking area where I just came straight from?
A way in on the Upper Woodland Trail, things start to get a little dicey.  As you can see on my track, I went straight because I could not find the turn and ended up in a field.  I looked and looked and finally saw where the trail enters the woods but there are blow downs and it is overgrown so it's hard to find.
Very overgrown.
Again confusing at the Cascade Trail.  I saw nothing so I ended up on a woods road but there were no markers so I retraced back to the sign.
Then after much searching I found it.  See the orange marker in the upper right of the picture on the tree?  It's not easy to see and the trail is again overgrown and obstructed with blowdowns.
The trail finally comes out onto a clear woods road.
No cascades here.
This is definitely where they should be but they are dried up.
Continuing on...
... the yellow trail left the woods road into even thicker overgrowth.  Not wanting to deal with that I remembered that woods road I had taken before I found the Cascade Trail.
So we turned back and stayed on the woods road and ...
... followed along with the GPS until ...
... we met up with where we turned around previously. This woods road would take us back to the yellow trail with no overgrowth and blowdowns.
Back on the yellow Upper Woodland Trail.
Went wrong here because it was too easy to follow the woods road when the turn off of the woods road is all overgrown but when there were no blazes, turned back and found the trail.
Coming up on Big Muckshaw Pond.
But a little more overgrowth first.
At this sign on the left a branch of the red Sink Hole Trail goes right but there are no markers or signs.  That was the return route but I wanted to go to the Big Muckshaw Overlook first.
And here it is off of a blue side trail.
I wanted to go to the white Seasonal Pond Loop but to get there we had to go through yet more overgrowth.
This is her "Please can we not go this way I have had it with overgrowth" look.  So we turned back and skipped the white trail.
Made that turn on to red on a woods road that goes between two ponds.
Sorry, more overgrowth this way, too.
But once back on the main part of the red trail where we were retracing all was clear.  That seems to be the most used section of trail.
Leaving the preserve back to the car.


  1. Looks like a pretty nice place, but the overgrowth looks tremendous. Hope you checked yourself (and Shawnee) for ticks, because that looked like a tick paradise in all the overgrown areas! (That's probably why Shawnee had that "please -- no more overgrown trails" look -- she knows!) :) Perhaps all that's needed is a few volunteers, some HUGE weed-whackers/lawn mowers...and a few days to take care of the overgrowth, because the trails look otherwise interesting!

    But with all that aside, I really liked the pond shots, and that downed tree with the little step carving in it...very creative on somebody's part! Anyway -- at least you were able to get Shawnee out there -- here's hoping your next adventure is a little less overgrown!


    1. It's a very lovely, interesting and different kind of place and definitely a shame everything is so overgrown. And yes 24, count them TWENTY FOUR ticks I pulled off of Shawnee afterwards and that is with a Seresto collar on that people who hike with dogs swear by. Total fail for us. She has had it on for 2 weeks and it was completely useless. The collar is supposed to work for 8 months. I was afraid to get in the shower and wash the DEET off of myself with all the ticks she brought home. I had to bathe her, vacuum like crazy and still pulled another off of her when she got in bed with me last night. K-9 Advantix has always worked well at repelling ticks but it makes her itchy. Guess there is no other option and I'll have to go back to using that for the summer because I can't find anything else that works as well.


  2. You and Shawnee are such troopers to hike in all that overgrowth in the heat. I'm glad you were able to sneak Shawnee in not realizing no dogs allowed. It looks like a great place to hike...maybe the fall would be better. Love all your pictures. Thanks for sharing. Joanne

    1. Shawnee is not dealing so well with heat any more so we are out on the trails by 6 AM to get the coolest part of the day. There will probably be more times over the summer that I will have to leave her at home when it's too hot even at that early hour.


  3. Daniela, I have been treating my clothes with permethrin for ticks and had pretty good luck with it so far. I have seen a couple attach to my pants but they fell off in a couple of minutes as I was watching them.

    1. Deep Woods OFF (the aerosol can - the pump does not work as well for some reason) has worked very well for me for ticks and mosquitoes. I carry the can in my backpack and reapply half way through the hike if bugs are really bad or I sweat it off. The K-9 Advantix that works the best for Shawnee has permethrin in it but that is what makes her itchy. I suppose being itchy is better than being getting a disease from tick bites.


    2. I used to rely on Deep Woods Off but I found it easier to apply permethrin once a month and I don't worry about forgetting to spray my clothes thoroughly before each hike. I still use Off to form a repelling barrier just above my socks. Also, as I understand it, once permethrin dries up on clothes it does not get absorbed into the body like DEET does. I asked my wife what she gets for our dog for ticks and she said that she has been using Frontline. So far we haven't seen ticks on her but she also gets car sick so I don't take her on my hikes as much.

    3. I used to use Frontline on Shawnee but she got Lyme Disease while I was using it and I was finding ticks on her (which I why I had her tested for Lyme and she positive) so I don't trust it any more at all for hiking. I used it on my other dog who did not hike and it worked fine for her but she had much lower exposure than Shawnee.

      Several years ago I was at a summer dog camp with Shawnee in upstate NY and the mosquitoes were so bad I lived slathered in Deep Woods OFF 24/7 for the entire week. I literally got out of the shower, dried off and reapplied before leaving the shower or I was eaten alive. So I guess I am OK with DEET!


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