Sunday, December 4, 2016

Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park, NJ - Kingston Trails

Heathcote Meadows Preserve - Middlesex County
Cook Natural Area - Kingston Greenways
Princeton Nursery Lands/Mapleton Preserve - Friends of Princeton Nursery Lands

GPS Coordinates 40.37430, -74.61861
Kingston Lock Parking Lot

Kingston Trails of D&R Canal State Park - NJ Dept of Environmental Protection
Heathcote Meadows Preserve Trail Map - Middlesex County
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HIKE DISTANCE:  8.4 miles

The D&R Canal Towpath is on the other side of Kingston Lock.  For this hike you cross back over the bridge from the parking lot and follow along the left side of the lock towards the picnic tables.
Kingston Lock
There is a sign for Cook Natural Area but you almost have to be in the lock to see it.  Why that sign is there is beyond me because if you don't know how to get to Cook Natural Area, you will never find it with this one sign.
Looking back at Kingston Lock from what is referred to as "Trail Connector" on the map.
Looking up the canal.
At this first fork you can either stay left or go right which will just loop you back around to the same place.
Kingston turning basin where canal boats could be loaded or unloaded or turn around (per the info on the map).
There is a map ...
... and a marker, then you are kind of on your own for a while.
Red-tailed hawk in the early morning light.
It is pretty obvious that the trail veers left at Mapleton Road.
Also obvious that you cross Mapleton (cars ZOOM by on this road).  But once you cross...
... there are no signs and it looks like you should go straight in the pipeline cut. This is not the way.  What you are supposed to do is ...
... cross Mapleton Road then turn right and walk along the side of Mapleton Road over the bridge to ...
... these signs where you turn left.  There is a composting toilet that is not composting.  Don't say I didn't warn you.
Head to the left of the old Princeton Nursery buildings and follow ...
... a gravel road ...
... that turn into the paved Railroad Road
At the end of Railroad Road cross Ridgee Road to the old rail bed of the former Camden & Amboy Railroad, according to the map this was the first railroad to operate in New Jersey.
There are mile markers every 10th of a mile, several benches and raised sewer manholes.
Ah ha, here is how you get to Cook Natural Area.
Crossing a historic bridge.
Turns out all of these boards ...
... would be the boardwalk over this swampy section.  It was not passable without getting wet and it was too cold for that so we turned back.
Continuing on the rail bed, cross a gravel road.
Ducks in Heathcote Brook on the left.
Swamps on the right.
A little after the . 9 mile marker, turn left,  Straight goes a short distance to Route 1.
Crossing over Heathcote Brook.
The trail leads to Heathcote Park.
A left turn on a footpath to ...
Heathcote Meadows.
What is on top of that silo?
A committee of vultures!
If a group of vultures hanging out is a committee, then this must be the chairperson at the top.
These are not the turkey vultures we usually see rather black vultures.
We were long past them when they suddenly all took off.
When the grassy path comes out on a gravel road, turn right (no sign).
We are being watched.
Then left at a sign.
Blue Jay
After looping around Heathcote Meadows, retrace to the rail bed.
Back on paved Railroad Road.
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Eastern Bluebird
We turned left at the old buildings to loop around the old Princeton Nursery grounds, now Mapleton Preserve.
Crossing Mapleton Road to continue on the trail leaving Princeton Nursery.
At the bench, right goes back to the parking lot but I wanted to see how far you could go to the left.
The canal then the D&R canal towpath, then Carnegie Lake beyond that.
A bench on the D&R canal towpath overlooking Carnegie Lake.
It's nice and quiet over on this side while the rest of the world is on the D&R canal towpath.
A grotto/fire pit/party place.
The path ends in a swamp in not quite 3/4 of a mile.
Heading back.
A male and female Cardinal pair.
It's is usually very hard to photograph a cardinal but this guy was hamming it up for the camera and sat in the same place for a very long time.
Cormorants and a seagull over on the dam.
D&R Canal
Back at the Kingston Lock.


  1. Great pictures especially the red tailed Hawk and the blue jay. Glad to see Shawnee hiking with you. Thanks for sharing! Joanne from NJ

  2. I used to commute to work down Mapleton Road every day. There used to be a pair of bald eagles nesting in a tall tree further on from where you hiked. People used to pull over to the side of the road to get a glimpse of them. Sadly, Hurricane Sandy knocked down the tree they were nesting in and they moved on.


    1. That area along the canal around the grotto has signs that say not to enter from Jan 1 - Jul 1 due to nesting so that might be where they rebuilt.

  3. I always smile when I read your blog, whether its the beautiful photography, the commentary or just seeing Shawnee out there. Thank you for sharing. :)

    1. Awww, thanks, that is so sweet of you!