Rancocas State Park

Are you seeking good options for day trips in New Jersey? Whether you are a teacher or scout leader trying to find new education opportunities, a parent looking to give your children an appreciation of the natural world, or just a nature enthusiast who wants to spend a quiet day observing the local wildlife, Rancocas State Park can meet your needs.

Located in Burlington County, east of Camden, Rancocas State Park is a lesser-known park of about 1200 acres. The park is best for day trip visitors since it has no campgrounds or staffed facilities, but there are numerous private campgrounds and other accommodations in the Burlington County area for visitors. The park itself offers opportunities for hiking, picnicking, nature-watching, and educational programs through its Nature Center.

The park runs along the north branch of Rancocas Creek and features upland and lowland hardwood forest. Common tree species in the area include several species of oak, including black oak, white oak, and chestnut oak; as well as red maple, American holly, sweet gum, chestnut, and tulip trees. There is also some pine forest. A freshwater tidal marsh area occurs where the north and south branches of Rancocas Creek merge, and nature enthusiasts can see several species of freshwater marsh plant life, including arrowroot and wild rice. Common wildlife in the area includes whitetail deer and approximately 150 species of birds.

Hiking, bicycling, and jogging are all popular activities at the park. Hunting of whitetail deer is allowed during certain seasons and only by licensed bowhunters. The 58-acre nature area offers several trails of varying difficulty, included a self-guided interpretive trail offered by the Nature Center that highlights several points of interest.

If you are looking for educational opportunities, stop by the Nature Center in the park. Run by the New Jersey Audubon Society out of a farmhouse built in the nineteenth century, the Nature Center offers educational programs geared toward children as well as providing guides to the wildlife in the area. It also features a large reference library and exhibits of local wildlife that children are encouraged to explore, a classroom with seasonal exhibits, and two outside gardens where children can learn more about wildlife and the ecosystem of the area. For more information about the Nature Center and the programs it offers, call (609) 261-2495 or visit its website at http://www.njaudubon.org/SectionCenters/SectionRancocas/Introduction.aspx.

Part of the park is leased to the Powhatan Indians, who manage a museum and a replica Native American village. Visitors can tour the village and learn about Powhatan Indian life in the 1600s. In May and October of each year they hold the Juried American Indian Arts Festivals, which feature music, performances, and crafts. For more information about the Arts Festivals, call (609) 261-4747.

For more information and directions to Rancocas State Park, call (609) 726-1191, or visit the park’s website at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/rancocas.html.