This is a report on the Hampton Meadows, a section of the Upper Batsto River located in Wharton State Forest in the New Jersey Pinelands. It is a two mile section of the river upstream from the Hampton Furnace ruins and the traditional put-in for the lower Batsto. Because it was probably at one time a lake that was dammed up to power a mill, Hampton Meadows is a ten foot wide stream with a moderate current that meanders through an open glade of high grasses, pickerelweed and arrow-arum. In the sun-lit glades an occasional swamp maple droops over the stream and in other areas young swamp maples grow in thick dark groves. Twenty to thirty yards from the stream past the grassy meadows are higher sandy banks lined with pitch pines, although hardly any Atlantic white cedars are present. This stream generally parallels Glossy Spong Road which runs from Hampton Furnace up to the intersection with Carranza Road.
Gabe Coia, his friend Renee and I decided to make this trip a shuttle-free, "up and back" adventure. We parked our vehicles just before the wooden bridge that goes over the Batsto at Hampton Furnace. Gabe and Renee set their twelve foot long kayaks, a Wilderness Systems Pungo and a Perception Acadia, into a shady put-in just below the bridge. I followed with my nine foot long Dagger Zydeco.
We headed upstream for about an hour and a half. There were a few toppled swamp maples that had become strainers in the river, but generally it was clear. We could see river debris lying in the upper branches, a testimony to the great "Thousand Year Flood" of July, 2004 that wreaked havoc in this area. Gabe and Renee skillfully maneuvered their twelve foot boats in this ten foot wide stream, although a longer craft would have found it difficult. A nine to ten foot long kayak is ideally suited for this stretch. We reached the popular "underwater bridge" on the upper Batsto after ninety minutes of paddling. There's a gauge just before the bridge that measured today's flow at its bare minimum--another foot of water would have been ideal for paddling and the stream would have flowed right over the bridge. We portaged over the bridge and continued for another thirty minutes. Some paddlers put-in at the underwater bridge and paddle down the Batsto; there's another put-in a mile or so up from the underwater bridge, but that requires some portaging from Glossy Spong Road. It is not possible to paddle from Hampton Gate at Carranza Road down to the Furnace.
We ate our lunch on the dry underwater bridge, and then headed back downstream. The downstream leg is a delightful paddle that takes only thirty to forty-five minutes. Including time for lunch, this trip took us a little less than three hours. We also took a few minutes to explore the Hampton Furnace ruins.
Restrooms are available at the Atsion Office on Route 206. Use them before heading down Hampton Road, because nothing is available out there.
Heading south on Route 206, one would take a left on to the dirt road (Hampton Road)just before the Atsion Office of Wharton State Forest. Heading north on 206, it would be a right-hand turn on to Hampton Road at the end of the guardrail just past the Atsion Office. There's usually a puddle of water at the intersection of 206 and Hampton Road, so be careful when entering. Proceed down Hampton Road for about three miles, until you reach the open meadow for the traditional lower Batsto put-in on your right. Usually several cars are parked here. Continue another fifty yards until the road bends right over the wooden bridge. You can unload your boats here and then park off the road just before the bridge.
As this was a shuttle-free trip, the put-in and take-out were the same. Running the lower Batsto usually requires a long shuttle between Hampton Furnace and Batsto Lake. That's the beauty of our arrangement--less driving and more paddling!
The Atsion Office has several pamphlets describing paddling routes in Wharton State Forest. Adams Canoe Rental is directly across from the Atsion Office at the intersection of Route 206 and Atsion Road.
Parnes' book, Paddling the Jersey Pine Barrens, 6th edition