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One of the most popular of the Pine Barren Rivers the Wading is a popular destination for beginner kayakers and canoers. Well serviced by several local outfitters (my preference is Bell Haven) the stretch from Speedwell to Hawkin Bridge (5 miles) is the least travelled section of the river as it is generally to low to travel. This section is also narrow with widths between 5 to 20 feet and often lined by bush and brush that narrow it further. With the recent rains and good water level a group of 6 took the 11.5 mile trip in just short of 6 hours.
The put-in is at Speedwell Bridge on Route 563 between Chatsworth and Jenkins. The first stretch is littered with fallen trees and branches but required only 2 portage points neither of which posed serious problems. The current was swift for a Pine Barren river, which could never be described as swift. But given the snaking of the river in this section and the numerous obstacles, any speed will get you in trouble.
For the first 2 miles the longest straightaway was perhaps 100 feet with 90 to 120 degree turns throughout and the high water trying to push you into the breach at each turn. Simply trying to find spots to stop and take pictures or mark waypoints was more effort than it was worth. From about mile 2 to where the West Branch of the Wading fords with the East Branch (Speedwell is on the East Branch), the river remains narrow and a bit less winding but more forgiving than the first stretch. Several surrounding cranberry farms have locks that drain the river along this section, the locks were all closed as the retention ponds on the farms were full.
At about the 5 mile point the West Branch of the Wading meets the East Branch and suddenly the river character is completely changed. From this point to Evans Bridge, or to the end at Beaver Branch (which we did not do) the river is wide (30 to 75 feet) and open of any obstacles with plenty of places to stop for lunch. In low water there are many stretches where you will scrape along the bottom. The take-out at Evans Bridge is also on Route 563 with ample parking and easy take out. The section below Evans Bridge allows take-outs at Bodine Field (a State Camp ground) or the "end" at Beaver Branch. These add 3 miles (Bodine) and a 4th mile to Beaver Branch.
The scenery along the 11.5 route that we took, or the full 16 miles to the end is almost all mother nature at her Pine Barren best. There is one house on a 40 foot high bluff along the upper stretch and a few cranberry farm buildings. You'll paddle through stands of white cedars and through maple swamps. With the cold weather we saw few birds, one fish, a couple beaver dams (in the lowland maple swamps).
If you want to do this stretch be sure to wait for high water. There is a gauge along the bank in the middle of nowhere (on the upper stretch) that can't do much good since the only apparent way to get there is by boat. The gauge read 6.50 as we went by so before you try this section of river see if you can find a posting of this gauge and know that 6.50 is a very good number.
From Trenton Area
Take Route 206 South to Tabernacle. Turn left onto Route 532 East for 13½ miles to Chatsworth. At the firehouse, turn right onto Route 563 South. Go approximately 9 miles. Micks is on the right after mile marker 31.
White Horse Pike
Follow to Hammonton and turn onto Route 542 East for 11¼ miles, passing the Village of Batsto and then turn left onto Route 563 North. Go about 6¼ miles. Micks is on the left after mile marker 31.
Directions From Major Highways
- Atlantic City Expressway
Turn off at Hammonton - Exit 28. Turn left onto Route 54 North for 2¼ miles to the center of town. Turn right onto Route 542 East for 2 miles. At Route 30 turn right. Take next left onto Route 542 East. Follow for 13 miles passing Batsto and then turn left onto Route 563 North for 6¼ miles . Micks is on the left after mile marker 31.
From New York and North Jersey
Go south on the Garden State Parkway to Exit 52 at New Gretna. After exiting, turn left to onto Route 654 South for 1 mile. Turn right onto Route 9 South for ¾ miles. At light, turn right on Route 679 North for 8 miles and merge onto Route 563 North. Go approximately 1 more mile. Micks is on the left after mile marker 31.
From Cape May or Atlantic City Area
Go north on the Garden State Parkway to Exit 50 - Bass River / New Gretna. Exit onto Route 9 North for 1½ miles. At light, turn left onto Route 679 North. Follow for 8 miles and merge onto Route 563 North. Go about 1 more mile. Micks is on the left after mile marker 31.
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