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Upper Mullica River - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip

Report Type: Destination Report
Nearest City: Waterford/Medford/Shamong, NJ
Submitted by: Bill Wiegand

Description:

In his book "Jersey Genesis" Henry Charlton Beck had this to say about the Mullica River: " I may be wrong about the Mullica River. I don't think I am. To me the Mullica is the most wonderful of the unrecognized rivers of America." Beck was referring to the long cultural history and folklore of the river. To me in the year 2001 it is a first-class transcendentalist/Thoreauvian fantasy. I'm not talking about the lower Mullica (below Crowley's landing and Green Bank), nor am I referring to the popular canoe route from the put-in below Atsion Lake/Route 206 to the put-out at Pleasant Mills near Batsto (which former governor ChristieWhitman designated a "Wild Scenic River"). I am referring to the five-six mile stretch between Jackson Road (Route 534) and Atsion Lake (Route 206), running between Camden and Burlington Counties.

A friend and I kayaked this section of the Mullica in early April when the water was relatively high. I was using a Dagger Zydeco with a spray skirt and my friend had an Old Town Loon. Canoes would have been out of place here. Spring vegetation had not yet sprouted, but still the fragrance was there. The acidic, tea-colored currents of the Mullica have a distinctive fragrance that I have not noticed elsewhere. Near Jackson Road, the Mullica is twisty, yet deep, with loose debris that we could easily push aside or plow through. Mountain laurel and massive Atlantic white cedars line the moss-covered banks. There is utter silence here--you will not meet other kayakers--it is almost a primeval sanctuary. Because this is located in the Wharton State Forest, there are no private properties lining this section of the Mullica. We passed under Goshen Bridge and then entered an extensive cedar swamp that eventually spilled out into Goshen Pond.

Goshen Pond is the jewel of this kayaking trip. There is a beaver settlement here and at the end of the pond, a beaver dam. Even in the winter, Goshen Pond is exquisite. Our kayaks meandered through numerous channels of blueberry and leatherleaf bushes, with pine groves lining the banks.

The upper Mullica is narrow, only one-two kayak lengths wide, and the section between Goshen Pond and Atsion Lake is equally narrow. There were a few blow-downs that we had to portage around, but not many. There are more deciduous trees on this leg, fewer pines and cedars, but it still has a pre-historic /Lenni Lenape Indian feel to it. We put out at the log cabins on the north side of Atsion Lake.

It took us about four hours to run this. You might want to try this in the summer to appreciate the flora and the massive turtles. Thoreau would have loved this. If you are a harried Philadelphia CEO who needs kayaking solitude, this therapy is only a half-hour away. Enjoy!

UPDATE: November 27, 2002--The section of the Mullica River that runs from Jackson Road to Atsion Lake has a new obstacle. The NJDEP has just completed a all-recyclable-plastic bridge over the Mullica just below Goshen Pond. It connects the old Hammonton Road on the Burlington County side with the Sandy Causeway on the Atlantic County side. Unfortunately they set the new bridge on the old wooden pilings from the bridge that burned down ten years ago, and they failed to account not only for the height of the river after a rainy spell but also for any kayakers or canoeists who would like to pass under it. Presently, the deck of the bridge is holding back a layer of iron oxide foam and the river is in constant contact with the bridge. If the river were any higher (and it could be!) the river would be flowing over the top of the bridge. If you plan to paddle this section of the Mullica (from Goshen Pond to Atsion Lake), I would suggest that you exit the Mullica on the left side of the bridge (there is a very small sandy area there), portage your boats over the bridge, and reenter the Mullica on the right side. It's such a shame the NJDEP did not engineer the bridge properly for us paddlers. Good luck!

Accommodations:

There are toilets and water available at Goshen Pond, halfway along the route between Jackson Road bridge and Atsion Lake

Directions:

From Philadelphia, cross the Ben Franklin Bridge on to Route 30. Head for Route 70 east to the Marlton Circle. Then take Route 73 south to Berlin. One mile after the Berlin Circle take a right jug-handle to head east on Route 534. Proceed on 534 through Atco and about one mile past the Atco Raceway stop at the Jackson Road Bridge (no sign coming into Burlington County, but there is a Welcome to Camden County/Home of the Battleship NJ sign coming the other way). Turn right on to sand road, then another immediate right on to second sand road. Carry kayaks fifty yards through brush to river.

Launches:

Kayaks can be put in at Jackson Road bridge (off Route 534) although this is a heavily traveled road. I prefer to pull off on to the sand road, park, and then carry the kayaks fifty yards to the river. Although I have never encountered any vandalism, it is safer to park your car in the state forest and off the main road. The best take-out is the line of log cabins at Atsion Lake along Atsion Road just before it intersects with Route 206. If you don't feel comfortable parking at the cabins, you can park your car at the ranger station across 206.

Resources:

- "Canoeing the Jersey Pine Barrens" by Robert Parnes, 5th ed., 1999, Globe Pequot Press;
- ADC Street Map Book of Burlington County, NJ, 1st edition


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