Don’t Drive Through – Drive To – The Highlands!
Many of you may have never heard of the Highlands before. It is that beautiful, breathtaking part of New Jersey that lies about an hour from Philadelphia and about 40 minutes from New York City. It stretches from Phillipsburg New Jersey on the Delaware River to beautiful Mahwah, Bergen County. You may have even driven through it on you way to Philadelphia or New York City or New York State. I guess it shouldn’t surprise those that live in this rural, historic and pristine part of New Jersey – it seems like everything else passes through!
Mother Nature Passes Through – passing through with the Appalachian Trail, the Highlands and the Atlantic Flyway. Our location on the Atlantic flyway makes the Highlands one of the best wildlife viewing areas in the State of New Jersey. In general New Jersey boasts the highest density of wildlife per square mile of any state in the nation. New Jersey, the fourth smallest state, hosts over 325 birds species, 90 mammal species, 79 reptile and amphibian species and over 400 species of fish in its 8,722 square miles. The Appalachian Trail goes through 14 states, from Georgia to Maine. In New Jersey 74 miles of the trail passes through – from the Delaware Water Gap, passing Sunfish Pond, following the Kittatinny Ridge and then passing through High Point and Wawayanda State Parks. Part of the Appalachian Trail is the Highlands Region – 88 municipalities and nearly 860,000 acres of forested ridges, rolling farmlands, diverse recreation, abundant wildlife and historic treasures.
History Passes Through – From the soldiers that fought in the revolution to the transportation methods that fueled the industrial revolution! Hessians and the Continental army scurried back and forth across the counties and what has become known as the Crossroads of the American Revolution. Washington’s troops spent two harsh winters in the hills of Morristown. The strategic location afforded him proximity to New York City, defensible terrain, important communication routes and access to critical resources.
Iron ore found in the region fueled the army with ammunition during the Revolution War. After the war the mining of iron ore spurred growth of many towns. While mining began in the early 1700’s, after the Revolutionary War it flourished. As markets opened ways to transport the iron ore developed.
In 1820 Morristown businessman George P. McCullough conceived the idea of the Morris Canal. The canal went from Phillipsburg to Jersey City, transporting coal from Pennsylvania as well as iron ore and other goods across northern New Jersey through a series of water turbine powered inclined plane, locks and aqueducts. The Morris Canal stretched 102 miles overcoming an elevation change of 914 feet, powered by water from Lake Hopatcong and Greenwood Lake.
In 1830 the D&R Canal was constructed. This traveled from Bordentown to New Brunswick, passing through what is today Somerset County. The canal operated until 1932, being overcome by the speed with which the railroads could transport goods.
During the time of the Morris Canal and the Railroads Phillipsburg was a transportation hub. Five lines ran to or through Phillipsburg as well as three canals converging on the Delaware River – the Morris Canal on the New Jersey side and two other canals across from it’s riverbank in Easton, PA.
The Central Railroad of New Jersey’s main line ran from Jersey City west through Phillipsburg and across the Delaware River to Scranton, Pennsylvania. Branches also stretched into southern New Jersey to Delaware Bay. The Lehigh and Hudson River Railway ran northeast-southwest across northwestern New Jersey, connecting the line to the Poughkeepsie Bridge, NY with Easton, PA, where it interchanged with other rail lines. The Lehigh Valley Railroad transported anthracite coal – cleaner, “smoke-free” soft coal – from Pennsylvania to the New York harbor markets. This coal became the new railroad fuel as well as the fuel for New Jersey’s growing industries in Paterson and Newark.
The Lenni-Lenape inhabited New Jersey long before the first settlers arrived. They lived off the land and therefore traveled with the seasons. In the spring they planted gardens around their permanent settlements. In the summer, they went to the shore to catch oysters and clams. In the fall, they would move back to their village and harvest their crops. In the winter, they hunted deer and other animals. The Lenni-Lenape were organized into three subtribes. In the north, the subtribe was known as Minsi “the people of the stony country”. Many of the trails established by the Lenni Lenape to travel back and forth would become the early highway system for the settlers. Other historic roads include Old Mine Road which runs from New Jersey to New York and thought to be the oldest continuously-used road in the United States. At a length of 104 miles, it stretches from the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area to Kingston, New York. The road follows the Delaware River through the western edge of Sussex and Warren Counties.
It is believed that Dutch miners began construction of the road in the 1600s in order to transport copper ore from mines along the Delaware River to Esopus (now Kingston) along the Hudson River in Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. Starting in the late 1600s, Dutch settlement began along the course of the road. The road exists today, in New Jersey is largely undeveloped. As it travels through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, it still retains much of its historical and rural charm.
Old York Road (the King’s Highway) was built in the 18th century to connect Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with New York City, New York. By stage coach one could make it from one city to the other in two days. Old York Road began at Coryell’s Ferry in Lambertville. The original route followed Main Street to York Street and briefly joined up with Route 179, the modern Old York Road. From there it traveled to Centerville, Hunterdon County, so named because of its position between Philadelphia and New York, which made it a resting place for the coaches. Old York road also travels through Somerville, Bridgewater and Bound Brook in the Highlands.
Traveling Through Today Plan your trip to the Highlands Region today and enjoy some of the following activities. Explore the NJ Audubon Skylands Wildlife Viewing Trails which include Hunterdon, Warren and Sussex Counties. For more information visit http://www.njwildlifetrails.org and click on Skylands Trails. Take the Wine Trail from Sussex to Warren, including stops at Four Sisters’ Winery, Alba Vineyard and New Jerseys’ only organic vineyard – Villa Milagro Vineyard.
Visit some of the old furnaces and museums related to the Iron Ore industry. Franklin Mineral Museum, Sterling Mining Museum and Oxford Furnace and Shippen Manor are great places to visit if you are a history buff or a teacher with a group of children eager to learn, or just see some really cool stuff! Learn about the Morris Canal. Visit some stops on the Warren County Morris Canal Greenway, or McCullough Hall in Morristown, home of George P. McCullough