Hunterdon
Frenchtown

Frenchtown Preserve
Frenchtown, NJ 08825

Overview of Selected Trail

The Frenchtown Preserve is 150 acres of woods, fields and streams. Created by the Hunterdon Land Trust in 2006, it is part of D&R Canal State Park, managed by the NJ Division of Parks and Forestry and the Frenchtown Environmental Commission. Over 8 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails are available.

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Flora & Fauna
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  • Frenchtown Preserve
  • Distance:

    Total of 8 miles of trails.

    Time:

    A leisurely round trip walk from the Horseshoe Bend Road trailhead, including all the trails could take several hours.

    Markings:

    Trails are marked with round aluminum markers on trees, in five colors (blue, orange, red, yellow green).

    Trail Usage:

    Hiking, biking, horseback riding.

    Elevation:

    Maximum at the Horseshoe Bend Road trailhead is 225’, minimum at Route 29 is 135’. The highest elevation in the Preserve is along the southerly line at 340’.

    Difficulty:

    Easy to moderate. Some climbing above the stream and possible wet crossings at the mouth of the ravines. Otherwise mainly flat.

    Parking:

    Gravel parking lot with room for multiple cars on Horseshoe Bend Road, just off Route 12 at the bottom of the hill. An information kiosk and Carry In/Carry Out trash and litter bags post are also at the trailhead parking lot.

    Tips:

    In the fall and winter look for the narrow slot the creek runs through opposite the mouth of the first ravine along the yellow trail. The giant slabs of Brunswick Shale in the stream bed create this unique feature. Also at this location are remnants of old bridge abutments. Farmers used this crossing to access the upper fields, once farmed but now reverted to cedar forest. Near the end of the yellow trail as it enters the field along Route 29, shale cliffs appear on the left. Hidden at the base of these cliffs is a perennial spring with its own micro environment. Up near the head of one ravine on the blue and red trails is a small vernal pool that usually is recharged with water in late winter. This pool serves local amphibians with reproduction in early spring. Finally, on the orange trail along the southern border are the views to the north of the river valley. The cell tower to the south of the Preserve usually is home to ospreys returning and nesting every year.

    Amenities:

    None.

    Directions:

    From Flemington take Route 12 west for 10 miles. As you descend into Frenchtown turn left onto Horseshoe Bend Road and go .1 mile to the gravel parking lot on the right. From Frenchtown take Route 12 east for 0.7 miles and turn right onto Horseshoe Bend Road to get to the parking lot.

  • The Frenchtown Preserve is in the southern section of the Borough of Frenchtown, bordered by Horseshoe Bend Road, Route 29, and Little Nishisakawick Creek. The steep slopes and three side ravines that feed the creek are covered in northern hardwood forest. The upper fields to the west provide panoramic views of the Delaware River valley while old abandoned fields in the center of the preserve have reverted to a red cedar forest.

     

    Blue Trail: A 1.2-mile nature trail that wiggles through the cedar forest and passes the head of two ravines and a vernal pool.

    Orange Trail: A 1.7-mile nature trail that begins at the parking lot, traverses the first ravine, ascends through the cedar forest and comes out along the farmed fields before dropping down to the yellow trail and the creek.

    Red Trail: A 2.1-mile nature trail that begins near the parking lot, intersects the orange and yellow trails, and winds through the cedar forest, passing the vernal pool before ending at the orange trail lower down along the creek.

    Yellow Trail: A 1.1-mile nature trail that begins at the parking lot, follows the Nishisakawick Creek downstream, and turns away from it to head across a lower field, ending at Route 29.

    Horse Trail: Marked in green, these are the original wide trails that traverse the Preserve, totaling 1.8 miles. Despite their name, these trails are multi-use.

  • Much of the trails passes through typical northern hardwoods on the slopes between the ravines. Beech, oak and ash are abundant with a lack of understory. Along the floodplain, sycamores are present with spicebush and autumn olive creating a dense understory. Christmas fern are scattered throughout the north facing slopes with mayapples and spring beauties along the stream banks. The upper fields are farmed, and to the east is the red cedar forest.

    Woodpeckers, owls and hawks are just some of the birds nesting or hunting in the Preserve. You may get lucky and spot a bald eagle or osprey, which nest nearby. Fox, turkeys and racoons frequent the Preserve, while white tail deer have become over-abundant. Several deer exclosures placed throughout the Preserve will allow scientists to study the effects of over browsing of the understory and how rapidly it can recover, if protected.

     

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  • The Hunterdon Land Trust completed the acquisition of this 150-acre parcel in 2006. The property was zoned for high-density housing with a potential for more than 100 residences. The Land Trust recognized the importance of this parcel to the local community as well as the water protection, species habitat and recreational opportunities it provided. The Land Trust cultivated support for the preservation of this property from a variety of critical partners: the NJ Green Acres Program, Division of Parks and Forestry, the NJ Department of Transportation, Frenchtown Borough, Hunterdon County, and the Open Space Institute.  The Land Trust coordinated the project from initial communication with the owners to the closing and contributed over $2 million in grant funding awarded to it specifically for this project. The preserve is now an extension of D&R Canal State Park and is managed by the NJ Division of Parks and Forestry.

    Project partners: Frenchtown Borough, Hunterdon County, NJ Green Acres Program, NJ Division of Parks and Forestry, NJ Department of Transportation, Open Space Institute, and Hunterdon Land Trust.
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