West Amwell Township
Pryde’s Point-Alexauken Creek
West Amwell Township, NJ 08530
Overview of Selected Trail
From the parking area off Gulick Road, walkers climb a pretty dirt lane across open fields with good views. The lane turns sharp right, and the trail leaves the lane and follows a mowed corridor down across a meadow. It enters the woods for a loop of about 1.1 miles. At the lowest point of the loop, a spur trail makes it possible to stop and rest on an old dam and look for herons wading in a shallow pond, and walk along Alexauken Creek below the dam. This combination of trails pass through lands still privately owned by photographer Pryde Brown, and part of the Alexauken Creek Wildlife Management Area of the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. A side trail that departs from the entry lane crosses north-facing fields along a hedgerow and rejoins the main trail loop near its western limit, offering an alternative route for the completion of a loop.
The overall network has about 2.4 miles of trail. A walk up the driveway from the parking area, around the main loop walk on the blue trail, and back to the parking is about 1.6 miles. A loop walk around the “perimeter” of the trail network is also about 1.6 miles.
About 1 – 2 hours for complete enjoyment.
The main loop trail is marked with triangular blue D&R Greenway Land Trust blazes on trees. The spur trail to and across Alexauken Creek (in the state wildlife management area) is marked with square orange blazes. The trail that departs from the driveway above the parking lot is marked with red blazes some bearing the insignia of Hunterdon Land Trust.
Note that the marked trails at various places cross unmarked and unmaintained old trails; intersections with these unmarked trails are shown on the trail map. Those old trails over time will be increasingly impassable as trees fall and forest growth encroaches.
Walking/Hiking, Dogs permitted on leash. No bikes, motorized vehicles, or horses are allowed.
Gentle ups and downs. The parking area is at 392 feet above sea level, and the walk up the dirt lane takes you to 445 feet. Then the trail drops down into the Alexauken Creek Valley at about 337 feet.
Moderate grades. The creek crossings are on large flat stones, so you have to be comfortable on such footing.
Just off Gulick Road is a crushed stone parking area for about six cars. Access is also possible from the large parking lot of the Alexauken Creek Wildlife Management Area on Rocktown-Lambertville Road about a mile west of Route 31.
After very heavy rains the stepping stones across Alexauken Creek may be submerged for a short team until the spate subsides. Do not attempt to cross the creek if you do not see a clear line of stepping stones. On the south side of Alexauken Creek is an old dilapidated cottage (to be demolished some day when state resources are available). Do NOT approach or attempt to enter the cottage.
During hunting seasons, hunters will be active on this property on some days. When they are hunting, they will post a “hunting in progress” sign on the map kiosk just off Gulick Road. When that sign is posted, the public is advised not to use the trails. Throughout the hunting seasons (roughly from mid-October to early February) walkers are advised to wear orange or another bright color while in the woods, because some hunters may enter the property from the state Wildlife Management Area.
Hunters have reported that several bears inhabit the woods north of the Alexauekn Creek in this area. Chances of encountering one are very slim, but if you do, remember: All hikers should stand together with their hands raised to make a “big presence.” Back away slowly, avoiding eye contact with the bear. Do not turn and run.
To the parking off Gulick Road: From the intersection of Route 518 and Route 31, go north on Route 31 for 2.5 miles, and make a diagonal left turn on Rocktown Hill Road. At .2 miles go straight through a small intersection in the tiny hamlet of Rocktown, and at .4 miles make a left on Gulick Road. Go west on Gulick Road .4 mile and turn left into a driveway where a mailbox is marked “23.” The parking area is immediately on the right.
To the parking area off Rocktown-Lambertville Road: From the intersection of Route 518 and Route 31, follow the directions above, but turn left (west) off Rocktown Hill Road at the intersection just .2 mile from Route 31, taking Rocktown-Lambertville Road southwest for .9 mile to the parking lot entrance on your right.
From the Gulick Road parking, walk up the dirt driveway, which gives you two ways of entering the trail network. The first entry path, about a third of the way up, is a trail developed by Hunterdon Land Trust Alliance, and marked in red. It heads to the right, following the grassy boundary between two fields, and then a hedgerow. At the end of the hedgerow the route bends down along the edge of the field to its lower corner, where a 40-foot path into the woods links it to the main (blue) loop trail.
The second entry involves continuing to the top of the driveway, and turning sharp right at the top of the hill. Immediately after turning right, this trail route, marked in blue, leaves the driveway heading down to the left on a mowed path across a meadow, marked by a few posts. (Note: The driveway and meadow are private property, and the entire loop trail follows an easement on private property; stay on the marked trails and respect the privacy of those who live nearby.) The trail enters the woods and comes shortly to an intersection where the trail is marked blue both to the right and ahead. The blue loop begins here and can be taken in either direction. If you go to the right the trail climbs gradually through woods, with early views of the old pond below. At the far northwestern end of the loop, this main loop trail turns back southeast and descends into the creek valley before turning northeast and returning to the intersection. From there you retrace your steps across the meadow and down the driveway.
A spur trail (marked orange) begins at the lowest point of the loop trail–the southeast corner of the loop. In just 25 yards it takes you to the banks of an old pond and then onto the dam, and to a rustic bench inviting you to stop. From there the spur trail goes downstream along the creek, crosses a ravine on two short sets of stone steps, and descends another set to the creek. A series of naturally placed and relocated stones creates a stable route across the creek (which usually consists of two shallow channels and a stony island). On the south side of the creek, an old stone stairway climbs past the remains of a stone spring house. Continuing uphill, the route passes an abandoned and decrepit cottage of historic vintage, and takes the second lane on the right to reach the lower corner of a field. From there, the route crosses the field to the parking area on Rocktown-Lambertville Road.
At the westernmost point of the blue loop trail, a trail marked in white descends to the Alexauken Creek. Stone steps on both sides, and large stone slabs, provide a convenient crossing–and a beautiful spot for a picnic or just contemplation.. On the south side of the creek, the white trail goes back upstream, offering beautiful views down to the creek, and joins the orange trail just above the old stone stairway.
A thorough survey of the Alexauken Creek Wildlife Management Area completed in 2003 by the Washington Crossing Audubon Society documented the rich life in the creek valley. Over 100 species of birds were identifying, including great blue and green herons, wood duck, sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks, American kestrel, great horned owl, pileated woodpecker, and belted kingfisher. Five different frog and six salamander species were found, and five different turtles. Several snake species were identified, and walkers may see, particularly around the dam, the non-venomous Northern black racer–which can be up to six feet long. Beavers enjoy the pond, and foxes, raccoons, and rabbits inhabit the area, and tracks suggested that coyotes prowl as well. Hunters note that several bears inhabit the woods in this area.
The forest is rich and varied. The 2003 survey found three species of birch, American hornbeam, beech, four different oaks, hickory black walnut, sycamore, and other trees. Ferns abound in the low areas along the creek, including Christmas fern, sensitive fern, and others. Trout lilies, yarrow, New England and other asters, spring beauties, and many other wildflowers lend their color to the woods in their season.
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The Alexauken Creek valley supported some of West Amwell’s early industries. Traces of old dams and mill races are still to be seen at spots along the creek, including a saw mill and flax seed mill. The valley was a refuge for Continental Army troops during the Revolution. Rocktown, just to the east of the Pryde Brown Preserve, is frequently mentioned in early Amwell history, first as the probable site of an Indian village and later as having a store, a tavern, and in 1847 its first post office. It was there that a Confederate flag is said to have been flown during the Civil War, one of two places in the Hunterdon County showing such sympathies.
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