Hopewell Township, NJ 08525
Overview of Selected Trail
Hopewell Township’s Woolsey Park (formerly called Alliger Park) offers a varied trail experience: large groves of mature spruce trees, up close views of the Woolsey Brook, vistas of deep ravines, and a bit of history. At one location, the main trail, the Woolsey Brook Trail, crosses the Woolsey Brook where a 19th century railroad once crossed overhead on a more than 100 foot long trestle. Although the railroad trestle is long gone, the 15 foot high embankments for the trestle, constructed in the 1870’s, are still a prominent sight (see “history” section for more information). The Woolsey Brook Trail also passes one of the largest White oaks in the Hopewell Valley estimated to be approximately 250 years old. Both the Woolsey Brook Trail and the Osage Ridge Trail, an offshoot of the Woolsey Brook Trail, follow long rows of mature Osage orange trees planted many years ago by farmers to “fence in” livestock.
Woolsey Brook Trail: 1 mile round trip from the parking area.
Woolsey Brook/Osage Ridge Trails: 1.7 miles round trip from parking area.
Woolsey Brook Trail: 30 minutes
Woolsey Brook/Osage Ridge Trails: 50 minutes
Markers are attached to trees, and to wooden posts at trail junctions and in open areas—yellow for the Woolsey Brook Trail, and red for the Osage Ridge Trail.
The terrain is mostly level with moderately steep, but short climbs.
Parking for 25 cars is available at the trail head.
High water soon after rain storms of over 1 inch may prevent crossing the Woolsey Brook on stepping stones. The entire trail itself is well drained and is walkable even after rain storms.
A kiosk with trail information is located at the parking area off Washington Crossing – Pennington Road. There are two benches: one on an abandoned railway embankment overlooking Woolsey Brook and the other on the “Osage Ridge.”
The entrance to Alliger Park is on Washington Crossing – Pennington Road approximately a half mile west of Scotch Road and two miles west of Route 31.
Please Note : The Hopewell Township police shooting range is nearby. While not a safety concern, the noise may detract from one’s trail experience and disturb normal mammal and bird habitat. Target practice at the range typically occurs on occasional weekdays (8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.) during the months of April, May, October, and November.
There are two loop trails in Alliger Park, the Woolsey Brook Trail (yellow) and the Osage Ridge Trail (red), a second loop trail which extends off of the Woolsey Brook Trail. All hikers start out to the right of the parking lot on the Woolsey Brook Trail. The trail enters a grove of Norway spruce trees just past the Veteran’s Memorial. Exiting from the spruce trees, the trail enters the Woolsey Brook ravine where it soon splits at a large wood post to form a loop. Hikers can take either fork, but for purposes of this description, the route described takes the left fork heading down to the Woolsey Brook.Woolsey Brook Trail
Shortly after the fork in the trail, to the left is an overlook area on an abandoned 19th century railroad embankment. From this point, hikers can view the Woolsey Brook below and see where a wooden railroad trestle once spanned the Woolsey Brook to an embankment on the other side.
See the “history section” for the story of the Mercer-Somerset Railway.
From the overlook, the trail gradually dips down to the Woolsey Brook where hikers can cross using stepping stones (except during periods of high water). From the brook, the trail heads up to a sparsely wooded area and follows a row of closely spaced Osage orange trees along an old fence line. Just beyond the row of trees to the right and running parallel is the old railroad track bed. Soon after crossing to the opposite side of the Osage orange trees, the Osage Ridge Trail begins on the left side – for the description of this trail, please skip to the trail description below.
Continuing on the Woolsey Brook Trail, the trail turns right and meets the Woolsey Brook a short distance later. Stepping stones and gravel islands in the brook allow hikers to ford except in periods of high water. After crossing the brook, the trail begins its ascent up a wooded ravine and passes a centuries old White oak tree. With little undergrowth in the area, hikers can enjoy an unrestricted view down to the Woolsey Brook. The loop section of the Woolsey Brook trail ends at a large wood post where the trail heads up the ravine back toward the parking area.Osage Ridge Trail:Starting from the Woolsey Brook Trail, the first section of the Osage Ridge Trail winds through a large stand of mature hardwoods and then dips down to cross a small tributary of the Woolsey Brook which can be crossed with just a few steps. The trail then ascends up the side of a fairly steep ravine where it leads to another long row of Osage orange trees on a ridge overlooking the ravine. The trail follows the row of Osage orange trees for a considerable distance then crosses the row on its way to the largest grove of mature Norway spruce trees. After winding its way through the densely planted spruce forest, the trail goes back across the tributary of the Woolsey Brook to yet another row of Osage orange trees. After a fairly short distance, the trail curves back to the Woolsey Brook Trail. A sharp right turn brings hikers back to where they crossed the Woolsey Brook and on the way back to the parking area.
The trails feature a wide variety of trees including groves of Norway spruce trees, a hardwood forest with maples, hickories, ashes and oaks, and several long rows of Osage orange trees planted to form natural fences. The planting of long rows of Osage orange trees as fences was common in the 19th century, often to contain livestock, before and after barbed wire was invented in the 1880’s. Although Osage orange trees are native to eastern Texas, they were commonly grown from seed all over the country to form fences beginning in the early 1800’s.
The diversity of the landscapes along the trail, including the creek, moist bottomlands, drier bluffs, and open areas support a wide variety of plants and animals. Look for signs of deer, fox, amphibians, reptiles and many birds including Carolina wren, woodpeckers, red-eyed vireo and the Baltimore oriole.
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The Alliger Park property, comprised of 167 acres of mostly woodland, was purchased from the Alligers and preserved in 1998 by D&R Greenway Land Trust and Hopewell Township with financial support from the NJ Green Acres Program and Mercer County.
The Woolsey Brook is named after Jeremiah Woolsey who first settled this property in the mid 18th century. Woolsey’s well preserved house, built in 1768, still stands on the west side of Woolsey Brook.
A railroad line was constructed through the property in the early 1870’s. Starting in Ewing Township by the Delaware and Raritan Canal, the Mercer-Somerset railway ran from a junction with the Belvidere-Delaware Railroad along today’s Jacobs Creek Road up to today’s Alliger Park. Following the Woolsey Brook, the railway then headed toward Pennington and eventually up to Somerset County. After completion of the line in 1873, the Mercer-Somerset railway was leased to the Pennsylvania Railroad as part of a Philadelphia to New York connection. When a competing railway was constructed shortly thereafter, use of the Mercer-Somerset railway was terminated just four years later in 1879. The Pennsylvania Railroad purchased the railway that year following bankruptcy of the railway and had the tracks were removed. (Source: Jack Koeppel, Hopewell Valley Historical Society newsletter, Fall, 2007.)
The Woolsey Brook Trail and kiosk were constructed as an Eagle Scout project in 2014. The Osage Ridge Trail was constructed as a second Eagle Scout project and by a group of adult volunteers in 2015.
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