Stalking The Wildlife Management Area

by Paul Tarlowe

Scattered throughout the Skylands region are parcels of state land often overlooked by folks seeking out wild places and spaces to explore. These multiple-use public lands are designated Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), administered by the state Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife. Managed primarily for hunting and fishing, WMAs are also prime locations for birding, wildlife viewing and photography, cross country skiing, hiking and mountain biking.

The Flatbrook-Roy

Purchased with funds from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and through the Green Acres Program, the Wildlife Management Area System encompasses 27,213 acres in the Skylands and over 237,000 acres statewide. The Division works closely with Green Acres, as well as non-profit conservation organizations, to acquire and manage these lands to benefit both people and wildlife. In addition to providing recreation, the areas safeguard water supplies, preserve open space and provide habitat for endangered as well as common wildlife and plant species.

Hunting and fishing enthusiasts will find WMAs ideal for their use. Parking areas provide access to prime hunting and fishing grounds. In fact, many of the areas are stocked with pheasants from the Division's Rockport Pheasant Farm (also open to the public). Thriving herds of deer, flocks of wild turkeys and small game provide hunters with thousands of recreation-days. For anglers, some of New Jersey's most fabled trout streams flow through these lands. The Flatbrook, South Branch of the Raritan, Rockaway, Paulinskill, Pequest and Musconetcong rivers are all accessible from WMAs. In partnership with Trout Unlimited and Ramsey Outdoor Stores, the Division has developed accessible sites for people with disabilities in the Flatbrook-Roy and Pequest WMAs.

One of the jewels of the Wildlife Management Area System is the Pequest WMA off Rt. 46 in Warren County. Here you will find the Pequest Trout Hatchery and Natural Resource Education Center, a state of the art facility that produces 600,000 trout for public waters every year. The center caters to schools, organized groups and the general public, presenting programs about a wide range of natural resource topics. It is open seven days a week (excluding holidays) from 10 am to 4 pm. Visitors can enjoy a video about the trout rearing operation, a self-guided tour, exhibits, picnic areas and a marked trail network that features a self-guided interpretive Natural Resource Trail. Weekend and group programs are also available.

Reflecting the diversity of the region, WMAs vary from extremely rugged terrain (Wildcat Ridge WMA) to a level wooded road (along the South Branch of the Raritan River through Ken Lockwood Gorge WMA). Because existing areas continually expand and new areas continue to be added, WMA land is hard to keep up with. For information and existing maps for specific areas, contact the Division's Pequest office at 908-637-4125.

Red Shouldered Hawk. Photo by Donna Traylor

You can pursue activities other than hunting and fishing on management areas. Birders will find habitats from wetlands to mountain ridges to seek out species for their life-lists. Nature photographers and wildlife viewers also benefit from this diversity. Cross country skiers will find many woods roads suitable for exploration, as will hikers and mountain bikers. Users should be aware of when hunting seasons are in effect. Since hunting is not allowed on Sundays it is probably the best day to enjoy the areas during any of the hunting seasons. Information on seasons dates is available in the Fish and Wildlife DIGEST, available at most sporting goods stores and Division offices.

Mountain biking is allowed on existing trails and secondary roads on wildlife management areas from March 1 to April 15 and June 1 to September 15, as well as all Sundays throughout the year. Bikes are permitted to use major designated trails, like the Highlands Trail that passes through Berkshire Valley and Wildcat Ridge WMAs, year round. They are prohibited, however, from riding over any dam, wildlife food area, cultivated fields, lawns, gardens and fire break plow-lines. Bikers are also prohibited from establishing any new trails through the destruction of existing vegetation.

Get out and explore some of New Jersey's wildest lands. For more information about wildlife management areas contact the Pequest Trout Hatchery and Natural Resource Education Center, 605 Pequest Rd., Oxford, NJ 07863-9748, or call 908-637-4125. NJ Fish and Game

Paul Tarlowe is Senior Biologist-Education at Pequest Trout Hatchery.

Wildlife Management Areas

Area Acreage Facilities

Hunterdon County

Amwell Lake 22 Fish, Hunt, Car-top boat launch
Capoolong Creek 62 Fish
Clinton 1476 Fish, Hunt, Practice Ranges
Holland Church Access 8 Fish
Ken Lockwood Gorge 256 Fish (Special Fly Fishing Regulations), Hunt
Kingwood Access 6 Fish

Morris County

Berkshire Valley 1829 Fish, Hunt
Black River 3071 Fish, Hunt
Rockaway River 2500 Fish
Wildcat Ridge 2653 Hunt

Sussex County

Bear Swamp 2054 Fish, Hunt
Culvers Brook Access 4 Fish (HC Accessible), Practice Range
Flatbrook-Roy 1794 Fish, Hunt
Hainesville 282 Fish, Hunt
Hamburg Mountain 2640 Fish, Hunt
Little Flatbrook Access 4 Fish
Paulinskill 613 Fish, Hunt
Sparta Mountain 1742 Fish, Hunt
Walpack 388 Fish, Hunt
Weldon Brook 828 Hunt, Natural Area
Whittingham 1753 Hunt

Warren County

Belvidere Access 20 Fish, Car-top boat launch
Columbia Lake 83 Fish, Hunt, Car-top boat launch
Musconetcong River Access 324 Fish
Pequest 2301 Fish, Accessible Fishing Site, Hunt, Visitor Center, Practice Range
Pequest River Access 20 Fish
Rockport Pheasant Farm 498 Display Pens
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