Columbia Trail
Hunterdon County Park System, NJ

The trail extends from Main Street in High Bridge, north to Bartley Road in Flanders. 


Directions:

Take US-80 to exit 27; take Route 206 south to Flanders; turn right onto County Route 641 (Bartley-Flanders Road); drive 0.7 miles and turn left; drive 0.4 of a mile to where the road bends right; drive 1.5 miles more to where the tracks of the Morristown & Erie Railroad ends.  The trail starts from the end of the railroad tracks.

The trail starts farther down Main Street on the other side of the street from the library (at #69 and #71 Main Street) just before the intersection of Main Street with Church Street.  (It is across from the Borough Commons where there is quite a bit of parking spaces available.)


History:

1860s  --  33 miles of the Jersey Central's High Bridge Branch laid out to connect the mainline at High Bridge with a number of small branches headed to various iron mines in the region.

1882  -- high point of the railroad traffic here with 118 cars filled with iron-ore using the tracks in one day.

1971  --  CNJ petitions to abandon the High Bridge Branch, but the planned Sears, Roebuck & Company warehouse in Mount Olive Township saves the day for the branch. 

1980  --  the line up to just beyond the Sears warehouse maintained, but the portion south of it to High Bridge abandoned.

mid 1990's  -- the Columbia Gas Company of West Virginia constructed a gas line under the rail bed and the surface rights were transferred to the Hunterdon County Department of Parks and Recreation for use as a recreational trail.

(Source: Della Penna, 1999: chapter 5)


Trail Information:

Enjoy a great opportunity for biking or hiking the Hunterdon County Park Trail, previously the Hunterdon County segment of the High Bridge branch of the Jersey Central Railroad. A walking stick shield, displayed at the entrance to the trail in High Bridge and at the entrance to the park in Tewksbury, is available for visitors that complete the seven mile trail.

Access the trail in High Bridge on Main Street across from the library or in Tewksbury at Vernoy Road and the South Branch. The trail crosses the South Branch of the Raritan River at Ken Lockwood Gorge with an easy, downward slope from High Bridge to Tewksbury.

The Columbia Trail forms part of the Highlands Trail which will eventually span between Hunterdon and Passaic Counties.

The 15.8 mile long trail curves along the mountainside above the South Branch of the Raritan River:

00.0    15.8    Flanders-Bartley Road, Bartley, Morris County  (parking)
00.5    15.3     bridge over Drake Brook
00.7    15.1    North Four Bridges Road
01.0    14.8    crosses South Branch of the Raritan River
01.7    13.1    Naughright Road
03.2    12.6    leave the railbed; right turn onto dirt road; left onto Fairview Avenue
03.9    11.9    Schooley's Mountain Road, Long Valley (junction with Highland Trail); back on the railbed; bridge over a stream
                      Scott Park, West Mill Road
07.0    08.8    Middle Valley Road
07.2    08.6    cross the South Branch of the Raritan River
07.9    07.9    detour right onto West Mill Road around a nursery; regain the railbed
                      Morris/Hunterdon County line
08.6    07.2    Valley Brook Road, Tewksbury (parking available)
10.3    05.5    Main Street, Califon  Borough; Academy Street
12.2    03.6    Hoffman's Crossing Road  Valley Brook Road, Tewksbury
13.1    02.7    a bridge (elevation 80 feet and length 260 feet) carries the trail over the South Branch of the Raritan River north of
                      Ken Lockwood Gorge Wildlife Management Area
                      Ken Lockwood Gorge WMA
14.5    01.3    take the bridge over Cokesbury Road
                      below is Solitary Lake (the result of a river dam) in High Bridge Borough
15.8    00.0    Main Street, High Bridge Borough (parking)

Mile markers are posted every quarter of a mile for hikers doing fitness walking. Camping or cooking is not allowed along the trail and there are no restroom facilities along the trail. Get your walking stick shield ($3.00) from Troop 149, 8 Robin Lane, High Bridge NJ 08829.


5/24/2005.  Rosemary and Carl Cooney, Ceferino Santana and dog Sonar walked the Columbia trail for 1.5 miles from its southern terminus at High Bridge Borough.  We could not find the place right away so we investigate the Borough Commons area.  Here there is a white gazebo, a flag pole and flag, two picnic tables, and a dump area behind the park.  We finally realized that the real trail started across from Borough Commons where there is a gate and a plaque.  The plaque mentions that this section of the path is dedicated by Boy Scout Troop 149 to Mary and Jon Cardenas for their continued efforts on behalf of the community.

At the start of the walk the path is asphalt.  But this only goes for a block or so.  We cross Mill Street and then Goodman Alley.  Pass Taylor Street and then go under a 1937 overpass.  The trail is dirt and gravel.  Quarter of a mile marker.  Reach Lake Solitude.  It is noisy as we reach the dam that created the lake.  Reach the half mile marker.  House at 90 Mine Road very close to the trail.  Three-quarter of a mile marker and we are still walking past Lake Solitude.  Reach a sign for Clinton Township.  Reach the 1 mile marker.  At 1.25 miles we reach the overpass over Cokebury Road.  Now I hear white water noise and look down the cliffs toward the river.  There are mountains on the other side of the river.  Just before the sign for the 1.5 miles marker, there is a sign for Lebanon Township.  Turn around and walk back to the start of the trail.  Dr. Patrick L. Cooney.

 


PLANT LIST:
Dr. Patrick L. Cooney
* = blooming on 03/24/2005


Trees:
Ailanthus altissima (tree-of-heaven)
Betula lenta (black birch)
Betula populifolia (gray birch)
Carya ovata (shagbark hickory)
Carya sp. (hickory)
Cornus florida (flowering dogwood)
Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Juniperus virginiana (red cedar)
Picea abies (Norway spruce)
Pinus sp. (pine tree)
Pinus strobus (white pine)
Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore)
Prunus serotina (black cherry)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Sassafras albidum (sassafras)
Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock)

Shrubs:
Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry)
Lonicera sp. (honeysuckle)
Rhus typhina (staghorn sumac)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)

Vines:
Celastrus orbiculatus (Asiatic bittersweet)
Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle)
Hedera helix (English ivy)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)
Vinca minor (periwinkle)
Vitis sp. (grape)

Herbs:
Artemisia vulgaris (common mugwort)
Leonurus cardiaca (motherwort)
Narcissus sp. (daffodil)
Phytolacca americana (pokeweed)
Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese knotweed)
Ranunculus ficaria (lesser celandine) *
Rumex obtusifolius (broad dock)
Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion)
Yucca filamentosa (Adam's needle)
glory of the snow *

Grasses:
Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stilt grass)
Setaria faberi (nodding foxtail grass)
bamboo

Ferns:
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)