Fresh Ponds Road, East Brunswick, Township, Middlesex County, NJ
1,078 acres

The park is undeveloped.


Travel south on the New Jersey Turnpike and get off at Exit 8A; yield right onto Forsgate Drive (Routes 32 & 130); drive 0.9 of a mile and turn right onto Rt. 130 north; drive 2.0 miles and turn right onto Fresh Pond Road; drive 1.4 miles and turn right onto Dean-Rhode Hall; drive 0.5 of a mile and turn right into the small parking area (just past house #234). 


The name Pigeon Swamp is said to have come from an 18th century owner of the swamp area, Ann Pidgeon, daughter of East Jersey Governor Jerimiah Bass. The swamp was also a nesting place for passenger pigeons until their extinction early in the 20th century.

John Wetherill is most noted for his accumulation of a 1700 acre plantation in the general area of southeastern South Brunswick. Both he and his brother George owned land in the Pigeon Swamp area.

1749-1776   --  a member of the New Jersey Colonial Assembly from Middlesex County.

1774   -- a member of the Standing Committee of Correspondence and Inquiry to correspond with other Colonists.

1775-1776  --  a member of the Provincial Congress.

1776  -- served as a Colonel in the 2nd Battalion of the Militia of Middlesex County.

(The Wetherill Family’s Influence on the Dayton Area of South Brunswick.

1780  --  an early attempt to drain Pigeon Swamp was begun with the construction of the Great Ditch. One of John Wetherill's last important acts was to petition the Legislature, along with others, to empower the landowners of Pigeon Swamp to keep Pigeon Swamp area drained for better land use. The ditch was maintained by the State until the 19th century.

(Source: A History of South Brunswick Township; http://members.aol.com/sbtedvh/history.htm)

1974  --  the land was purchased by the state as Green Acres land for preservation.

Angelo Franchette of the county's Open Space Advisory Committee is working to save much of a 15,000-acre freshwater aquifer by tying together Pigeon Swamp, Davidson Mill Park and Island Brook.  (http://www.gsenet.org/library/14njs/srran6q2.php)


diversified swamp forest, upland hardwood forest, open ponds.

It is a National Natural Landmark (designated December 1976) because it contains a sizeable example of mature inner coastal plain lowland hardwood forest.


4/17/04.  We followed the main trail south.  There had been a lot of rain in early spring and this was reflected in the numerous big puddles on the trail. We had to bushwhack around one of them (not easy because of the massive amounts of greenbrier). After a short walk we came to a wide ditch filled with water that we could not cross over (and we were not willing to get our boots wet early in the morning). The part of the woods we saw was dominated by oaks and greenbrier.

Near the start of the trail it is very parklike with some lawns.  Off to the left are some horticultural species obviously planted here at one time.  Picked up quite a few more species for our plant list in this area. 


Fresh Ponds Road (about .6 mile north of Highway 130) crosses a drainage ditch and at this point specimens of sweetgum with its star-shaped leaves, red maple, pin oak and black gum border the road. Continue north on Fresh Pond Road to the first intersection which is Dean Rhode Hall Road. Turn right and about .4 mile down this road is a drainage ditch; on the right side of the road prior to this ditch is a good view of the sweetgum, red maple, and black gum swamp forest. Also note that the gray birch grows in open areas along the roadside. (Collins and Anderson)

Has diversified swamp forest with large specimens of the swamp trees typical of this type of lowland on the Inner Coastal Plain -- sweetgum, red maple, pin oak and black gum trees.

Dr. Patrick L. Cooney
date = date plant found in bloom, 4/17/04

Acer rubrum (red maple) 4/17/04
Amelanchier (shadbush)
Betula lenta (black birch)
Betula populifolia (gray birch)
Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Ilex opaca (American holly)
Juniperus virginiana (red cedar)
Liquidambar styraciflua (sweetgum)
Magnolia x soulangiana (saucer magnolia) 4/17/04 planted
Nyssa sylvatica (tupelo)
Picea abies (Norway spruce)
Pinus strobus (white pine)
Prunus serotina (black cherry)
Pyrus sp. (crab apple tree)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus palustris (pin oak)
Quercus prinus (chestnut oak)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Quercus velutina (black oak)
Salix sp. (willow) 4/17/04
Sassafras albidum (sassafras)

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry) 4/17/04 soon
Clethra alnifolia (sweet pepperbush)
Cornus amomum (swamp dogwood)
Forsythia sp. (golden bells) 4/17/04 planted
Mitchella repens (partridgeberry)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)
Sambucus canadensis (common elderberry)
Thuja occidentalis (arborvitae)
Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry)
Vaccinium sp. (a lowbush blueberry)

Celastrus orbiculatus (Asiatic bittersweet)
Hedera helix (English ivy)
Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle) lots
Rubus sp. (dewberry)
Smilax sp. (greenbrier) all over the place
Vitis sp. (grape)

Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard)
Allium vineale (field garlic)
Arctium sp. (burdock)
Artemisia vulgaris (common mugwort)
Barbarea vulgaris (common wintercress)
Cardamine hirsuta (hairy bittercress) 4/17/04
Daucus carota (Queen Anne's lace)
Hemerocallis fulva (tawny day lily)
Impatiens capensis (orange jewelweed)
Maianthemum canadense (Canada mayflower)
Narcissus sp. (daffodil) 4/17/04
Phytolacca americanum (pokeweed)
Plantago sp. (plantain)
Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese knotweed)
Potentilla sp. (cinquefoil)
Ranunculus sp. (swamp buttercup?)
Rumex obtusifolius (broad-leaved dock)
Symplocarpus foetidus (skunk cabbage)
Taraxacum officinale (dandelion) 4/17/04
Trifolium sp. (clover)
Typha latifolia (broad-leaved cattail)
Viola sp. (violet)

Rushes and Sedges:
Carex laxa type (loose-flowered sedge like)
Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) 4/19/97
Carex stricta (tussock sedge)

Phragmites australis (giant reed grass)

Ferns and Fern Allies:
Lycopodium obscurum (ground pine) carpets of it


Sphagnum sp. (sphagnum)