Discover the wonders of the New Jersey Pine Barrens in our first state forest.
Bass River State Forest is New Jersey’s first state forest, established in 1905 for public recreation, water conservation, wildlife and timber management. In June 1933, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp No. 7 (later changed to Camp S-55) was established here and the CCC “boys” planted trees and built camping structures, picnic pavilions and roads that are still in use today. The forest is within the Pinelands National Reserve, a one million acre ecologically sensitive area that is home to many rare plants and animals as well as the rare dwarf pine plains, a globally rare plant community with pitch pine trees that reach a height of only 5-6 feet. You can hike over 12 miles of marked trails, including the short, self-guided Absegami Trail through a cedar swamp in the Lake Asbsegami Natural Area and a self-guided trail through the remains of the Civilian Conservation Corp camp and memorial. Bass River State Forest is the southern end of the 53-mile-long BATONA Trail that winds north through Wharton and Brendan Byrne State Forests.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was created during President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "The Hundred Days," i.e., the beginning of FDR's first term and a time of massive legislative efforts to deal with the paralyzing effects of the Great Depression. The CCC put needy young men to work and sent a large portion of their pay back to their families. The fact that only 37 days elapsed between FDR's swearing in and the induction of the first CCC enrollee on April 7, 1933, reflects the importance of this program. By the time the program ended in 1942, due to World War II, over three million unemployed young men had been enrolled, planted over three billion trees and completed many other conservation projects including building much of the infrastructure at Bass River State Forest.
Camp S-55, the CCC camp at Bass River State Forest, lasted throughout the entire life of the CCC from 1933 to 1942. Company 225 served at the camp from 1933 to 1937 and Company 2201-V, a Veteran’s company, followed from 1937 to 1942. There were usually a full complement of 200 men at the camp. The CCC members performed a wide range of conservation work; they built park roads, trails, bridle paths, bridges for vehicles, ponds for fish and waterfowl, lookout towers, nature observatory shelters, picnic areas, cabins, fireplaces, campgrounds, recreational lakes and landscaping. The most noteworthy feat was the creation of the 67-acre Lake Absegami by damming two streams flowing through the forest. The foundations of Camp S-55 and the CCC Memorial are part of a self-guided trail. Brochures are available at the forest office and at the beginning of the trail near the parking lot on East Greenbush Road. Stop in at the forest office to see artifacts from our Camp as well as a list of members.
Check to see if your family member or relative was a CCC Camp S-55 member at Bass River between 1933 and 1942. If you know of someone whose name should be on the list please let us know by contacting Cynthia Coritz, Superintendent (link sends e-mail) at Bass River state Forest.
Bass River State Forest has eight easy walking, but not ADA accessible, trails from 1-mile to 3.2-mile-long. The 0.5 mile self-guided Absegami Trail includes a wooden foot bridge with benches. All trails start at the second parking lot at the beach where there is a trailhead kiosk. Animals, birds and plant life of the Pine Barrens may be found. A trail brochure is available at the office and a CCC Trail brochure about the portion of the trail that passes through the old Civilian Conservation Corps camp near East Greenbush Road. This guide describes the camp foundations.
BATONA Trail (BAck-TO-NAture)
This easy walking trail, well marked with pink blazes, runs for 53 miles through Bass River State Forest, Wharton State Forest and Brendan T. Byrne State Forest, crossing streams and passing through forested areas that were once bustling towns with names such as Four Mile, Butler, Martha and Washington. The Outdoor Club of South Jersey’s Trail Crew has adopted the trail and works weekly on trimming and repainting the trail markers on this historic trail.
Online reservations can be made at camping.nj.gov.
There are 176 tent and trailer sites with fire rings and picnic tables. Flush toilets, showers and laundry facilities are within walking distance of all sites. No hook-ups provided. Each site accommodates a maximum of six campers, two vehicles (including trailers) and two tents. Trailer sanitary station is open March 1 through November 30. Campsites are open all year.
Six group campsites with water and pit toilets are within walking distance. Each site accommodates a maximum of 25 campers. Parking is directly on the site. Open all year. We highly recommend that group leaders carefully estimate their group size so not to overestimate because refunds cannot be made later.
Six licensed vehicles only are permitted to park on each group campsite, within the campsite limit signs. Additional vehicles (two per site) are required to pay $5 per night and park in the designated parking area.
There are nine accessible lean-tos located on the south shore. All lean-tos have a hardwood floor, woodburning stove, outdoor picnic table, fire ring and grill. Flush toilets, showers and laundry facilities are close by. Lean-tos are open year round and accommodate a maximum of six people.
Pet Friendly Camping
South shore campsites 1 through 85 are designated pet friendly. There is an additional charge of $5 per night if you bring a pet. Pet friendly camping is limited to domestic dogs and cats with a maximum of two pets per camping permit. A Pet Registration and Certification form is required during the check-in process which will be retained in the area files. Dogs and cats must have current rabies vaccinations. Written proof of the pet's current rabies/distemper vaccine and license (if a license is required by the resident's state) must be provided during the check-in process. Pets are not permitted in cabins, shelters or lean-tos.
Six shelters located along the north shore of Lake Absegami, each with two bunk rooms, one double-deck bunk in each room, a living room with a picnic table and bench, wood-burning stove and screened double door. All shelters have an outdoor grill for cooking, fire ring, table and benches. Flush toilets and shower facilities are within walking distance. Shelters are open from April 1 through October 31 and accommodate a maximum of four people.
Six cabins located along the north shore of Lake Absegami contain a living room and fireplace; two bunk rooms with double-deck bunks; kitchen with running water, electric stove, refrigerator; bathroom with shower, toilet and sink; and electricity. The screened-in porch faces the lake and there is an outdoor fire ring, grill for cooking, picnic table and bench. Cabins are open April 1 through October 31 and accommodate a maximum of six people.
Swimming is permitted in Lake Absegami from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day in the designated swimming area while lifeguards are on duty. Visitors will find a beach complex containing changing area, restrooms, showers, first-aid station and a concession building offering refreshments, novelties and beach supplies. Inner tubes, rafts and other flotation devices are not permitted in the swimming area. Only U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices (PFDs) are permitted. Pets are prohibited on the beach.
Freshwater species that may be caught are pickerel, sunfish and catfish. Fishing is subject to New Jersey's Fish and Wildlife Laws (link is external).
Hunting is allowed in large parts of the forest and is subject to New Jersey's Fish and Wildlife Laws (link is external). Game found in the forest include deer, rabbit and grouse.
Located near the beach are 100 picnic tables with charcoal grills, a picnic shelter, restrooms, athletic field for games and playground. Pets are permitted at the picnic area but must be held on a leash (maximum length of 6 feet), not be in the water or on the beach and you must clean up after your pet. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
Bass River offers a group picnic pavilion for larger groups. It has a capacity of 50 people, includes two large picnic tables, a large charcoal grill, with nearby playfields and playground equipment. It may be reserved for a fee.
Groups of 20 or more people need to reserve picnic facilities at least five days in advance. Such group use is not permitted on holidays except as authorized by the superintendent. Reservations for picnic areas are handled directly by the individual park area offices.
Reservations can be made over the telephone using a credit card or by mail using the Group Picnic Reservation form. Payment in full of the appropriate group picnicking fee must accompany the application.
Reservations not available on Sundays from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, it is first come first served.
The Division's State Forestry Services has published a comprehensive Forest Resource Management Plan for Bass River State Forest to improve the long-term forest management practices and resource protection needs of Bass River. For a copy, please call 609-292-2531.
The Absegami Natural Area was designated to preserve native plants and animals. Visitors can observe a variety of birds and animals common to the area. Several interesting birds that have been seen in the forest include rose-breasted grosbeak, red-breasted nuthatch and the eastern whip-poor-will. Bald eagles and osprey have been seen over Lake Absegami.
A self-guided nature trail loops through this Atlantic white cedar swamp that also includes red maple and swamp magnolia and is surrounded by oak-pine forest. A raised boardwalk along the trail provides up-close views of carnivorous plants and the Faulkinburg Branch.
This unique stunted forest ecosystem, known locally as the pygmy pine forest and referred to now as the pine plains, is globally rare and supports an extensive forest of pine and oak trees that may gain a canopy height of only four feet at maturity. New Jersey contains the largest acreage of this forest community type worldwide. The area also supports an endangered plant species - the broom crowberry - and numerous rare species of moths. There are three areas of pine plains ecosystem in Bass River State Forest.
Access for Persons with Disabilities
The Atsion Recreation Area recreational and historic facilities are partially accessible for persons with disabilities. Please contact the park office at 609-268-0444 for further information regarding disability access needs. Text telephone (TTY) users, call the NJ Relay & CapTel Service at 711 or 1-800-852-7897 for English or 1-866-658-7714 for Spanish.
All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)
Recreational use of ATVs is not permitted on NJ State Park Service property. This includes state parks, forests, recreation areas, golf courses, marinas, natural areas, historic sites, and preserves. Thank you for your help in protecting New Jersey’s natural and historic resources. [N.J.A.C. 7:2-3.4(d)]
State law prohibits the smoking of tobacco and use of electronic smoking (vaping) devices in all state parks, forests, historic sites, recreation areas, golf courses and marinas. [N.J.P.L.2005, c.383 (C.26:3D-56)]
Alcoholic beverages are not permitted in state parks, forests, recreation areas, golf courses, marinas, natural areas, historic sites, and preserves. [ N.J.A.C. 7:2-2.6 ]
Keep Your Park Clean and Green
Keep Your Park Clean and Green Protect plants and animals and care for your park by taking your trash with you. Unless you're camping, whatever you carry into the park, plan on carrying it out too. It’s like crowdsourcing trash management! Bring a bag or two for trash, recycling and cleaning up after your pet. There are no trash receptacles in this park. Thank you!
Swimming is permitted, while lifeguards are on duty, from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. The beach area includes changing rooms, restrooms, showers, a first-aid station and a concession building where food and beach supplies may be purchased. Inner tubes, rafts and other flotation devices are not permitted in the swimming area. Only U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets are allowed.
Pets must always be on a leash no longer than six feet in length and under the control of the owner. Please clean up after your pets.
Use insect repellent, wear light-colored clothing, tuck pants into socks, stay on trails, check yourself when you get home, shower and wash clothes immediately.
Be Bear Aware
Black bears are found throughout New Jersey. Do not approach or attract bears by making food available. Feeding bears is dangerous and illegal. Never run from a bear! To report an aggressive bear, call 1-877-WARN-DEP (1-877-927-6337) immediately. Please report any damage or nuisance behavior to the park office. Visit the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife at www.njfishandwildlife.com for additional information on bear safety.
762 Stage Road
Bass River Twp 08224
762 Stage Rd
Tuckerton, NJ 08087
Park Nov 1 – March 31
Monday – Saturday 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Day Use Area (Lake Absegami beach, picnic area, trails): 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Entrance fees are charged per vehicle from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day.