Sep 13 2017

Exploring the ‘Noisy’ Natural Beauty
At the Crystal Springs Preserve

(This is part of our continuing series “HLT’s 20 Stories for 20 Years,” where we share, through words, images and audio, information about Hunterdon Land Trust and the places we all love in the Hunterdon County area.)

Tucked away in the northern-most part of Hunterdon County is a 291-acre tract that you helped protect: The Crystal Springs Preserve. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, a hiker’s dream and – surprisingly – quite noisy.

Arrive early in the morning and the birdsong reminds one of an orchestra tuning up before a concert: The hum of bees, gurgling waters, croaking frogs, tall grasses swishing in the summer’s breeze, and the splashing of an industrious beaver (or two) adds to the symphony of sound.

You can best enjoy nature’s serenade while hiking one of several trails on this preserve that stretches across Hunterdon and Morris counties. You can explore the forested area off Pleasant Grove Road or enter via Califon Road and hike alongside one of the trails that skirts the ponds.

The five ponds are fed by natural springs that form the headwaters of Spruce Run Creek, a category one trout production stream and one of three waterways that flow into the Spruce Run Reservoir, a vital source of drinking water in the area. Anglers will love fishing these ponds for bass, catfish and sunfish.

Walk along one of these trails and you’ll likely spot a blue heron on a nearby tree limb, scanning the waters for frogs. A bend in the trail leads uphill to a 40-acre meadow that is managed as a bird habitat. Bobolinks, eastern meadowlarks, red-winged blackbirds, indigo buntings and vesper sparrows flit about, make this clearing an emerald slice of paradise for birders. Continuing upwards, the trail eventually leads you to an enchanting forest of mature hardwoods, and a hemlock grove that supports migratory songbirds.

The preserve, acquired in 2004, is yet another success story thanks to you and the efforts of several organizations working together, including NJ Green Acres Program, NJ Water Supply Authority, Hunterdon County, Lebanon Township, Washington Township Land Trust and Hunterdon Land Trust. Hunterdon County manages the preserve.

You could spend hours at Crystal Springs, which can be accessed via Pleasant Grove Road or Califon Road in Lebanon Township, but this entire section of Hunterdon County boasts so many beautiful natural areas and backroads that one could easily make a day trip out of it. When you go, don’t forget to share your discoveries on our HLT Community Map.


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