COLUMBIA TRAIL LETTERBOX:

HIGH BRIDGE-WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, NEW JERSEY

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Planted:               April 15, 2008

Length:                Columbia Trail; 7 miles

                              High Bridge to Letterbox; 1 3/4 miles   

Difficulty:            Easy. Stone-dust surface along flat rail bed.                              

Directions:

From I-78, take exit 17 to Route 31 north. Travel for 1.7 miles to Route 513 north and turn right. Take Route 513 into High Bridge and after crossing under the railroad bridge, turn left onto Main St. After passing through the small downtown and before a sharp right, look for the entrance to a park on your left (no sign). It will be opposite the start of the trail on your right. The park contains picnic tables and a Porto-Potty.

Completed in 1876, this former rail line was established by the Central Railroad of New Jersey as the High Bridge Branch. The line ran from High Bridge to Port Oram, currently known as Wharton, in Morris County. The line accommodated passengers, but was highly regarded for its shipments of iron ore from the mines in Morris County. The most spectacular wreck occurred on April 18, 1885 when Engine #112 (known as The Columbia), pulling 45 cars plummeted off a 60' wooden trestle into the South Branch of the Raritan River. The wooden trestle was replaced by steel piers in 1930 and is now known as the Ken Lockwood Gorge Bridge. The last passenger excursion occurred in 1935 and the last freight train ran on April 1, 1976. The Columbia Trail is actually 15 miles and extends to Washington Township. For more information visit; COLUMBIA TRAIL or  RAILS TO TRAILS .

Starting from the trailhead in High Bridge; The trail starts across form the parks entrance. There are still some old rails next to the parks entrance. A sign board is located at the trailhead, along with the 0 mile marker post. The trail is marked every 1/4 mile. The trail starts out paved, but quickly turns to stone-dust. The trail travels along the ridgeline with the  South Branch of the Raritan River below. You'll cross over Cokesbury Rd at 1.3 miles via a bridge. Next you pass under some transmission lines and come to a rock cut after the 1.5 mile post. A large rock cut will be on your left and a smaller cut that juts out towards the trail will be on your right. Note; the 1 3/4 mile post is just ahead. You'll see an orange post (gas line) on your right. Facing this post, go around the left side of the rock cut and look up. On top of the rock will be a small Cherry tree growing out of the rock and to the left of it will be a larger Birch tree. Between these two trees you'll spot some small rocks under a ledge. Remove ONLY the left rock to reveal the Columbia Trail Letterbox. Continuing along the trail, look for the cascading stream coming off the hill. The trail starts a slight accent at 2.5 miles and brings you to the Ken Lockwood Gorge Bridge which travels over the river. At about 3 1/4 miles, the trail  leaves behind the river gorge area and enters a flat and woodsy terrain. Keep an eye out for several gnomes residing along the trail from this point on, especially one who has his door built into a tree stump. They are usually marked by rock cairns alongside the trail. A short on-road section starts at 5 miles as you come to Califon. This takes you past the old Califon Railroad station (1875), which houses a museum and includes a parking area. After a couple of quick road crossings your back on the trail, where you'll spot the river again, if only briefly. Another short 1/4 mile on-road section and you'll hit the final stretch of trail which ends after 7 miles at Valley Brook Rd and a parking lot. The trail continues through Morris County. For a description, check out; RAILS TO TRAILS .

HH

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LETTERBOX LAST VERIFIED ON

MAY 11, 2014

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letterbox@snet.net 

 

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