Relentless Explorers

Kayaking (Upstream) in the Pine Barrens

Exploring the Batsto River from Batsto Village

By Ken Relentless

03 Sep  2013

One of my main motivations for purchasing a kayak is to see and photograph things in the Pine Barrens that are otherwise impossible to see. I entered the sport of kayaking when on July 3, 2013 I went to Dick's Sporting Goods in Burlington, New Jersey and purchased my first kayak. It was a Perception Sports Rhythm 10. A roof rack system from Yakima was purchased from an online reseller and I was soon on the road. My first few trips were on lakes or short upstream runs. Harrisville Lake was one of them and Batsto Lake was another. On September 3, 2013 I loaded up the kayak and headed to Batsto Village. There I put in on Batsto Lake. The lake and river held many photo opportunities as you will see from this gallery.

Before I went out in the kayak I did a quick tour of Batsto Village. All photos were taken with a Canon Rebel XS DSLR camera. I only took this one on early lake trips!

Batsto Mansion.
Batsto Mansion.
Interior view of the general store. Everything workers needed was purchased here.
Empty jars and cans of the period are on display.
Empty jars and cans of the period are on display.
The grist mill.
Exterior view of the general store.
Exterior view of the general store. I believe the farm buildings are in the background.
Batsto Lake, like Harrisville Lake, is grassy. We try to avoid paddling through grass especially in low water.
Big turtles perch on stumps, logs, anything.
Turtles generally plunge into the water when approached.
I managed to sneak up on these brown ducks, which are even more skitish than turtles.
This is the Batsto River upstream from the lake.
More big turtles.
A smaller turtle.
This was the most beautiful photo of the set.
Another view upstream.
Yes, another turtle. They were everywhere this day.
Hmm. Lots of fallen trees but nothing to block the lazy river.
Two turtles with the bigger one trying to get away.
The smaller one dove, but the big one is trying hard.
About to dive in.
I am closing in. He tried hard, but got stuck. He did not like the close up!
Another turtle that I close to.
Cedar water is ruddy from iron content. You can see the reddish coloration even in satellite photos.
I was especially quiet enough to sneak up on these brown ducks.
This one seemed not to care how close I got.

Exploring the Batsto River by Foot

By Ken Relentless

18 Feb  2017

While not a river trip, this photo set shows what a portion of the Batsto River looks like above the old cranberry bogs at Hampton Furnace. Everyone who has paddled the Batsto River would know Hampton Furnace is the highest launch. For now I will hint this river is passable to a point off Glossy Spung Road that is above those bogs. The bridge here crossed the Batsto but washed away at some point after the state of New Jersey took control of the land in 1964. What is left of the bridge is now in the river. Above this point the river turns and heads into thick swamp, eventually crossing under Carranza Road.

Some of parts of the bridge are sticking out of the water.
A close up of the heavy boards.
The bulk of the bridge deck is about 100 feet down from its original position.
This little puddle is interesting for a reason.
The silvery sheen are colonies of the bacterium Leptothrix Ochracea, which helps to form bog iron.
I took this shot of the surrounding woods for artistic reasons.
A view down the river.
A foot bridge built by a hunter.
A longer downstream view.
Another view of the foot bridge.
This is the berm looking across the Batso to the other side. It is completely overgrown.
The is looking toward the road coming in from Glossy Spung Road.
This pool is always present, but dries up in long periods with no rain. The Batsto curves around to the right through the woods.
This feeder stream runs through the center of the old bogs.

Exploring the Batsto River from Carranza Road

By Ken Relentless

04 Jun  2017

The Batsto River is one of the longest river trips you can take in the Pine Barrens. Beginning at Hampton Furnace, near Atsion, the downstream run is approximately 11.32 miles according to the plotted distance of The tiny URL link is here: Batsto River. I tend to think the actual trip is somewhat longer because Google Maps does not accurately show every twist and bend in the river. These are not miles as the crow flies, but unaccounted distance that we actually paddle.

That said, Don and I thought the Batsto River needed to be even longer. Okay, I admit it was his idea to put in at Carranza Road and paddle down to Hampton Furnace. What we soon discovered was this part of the Batsto went through the thickest swamp we have ever seen. The map below shows how far we made it, or didn't make it.

The trip started at this curve on Carranza Road where the only possible launching point is. My boat is the red and yellow one.
Even with higher than normal water levels, this looked to be a choked up mess.
Don's Ford Ranger was parked just up the road.
This is the other side of the bridge looking upstream. It is just as choked.
Don is now heavily into some light pruning of cat briar's and peppercorn bushes. He loves this kind of kayak-based gardening.
After this shot I was waving to the guys in a Tabernacle fire truck passing by. They must have thought I was crazy when they saw me near the bridge. We were.
Don is at it again just a few feet down the river with some light pruning on this fallen tree. We were nearly an hour on the river at this point and hardly going anywhere.
The river was tight as we continued past the first fallen tree. We turned around when the swamp closed in and there was no clear path anywhere through the maze of fallen trees, peppercorn bushes and everything imaginable.

As we were pulling out at the bridge a man in a white pickup truck stopped to talk. He was from the Forest Fire Service. He told us he had never seen anyone put in on this end of the Batsto. He said the last time his crew had done a controlled burn in this area, one of the guys nearly stepped on a rattlesnake. Ill-advised!, was my joke to Don. The swamp awaits clearing on another day with more manpower and saws.

Exploring the Batsto River from Hampton Furnace

By Ken Relentless

11 Jun  2017

Having been defeated on the upper Batsto River, the Relentless team was not about to give up in their effort to open another two miles of usable river. This time we started at the well known launch at Hampton Furnace and began clearing deadfall in the upstream direction. No photos were taken on this run, but the plot shows the progress that was made. The tiny URL link is here: Batsto River. The actual distance is about 1.46 miles, possibly a little more due to the many twists and turns in the river that simply are not mapped via the satellite photos. The upper limit where we reached is shown in the February 18, 2017 photo set. The area is easily reached from nearby Glossy Spung Road. We expect to clear beyond this area and push into the swamp further up. More man power of the Kevin He-Man type is needed to clear a route through the swamp.

Our Goals

By Don Relentless

09 Sep  2017

We have met our immediate goal for the Batsto River. There now is a place to put in two miles up river from Hampton Furnace, just off Glossy Spung Road. The Holy Grail would be to continue clearing upriver to Carranza Road. This may be possible but it will be an enormous amount of work. We are looking for extra hands all the time.

There is no water flow station on the Batsto River. The section we cleared in June 2017 from Hampton Furnace up appeared to be pretty deep (approx 2 ft deep) most of the way. This is probably because the river is so narrow as it traverses former cranberry bogs.

Exploring the Batsto River from Glossy Spung Road

By Ken Relentless

11 Sep  2017

Our plan for this trip was to start up at the furthest point off Glossy Spung Road, clear more of the upstream portion and then do a fast downstream run back to the boat launch at Hampton Furnace. The photo set begins after dropping off Kevin He-Man's car and heading back up to the launch point.

Unfortunately, there would not be time left in the day to make the downstream run back to Hampton Furnace.

Hampton Furnace. As we were driving over the bridge that crosses the Batsto River, I asked Don Relentless to stop so I could go talk to the two people we spotted in the woods just upstream. Their minivan was from the University of Pennsylvania. I spoke with them for a few minutes. They were doing a study of the soil types in the banks as it relates to shifting of rivers over time. This is me coming back up the steep hill.

Photo: Don Relentless.
Another shot coming up the hill. One of the two men was a professor and the paper in my hand is his contact information.

Photo: Don Relentless.
Note the view from the February 18, 2017 photo set. This is the highest launch point now on the Batsto River.

Photo: Don Relentless.
Note the view from the February 18, 2017 photo set. The foot bridge was dislodged by high water back in May. We made our famous red mark here. Someone has since removed the boards, which would have blocked us right at the start.

Photo: Don Relentless.
Our first deadfall not much further up from the launch point. This is just the beginning.
Kevin He-Man and Ken Relentless out of the kayaks and working hard to clear deadfall.

Photo: Don Relentless.
Lunch time in the maple swamp.

Photo: Don Relentless.
Okay, yes, this is a hoagie from Nixon's General Store in Tabernacle.

Photo: Don Relentless.
The clearing in the distance is either a savannah or an area recovering from a prescribed burn.

Photo: Don Relentless.
Kevin He-Man starting the red paint marker. Much work remains to be done to reach Carranza Road.

Photo: Don Relentless.
Kevin, make it thicker!

Photo: Don Relentless.
Ken Relentless is seen here at the furthest point trying to figure out where we were on Google Maps. There was almost no signal in this area, which was about a quarter mile from Carranza Road.

Photo: Don Relentless.
My Perception Sport Rhythm 10.0 out of the water. The boat is filthy from debris. Typically I wash the boat after every trip.
These are Don Relentless' Perception Sport Swiftys. He has several of them. They look like they have been through sawmills inside with all the sawdust.

Exploring the Batsto River from Glossy Spung Road, II

By Ken Relentless

17 Sep  2017

A second push into the swampy area around the upper Batsto River saw us gain less stream than we expected. After the red painted marker the river became choked with peppercorn bushes and another water-loving plant that we have yet to identify. Razor saws and loppers got full use on this short stretch. It was a tough push just to gain 50 yards or so that we did. The final push to Carranza Road will likely come next spring, but for now a good portion of the Batsto River is open from Hampton Furnace to within a quarter mile of Carranza Road.

This is the site of former cranberry bogs. The launch here is not far below the one used on the September 11, 2017 trip.

Photo: Don Relentless.
Ken Relentless looking at the sluice gates, one of which can be seen in the water. He is standing on the other one.

Photo: Don Relentless.
This is previously cleared river.

Photo: Don Relentless.
Our work is cut out for us. The Batsto is congested and unusable for the next quarter mile to Carranza Road.

Photo: Don Relentless.
Ken Relentless at work with lopping shears. These are effective against deadfall and plants growing in the river itself. The bungie cord allows us to retrieve tools dropped into the water.

Photo: Don Relentless.
Much of the work on this trip was done out of the kayaks and in knee deep water. There was a lot of growth and debris that needed to be pulled out and heaved onto the banks. This included fallen trees and submerged logs that needed to be cut.

Photo: Don Relentless.
Ready to begin the downstream run back to the launch point.

Photo: Don Relentless.
Getting late in the day, we decided to stop. The river looks clear beyond this overgrown chokepoint. We will be back to push further on another day.

Photo: Don Relentless.

Exploring the Batsto River by Foot, II

By Ken Relentless

27 Dec  2017

Despite the bitter cold I still find walking on old roads and trails in the Pine Barrens quite enjoyable. There is always something to see, something to observe, and an opportunity to wonder about the past history of the area.

I have had an Android phone of one kind or another for at least the last six years. Until I spoke with Don Relentless' brother Bob Minnesota during Christmas Day dinner, it had never occurred to me use a GPS logging program. Most Pine Barrens streams and roads in Wharton State Forest have very little cell phone service. Without Google Maps it is hard to locate our exact position on a stream or relative to one. No more. A great Android GPS application called Ultra GPS Logger allows me to start logging position at the start of a hike and stop it at the end. Once I have a complete plot I can send the files to my email address (paid version only). The .kmz file can then be loaded into Google Earth Pro on Desktop. Not being a fan of Chrome, I prefer the older desktop program. The imagery below is my hike overlaid on 2016 and 1995 satellite maps. Expect to see plots like this on all future river trips.

The 12/27/2017 walk overlaid on 2016 satellite imagery

The 12/27/2017 walk overlaid on 1995 satellite imagery

Exploring the Batsto River by Foot, III

By Ken Relentless

27 Jan  2018

Being a relatively January warm day, I wanted to take another walk out in the Pine Barrens to explore a particular area. Don Relentless and his herding dog Wolfie came out of winter hibernation to join me. We climbed into my truck and headed out to Carranza Road via Friendship-Speedwell Road. My planned destination was Hampton Furnace, but Don wanted to check out the Batsto River area first. What he wanted to find from the edge of the swamp was the point where we stopped on the June 4, 2017 trip and where we left off on the September 27, 2017. He seemed to think it was not that far from Carranza Road, but I begged to differ. Bushwhacking through the thick swamp was a muddy proposition, which he opted to do. I pursued the trail on higher ground in hopes that at some point it would meander closer to the Batsto River. Further down the trail the high ground got close and we realized that we had been on this part of the river before. Success!

We estimate about 500 or so feet remain to be cleared. Completing this section will open up the river from Carranza Road to Hampton Furnace.

The 01/27/2018 walk along the Batsto River

The 01/27/2018 walk in the larger area

The 01/27/2018 and the 12/27/2017 walks. The Batsto River trail can be followed all the way from Carranza Road to Hampton Furnace.

The Dam at Hampton Furnace

By Ken Relentless

17 Feb  2018

It was a cold day, but not that cold to keep me in the house. There was plenty of time to go out to the Pine Barrnes for some exploration before the next winter storm would arrive. I headed out in my Ford F-150 with camera and hiking pole. My destination was Hampton Furnace and my goal was to locate an old concrete dam that allowed water to pass through the diversion ditch that bypassed the cranberry bogs. Having seen a photo of this dam on a few years ago I was left wondering just where it was. The only information given was that it was near Hampton Furnace. I set off from the truck to follow the ditch where it crossed under Hampton Road. I did not locate the dam on a pervious attempt a few years back, but this time I was going to find it with a more thorough exploration.

From previous explorations of the upper Batsto River we knew where the sluice gates and the head end of the diversion ditch was located. It was important to find the structure that blocked the diversion ditch and forced water to flood the bogs during the cranberry harvest season. Starting at bottom of the map I walked the berm along the ditch until I came to a rather simple concrete dam. The GPS plot was actually done in reverse to eliminate all of my meanderings around other berms and ditches.

The 02/17/2018 walk at Hampton Furnace

Batso River: 1, Relentless Explorers: 0

By Ken Relentless

14 Apr  2018

Anticipating high temperatures near 80 degrees, Don Relentless and myself loaded up the kayaks in his truck. Our first stop was the local Wawa to get hoagies for lunch and the next one was at the lower launch point just off Glossy Spung Road. We had the ambitious goal of reaching the further point of the September 17, 2017 trip. However I was not so optimistic because of the tree damage caused by the last two nor'easters in March. These storms brought heavy snow that caused many trees to snap or break off all over southern New Jersey. The second storm knocked out power for 30 hours in Chatsworth. Well, with that our fears were immediately confirmed just around the bend. And this was only the beginning of what the Batsto River had in store for us.

The 04/14/2018 river trip

Batso River: 2, Relentless Explorers: 0

By Ken Relentless

07 Jul  2019

This trip was purely to regain territory previously cleared in April 2018. The trip length was 1104 feet. This GPS plot is compared to the 01/27/2018 walk (purple).

The 07/07/2019 river trip

Batso River Peppercorn Battle

By Ken Relentless

25 Jul  2019

The July 25, 2019 trip ended in an area of thick peppercorn growth choking the river. We spent several hours and gained a mere 150 feet over the previous trip. We used a chainsaw to clear some fallen trees, but lopping shears were the weapon of choice. A steel rake came in handy to clear the river from floating debris. The trip length was 1252 feet. This GPS plot is compared to the 01/27/2018 walk (purple).

The 07/25/2019 river trip

Batso River Peppercorn Battle, Part 2

By Ken Relentless

12 Aug  2019

The upper most reaches of the Batsto River is choked with peppercorn bushes. These plants send chutes from the banks into the river, sprout new roots and more stems. This growth makes the river unpassable unless it is cleared. We gained about 150 feet on the July 25 trip. On this trip we gained perhaps 40 feet. Chainsaws were useless in this area. Lopping shears and a metal rake were the tools of choice. Don used the shears to chop through peppercorn and I used the rake to clear the branches from the stream. It was hard and dirty job, which is why progress was so slow in this section. Where is Mike Rowe when you need him? Better yet, where is Kevin He-Man when you need him for the power cut? The return trip GPS plot did not show any appreciable gain, which is why our progress was estimated.

Preparing to head upstream at the old sluice gates.

Photo: Don Relentless.
The July 25 marker. The area beyond is where this battle began.

Photo: Don Relentless.
Heading into the thick grown.

Photo: Don Relentless.
Ken Relentless. The stream is cleared about 20 more feet to the left.

Photo: Don Relentless.
Pulling back you can see how little territory we gained. Stay tuned for Part 3.

Photo: Don Relentless.

Batso River Peppercorn Battle, Part 3

By Ken Relentless

xx Apr  2020

Spring 2020 is about to bring new trips to clear the mess of growth that is the upper Batsto River.