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50 acres next to Ken Lockwood Gorge preserved


New Jersey Conservation Foundation
Photo of Ken Lockwood Gorge by Matthew J. Novak
LEBANON TWP. - The Ken Lockwood Gorge, with its forested hills rising steeply from the boulder-strewn South Branch of the Raritan River, is one of New Jersey's most beautiful places.

Fly fishermen cast for trout in its pristine waters. Nature lovers watch great blue herons, mink, kingfishers and other wildlife. Walkers, joggers and bicyclists are drawn to the Columbia Trail, a multi-use trail crossing the Gorge; and River Road, an unpaved lane hugging the riverbank.

But the Ken Lockwood Gorge is more than just a pretty place; the South Branch is a major drinking water supply source for more than 1.5 million New Jersey residents.

The Gorge's water supply and recreation amenities just received additional protection, thanks to the permanent preservation of 50 acres of wooded hillside sloping down to the river.

On May 1, New Jersey Conservation purchased a portion of the former Four Seasons Outdoor Center property, adjacent to the state-owned Ken Lockwood Gorge Wildlife Management Area and the Columbia Trail. The newly-preserved land is located between Hoffman's Crossing Road and the river.

"The Ken Lockwood Gorge is truly one of New Jersey's gems, and we're thrilled to add additional lands to buffer the gorge and increase public access and enjoyment," said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

The purchase was made possible by a partnership including New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the state Green Acres Program, Hunterdon County, Raritan Headwaters Association, Hunterdon Land Trust, the New Jersey Water Supply Authority and the Leavens Foundation.

"This is a win for the community and the state," said Rich Boornazian, Assistant Commissioner of Natural Resources for the state Department of Environmental Protection. "The acquisition of these contiguous woodlands serves to enhance the Ken Lockwood Gorge, protecting forest species, water quality, and providing additional public access to nature. Green Acres is pleased to work with partners such as the New Jersey Conservation Foundation on important acquisitions such as this.

"We are proud to be one of seven partners working together to expand the Ken Lockwood Gorge, a purchase that serves each organization's interest in preserving our quality of life," said Hunterdon County Freeholder Director John King. "For my part, these 50 acres enhance what I believe is one of the unique, outdoor recreational attractions of Hunterdon."

"Gateway to the Gorge is a landmark preservation project," said Cindy Ehrenclou, Executive Director of the Raritan Headwaters Association. "Sources of clean water in the Raritan River region are under constant threat of pollution. Preserving natural areas that protect the South Branch, a healthy headwaters stream, will help ensure that the water we depend on is safe for humans and wildlife alike."

"The Hunterdon Land Trust is proud to have played a role in this project, which will help ensure clean drinking water and provide greater opportunities for the public to enjoy this truly beautiful area in northern Hunterdon County," said Jackie Middleton, land acquisition director of the Hunterdon Land Trust.

The Columbia Trail, a 16-mile rail trail from High Bridge in Hunterdon County through Washington Township in Morris County, passes through the Ken Lockwood Gorge. The trail is popular with walkers, cyclists and equestrians.
"The Ken Lockwood Gorge is one of the scenic wonders of New Jersey," said William B. Leavens III of the Long Valley-based Leavens Foundation. "The Leavens Foundation is proud to have been a partner with New Jersey Conservation Foundation in acquiring this property to address the accessibility of the site."

New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private nonprofit that preserves land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since 1960, New Jersey Conservation has protected 125,000 acres of open space - from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bayshore, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks. For more information about the Foundation's programs and preserves, go to or call 1-888-LAND-SAVE (1-888-526-3728).

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