Coastal Heritage Trail - Barnegat Region - New Jersey Scenic Byway
Industry And Trade
The Barnegat Bay Sneakbox, a small, shallow draft, broad-beamed sailing boat, was designed in the 1830s to be pulled easily up into the reeds and camouflaged. Originally used as a duck blind, the design was so popular that it was adapted and produced in a variety of sizes for different uses. Examples of the Sneakbox and other boats native to the New Jersey coast can be found at the Toms River Seaport Society Museum.
Because of the relative abundance of lumber, boat and shipbuilding became major industries during the 19th century. Today, fishing—both commercial and sport—is the basis of the region's economy.
Aids To Navigation
The Intercoastal Waterway, a series of protected passages hugging the shoreline, allows small ships to travel the east coast without being subjected to the perils of the open sea. The north entrance is located in Manasquan Inlet near Point Pleasant. It follows the Atlantic shoreline in protected back bays, south to Cape May and into the Delaware River.
Lighthouses guide ships along the busy and often dangerous mid-Atlantic coast. Barnegat Lighthouse marked the entrance to Barnegat Bay and served as a reference point for trans-Atlantic mariners.
Sometimes, lighthouses were unsuccessful in warning ships of dangerous shoals and rocky reefs. By the 1890s, the United States Life Saving Service had constructed stations every 3 1/2 miles along the New Jersey coast. These stations maintained crews and equipment to rescue shipwrecked victims. Today, the U.S. Coast Guard performs these emergency functions. Many of the 19th century Life Saving Service stations have been converted for use as private homes and offices. An example of a former Life Saving Service Station can be seen at Island Beach State Park.
During the Revolutionary War, the fledgling United States supplemented its small navy with privateers. New Jersey's secluded coves and inlets provided a safe haven for many of these privateers who were encouraged to harass and capture enemy vessels.
Coastal areas were also a source of salt, a crucial commodity widely used for preserving food. Skirmishes for control of these productive saltworks occurred frequently during the war. During WWI, the town of Tuckerton became famous when the U.S. Navy discovered an 820-foot-high radio tower the Germans were building on Mystic Island. President Woodrow Wilson seized the tower for American use. The tall tower is gone now, but the concrete building still remains.
Barnegat Bay Decoy & Baymen's Museum
At the entrance porch to the museum is a replica hunting shanty with a life-like display of "master" carver, Harry V. Shourds, a world-class decoy carver and one of Tuckerton's famous baymen.
Museum exhibits illustrate the life of a Barnegat Bay bayman hunting, fishing, clamming, oystering, boat building, decoy carving, charter fishing—and the history of the U.S. Life Saving Service along the Jersey shore.
Directions: From exit 58 on the Garden State Parkway, follow county road 539 southeast to Tuckerton. Proceed south on US 9, to Tip Seaman Park. Hours: The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Telephone: (609) 296-8868.
Barnegat Lighthouse State Park
Towering 161 feet, the Barnegat Lighthouse was erected in 1857-58 to serve as a guide to the inlet at Barnegat Bay. Ship Captains, who wanted a coastal light, complained frequently in the 1850s that under good conditions, the original 40-foot lighthouse could be seen for ten miles. But, if the weather was hazy, no one could tell if the light was from the lighthouse tower or from another ship.
In response, and largely due to the number of shipwrecks in the area, the lighthouse board erected the new light tower containing a first order Fresnel lantern and lens.
The lighthouse was turned over to the state park system in 1944, and now thousands of visitors climb its tower annually. It is probably one of the most photographed lighthouses in the state. Picnicking, beach walking, and birding are just a few of the recreational opportunities.
Directions: From the Garden State Parkway, take exit 63. Follow state road 72 east onto Long Beach Island, then north on county road 607 to the very north end of the island. Hours: The lighthouse is open daily throughout the summer and on weekends in the spring and fall. Telephone: (609) 494-2016.
Toms River Seaport Society Museum
The Society's headquarters and museum was once the carriage house for the famous inventor, Joseph Francis. His corrugated metal "lifecar" is credited with saving thousands of lives—victims of shipwrecks along the Atlantic coast and around the world.
The museum exhibits more than 25 indigenous watercraft, including the Barnegat Bay Sneakbox and the Jersey Sea Skiff, developed by mariners and local "baymen" to harvest waterfowl, crab, flounder, clams, and oysters.
Directions: From the Garden State Parkway, take exit 81. Follow Water Street east to Hooper Avenue. The museum is located in downtown Toms River at 78 Water Street (parking on Hooper Avenue). Hours: The museum is open Tuesday and Saturday (except holidays) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Telephone: (908) 349-9209.
U.S. Coast Guard Station, Barnegat Light
Perhaps one of the most treacherous of New Jersey's barrier island inlets, this central coast area suffered nearly 200 shipwrecks within a ten-year period during the 1840's. Today, the crew of Coast Guard Station, Barnegat Light provides assistance to boaters who have trouble navigating the strong waves and shifting sands of the inlet.
An interpretive wayside exhibit explains the role of the U.S. Coast Guard in the history of our nation's maritime developments.
Directions: From the Garden State Parkway, take exit 63 or 63A and follow state road 72 east to Long Beach Island. Turn north on county road 607 to the far north end of the island. The station is located on the corner of 6th and Bayview. Hours: Open daily unless the crew is called out on an emergency. Telephone: (609) 494-2680.
U.S. Coast Guard Station, Beach Haven
A relatively new station, Coast Guard Station, Beach Haven was constructed in the 1960s to serve the busy inlet into the protected back bay of Little Egg Harbor. An interpretive wayside exhibit explains the role of the U.S. Coast Guard and provides a historical perspective of its roots.
Directions: From the Garden State Parkway, take exit 63 or 63A and follow state road 72 east to Long Beach Island. Turn south on county road 607 to Pelham Avenue. The station is located on the bay-side of Long Beach Island, at the intersection of Pelham and West Avenues. Hours: Open daily unless the crew is called out on an emergency. Telephone: (609) 492-1423.
Forked River State Marina
The marina contains 125 slips in the 20- to 55-foot range and has become a focal point for the community of Forked River. The site on which the administration building now stands formerly housed a full service gas station. The old building was demolished and the new facility constructed in 1990.
Directions: From the Garden State Parkway take exit 69 to county road 532 for northbound traffic or exit 74 to county road 614 for southbound traffic to US 9. The marina is located along US 9 approximately nine miles south of the Toms River area. Hours: The office is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Telephone: (609) 693-5045.
LSS Station #14, Island Beach State Park
The evolving history of the U.S. Life Saving Service can still be found along New Jersey's barrier islands. At one time, three life saving stations provided shore rescue services for Island Beach.
This site, now the park maintenance facility, was the original station #14 when the U.S. Life Saving Service began in 1848. By 1915, approximately 178,000 people, shipwrecked along the Atlantic seaboard, owed their lives to the heroic efforts of the LSS.
An interpretive exhibit explains the role of the U.S. Life Saving Service along the Jersey Shore. Island Beach State Park offers naturalist-conducted activities and beach recreation.
Directions: From the Garden State Parkway take exit 82 to state road 37, east through Toms River and across Barnegat Bay to Island Beach. Turn south to Seaside Park via county road 35. Hours: Open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (or until dark) and on weekends from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (or until dark). Telephone: (908) 793-0506.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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