Hatchery and Hikes at Pequest WMA►
The Pequest Wildlife Management Area is the site of the only state-owned and operated trout hatchery. Operating since 1981, Pequest produces up to 700,000 trout per year. These trout stock New Jersey’s lakes and streams.
I visited Pequest during the shutdown for Covid-19, so the hatchery was closed. In normal times, you can take a self-guided tour of the hatchery by following the fish painted on the sidewalks. Since it was quiet, I was able to see Turkey Vultures, Herons and other birds of prey stalking the raceways for breakfast. The fluttering metallic ribbons placed over the raceways did not seem to deter the birds in the absence of people.
Fortunately, there is more to Pequest than the hatchery. You can explore over 4000 acres with three marked trails in the Wildlife Management Area.
First, I took the one-mile Red Trail. This trail is the Natural Resource Trail with numbered stops and interpretive signs along the way. It begins near the ruins of a lime kiln. Farmers burned limestone here from the 1800s to the 1930s. They produced agricultural lime to reduce the acidity of the soil for crops.
After visiting the pond at the top of the Red Trail, I veered onto the Blue Trail. The sandy path reminded me more of a coastal trail than one you’d expect in the woodlands. Turns out, glaciers deposited all that sand and gravel millennia ago. Some of this material was quarried for use in the hatchery’s raceways.
On the way back to my car, I stopped to watch the trout in the display pool in front of the visitor center. When the hatchery is open, you can buy feed for these big guys and watch them eat. While it would have been nice to tour the hatchery, having the Pequest State Wildlife Management Area to myself was lovely.
Location: 605 Pequest Rd, Oxford, NJ 07863
Designation: State Wildlife Management Area
Date designated/established: 1981
Date of my visit: June 15, 2020