Photo: Gone Hikin'/Blogger, http://gonehikin.blogspot.com

Mahlon Dickerson Reservation, the largest park in the Morris County Park System operated by the Morris County Park Commission, is located in Jefferson Township, in effect dividing the Milton/Oak Ridge section and the Lake Hopatcong section of the municipality by a vast area of woods.  The property encompasses 3,346.07 acres of beautiful near-wilderness and recreational areas.

The history of the Reservation goes back to 1960.  Primarily as a conservation area, the parcel first acquired by the Park Commission was from Wildlife Preserves, Inc., in September of that year.

The Reservation offers over 20 miles of multi-use trails for novice and experienced skill levels. Recreation opportunities span all four seasons with off-road bicyclists discovering the challenge and adventure of the blazed biking trails; and for other outdoor enthusiasts, there’s horseback riding, jogging, camping, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and softball.

One of the reservation’s outstanding features is Headley Overlook, the highest point not only in the park system but in Morris County.  At an elevation of 1,280 feet, the view is magnificent.

The Saffin Pond area is a most scenic location to enjoy a day of fishing and access to hiking, biking and equestrian trails as well as ice skating and picnicking.  The Saffin Rock Rill area offers space for educational programs.

The Reservation offers many picnic areas to gather family and friends for an outdoor picnic.  The general picnic area has both group and family sites with tables and charcoal grills, a pavilion, ball field, exercise area and horseshoe pit. For larger groups of 25 or more, reservations can be made for  one of the picnic shelters along with the picnic tables.  Reservations for picnic areas, shelters, or ball field can be made by contacting the Reservations Office or 973.326.7619.

Some of the unique activities at Mahlon Dickerson Reservation include a radio controlled car track (in the field adjacent to the Jefferson Township Middle School), a field archery course, and model boat racing. All are operated by nonprofit groups comprised of interested residents.

The reservation has two options for overnight stays. The first is a camping area with tent sites and Adirondack shelters, complete with platforms, picnic tables and fire rings. In addition, a trailer area with paved sites has electric and seasonal water hook-ups, picnic tables, and charcoal grills.

The camping facilities include 4 Adirondack Shelters (9’x11’ lean-to) w/picnic tables & reflector fire rings, 8 Tent sites (12’x12’) w/tent platforms, picnic tables, and fire rings, 2 Port-a-Johns (1 handicapped accessible), a water source (behind shelter #4, May – Oct.), an Information Directory, a Campfire Council Ring w/log seats, firewood for sale (5 p.m. Wed. – Sun.), and heated restrooms & showers.

The Recreational Vehicle area’s facilities include 18 paved, wooded RV sites w/ picnic tables & charcoal grills, electrical hookups (30 & 50 amp.), and water hookups (May – Oct.).   Some sites may require extra hose to reach water hookup

The park is named in honor of Mahlon Dickerson,  born in 1770 in Hanover Township (Province of NJ, British America), he attended the College of NJ.   He went on to serve as a Private in the NJ Detached Militia and fought in the Whiskey Rebellion.  He then served as the Pennsylvania Attorney General from 1808 to 1809, was elected to the NJ General Assembly in 1811, became the 7th Governor of NJ in 1815, was elected a US Senator from NJ and served from 1817 to 1829 (Class 2), and again served as a US Senator from NJ (Class 1) from 1829 to 1833.  He continued his service to his country as the 10th US Secretary of the Navy appointed by President Andrew Jackson in 1834, and he was appointed to the US District Court for NJ by Martin VanBuren in 1840.  Dickerson died in Succasunna, NJ in 1853 at the age of 83.

To sum it up, the Park named in Dickerson’s honor,  includes athletic fields, bike trails (unpaved), equestrian trails, fitness stations, a lake, picnic areas (non-reservable), picnic areas (reservable), picnic shelter (reservable), play areas, trails, and restrooms.

Pets are always welcome, but they must be on a leash.

Year round activities include, biking, camping – platform, camping – tent, camping – trailer, commercial filming, commercial photography, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, ice skating, picnicking, and snowshoeing.

Tented events for wedding ceremonies, wedding photography, and cross-country skiing are encouraged as well.

The facility is handicapped accessible.

Digital trail maps and other information are available online at http://m66.siteground.biz/~morrispa/index.php/parks/mahlon-dickerson-reservation or by calling 973.326.7631.

Mahlon Dickerson Reservation is open daily Sunrise to Sunset throughout the year, and the campground and RV areas are open April through November.

The address of the campground office is 955 Weldon Road, Lake Hopatcong and is open from  April 1 through November 30,  Wednesdays to Fridays from 1 to 6  pm, Saturdays from 10 am to 6 pm, and on Sundays from 1 to 6 pm.    Call 973.697.3140 or email mdrcamping@morrisparks.net

Enjoy one of the gems that the Morris County Park Commission offers, right here in Jefferson’s backyard.

Graphic: Gone Hikin’/Blogger, http://gonehikin.blogspot.com

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Carol was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and moved to Jefferson Township with her husband in 1976. She initially joined the Garden Club of Milton, eventually serving as President. She was a co-founder of the ABC Mothers Group, active in the local PTAs, Girl Scouts, and Cub Scouts. She worked for AIM Newspapers as a reporter and eventually became its Editor. Currently, she is President of the Jefferson Arts Committee and the Recreation Program Coordinator in the Jefferson Township Recreation Department. She can be reached at carol.punturieri@thejeffersonchronicle.com.

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