The Pequest Wildlife Management Area encompasses 5,211 acres near the town of Oxford in Warren County, and is managed primarily for upland game, fishing, and trapping. Acquisition of the tract began in 1956 with woodlands and fields alongside the Pequest River. Today, it boasts plentiful recreational opportunities along with the State Trout Hatchery.
State Trout Hatchery & Education Center:
The Pequest Trout Hatchery, celebrating its 40th anniversary, raises over 600,000 rainbow trout for stocking in more than 180 public waters throughout the state each year. The hatchery is run by dedicated staff who operate and monitor the facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The hatchery also offers the public a self-guided tour and a natural resource education center that offers programs on a wide variety of natural resource topics.
Hiking – Marked and unmarked trails provide miles of hiking or cross-country skiing for all ability levels. Mountain biking is allowed on the trails from March 1 to April 15 and June 1 to September 15, as well as on Sundays throughout the year.
Fishing – The Pequest River, renowned for being one of the top trout rivers in the Garden State flows through the tract. Rainbow trout along with brown trout are taken, as are American eel, sunfish, suckers, and dace. Rainbow trout are stocked throughout the spring and in the fall. For the adventurous, there are two small ponds at higher elevations of the WMA which provide additional fishing opportunities for largemouth bass and sunfish.
Hunting – The deer habitat is excellent and so are the deer hunting prospects. For upland game, the principal native species in the area are rabbit and squirrel. There are even excellent hunting opportunities for fox and coyote to be found on the tract. This area is stocked with pheasants in four separate, planted, and managed fields each November. The mixed-oak forests growing on the ridges here provide ample acorns, beechnuts, and hickory nuts to support a healthy wild turkey population. The Pequest WMA boasts some of the finest turkey hunting in Warren County.
Dog Training – There is a Dog Training Area which like other dog training areas gets stocked with pheasant and chukar for the preseason and Youth Pheasant Hunts.
Ranges – Licensed hunters may use the archery range located adjacent to the visitor’s center on Pequest Road.
Wildlife – Stop at the visitor’s center and check-out exhibits that explain the importance of the area’s geology, how fish are raised, and why habitat is so important. A backyard wildlife habitat demonstration area and butterfly garden attract many species of birds and butterflies. Take a hike on one of the many trails and experience Pequest’s varied terrain and habitats. Trails start at the visitor’s center and wind past an old lime kiln, through cultivated and old fields, up rocky ridges, and along the Pequest River. Bat and bluebird boxes provide nesting habitat for bats, swallows, wrens, and eastern bluebirds. Overlooks located on the dominant ridge running through the tract are great places to try hawk-watching in the fall. Bald eagles are a common sight over the Education Pond. Look for ring-necked pheasant, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbits, coyotes, and woodchucks in the fields and along the forest edges. Black bears wander through the tract as well, so hikers need to be “bear aware.”
Owned by New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Fish & Wildlife, the Wildlife Management Area System is comprised of more than 360,000 acres in 122 areas throughout the state, which is more than 44% of New Jersey’s state-owned public open space. WMAs are maintained and supported with funding from license sales, the Federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program and the Wildlife Habitat Supporter Program.
If you are interested in supporting the maintenance of the Columbia WMA and other Wildlife Management Areas, become a Wildlife Habitat Supporter by donating now:
WMAs are patrolled by NJ Fish & Wildlife Conservation Police Officers to ensure public safety. If you see violations while visiting a WMA, please call the 24-hour DEP hotline at 877-WARN-DEP (877-927-6337).
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