This fall, Duke Farms opened two new wonderful areas totaling some 225 acres to the public.
The first area is the Lowlands, which are visible from Overlook Way and River Road. This area consists of an ecologically restored floodplain of the Raritan River, where extensive wetlands have been restored and permanently preserved under the auspices of two Federal programs administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture: the Wetlands Reserve Program, and the Emergency Watershed Protection Program. Formerly tile-drained and used for growing corn and soybeans, this area flooded regularly, was subject to serious soil erosion, and was filled with invasive species. But after the tile drains were removed, some of the micro-topography was restored and several vernal ponds were created, this area will now help to store flood waters and provide critical habitat for a wide array of species while it slowly returns to a native riparian forest, which is what nature intended it to be. Several trails run along the river and over old farms roads framed by scenic alles of trees leading up to the Coach Barn area.
The second area, known as the Arboretum for the incredible specimen trees found there, is located where the seasonal residence at Duke Farms once stood. Some 50 acres surrounding the former seasonal residence have been restored and opened for the first time to public access. This area includes a Meditation Garden which will be open to the public on weekends and staffed by docents. The Arboretum can be accessed through the double gates at the end of Central Way by the Coach Barn, or by a new road at the end of West Way. Later this fall, Duke Farms will also open a new pedestrian/bicycle gate just off River Road, which will allow visitors to access Duke Farms from Raritan Borough via a trail that connects to the Nevius Street Bridge. Eventually, this trail will be paved and connect to the Somerset County Raritan River Greenway and Bikeway.
Get out an enjoy these new gems while the weather holds out and the foliage is at its peak!