New Jersey Butterfly Club

A chapter of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA)

Crosswicks Creek Greenway

by Greg Prelich

County: Monmouth.

Municipality: Upper Freehold Township.

Directions: Crosswicks Creek Greenway is a component of Crosswicks Creek County Park in the Monmouth County Parks system that has multiple access points scattered along Crosswicks Creek. Here we limit our discussion to the best section of the park for butterflies, located at the junction of Monmouth Rd (CR 537) and Province Line Rd, with the parking lot located 300 yds north of that intersection (40.081773, -74.554226) (139 Province Line Rd). That intersection is the point where Monmouth, Ocean, and Burlington Counties intersect, with the park on the Monmouth County side of the junction. (Ocean County is on the south side of Monmouth Rd., and Burlington County is on the western side of Province Line Rd.)

From I-195 take exit 16, Rte. 537 (Monmouth Rd.). Travel southwest for 9 miles to Province Line Rd. To access the site from Rte. 539, travel 3 miles westward on Monmouth Rd. and then turn right onto Province Line Rd, or if arriving via Rte. 206, travel 10 miles eastward on Monmouth Rd, and then turn left onto Province Line Rd.

Parking: A large gravel parking area that can accommodate at least 20 cars is located at the trailhead on Province Line Rd. It is rare, however, to see more than one or two cars in the lot.

Nearest sizable town: The nearest town, New Egypt, is 2 miles to the south. Several restaurants and gas stations are scattered along Rte 539, 3 miles west of the park, and basic services can be found in New Egypt. After a summer’s day in the field, a stop at TK’s Ice Cream (1/4 mile north of the intersection of Monmouth Rd and Rte 539) is warranted.

Habitats: Crosswicks Creek is a meandering slow-moving stream that winds through the area, but the creek itself does not enter this section of the park. Instead, the Crosswicks Creek Greenway Access is a large wildflower meadow (approximately 500 yds x 600 yds) in the midst of farmland with scattered stands of hardwoods, a hardwood forest on the northern upland section, and a small pond / wetland.

Maintained/Marked trails: Yes. The Greenway is essentially a rolling wildflower meadow with wide mowed trails. A few loop options extend through the park, ranging from 0.5 mile to 1 mile in length, that can be viewed on the trail map to the right.

Restrooms: A porta-potty is located in the parking lot. Indoor facilities can be accessed at the Dunkin’ at the intersection of Rte. 539 and Monmouth Rd. or at the Brigadier Doyle Cemetery 1 mile north on Province Line Rd.

Picnic tables: There is no picnic area here. One picnic table is located alongside the pond, but it is 400 yds from the parking lot. I typically bring a folding chair and enjoy lunch or a snack or simply rest in the shade beside the quiet and large parking lot while being distracted by the butterflies landing or flying nearby.

Notable species: This is one of the most under-butterflied locations that I have visited in NJ. Due to its central location within the state, it lacks the northern highland specialty species, but is on the northern end of the southern species, making it a wonderful location for diversity. Highlights for me are large numbers of Common Wood-nymphs in July, a nice smattering of grass skipper species, and species such as Hackberry Emperor, Common Checkered-skipper, Banded Hairstreak, White M Hairstreak, Little Yellow, Ocola Skipper, and both Variegated and Great Spangled Fritillary have been seen here. Sulfurs and Swallowtails should be expected in numbers that would satisfy most butterfliers. Viceroys use the willows near the pond as a host plant. In season it is always fun and not unusual to see a dozen or more Snowberry Clearwing and Hummingbird Clearwing moths mixed in. With greater coverage, who can predict what else can be found here.

Best time to visit: The meadows here are probably best from July through September, when the butterflies are drawn to the milkweeds, Purple Loosestrife, abundant NY Ironweed, Joe Pye Weed, Vervain, thistles, Dogbane, Tickseed Sunflower, goldenrods, and asters. From summer through fall the fields are alive with purple and yellow flowers that are butterfly magnets and in itself are worth a visit for the visual treat.

Exploring Crosswicks Creek Greenway Access: As can be seen in the trail map in this site description, there are a few loops through the meadow, although most are not named or color-coded. My recommendation is to do a loop, return to the parking lot for a snack or rest, and then enjoy another loop. Look for large patches of mixed nectar sources that will change as the season progresses. Start by checking puddles in the parking lot that can draw butterflies in. Perhaps the best ~1 mile loop is to follow Deep Run Trail that leads away from Province Line Rd., passing through a small section of trees. Continue for ~ 200 yds, taking the third (and marked) leftward turn to stay on Deep Run Trail. In ~200 yds further the trail passes a small pond and slightly wetter habitat that typically is very productive. After passing the pond, stay toward the left. Deep Run Trail goes into the woods (which can be worth exploring for a short distance for satyrs), but return back and continue on the trail adjacent to the treeline that climbs slightly upward to drier habitat. After hugging the treeline for ~500 yds, a trail to the right is the central trail that leads back to the parking lot to complete a nice ~1-mile loop. In my experience here, the central trail and the lower lying area near the pond seems to be the most productive. As with many meadow habitats, invasive plants are present and a potential problem, and I hope that this property can be maintained as productive wildflower meadow for years to come.

Special precautions: Hunting is allowed here, but not during the heart of butterfly season. It is best to check on local regulations annually. I rarely see other people here other than an occasional fisherman at the pond or infrequent dog walkers.

You might also want to visit: Historic Walnford is another part of Crosswicks Creek Park, located a 10 minute drive away. It contains a mill, a house that dates back to 1773, and 36 acres of farm and field. In season, U-pick peaches and apple picking occurs at Strawberry Hill Farm 10 minutes away. Support your local farmers and farmstands during harvest season. Assunpink WMA is a 20 minutes drive to the north. Colliers Mills WMA is 11 minutes away to the east.

Further information about Crosswicks Creek Greenway and Crosswicks Creek Park is available.

To view a larger map, click on 'View larger map' icon in upper right hand corner. (Tip: The satellite view may also suggest good potential butterfly habitat to explore.)

Parking Area

This is the entrance to the large gravel parking lot, with the porta-potty (normally in fine condition) in the background.

Trail Entrance

The central trail begins beyond this gate.

Trail Map

Crosswicks Creek trail map.

Trail Marker

Trail marker.

Crosswicks Creek Meadow

Here a nice patch of Tickseed Sunflower is being examined for butterflies in late August with some NY Ironweed in the foreground.

Trail Towards Pond

Deep Run Trail is bordered by trees for this stretch as it descends slightly to the pond.