Thompson's Beach, Shellpile, and Bivalve

Discussion in 'Get Togethers, Events, and Trip Reports' started by Ben Ruset, Jul 12, 2009.

  1. Ben Ruset Administrator

    Member Since:
    Oct 12, 2004
    Location:
    Asbury Park, NJ
    Today I took the opportunity to go down and visit some places I've wanted to visit ever since I've been interested in New Jersey ghost towns. I haven't been to Cumberland County in nearly 10 years, and even then it was just a drive with a friend though Buckshutem and Mauricetown. Today I was going solo, and planning on a more thorough trip.

    I started the day by driving down to Thompson's Beach. It's been discussed here before, but the long and short of the place is that the state (or county) decided that maintaining that road that goes through the marsh was too not worth the time or money, so they condemned all of the houses along the beach in 1998 and tore them down. All that remains there are remnants of pilings, cinder blocks, and a large fireplace. But let's not jump ahead too far.

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    Driving down to Thompson's Beach is a breeze. You can take the road all the way to a parking lot that has a nice observation deck for the birders. The remainder of the road is beyond that gate. Most of it ends up looking like this:

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    Al mentioned that while you're going to be slogging through the mud to get to Thompson's Beach it's not so bad because the basic roadwork (asphalt and gravel) is still mostly there. So you're not stepping into the abyss there. I had knee high boots on and the muck only got up midway to my knee. It was the worst right before you get to the beach as well.

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    Al's (former) Crabbing Spot.

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    In some places the road was pretty wide and still had a fair amount of asphalt on it. It's been bleached by the sun and the salt water.

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    Someone (or the wind) ripped down the keep out sign. You can see it still standing by the bulkhead in Ryan's book "Wandering Around South Jersey."

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    Birds galore.

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    The seawall.

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    The fireplace. This really is the only major feature out here. Beyond that, it's all photographs of rubble, birds, and pilings.

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    So here's another view. What a great day!

    Here's the house in 1972.

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    I'm guessing that this is also part of Thompson's Beach Road. I had originally thought that it had ended at the beach in some sort of parking lot and that residents would need to have walked to their houses, but it looks like the road goes along the beach according to HistoricAerials.com.

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    Jim's turret looking thing.

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    From there it was a hike back to the truck and then a 25 minute drive to the other side of the Maurice River to visit Shellpile and Bivalve. I made it to Bivalve first, only to find a shell pile:

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    Now, I can't even begin to describe the smell of this area. Anywhere you go around here there's an unpleasant tinge of fish smell in the air, but by the piles of shells it absolutely smells like fish death.

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    The Bayshore Discovery Project is serious about getting people to learn about the Delaware Bayshore. Almost anywhere you go there are signs up about it. Here they've recycled the top part of a tugboat into a pretty eye-catching office/billboard.

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    Then on into Shellpile, which was just down the road from Bivalve:

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    This huge anchor is right outside of a dilapidated marina.

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    More piles of shells.

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    My chariot. :)

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    The Coral Sea - now probably seeing the last of it's days baking in the sun at the end of the road in Shellpile.

    Shellpile has always been a major area for the harvesting and processing of oyster shells. There's a bunch of photos from the 1930's that the WPA took in the area:
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    At one point in time there was a saloon and housing for workers:

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    If you lived in Shellpile, maybe going to Bivalve was like going to "the city." They had a barber shop there:

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    A lot more houses.

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    Oysters, of course.

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    Even piles of them.

    You can see all of the images from today's trip here, or take a walk back in time with the historic photos of Bivalve and Shellpile here.
  2. james ungehajer New Member

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2006
    Nice outing Ben, it looks like the hike out to Thompson's was at almost full high tide. How did you like the smell of the Marsh gas ? You should have had a nice breeze there today to keep the bugs at bay.

    While in Shellpile did you happen to eat at the restaurant ? Great seafood in there.

    How many miles was it from your house to the observation deck on Thompson's Beach Road ? Did you take the Parkway down ?

    Have you ever visited Caviar ?

    Where's the Wrangler ?

    Jim
  3. Ben Ruset Administrator

    Member Since:
    Oct 12, 2004
    Location:
    Asbury Park, NJ
    The marsh gas didn't bother me as much as the shell piles.

    I didn't even see the restaurant at Shellpile. I ended up eating at the Roy Rogers at the rest stop on the Parkway. Haven't had it in years, and now I feel that once every other decade is enough for me.

    Don't remember how many miles it was, but it was almost a two hour ride down the Parkway and then over to Thompson's Beach. Burned through about half a tank of gas yesterday.

    Never been to Caviar. I don't get down to that area much.

    The Wrangler is being driven by my mom. It's a lease, and she puts way less miles on it than she does. Plus the new Wranglers are crap compared to the old ones. The Touareg I have has air suspension which can raise it up as high as the Rubicon got as well as a center and rear locking differentials. In a lot of ways it's better for off-roading in the Pine Barrens because it has pretty much everything the Wrangler had plus is a lot heavier, so it gets traction really well. Plus the 306hp V8 helps a lot too. :)
  4. Ben Ruset Administrator

    Member Since:
    Oct 12, 2004
    Location:
    Asbury Park, NJ
  5. james ungehajer New Member

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2006
    Actuall they consider the Shellpile Restaurant to be in Port Norris, like i said, great seafood, but the main thing that i did not like about the place is that you can not drink at the bar unless you are a member, that turned me off somewhat.

    I back the Conservancy's plan concerning Thompson's Beach Road, if the Electric Company (PSE&G) did not open the dikes in the 80's which they said was to bring back the natural state of the area, then IMHO there still would be residents at Thompson's Beach.

    http://www.njwildlifetrails.org/Del...Guide/DELBAYSH/Site/26/Loop/CUBA/Default.aspx

    Pasted above is a few places that i would like to visit after bug season is over, i hate greenheads, i read on another website that at Turkey Point there is another bridge to nowhere like the one at Barnegat that i have yet to see.

    Jim
  6. manumuskin Piney

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2003
    Location:
    millville nj
    Ben,

    That posted sign was a good find.I remember trying to explore thompsons when people were still living there.As you approached the beach there were very large signs saying keep out and this means you and there were peopl coming out onto their decks looking at melike what are you doing here so i turned around and never got back to se the actual beach till several years later when they run everybody out.
    I no longer use the crabbing spot because my wife will not walk through the mud to get there but I would be guaranteed to have the spot to myself now.
    Those pics of the shellpile are great.I remember as a kid in the early 70's going down there with my dad while he cleaned and sold his catch at the docks.Their were old shacks lining the road back then with holes in the walls and the doors off and no glass in the windows and folks were living in them in the winter.old men were sitting outside around barrel fires plaing dominoes and cards and kids were hanging out the doors and windows in january.There were cadillacs parked outside.how can people live in a dump like that and still have cadillacs???
    also the cormorant shots are cool.those birds were sitting on the same pilings both times i went out there.must be a good fishing spot.
    Al
  7. manumuskin Piney

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2003
    Location:
    millville nj
    Jim

    remember we were discussing the pileings across the channel at the east end of the beach how that is no doubt where they breached the dikes.well the historical aerials verifys it.if you go to 1972 or earlier it is all one beach with road,houses and everything.also at this time their was no road but you could apparently walk from east poin to thompsons beach also.i never really expored this area til the late 80's and then it was still occupied so i stayed away from the beaches back then.i was more of a glades,egg island point explorer.much wilder.places never seem historic to me till their abandoned.
    I look in the mirror and i feel the aches and pains and I think you know,I'm getting more historical myself everyday.
    Al
  8. james ungehajer New Member

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2006
    The 72 aerial does verify your conclusions. I can just imagine the stares that you received from the people at Thompson's Beach, the sign that Ben found says it all. We are going to have to try crabbing at your old spot some day. Also, the pilings where the birds are as i said to you when we were there must be a great spot for Stripers and Sea Bass.

    The problem is if i caught a big 20 lb. Striper there it would be one heck of a walk back. The beach for Fishing at Thompson's has a lot better topography than Fortescue.

    Jim
  9. oji Piney

    Member Since:
    Jan 25, 2008
    Location:
    Browns Mills
    In the picture of the two cardplayers there is a sign on the wall above their heads saying" Kidding or joking about anyones wife or family, strictly forbidden"
  10. bobpbx Piney

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2002
    Location:
    Pines; Bamber area
    Al, you stop that kinda talk right now, right this instant. Stick with it.
  11. bobpbx Piney

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 2002
    Location:
    Pines; Bamber area
    Tom, yo momma is so fat the back of her neck looks like a pack of hotdogs
  12. woodjin Piney

    Member Since:
    Nov 8, 2004
    Location:
    Near Mt. Misery
    Nice and very informative report Ben. I've never been to these places and this report certainly sparks my interest.

    BTW, Not to get off topic but many years ago I was exploring around skullville and I ended up on this long road through the marsh and wound up on a small island/penninsula that had only a few small houses on it. There were people living there and they gave me (not surprisingly) some funny looks. A very seperated community to say the least. I will try to find it on a map. Does anybody know anything about it?

    I think this was it. http://maps.njpinebarrens.com/#lat=39.30896632302416&lng=-74.63128566741943&z=15&type=m&gpx= The arrow is a little north east of the houses but you get the idea.
    Jeff
  13. manumuskin Piney

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2003
    Location:
    millville nj
    Jeff

    the topo map says that is Morris beach.I've been close to it and no doubt seen it from the bridge but have never been in there.was it heavily posted with signs that say MINE! ?
    AL
  14. manumuskin Piney

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2003
    Location:
    millville nj
    sounds like fightin words to me:)
  15. manumuskin Piney

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2003
    Location:
    millville nj
    yeah my problem is a wife that likes to cook as much as i like to eat and just sitting around too much makes you feel old.i need to go out and get full of ticks at least twice a week to feel alive:)
    Al
  16. kayakmac New Member

    Member Since:
    Mar 11, 2009
    Location:
    Hail from Greenbank. Grew up on the Mullica. Work
    BTW, Not to get off topic but many years ago I was exploring around skullville and I ended up on this long road through the marsh and wound up on a small island/penninsula that had only a few small houses on it. There were people living there and they gave me (not surprisingly) some funny looks. A very seperated community to say the least. I will try to find it on a map. Does anybody know anything about it?

    Job's Point (as in the Biblical old testamenty namey thing). I beleive it may have started out as a black comunity, but then for a while became an artist colony. Still is a bit of both. (You got to like high water and greenheads). Nor'easters play hell with getting in and out. I believe it still has a gate at the entrance, but never closed now.
  17. Wayne New Member

    Member Since:
    Feb 21, 2012
    As a child my Dad would take me down to Thompson's Beach. We own and still own lots along the beach front. I am still paying the taxes on the lots. The last time I was physically on those lots and the beach at the southern end was 1973-74. There were about 50 houses with residents in them and you could drive on the beach front road. Back in the early to mid 60's there was a marina where my Dad kept his boat one season and there was a store just as you got to the water. I tried to get to the beach a few years ago but like you showed in your pictures, the road was gone, to bad it was a nice peaceful place. I did hear that they were going to put the road back, is that true?
  18. manumuskin Piney

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2003
    Location:
    millville nj
    They are speaking of making a hiking trail out along the old road as far as I know.Elevated or digging out the mud and walling it I don't know.a boardwalk would probably be the way to go.I haven't heard of rebuilding the road.I used to go there and crab once in awhile.Not a very friendly place for visitors.There were very large signs as you approached town saying "Keepo Out,This means You!" Got stuck out on the road once when the tide came in while crabbing.people were still living there then b ut the astate was starting the process of running them out then.
  19. Wayne New Member

    Member Since:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Interesting, I own property that I can not get to. My next move is to call the township. Thanks for getting back to me so soon. I will have to go out there with my crab trap and see if anyone stops me.
  20. manumuskin Piney

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2003
    Location:
    millville nj
    No one will stop you.It is state now,your allowed out there.I had no idea there was still some private property out there,sorry if I tresspassed on it,it wasn't signed. It would be a nice legal camping spot for you if you keep it.you can either boat in or wade knee deep mud up the old road.It is hard underneath but there is a foot of mud on top of the hardball.

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