The Pine Barrens

October 31, 2020
The Pine Barrens

Most people think of New Jersey as a suburban-industrialcorridor that runs between New York and Philadelphia. Yet in thelow center of the state is a near wilderness, larger than mostnational parks, which has been known since the seventeenth centuryas the Pine Barrens.The term refers to the predominant trees in the vast foreststhat cover the area and to the quality of the soils below, whichare too sandy and acid to be good for farming. On all sides,however, developments of one kind or another have gradually movedin, so that now the central and integral forest is reduced to abouta thousand square miles. Although New Jersey has the heaviestpopulation density of any state, huge segments of the Pine Barrensremain uninhabited. The few people who dwell in the region, the"Pineys," are little known and often misunderstood. Here McPheeuses his uncanny skills as a journalist to explore the history ofthe region and describe the people—and their distinctivefolklore—who call it home.