Overhead view of the surrounding countryside

What to do in Turkey Swamp Park?

May 27, 2017


Though the park was named after the nearby town’s previous name, Turkey, the name Turkey Swamp Park is quite the misnomer. Turkeys do not tend to call the park home, although there is an increasing number that have begun to do so. The park is not much of a swamp, either. Visitors will find that the soil is somewhat sandy, rather than muddy, though in some areas of the expansive park there may be wet spots. When conditions are right, however, swampy conditions tend to form when the surface topography dips to the water line, causing a boggy effect on the park.

Found on the northern fringe of the Pine Barrens, over 90% of Turkey Swamp Park is forested, with slightly more than half of the park considered deemed a wetland. This park includes the head water regions of the Manasquan River and the Metedeconk River. The core of the park, which features a 17-acre lake perfect for bass, bluegill, and cat-fishing, was purchased in 1963. Since 1970, plots of land adjacent to the park have been purchased with the intent of expanding the park’s footprint, leading to its current configuration. Today, Turkey Swamp Park is the largest park in all of Monmouth County, and provides families with several different activities every day from 7 am to dusk, free of charge. In addition to activities around the lake including camping and hiking trails, Turkey Swamp Park also has multiple soccer fields available open to the public.

Activities in Turkey Swamp Park

Visitors consider the 17-acre lake as the main attraction at Turkey Swamp Park, but the park is packed with fun activities for the whole family, all year round. From fishing, boating, camping, and hiking to ice skating, soccer, and archery, Turkey Swamp park is a wonderful place to visit for the day or longer.  Keep reading to learn more about things to do at Turkey Swamp Park!

Lake Activities at Turkey Swamp Park

The 17-acre lake at the heart of Turkey Swamp park has a number of activities for families and those who just want some time in nature.  The lake itself is the home to bluegill, catfish, crappie, and bass, making for great fishing (note that a valid NJ fishing license is required for anyone over the age of 16).  For those who want to leave the shore for open water, the park has canoes, kayaks, rowboats, and paddle boats available to rent at reasonable rates throughout the summer. During the winter months, the lake freezes over enough to even enjoy ice skating the traditional way — on a lake! Just be sure only to ice skate when the safe-skating signs are posted. For more information, call 732-842-4000 ext 3 to check for ice conditions.

Turkey Swamp Park Hiking Trails

While the lake takes up a significant portion of the park, there is so much more to see. The park offers more than 8 miles of trails for hiking and walking, including a 1-mile fitness trail equipped with 20 different exercise stations.  Regardless of your skill level, Turkey Swamp Park has a trail for you. The park has 3 easy trails that range from .5 to 1.6 miles that take you all the way around the lake, as well as 3 moderately difficult trails that take you further into the forest, allowing you to enjoy the flora and fauna native to the park. Please note, due to an overabundance of white-tailed deer in the park, which has begun to threaten the health of native plants and animals, the park may be open for deer hunting through some or all of New Jersey’s hunting seasons. While all hunting areas are clearly marked, please be observant of these special seasons.

Camping at Turkey Swamp Park

The park system at Turkey Swamp Park has always kept campers in mind, with roughly 300 acres of land purchased in 1993 from the Monmouth County Girl Scouts with the goal of expanding the camping areas of the park. Campsites at Turkey Swamp Park are divided into family and group camping. The family campground is open from April 1st to November 15th and accommodates both tents and travel trailers. There are plenty of sites to choose from, with 64 wooded family campsites, 52 of which can be reserved by phone with a small prepaid fee for at least two nights. The remaining 12 sites are first come, first served, though there are also 2 cabins available, one of which is handicap accessible. Family campsites also have access to electrical service, drinking water, picnic tables, playgrounds, restrooms, showers, and laundry. Please call 732-462-7286 for reservations.

For group camping, Turkey Swamp Park offers platform tent camping from April 1 to November 15th. Groups will find that there are 6 different campsites spread across the 300 acres of the Nomoco Activity Area, each of which accommodates up to 40 people. Three of the six sites have platform tents, though all have picnic shelters, ground grills, and pit toilets.

Other Activities at Turkey Swamp Park


One of the most popular features of the park is the archery range, which consists of 8 bale targets placed at various distances, making the range suitable for all skill levels. The archery range is open year round during posted park hours and features 7 different shooting stations. Archers interested in practicing at Turkey Swamp Park must bring their own equipment, including paper targets, and must only use field points — not broad head arrows. Those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult 21 years or older. The Park system also offers an introduction to archery clinic for individuals, as well as for organized groups.

Bird Watching

Turkey Swamp Park may not be full of turkeys, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t good birdwatching to be had here. Visitors to the park will be amazed by the diversity of forest-nesting birds in the area, which include the hermit thrush, eastern phoebe, scarlet tanager, and golden-crowned kinglet. The 4,000 acres of public and private land in the park also provide homes to larger birds, like barred, screech, and great horned owls. The lake itself often plays host to many water birds, including the belted kingfisher, egrets, herons, and more.

A Word of Caution: Lyme Disease at Turkey Swamp Park

Lyme disease should be top of mind when spending time in a forest, not just at Turkey Swamp Park. It’s best to be cautious, and stay away from tall grass and shrubby areas. When under tree cover, wearing a hat can significantly reduce the odds of finding a tick in your hair. The Turkey Swamp Park system also suggests wearing light-colored clothes and to tuck long pants into socks. The best way to avoid catching Lyme disease is to check yourself for ticks during and after every visit to the park.

Visit Turkey Swamp Park!

Don’t let Lyme disease scare you away from visiting Turkey Swamp Park. Not only is it the largest park in Monmouth County, but there is a whole host of activities available to individuals, groups, and families. So what are you waiting for? Go out for a picnic! Only 1.5 miles or a 3 minute drive separates Applewood from the many activities offered at Turkey Swamp Park. Click to learn more about the many other attractions and activities available to residents of Applewood.