There are many places where an industry rose and fell and left its footprint behind. In this case, the ruins at Fries Mill in New Jersey are all that’s left of a once-thriving sawmill and gristmill.
Located in the Pine Barrens on the Manumuskin River Preserve, the concrete structures of the old mills still exist today. One of the conveyor belts can still be found on the site and even old tools. Sand from the Pine Barrens is slowing covering the sawmill ruins with sand drifts.
Fries Mill was founded in the 1770s. With wood and water so abundant in the area and iron forges nearby, it was the perfect location. The wood provided fuel for the iron furnaces and water powered the mills. It wasn’t until almost 100 years later that John Fries purchased the mills and the name was changed.
Aside from the mill ruins, the surrounding area also has chimneys and foundations of the former homes of the mill workers. There is a nice worn horseshoe trail that will lead you to these chimneys and foundations—a total of three stone chimneys can be found on the trail. There are leftover signs of the people who once lived here, such as yucca plant near one of the chimneys and a cherry tree near the sawmill, both not native to the Pine Barrens.
Once you pass by the other foundations on the trail, you’ll come to the blue water lake. It’s a beautiful color with a sandy beach.
Update April 2017: The sawmill tower has been knocked down.
Know Before You Go
Park at the coordinates 39.3352193,-74.9613468. Walk along the railroad tracks heading northwest. There may be train cars parked there, but it's okay to walk along the tracks. Keep walking until you reach the sandy portion after the bridge. Once you reach that spot, there will be a trail opening to the right. That is the horseshoe trail that will take you to the chimney ruins and foundations, eventually leading you to the blue lake. If you want to see the sawmill and gristmill ruins, do not take the horseshoe trail. Keep walking until you see a third trail opening (the second opening is the exit of the horseshoe trail). Walk along the trail, you may come across and abandoned dune buggy that has been there for a while. You'll then be walking on asphalt covered with sand. Walk along the trail and you will come up on the mills. But don't worry if you past the third worn trail, you can keep walking until you come across another opening. You may see an Osprey nest on the electrical pole. Keep in mind that the sawmill and gristmill ruins are not that far from the train tracks.