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The Columbia Trail: Part of the South Branch Reservation
  Columbia Trail Parking Lot Next

Columbia Trail Parking Lot.  The High Bridge municipal parking lot also serves as public parking for this trail.  The Columbia Trail was a former rail line completed in 1876 by the Central Railroad of New Jersey, as the High Bridge Branch.  The line ran from High Bridge to Port Oram, currently known as Wharton, in Morris County.  The line accommodated passengers, but was highly regarded for its shipments of iron ore from the mines of Morris County.  The most spectacular wreck occurred on April 18, 1885 when Engine #112 (known as The Columbia) was pulling 45 cars and plummeted off an 80-foot wooden trestle into the South Branch of the Raritan River.  The wooden trestle was replaced by steel piers in 1930 and is now known as the Ken Lockwood Gorge Bridge.  The last passenger excursion occurred in 1935 and the last freight train ran on April 1, 1976.  In the mid-1990s, the Columbia Gas Company of West Virginia constructed a gas line under the rail bed and the surface rights were transferred to the Hunterdon County Division of Parks and Recreation for use as a recreational trail, spanning seven miles from High Bridge to the Morris County line.

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Photographs by Valerie Lykes