Spring at Duke Farms in Hillsborough

by Alice Magdziak • March 29, 2013 • Photography, SomersetComments (0)2382

We’ve been hearing about Duke Farms all week because of their Eagle Cam.  The camera is set up for internet viewers to see eaglets that hatched on the 25th but the main news story this week was when a red-tailed hawk flew into the next and the mother eagle fought and killed it.  As of this morning you could still see parts of the hawk carcass in the eagles’ nest on the live Eagle Cam.  It was quite a fight and a great news story.

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Of course, it got us curious about checking out Duke Farms and it was on my list of places I wanted to visit anyway so we took the drive out to the rolling hills of beautiful central New Jersey and Hillsborough.  The grounds are the 1893-1925 creation of J.B. Duke, Doris Duke’s father. He took more than 2,000 acres of farmland and woods and transformed it into manicured gardens and lush wilder meadows. He added nine lakes, constructed some 45 buildings, and built nearly 2 ½ miles of stone walls and more than 18 miles of roadway. The building above is the Orientation Center which is where the visitor parking is located near as well as tram service around the property which starts April 1st. The Orientation Center has a cafe and displays where you can learn about all the programs they have.

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All around the property there are beautiful stone bridges and structures.

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Maybe the most picturesque area of Duke Farms is the Old Foundation and Great Meadow area.  In 1903, Duke wanted to build a grand mansion on the property but construction was abruptly and mysteriously stopped after the just the foundation was completed.  The Old Foundation overlooks the Great Meadow and several lakes.  It certainly would have been one of the most beautiful homes in New Jersey had it been built.

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This is the vista of the Great Meadow from the Old Foundation.

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But, even away from the more structured areas of the Farms, the paths are lovely and well-paved.  There are paved mixed-use pedestrian and bike paths as well as more winding gravel paths solely for pedestrians.

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The Hay Barn is just a shell of a barn but inside the old barn they’ve lined up lovely ladies and made a nice quiet area just inside the trail area.

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By far, the most strikingly gorgeous area was the Orchid Range.  In fact, the greenhouses were so packed with lush orchids and other rainforest-like greenery that we’re going to save all of those pictures for a second post of just orchids!  Stay tuned for orchids.  Here’s a glimpse of just the showcase building.

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If you’re looking for a nice hike with the family, love environmental stewardship, orchids or just nature, you owe it to yourself to check out more of Duke Farms.  And, remember to look out for our orchid post in the next week or so.

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