Parvin State Park

by Editor/Bill Green | Sep 7, 2015
Parvin State Park Like almost any piece of land on this green Earth of ours, Salem County’s Parvin State Park of Pittsgrove has a long and interesting history. Covered by huge glaciers more than 15,000 years ago, the area where the park now sits has supported life for thousands of years, with artifacts from early man being found near its streams thousands of years old. Once the land became an habitable forest area, human life began in the region--including one of America’s oldest Native American tribes.

Nearly 1,000 years ago, the ancestors of what became the Lenape Indian tribe set their roots near the area. They mainly lived along a patch of land known as the “Muddy Run,” the nickname given to the main stream feeding into Parvin Lake. The Lenape used this stretch of land for hunting and fishing for hundreds of years, until 1676 when the land was purchased from them from colonial settler John Fenwick.

In 1742, the land changed ownership once more as the nearly 3,000-acre plot that the park sat on was purchased by John Estaugh, a Prospector of Western New Jersey. Estaugh would later pass the land onto Captain Richard Parker, who would then sell it to the man whom the park was named after, Elemuel Parvin, in 1796.

A few years before Parvin purchased the land, Parker had a dam built on the Muddy Run to power a nearby sawmill located on the property. The building of the dam resulted in the creation of Parvin Lake, which was created by the diversion of water through a sluiceway. Upon purchasing the land, Parvin also purchased the mill, which he ran the mill with his son, Charles. There were many mills located along the Run. These mills included six dams, resulting in six different man-made lakes: Elmer Lake, Greenwood Lake (no longer in existence), Palatine Lake, Centerton Lake, Rainbow Lake and, of course, Parvin Lake.

In the early 1800s, the forest area began to give way to deforestation, and parts were selected to serve as farmland for harvesting grains. The mill owned by the Parvins was one of the major suppliers of the lumber used to construct the farm buildings. The Mill was operated under the Parvin name until 1849, when Elemuel’s grandson, then mill operator, Lemuel Parvin sold the property to his son-in-law, Coombs Ackley. Ackley changed the mill name from Parvin Mill to Coombs Ackley Mill, which it operated under until 1930. Ackley also built a house for his family on the corner of what’s now known as Almond and Parvin Mill Roads. Though not open to the public, the house remains today and is the oldest remaining structure in the park. Ackley would sell the mill and the property in the late 1800s to a man simply known as Smith.

Smith was the man behind the vision of Parvin State park. It was Smith who created the first recreational facilities around the main lake of the park, later known as Union Grove Lake. These included picnic areas, beaches, boat liveries and concession stands. Smith also created small bungalows, which he would rent out to vacationers, boy scouts and campers alike. Smith later gave the property to his son in the early 1920s. Smith’s son decided to borrow $35,000 against the park, which proved to be a poor choice when the depression hit in October 1929. In order to save his shirt, Smith sold the property to the New Jersey state government in 1930, including the 918 acres of park land and 108-acre lake. On September 12, 1931, the state dedicated the park to the Parvin family, and renamed the patch of land Parvin State Park.

The park was a popular recreation area during the 1930s, with water festivals and swimming races held at the lake each summer. It even served as work for needy families under President Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Young men were paid up to $30 a month, $25 of which was sent home to their families, while they remained on active duty at the park. These workers would make vast improvements to the park over the next decade, including the completion of Thundergust Lake and upkeep of the park, which included cabin construction, bridge replacements and other necessary duties. One of the final projects completed by the CCC at Parvin State Park was the re-creation of a dam which was fatally damaged during the great flood of September 1st, 1940. This was the CCC’s last major contribution to the park before the start of WWII.

During the war, the park served as housing for many military operations. Some of these included the housing of displaced Japanese Americans, German prisoners of war, and, later in 1952, as housing for Russian refugees.

The fireplace foundation in the main recreation hall of the park serves as a monument to all the amazing achievements and pieces of history that have occurred at the park.

Today, Parvin State Park is known as one of New Jersey premiere recreation establishments and open areas. Its visitors each year include Americans from every part of the country. The park is open daily, sunrise to sunset.

For more information about Parvin State Park, go to


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