Wilderness region in the coastal plain of southern New Jersey, USA, occupying parts of Atlantic, Cumberland, Ocean, and Burlington counties; area 2,600 sq km/1,000 sq mi. It comprises an enormous shallow aquifer (porous, permeable rock containing water) overlaid with sandy soils. The area is marked by swamps and marshes, and cut by meandering streams, of which the Mullica River is the largest. Pine Barrens is very lightly populated, its main settlement being Chatsworth, in Woodland Township. Cranberry bogs and blueberry fields are commercially exploited, and vegetables are also grown. The region contains several state forests, and provides a habitat for unusual insectivorous plants and orchids, rare animals, and micro-organisms important in producing antibiotics. Batsto, an 18th-century settlement, is now a state historic site.
The Barrens once occupied almost a quarter of the state, but its trees were cut for shipbuilding and charcoal production until the mid 19th century, exhausting nearly all the first-growth forests. The region now has extensive second growth, including stands of scrub and pitch pine, some oak, and occasional Atlantic white cedar; Wharton State Forest is the largest reserve, extending over 44,300 ha/109,300 ac.
Pine Barren inhabitants, nicknamed Pineys, are mainly descendants of 18th- and 19th-century residents. Most of the original Pine Barren villages have vanished, but Batsto, dating from 1766, is a typical example of an early settlement. It was once the site of a flourishing bog iron foundry, with brickyards, glassworks, and other industries; its iron production was important to the American cause during the American Revolution. The village has now been restored to its 18th-century appearance.