Tag: Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership

Memories are Where You First Met Them

Article and photos by Joe Mish

This maroon shale cliff forming the river’s bend, serves as a memory retrieval bank for times gone by. I was canoeing with my late friend Jimmy, who caught and released a feisty smallmouth bass just upstream of that shale prominence. Memory storage may be why the shore of a river is referred to as a ‘bank’.

Over the course of time everything we experience is stored as a memory. Having limited capacity for recall, it is the most impactful memories that linger. By no means are memories ever lost, they are stored in pristine condition in unconscious archives. The key to recovery can be a scent, sight or a sound. Prompted by clues hidden in unrelated conversations, a single phrase or word can bring an experience back into sharp focus. Old, faded photographs of no particular beauty or composition can instantly bring the past into laser focus as the prompts to our memories are as individual as fingerprints.

So it is that each time I paddle the river, it becomes a physical journey through the accumulated memories collected over hundreds of miles, paddled on the same stretch of river. Each trip is like opening the old family album to add new photographs and seeing the older images as the pages are turned. It is as if a gravitational pull compels you to linger a bit longer in the realm of old memories.

There is hardly a location on the river that does not hold a memory for me. Digital images and photographs, abound, however, it is being present on the river that provides access to memories not captured by the camera or pushed aside by the endless flow of freshly minted memories.

Every time I pass the drainage above the mouth of Pleasant Run, my mind immediately plays the video of the snowy winter day I pulled out of the current into the safe harbor of a drainage stream to warm my hands under my arms. The heavy snow quickly covered me and my boat as I leaned forward, folded arms resting on my thighs. I felt safe and comfortable as the canoe was stabilized in the heavy slush and well within the six-foot-wide drainage stream away from the main current. The snow was almost a foot deep along the high bank and to my surprise a dark brown mink was porpoising through the deep snow toward the drainage and my canoe. The mink came within arm’s reach before it realized the convenient bridge and large lump of snow was an existential threat.

One summer day I had my young daughter in the bow of my canoe, as we approached the tower line near home, a large fish jumped clear of the water, hit the gallon jug of juice she was holding, bounced off the opposite gunnel and fell back into the river. Her expression was priceless, as was mine, to witness a scene that could only happen in a cartoon. Can’t pass under that tower line without reliving that moment! Though many years have passed, the clarity and even the emotion of that comedy is still retained in the tower line archives.

On an initiation canoe trip with my four-year-old grandson, I paddled close to a high shale cliff, as in my experience cliffs were a major attraction to young boys. Sure enough, Caleb was impressed and asked how to get to the top. Before I could answer I noticed a large animal on the narrow shelf at water’s edge below the cliff. We closed in on a supersized beaver munching some delicate vines growing on the cliff face. The beaver slowly moved into deeper water but not before swimming on the surface a few yards in front of the canoe. You will not be able to see it, but when I pass that cliff, it reveals a crystal-clear video of that priceless moment. Of course, the next day Caleb never mentioned the beaver to mom but was totally impressed by Grampy carrying the canoe over his head.

One early spring day after ice-out, the river was running high, and the only ice that remained was found in deep cuts into the bank where trees were washed away. As I rounded a sharp bend in the river, I kept about three feet off the left bank to avoid the main current. Immediately on my left was a large ice-covered cove about twelve feet into the high vertical bank. I could not believe what I saw! Standing in sharp contrast to the empty expanse of graying ice, was an otter!  As it ran toward me, I realized its only escape route was into the water next to my canoe. At less than two feet away I watched the otter dive into the fast-moving muddy water in the narrow space between my boat and the ice shelf. I thought I was hallucinating, perhaps hypothermic. I never saw an otter on the river before or since. Consider, this bend in the river projects the memory of my close encounter with an otter, exclusively for me. It is my personal archive, available to no one else.

Memories are where you first met them, they are safe from prying eyes and remain where you last left them. The storage capacity is infinite and the keys to unlock them are everywhere.

Author Joe Mish has been running wild in New Jersey since childhood when he found ways to escape his mother’s watchful eyes. He continues to trek the swamps, rivers and thickets seeking to share, with the residents and visitors, all of the state’s natural beauty hidden within full view. To read more of his writing and view more of his gorgeous photographs visit Winter Bear Rising, his wordpress blog. Joe’s series “Nature on the Raritan, Hidden in Plain View” runs monthly as part of the LRWP “Voices of the Watershed” series. Writing and photos used with permission from the author. Contact jjmish57@msn.com.

October 3 – Walk in the Watershed, South Bound Brook/Bound Brook!

Please join us Sunday October 3, 2-4 pm for our second “walk in the watershed” in South Bound Brook/Bound Brook with LRWP Board Member and Rutgers Professor David Tulloch! We also expect Green Brook Flood Control Commission Chair Raymond Murray to join us for part of our tour.

Plan to meet at D&R Canal Lock 11 in South Bound Brook. There is limited parking in this lot, however there is plenty of street parking.

We will start our conversation at D&R Canal Lock 11, explore a bit of the canal and talk about its function and its relationship with the health of the river. From there we will walk over to Bound Brook to see the flood control gates by the traffic circle and the levees at Billian Legion Park. We will continue our walk up the Lincoln Ave Bridge to take in views of the Raritan.

August 14 Raritan Dams Tour with John Jengo!

Please join us Saturday, August 14th for a three hour tour of the Headgates, Robert Street and Nevius Street dams. This tour will be led by the very wonderful and informative hydrogeologist John Jengo, PG, LRSP. The tour will include discussion of past and future dam removals, and will be a chance to see the scale of the dams so that downstream removals can be understood in context.

We will kick things off promptly at 8:30 am at Headgates Dam, followed by the Robert Street and Nevius Street dams. We estimate the trip will be approximately 3 hours. We will be walking along the river banks to see these sites, so plan on wearing appropriate footwear. For those interested, we can also visit the Weston Mill Dam site at the end of the day, which can be viewed from the Weston Causeway Bridge.

The LRWP is grateful to John Jengo for offering this opportunity. Registration is limited to 18 people. Directions and parking information will be sent to registrants in advance of the event.

For more information on these dams, and dam removal in the Lower Raritan and Raritan Basin, please see John Jengo’s blog series on the LRWP website. Please also see the LRWP’s letter to NJDEP regarding the importance of the Headgates Dam Removal.

ABOUT JOHN W. JENGO, PG, LSRP: John is a licensed Professional Geologist in several Northeastern and Southeastern states and a Licensed Site Remediation Professional in New Jersey. John works as a Principal Hydrogeologist in an environmental consulting firm in southeastern Pennsylvania. He has degrees in geology from Rutgers University (1980) and the University of Delaware (1982). Over the last 30 years, he has conducted the characterization and remediation of large, complex contaminated industrial sites throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. He played a key role in Natural Resource Damage (NRD) assessments that led to groundbreaking legal settlements to remove numerous low head dams on the Raritan and Millstone Rivers to restore historically significant migratory fish spawning runs. As technical project manager, he planned, permitted, and successfully managed the removal of the Calco Dam, the Robert Street Dam, and the Nevius Street Dam between 2008-2013, and the removal of the Weston Mill Dam on the Millstone River in 2017, along with leading the archaeological investigation of the former Weston Mill in the Borough of Manville and Franklin Township.

Raritan River Pathogens Results for 8.12.2021

The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County run a volunteer pathogens monitoring program from May to September every Summer. On Thursdays we collect water quality samples at 6 non-bathing public access beaches along the Raritan River, and report out the results on Friday afternoons. Our results for 8.12.2021 are a mixed bag. Numbers for the upstream sites (Riverside Park, Rutgers Boathouse, and Edison Boathouse) are high, whereas downstream toward the Raritan Bay the numbers improve (Ken Buchanan Waterfront Park, South Amboy Waterfront Park, Perth Amboy’s 2nd Street Park). As always, if you choose to recreate on the water this weekend, stay safe, and be sure to wash your hands!  See here for more information on our pathogens monitoring program.

A few additional things to share:

#1 Holy smokes was it a hot day for monitoring yesterday! If you are out in this crazy heat, stay hydrated!

#2: LRWP volunteers and friends are AMAZING!!

Gratitude to: Dorina Cardinale, Janet Sacklow, Jason Acevedo, Andrew Gehman and Maya Fenyk for sampling yesterday. And special thanks to Jesse Stratowski with Rutgers Recreation for opening things up at the boathouse for us!

Thanks also to LRWP Water Quality Outreach Project Coordinator Jocelyn Palomino and Rutgers Environmental Stewards Program Steward Julisa Collado (and her father Jose) for coordinating a fun youth outreach event at our last stop in Perth Amboy.

We enjoyed catching up with friends who joined us for outreach: a pair of white swans, Elizabeth Pyshnik with Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program, Renee Skelton with Perth Amboy SWIM, Raritan Riverkeepers Bill Schultz & Lorraine McCartney, and Michael DuFour with Sky Horse Tech LLC who brought the very cool “water drone” prototype, designed for in-channel sampling (see photos).

July 24 Watchung Mountain “Hidden Streams” Hike

Registration is now open for the LRWP’s first “Watershed Highlights and Hidden Streams” walking tour of 2021!

Join us on Saturday July 24, 10-noon as we visit one of the northernmost areas of the Lower Raritan Watershed and explore the Watchung Reservation’s Blue Brook and Lake Surprise.

The walk, guided by our own David Tulloch, will help our hikers begin to discover this massive Olmsted Brothers-designed park. With help from a few maps, Dr. Tulloch will talk about the context of the park within the watershed as well as the context of this culturally-significant historic landscape within the surrounding communities of Union County.

We will be meeting in the Watchung Reservation at the area called The Loop (Some park signs point towards the Loop and its playground). At 10am our group will depart on foot from the building (with bathrooms) shown with the red marker below (40.687, -74.374).

Estimated 4 miles of walking.

Registration required. Please check the LRWP website for updates, especially in the case of inclement weather.

The Watchung Reservation is in Scotch Plains, NJ 07076

Summer 2021 Raritan Pathogens Monitoring Update

For Summer 2021 the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and our Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County partners are building up our pathogens monitoring program in several new ways.

  1. With grant support from The Watershed Institute we have engaged Jocelyn Palomino as a Project Coordinator to lead sampling and conduct outreach focused on engagement with the Spanish-speaking community. This will involve sampling demonstrations at our Perth Amboy 2nd Street Park site, boat trips, and more.
  2. Earlier this Spring we started meeting with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding improving our understanding of pathogens flows into the Raritan. In addition to our six (6) non-bathing public access beach monitoring sites, for Summer 2021 the EPA will monitor an additional 22 in-channel sites for fecal/enterococcus going all the way up to Bound Brook and including the D&R Canal;
  3. With support from the EPA, we will continue genetic source studies at our 6 sites AS WELL AS at the EPA’s 22 new sites to determine whether the fecal is human/bird/dog/horse etc.;
  4. We are working with Interstate Environmental Commission to compare IDEXX vs. membrane filtration technology. This means that each of our samples will be analyzed by BOTH methods during this monitoring season. It will be an interesting comparison to run these numbers for the whole summer. NJDEP ONLY accepts the more stringent IDEXX method.
  5. We are working with Rutgers Office of Analytics to develop a predictive model based on our data. That is, our goal with the model is to input precipitation, rainfall, tidal influence, etc. for those dates that we cannot go out sampling, and still get a good sense for what the likelihood of fecal/entero levels.
  6. We are planning more water-based reconnaissance for outfalls and compromised sewage infrastructure at our sites, particularly the Piscataway site.
  7. We are working with Brenda Allen, a doctoral candidate with the Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis, to help us understand possible land use impacts on our numbers, and help us prioritize where we start our on-the-ground sleuthing;
  8. We are working with a start-up technology company to deploy a water-based drone that can travel the Raritan catching samples as-needed. They will deploy the drone within the next few weeks.

We continue to build a research program to better understand risks, and in this regard we are working to get Middlesex County Health involved. With EPA now very invested, we hope that with the IDEXX vs. membrane filtration comparison study we’ll be able to convince NJDEP to work with us (and our data) as well.

Woodworking for Women: Make Your Own Paddle

This FREE six-week woodworking class for women ages 13+ will take place on Saturdays at the Community Boat House in downtown New Brunswick from 11am-12:30pm starting Saturday April 17 and running to Saturday May 22. Participants will learn several aspects of woodworking, including: preparing and laminating wood for construction; transferring the pattern and cutting the shape; shaping the shaft, grip and blade; sanding; and applying the finish. At the end of the session, participants will have a paddle to take home! Please do not sign up if you cannot commit to attending all class sessions. Registration is limited to six (6) participants. Contact hfenyk@lowerraritanwatershed.org to register. First come, first served.

Instructors for this session are Amber Hennes and Sarah Tomasello. Amber gained skills in woodworking through her work in theater design and scenic fabrication across the US. Sarah has taken classes in woodworking, and has been part of our community boat shop boat build since project inception.

Class sessions:

April 17

April 24

May 1

May 8

May 15

May 22

For more on the Community Boat Build

Woodworking for Women: Make Your Own Paddle

This FREE six-week woodworking class for women ages 13+ will take place on Saturdays at the Community Boat House in downtown New Brunswick from 11am-12:30pm starting Saturday April 17 and running to Saturday May 22. Participants will learn several aspects of woodworking, including: preparing and laminating wood for construction; transferring the pattern and cutting the shape; shaping the shaft, grip and blade; sanding; and applying the finish. At the end of the session, participants will have a paddle to take home! Please do not sign up if you cannot commit to attending all class sessions. Registration is limited to six (6) participants. Contact hfenyk@lowerraritanwatershed.org to register. First come, first served.

Instructors for this session are Amber Hennes and Sarah Tomasello. Amber gained skills in woodworking through her work in theater design and scenic fabrication across the US. Sarah has taken classes in woodworking, and has been part of our community boat shop boat build since project inception.

Class sessions:

April 17

April 24

May 1

May 8

May 15

May 22

For more on the Community Boat Build

Pathogens Monitoring Training 2021

NEEDED!! Volunteer Water Quality Monitors to assist with bacteria monitoring during Summer 2021!

WHAT: In-person training Workshop for Water Quality Sampling and Bacteria Monitoring (English/Spanish)

WHEN: Wednesday May 12, 4-6 PM

WHERE: TBD (either EARTH Center of Middlesex County, 42 Riva Avenue / South Brunswick, NJ OR Riverside Park in Piscataway, registrants will be emailed location information and directions).

WHY: Every Thursday from May 27 through the end of September the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and Rutgers Extension / Middlesex County EARTH Center will be in the field taking water samples from five public access (non-bathing, fishing, and recreational) sites along our Raritan River. We need volunteers to help us with this important work!

Volunteers will help project coordinators with sample collection, sample preparation and delivery, and analysis.

Space is limited and registration required. With thanks to The Watershed Institute for grant support to allow for Spanish language translation for this session.

Woodworking for Women: Make Your Own Paddle

This FREE six-week woodworking class for women ages 13+ will take place on Saturdays at the Community Boat House in downtown New Brunswick from 11am-12:30pm starting Saturday April 17 and running to Saturday May 22. Participants will learn several aspects of woodworking, including: preparing and laminating wood for construction; transferring the pattern and cutting the shape; shaping the shaft, grip and blade; sanding; and applying the finish. At the end of the session, participants will have a paddle to take home! Please do not sign up if you cannot commit to attending all class sessions. Registration is limited to six (6) participants. Contact hfenyk@lowerraritanwatershed.org to register. First come, first served.

Instructors for this session are Amber Hennes and Sarah Tomasello. Amber gained skills in woodworking through her work in theater design and scenic fabrication across the US. Sarah has taken classes in woodworking, and has been part of our community boat shop boat build since project inception.

Class sessions:

April 17

April 24

May 1

May 8

May 15

May 22

For more on the Community Boat Build

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