Tag: LRWP

Forever Summer

Article and photos by Joe Mish

Fresh picked bright red dewberries, packed in open top containers, cooling in the shade on a partially submerged rock, in a shallow flowing stream, elbows its way to mind when thoughts of summer arise.
Cattails grow in profusion and provide food for humans and animals. Golden cattail pollen used as flour is a summer treat, while its roots are edible year round. Burned for entertainment or mosquito repellent, the fluff of the brown heads have been to stop bleeding from deep cuts.

An hour past dawn, the source of daylight was still obscured, as if the sun took a holiday and to honor its daily commitment, left its dimmest bulb to light the overcast mid-summer day. The reference points of shadow and light, used to mark the progress of the day, melted in compromise to obscure the passing of time. The temperature change from night to day, that stirs the wind, was on this day, unable to raise a breeze. The stillness and faded light were precursors to either rain or bright sun, as the saying goes, “a morning fog burns ere the noon”. Either way, this quintessential day defines the comfortable retreat into the natural harbor of deep summer.   

Summer may be considered the offspring of the coordinated efforts of winter, spring and autumn. All preparation for a time, when new life and old, can strengthen and renew energy spent on elemental survival. Summer temperatures reduce the energy cost of life to maintain its existence. A savings that allows imagination and creativity to be directed to places other than immediate survival and to accumulate warm memories to heat the cold days of winter.  

Stacking the wood shed with summer memories leaves no carbon footprint, is considered renewable and burns as an eternal flame. 

Images of fresh picked bright red dewberries, packed in open top containers, cooling in the shade on a partially submerged rock, in a shallow flowing stream, elbows its way to mind when thoughts of summer arise. Enough berries to make two batches of jam, used to spread summer throughout the year, to share with family and friends. 

The light show performed by fireflies, in the meadow along the river, is a legacy act that reaches back in time to childhood and a world of wonder. The purpose of the display, critical to the lightning bugs, is lost to the magic of tiny incandescent dots of yellow light, floating in the air above the darkened meadow. Magic is the honey tasted by the mind that initiates a journey of exploration. Its direction and depth as unpredictable as the choreography of this mid-summer light show.  

Cattails are another image stored in the summer album of memories and trademarks. They grew in profusion along with swarms of mosquitoes which would forage for fresh blood when the sun went down. The summer heat would force neighbors outside to sit on porch steps, their presence betrayed in the darkness by the red glow of their burning cigarettes. The smoke was a deterrent to the mosquitoes, though restricted to smokers and anyone immediately downstream. Through primitive oral history, the legacy of burning sun dried cattails to keep mosquitoes at bay and safely light fireworks was kept alive. Cattails would be cut and brought home, muddy dungarees a dead giveaway that you roamed beyond the territory deemed safe by mom. The price of the harvest was a lecture from mom about being swallowed up by quicksand in the swamps. Cattails were picked while still slightly green as they could be stored over winter without losing their fluff. Courting danger, I would scramble up to the neighbor’s low, flat garage roof then take a running leap onto our peaked garage roof and set the cattails out to dry. After a week on the garage roof aged the cattails were ready to be lit and fend off the nightly aerial attack and defend the blood supply. Waving the burning cattail produced a cloud of smoke and unlike the anemic volume of cigarette smoke, could be directed upwind to wash over the legs or neck. Aside from the favorable aroma and copious smoke, you were sanctioned to play with fire and produce your own light show by waving the glowing brown magic wand, to create the illusion of circles, figure eights and words, which disappeared as if using invisible ink.   

The images and memories contained in your summer archives are yours alone, collected at a moment when time stood still, indelibly etched, to be released when the right combination of summer conditions align.

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.

July 2 Introductory Boat Build Workshop

July 2 @ 9:00 am 11:00 am

Our wonderful boat build team of Captain Derek Hartwick, Amber Hennes and Colin Nickel will host an introductory Boat Build Workshop Saturday July 2 from 9-11am. We welcome you to join us!

This is an “in person” build session at our new Boat House location at 101 Raritan Avenue in Highland Park. Volunteers will learn through hands-on activities.

Registration is FREE and is limited to eight (8) participants.

6.30.2022 Raritan Pathogens Results

By LRWP Water Quality Outreach Coordinator Jocelyn Palomino

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 the results on Friday afternoons. This week, water quality tests show pathogens levels below EPA federal water quality standards all of our sites! Pathogens/Enterococci “colony forming units” (CFUs) are measured and used as indicators of the possible presence of disease-causing bacteria in recreational waters. Suitable levels for primary contact should not exceed 104 cfu/100mL. Although our results show pathogen levels under federal water quality standards for cleaner levels of water, please recreate on the river at your own risk and always be sure to wash your hands. Pathogens may pose health risks to people fishing and swimming in a water body. More information about our pathogens program is on our water quality monitoring webpage.

We’d also like to share a new map we’ve been working on to help improve the understanding of the water flow through the watershed. In the coming weeks, we will be integrating our bacteria findings into our new map. Special thanks to Brenda Allen for developing the map and providing this “sneak preview”.

The sampling crew caught in action at the Edison Boat Basin, Photo Credit: Doreen Camardi.
While at our Perth Amboy site, we came across a horseshoe crab swimming about next to a car tire that was thrown into the water. Photo Credit: Doreen Camardi

Many thanks to the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County and Interstate
Environmental Commission for their partnership, and to our monitoring volunteers!

6.9.2022 Raritan River Pathogens Results

With 0.83 inches of rain on Thursday morning June 9, you can probably guess the water quality vibes! High Enterococcus levels at almost all our pathogens monitoring sites this week (read about the exception below) means Raritan River lovers should be wary of engaging in waterfront activities this weekend.

Our Perth Amboy site was especially gross. Water Quality monitoring after heavy rains near combined sewer overflows (CSOs) is never pleasant. Look closely at the waterline in the photo below. What you see is several inches of pulverized toilet paper, disposable wipes, and poo defining the water’s edge at our 2nd Street Park Perth Amboy site. There was active discharge of sanitary sewage from the CSO, the pipe in the middle right of the image. Any guesses as to the dominant odors?

Perth Amboy Waterfront 6.9.2022

Despite the yuck factor, it was a GORGEOUS day to get out for some sampling. Huge thanks to our crackerjack team including the LRWP’s Community Outreach Project Manager Jocelyn Palomino, and our volunteer monitors Andrew and Frank pictured below.

The LRWP’s monitoring team at Piscataway’s Riverside Park

Our South Amboy site was especially beautiful yesterday – the water was CLEAR, reflecting big puffy clouds. Our South Amboy numbers were below the EPA threshold for Enterococcus, with low presence of fecal coliform as well.

South Amboy Waterfront 6.9.2022

Enterococci results are reported in Colony Forming Units or CFUs. Suitable levels for primary contact should not exceed 104 cfu/100mL. Pathogens/Enterococci levels are used as indicators of the possible presence of disease-causing bacteria in recreational waters. Such pathogens may pose health risks to people fishing and swimming in a water body. Sources of bacteria include Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), improperly functioning wastewater treatment plants, stormwater runoff, leaking septic systems, animal carcasses, and runoff from manure storage areas.

Huge thanks to our partners: Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County and the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission.

May 12 webinar: Restoring aquatic habitat through climate-ready infrastructure

Please join us Thursday May 12, 6-7:30pm for a special presentation by Isabelle Stinnette, Restoration Program Manager, NY-NJ Harbor and Estuary Program. Ms. Stinnette will speak on Restoring aquatic habitat through climate-ready infrastructure in the Lower Raritan.

Aquatic connectivity is a key restoration goal for the New York – New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program (HEP) and its partners. Inadequately sized, positioned, or blocked culverts or other stream crossings can be a seasonal or year-round barrier to aquatic species, fragmenting habitat and disconnecting the natural flow of organisms, material, nutrients and energy along the river system. This loss of stream connectivity is a critical threat to valuable and already vulnerable species such as the native Eastern brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), the American eel (Anguilla rostrata) and river herring (Alosa spp.). New York-New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program is working to assess over 375 road-stream crossing in the lower Raritan basin and bay region through 2022 to inform improved connectivity. This presentation will provide a summary of this work and findings.

Pre-registration required.

What’s In Our Water? Raritan River Info Sharing 2022

Since Summer 2019 the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County have conducted pathogens monitoring for Fecal Coliform and Enterococcus at six non-swimming public beach access sites along the Lower Raritan during the warmer months.

In this video, filmed as part of a public outreach session on 3.24.2022, we present a summary of data and findings for 2019-2021 monitoring, including analysis results of genetic source. We also share information about our monitoring plans for Summer 2022, including our partnership with the EPA.

Project Update: South River, NJ Ecosystem Restoration

On February 24, 2022 the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership, Princeton Hydro and Middlesex County Office of Planning hosted a Virtual Outreach Session to share concept plan development for the restoration of a 165-acre coastal eco-park along the South River in New Jersey.

During this webinar project partners discuss ecosystem restoration; contextualize the site and its historic and current conditions; provide drone images of the site; and discuss proposed public access opportunities, recreational priorities, ecological enhancement (including identifying optimal nest platform locations for Osprey, Bald Eagles, and Peregrine Falcons), and more.

This project is supported through a $249,639 in National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant to:

“Conduct an ecosystem restoration site assessment and design for 165 acres of tidal marshes and transitional forest in New Jersey’s Raritan River Watershed. Project will result in an engineering plan with a permit-ready design to reduce coastal inundation and erosion along about 2.5 miles of shoreline for neighboring flood-prone communities and enhance breeding and foraging habitat for 10 state-listed threatened and endangered avian species.”

Raritan River’s “Swimways” are featured in BioScience!

Science writer Cheryl Lyn Dybas features the Raritan River and the dam removal work of Hydrogeologist John Jengo in her article “Birds Follow Flyways, Fish Navigate Swimways” published this week in the journal BioScience. Ms. Dybas also highlights research by Rutgers biologists Olaf Jensen and Anthony Vastano, who track the impact of dam removal on local fish populations in the Raritan, and cites additional research by Rutgers ecologist Julie Lockwood who is using eDNA (environmental DNA) to monitor the comeback of river herring and American shad in the Raritan. Cool stuff!

Ms. Dybas’ piece provides a fascinating global perspective on habitat connectivity, and contextualizes our local-to-the Raritan dam removal and fish passage efforts in a larger movement to save migratory fish species (World Fish Migration Day is May 21, 2022). We are so grateful for her attention and reporting on this work!

Interested in learning more? Read John Jengo’s wonderful essay series on dam removal in the Raritan Basin. Access tools and resources to better understand habitat connectivity planning in New Jersey in a blog post by LRWP intern Emily Koai. Learn about the LRWP’s non-dam-removal plans to simultaneously improve habitat connectivity and advance resilience planning in this article about our South River Ecosystem Restoration Project. And save the date Thursday May 12 for a special webinar presentation by Isabelle Stinnette, Restoration Program Manager, NY-NJ Harbor and Estuary Program. Ms. Stinnette will speak on Restoring aquatic habitat through climate-ready infrastructure in the Lower Raritan

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.

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