Tag: Raritan River

Removing the Calco Dam

Article and photos by John W. Jengo

Calco Dam, positioned at Raritan River Mile (RM) 20.9, was located in Bridgewater and Franklin Townships, Somerset County, New Jersey just upriver from the Borough of Bound Brook.  Calco Dam, technically a low-head loss dispersant weir, was constructed in 1938 by the Calco Chemical Company, Inc. as part of the effluent conveyance system for a synthetic dyestuff manufacturing operation that had been established at this location in 1915.  To direct effluent flow to Calco Dam, a diversion structure was built on a natural stream (Cuckels Brook) 800 feet north of the dam, and as part of the diversion construction, a canal was dug from that structure to Calco Dam; a screening structure was installed at the end of the canal to prevent debris from flowing into the dispersant pipe inside the dam.  The center dispersant weir section of Calco Dam was 123 feet long and was composed of a 36-inch-diameter effluent tile pipe encased in concrete, which had on its downstream side a total of 41 8-inch-diameter outlets spaced three feet apart.  The weir structure was connected to the river banks by approximately 50- to 55-foot-long solid concrete abutments, making Calco Dam a run-of-the-river structure.  According to the original design drawings, Calco Dam varied in width between 21.25-23 feet and it had a structural height of approximately seven feet.  There was an 18-inch-thick, 12-foot-wide concrete apron extending downstream from the dam crest, ending in an apron toe section extending 3 feet below the river bed.

Calco Dam Before Removal

When the Somerset Raritan Valley Sewerage Authority (SRVSA) purchased the manufacturing site’s wastewater treatment plant operations in 1985, ownership of Calco Dam also transferred to SRVSA because the dam was an integral part of the facility wastewater effluent discharge system.  Although SRVSA was utilizing Calco Dam for discharging treated municipal effluent into the Raritan River when I approached them in 2008 about removing the dam, they were already in the process of designing and permitting an alternative effluent discharge route and outfall to the Raritan River, which would allow Calco Dam to be abandoned and removed.  SRVSA immediately recognized the value of eliminating the potential liability of a dam and they became the model of a cooperative dam owner in the subsequent contractual negotiations to grant us permission to remove Calco Dam.

The Calco Dam removal was successfully accomplished between July 18 and August 1, 2011, but the removal had an unique engineering component.  In planning the dam removal, I ascertained that the southernmost end of the dam had been incorporated into and under the towpath berm of the historic Delaware and Raritan (D&R) Canal, although a fair portion of this dam section had been subsequently exposed by scour eddies caused by water flowing over the dam.  The effect of any further excavation on the stability of the D&R Canal towpath berm was considered too risky to implement so a decision was to made to leave that southernmost section of the dam intact and rebury the section that had become exposed from the river’s scouring action. To isolate this dam section from the remainder of the structure that was to be removed required that a methodology be devised to cut through the entire dam structure with a minimal amount of disturbance to the towpath berm (the dam was much too thick to be saw cut).  Taking advantage of the same scour pool that had dangerously eroded into the base of the towpath berm, we built a temporary coffer dam around this section of the dam, dewatered it, and proceeded to drill and extract dozens of overlapping 6.5-inch diameter concrete cores across the width of the dam in the process known as “stitch coring.”  Once the isolation of this section of the dam was completed, we imported tons of properly-sized rock riprap and rebuilt the base of the D&R Canal towpath berm back into its original configuration with the southernmost dam fragment now serving as a stable foundation for the reconstruction.  Success of this restoration was tested just a few weeks later during back-to-back record flooding events from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee when this section of the repaired D&R Canal towpath berm held firm while other sections along the D&R Canal route suffered washouts and breaches.

Calco Dam During Initial Breaching
Calco Dam During Final Breaching
Calco Dam Stitch Coring

The number of returning migratory fish in the Raritan River the following spring heralded the remarkable and rapid recovery of the Raritan River at the Calco Dam location.   Based on observations at the upstream Island Farm Weir (IFW) fish ladder viewing window in the first spring migration season (March-May 2012) following the dam removal, the number of American shad migrating upstream increased 500% and the total number of fish passing through the IFW fish ladder increased by 200%.   This essentially instantaneous result propelled the planning of the next two dam removals, which were accomplished in just the next two years (Robert Street Dam in 2012 and the Nevius Street Dam in 2013), and this succession of three dam removals in just three years is considered to be one of the most ambitious river restoration efforts that have implemented to date.

Calco Dam After Removal

John W. Jengo, PG, LSRP 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.

That’s a wrap for 2020! Pathogens monitoring results for November 5

Yesterday was the last day of pathogens monitoring for 2020. Despite COVID-related challenges and the general difficulties of juggling an all volunteer program, we met EPA requirements for quality data and built a great data set. HUGE THANKS to our partners: Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County and the Interstate Environmental Commission. And much gratitude to all our wonderful volunteer monitors! We couldn’t do it without you!

Below are our pathogens results for 11.5.2020, followed by field notes for the day.

The LRWP and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County monitor for Fecal Coliform and Enterococcus at six non-swimming public beach access sites along the Lower Raritan during the warmer summer months. Fecal Coliform and Enterococcus are indicators of disease-causing bacteria in our waterways.

The EPA recommends that a single Enterococcus sample be less than 110 Colony Forming Units (CFU)/100mL for primary contact. 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. Enterococci levels are often high after heavy or consistent rainfall.

Field notes for November 5, 2020

Another foggy start to the morning. Both our Riverside Park (Piscataway) and New Brunswick Boat House sites were gorgeous under a shroud of mist.

Looking toward Albany Street Bridge from the Rutgers Class of 1914 Boathouse

The views from our monitoring site in Perth Amboy are dramatic. To the left you look out to Raritan Bay and sailboats and huge ships heading into New York Harbor. To the right you look upstream, at the mouth of the Raritan, where the new “River Draw” train bridge is under construction.

Looking toward construction of the new train bridge from under the old “River Draw”

So long, see you next year!

While it is sad to end the sampling season, we will be happy to empty our trunk of monitoring supplies

Lower Raritan Pathogens Results for 10.22.2020

The LRWP and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County monitor for Fecal Coliform and Enterococcus at six non-swimming public beach access sites along the Lower Raritan during the warmer summer months. Fecal Coliform and Enterococcus are indicators of disease-causing bacteria in our waterways.

The EPA recommends that a single Enterococcus sample be less than 110 Colony Forming Units (CFU)/100mL for primary contact. 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. Enterococci levels are often high after heavy or consistent rainfall.

Below are our pathogens results for October 22, 2020.

Field notes for October 22, 2020

Fog blanketed much of the East Coast through the morning, and hung heavy over the Raritan until burning off around noon. Called “advection fog,” the mist forms when warm, moist air passes over a cool surface. Advection describes the movement of fluid, in this case the fluid is wind. When the moist, warm air made contact with the cooler surface air, water vapor condensed to create fog.

Ever wonder how all the rain that falls onto a highway is “disappears” for a safe driving experience? It is transferred via stormwater infrastructure — that is, pipes or channels — to and “outfall” at which the stormwater enters receiving waters (rivers, streams, or creeks). This outfall at New Brunswick’s Boyd Park conveys rainwater from Route 18 (above the arches) into the Raritan River at the Rutgers Class of 1918 Boathouse.

Lower Raritan Pathogen Results for 10.15.2020

The LRWP and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County monitor for Fecal Coliform and Enterococcus at six non-swimming public beach access sites along the Lower Raritan during the warmer summer months. Fecal Coliform and Enterococcus are indicators of disease-causing bacteria in our waterways.

The EPA recommends that a single Enterococcus sample be less than 110 Colony Forming Units (CFU)/100mL for primary contact. 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. Enterococci levels are often high after heavy or consistent rainfall.

Below are our pathogens results for October 15, 2020.

Field notes for 10.15.2020

What a beautiful day for monitoring! Americorps Watershed Ambassador Caitlin DiCara helped us out with monitoring. We were also joined at our Piscataway and New Brunswick sites by our Windows of Understanding 2021 artist Marcia Shiffman. Marcia’s work for 2021 will focus on communicating the “hidden” social justice issue of inequitable access to nature.

Caitlin DiCara and Marcia Shiffman at our Riverside Park (Piscataway) site

We talked with Marcia and Caitlin about social barriers and physical obstacles to enjoyment of blue or green spaces or parks. In preparation for our listening session on Social Justice and Access to Nature, we identified a number of barriers to accessing nature. All of the below we observe as issues at non-bathing public access beach pathogens monitoring sites. These include:

-Difficulty in accessing green/blue or park space because of landscape design

-Difficulty in accessing green/blue or park space because of cost

-Not feeling welcome in a natural blue/green space or park because of economic status, or ethnic or cultural difference

-Cultural and/or language restriction present other barriers to enjoyment of time in natural spaces

-Bullying behaviors or material obstacles limit enjoyment of time in natural spaces for persons with disabilities

-Fear, anxiety, or feelings of helplessness in the face of crime limits time in natural spaces

What obstacles or barriers have we missed?

Our Thursday “regulars” fishing at the Edison Boat Launch
Not much tugging at these poles, Edison Boat Launch 10.15.2020

Raritan River Pathogens Results for 10.1.2020

Photos and article by LRWP Board President Heather Fenyk

The LRWP and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County monitor for Fecal Coliform and Enterococcus at six non-swimming public beach access sites along the Lower Raritan during the warmer summer months. Fecal Coliform and Enterococcus are indicators of disease-causing bacteria in our waterways.

The EPA recommends that a single Enterococcus sample be less than 110 Colony Forming Units (CFU)/100mL for primary contact. 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. Enterococci levels are often high after heavy or consistent rainfall.

Below are our pathogens results for October 1, 2020. These are about the worst results of the season so far. Two of our sites had colony forming units (cfus) that were TNTC or “too numerous to count”.

Please note: results are preliminary and pending quality control.

Field Notes for 10.1.2020

Our sites may be “dirty” but they are also beautiful, and places where many go for fishing, recreation, and to learn more about the natural and constructed world.

Gorgeous views at our Riverside Park (Piscataway) site belie what are typically our worst pathogens counts for all monitored sites
Our friends at the Edison Boat launch site told us the water was too dirty to catch anything but eels. LOTS of trash floating in the water at this site this week.
This is the fifth week of red tide conditions at our monitoring site in South Amboy
Check out the video we capture of a simultaneous train crossing of the picturesque Raritan River “River Draw” in Perth Amboy!

See our blog post for more information on the River Draw Bridge, and the Raritan River Bridge replacement project.

World Vegan Day in the Lower Raritan: The Greener Grass on the Other Side

Article by Angely Melendez, written as part of the Rutgers Spring Semester 2020 Environmental Communications course

November 1, 2020 is World Vegan Day. Want to celebrate? See below for a listing of the many vegan and vegetarian restaurants in the Lower Raritan Watershed to choose from!

Plant Based Restaurants in the Lower Raritan Watershed

WatchungMexico Grillhttps://www.mexicogrillnj.com/
BridgewaterCavahttps://order.cava.com/stores/70/menu
New BrunswickVeganizedhttp://veganizedfoods.com/
South AmboyHibachi Expresshttps://www.hibachiexpressandsushi.com/
East BrunswickSweetberryhttps://www.sweetberrybowls.com/eastbrunswick
UnionKiller Veganhttps://killervegan.com/
MatawanVegan Treehttps://www.vegantreematawan.com/
Old BridgeThai Thai Cuisinehttp://thaithaistirling.com/
MonroePersis Indian Grillhttp://persismonroe.com/menu/
EnglishtownSawanhttps://www.sawanmarlboronj.com/#menu
MarlboroOver Easy Kitchenhttps://www.overeasykitchen.com/
MillstoneThe Chozhashttps://thechozhas.com/

Reasons to go Vegan or Vegetarian

Ask someone just 20 years ago if they’d go vegetarian or vegan and they’d say no, you’re crazy. Meat has always been a staple within American cuisine and continues to be so, but even in the last 3 years there has been a 600% increase in Americans who consider themselves vegan. A staggering percentage, to say the least, but although those numbers are great, that’s still only 6% of American consumers in 2017 (“Veganism is at an All-Time High: Is it A Fleeting Fad or The New Norm?” 2018).

For the meat eaters out there that are still unsure of what the excitement is all about, I want to introduce World Vegan Day. This day visits us every November 1, and introduces the idea of the ever so popular diets: vegetarianism and veganism. Maybe the possibility of seeing what the hub-bub is all about intrigues you, and if that’s the case, then this is the day for you. See the map above for a route around the Lower Raritan River with stops all along it at plant based restaurants or others that feature plant based options.

So, what can these diets offer you? A slew of things, actually. One of the big factors to go plant-based is due to health. According to Harvard Medical School, a vegetarian diet offers some wonderful benefits and takes out some of the harmful negatives, “… As a result, [making them] likely to have lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lower body mass index (BMI), all of which are associated with longevity and a reduced risk for many chronic diseases.”

Besides personal gains, you’d also be doing the Earth (and our Lower Raritan Watershed) a huge solid. A big sign of inefficiency within agriculture lies within the raising of animals for their meat. About 70% of grain and cereals grown in the U.S. are fed to farm animals. Keeping that in mind, 16lbs of grain goes into producing 1lb of meat. And since demand for meat is so high, these farms continue to expand, knocking down natural ecosystems for the production of corn. Instead of using all those resources and high amounts of energy to produce that little amount of consumable meat, it could instead be used for humans.

So, come out to the Lower Raritan River during World Vegan Day, check out what local vegan and vegetarian restaurants have on offer, and learn why the grass is greener on the other side!

Effective communication about the environment is critical to raising awareness and influencing the public’s response and concern about the environment. The course Environmental Communication (11:374:325), taught by Dr. Mary Nucci of the Department of Human Ecology at Rutgers University, focuses on improving student’s writing and speaking skills while introducing students to using communication as a tool for environmental change. Students not only spend time in class being exposed to content about environmental communication, but also meet with communicators from a range of local environmental organizations to understand the issues they face in communicating about the environment. In 2019 and 2020, the course applied their knowledge to creating blogs for their “client,” the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership (LRWP). Under the guidance of LRWP Founder, Dr. Heather Fenyk, students in the course researched topics about water quality and recreation along the Raritan. Throughout 2020 the LRWP will share student work on our website.

Raritan Pathogens Results for 9.17.2020

Happy World Monitoring Day!

The LRWP and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County monitor for Fecal Coliform and Enterococcus at six non-swimming public beach access sites along the Lower Raritan during the warmer summer months. Fecal Coliform and Enterococcus are indicators of disease-causing bacteria in our waterways.

The EPA recommends that a single Enterococcus sample be less than 110 Colony Forming Units (CFU)/100mL for primary contact. 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. Enterococci levels are often high after heavy or consistent rainfall.

Here are our pathogens results for September 17, 2020. Things are looking good for our Raritan, and with no rain predicted for the next few days our waters should be flowing pretty clean.

Please note: results are preliminary and pending quality control.

Pathogens Results for Raritan River Public Access Non-Swimming Beach Sites

Field Notes for 9.17.2020

Hazy yellow skies during the day told a story of west coast fires and kept the temps down. Yesterday was a beautiful day for monitoring. Waters at our Rutgers Boathouse were covered with thick oily scum, origin undetermined. A far number of dead bunker floating in the water at our Edison Boat launch site. And there is still a fair amount of red algae at the South Amboy site – the algae has spread some to Perth Amboy.

Susan and Heather capturing data and taking notes at Rutgers Boathouse site
photo: Jessica Bonamusa
LOTS of scum, oil and muck at Rutgers Boathouse – photo: Jessica Bonamusa
Jessica (IEC lab) and volunteer Susan making note of all the gull poop at the Ken Buchanan site in Sayreville
We received a kayak loaner from our Raritan Riverkeeper friends to help us in our source track down and scouting.
Thank you Bill Schultz and Lorraine!

Summer 2020 Raritan Monitoring Sites

The New Jersey state Department of Environmental Protection and Middlesex County Health Departments typically monitor at sanctioned public swimming beach sites. They do not monitor the water quality for pathogens at public access non-swimming beach sites along the Raritan, despite regular use of these areas for primary contact (fishing and swimming) by members of our urban communities.

The LRWP works with in partnership with the Interstate Environmental Commission for lab analysis of our samples. We have a Quality Assurance Protocol Plan (QAPP) approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. We work to report our results as soon as lab analysis is completed.

City of Water Day on the Raritan!

On Saturday September 12, the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership will join groups throughout the New York New Jersey Harbor Estuary in bringing attention to climate change and the resilient nature of our waterfront neighborhoods.

This year we focus on our New Brunswick, NJ community and landscape and will offer programming in New Brunswick’s waterfront Boyd Park from 9 am to 3 pm. Please join us!

In addition to appropriately social-distanced in-person activities, a portion of our programming for the day (from 11am – noon) will be shared virtually via Facebook live. Log-in details will be sent to those who preregister.

City of Water Day events in New Brunswick will include:

  1. #lookfortheriver: FRAMES sculpture installation – ENGLISH AND SPANISH (9am – 3pm)

Event participants will observe sculpture artist Tobiah Horton (Rubble R & D) during a “work day” as he installs a new sculpture #lookfortheriver: FRAME in New Brunswick’s Boyd Park Raritan River riverfront.

Participants will have a chance to speak with Toby and members of the LRWP board about flooding and resilience along the Raritan River, and about the #lookfortheriver: FRAMES project. New Brunswick’s Boyd Park floodplain suffers repeat flood inundation, and serves as a protective “sponge” for other parts of New Brunswick. The #lookfortheriver: FRAME sculpture tells the story of infrastructure that is at-risk of flood inundation due to climate change and sea level rise. The sculpture is a living symbol of how removal of structures (in this case a house) from our floodplains allows for ecological restoration and regeneration, and fosters resilience.

Participants will also learn how the FRAMES sculpture functions as a data gathering tool. Through repeat digital photography uploaded to social media, passersby participate in civic science data collection about sea level rise, land use change, and resilience. Data gathered will allow for prioritization of resilience and restoration planning.

2. Water quality monitoring demonstrations – ENGLISH AND SPANISH (9:30-10 am and 11-11:30 am)

The LRWP and EARTH Center of Middlesex County collect weekly samples of Raritan River water for analysis of disease-causing bacteria. We will provide demonstrations of these activities and information about our findings thus far. Learn how and why we do this work and how you can get involved!

3. Raritan River Resilience info sharing – ENGLISH AND SPANISH (9am – 3pm)

This will include discussion of the regional BlueLine Initiative, flood hazard mapping, New Brunswick’s Municipal Public Access Plan, South River Ecosystem restoration proposals, and discussion of the LRWP’s NJ DEP-funded regional resilience planning grant

DUE TO COVID CONCERNS PREREGISTRATION IS APPRECIATED. ONLY THOSE WHO PREREGISTER WILL RECEIVE ADVANCE INFORMATION TO LINK TO THE FACEBOOK LIVE EVENT.

Raritan River Pathogens Results for 9.10.2020

Photos and article by LRWP Board President Heather Fenyk

The LRWP and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County monitor for Fecal Coliform and Enterococcus at six non-swimming public beach access sites along the Lower Raritan during the warmer summer months. Fecal Coliform and Enterococcus are indicators of disease-causing bacteria in our waterways.

The EPA recommends that a single Enterococcus sample be less than 110 Colony Forming Units (CFU)/100mL for primary contact. 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. Enterococci levels are often high after heavy or consistent rainfall.

Here are our pathogens results for September 10, 2020. Please note that we received over an inch of rain in our Lower Raritan monitoring areas the evening after monitoring. As such we expect pathogens levels to be much higher than what was sampled in the morning.

Please note: results are preliminary and pending quality control.

Pathogens Results for Raritan River Public Access Non-Swimming Beach Sites

Field Notes for 9.10.2020

Lots of rain while monitoring our first three sites on September 10, 2020 made for a soggy day. The water at all sites was dark brown and thick with sediment from upstream. Our rain gauge showed 1.52 inches when we checked it the morning after monitoring. Most of that rainfall occurred on September 10 between 7-10 pm. Please take extra care when in any waterway after rainfall, especially heavy rains that send so much sediment and waste into our local streams and River.

In addition to capturing water quality samples we collect data on salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH and other parameters
Sample bottles for genetic source trackdown, analysis conducted by Rutgers Fahrenfeld Lab
Genetic analysis will help us pinpoint the source of fecal loads in our waterways
Filtering sample from South Amboy 9.10.2020 – Surf at the South Amboy site was particularly rough yesterday, with lots of red algae in the water. Photo – Michele Bakacs

Summer 2020 Raritan Monitoring Sites

The New Jersey state Department of Environmental Protection and Middlesex County Health Departments typically monitor at sanctioned public swimming beach sites. They do not monitor the water quality for pathogens at public access non-swimming beach sites along the Raritan, despite regular use of these areas for primary contact (fishing and swimming) by members of our urban communities.

The LRWP works with in partnership with the Interstate Environmental Commission for lab analysis of our samples. We have a Quality Assurance Protocol Plan (QAPP) approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. We work to report our results as soon as lab analysis is completed.

You can find more information on our monitoring sites here, and an overview of our pathogens monitoring program here.

Thin Blue Lines

Article by Joe Mish. Aerial images taken on flight provided by Lighthawk compliments of No Water No Life

A plaque, inset in a concrete bridge constructed in 1923, spans the nameless stream, which now appears on the map as a thin blue line.
The last image shows the stream as it exists today, just before it empties into the South Branch of the Raritan.

If all the water that ever flowed from the Raritan river drainage could be measured, its contribution to the depth of the ocean would be impressive. Think of that watershed as a collection agency for the world’s oceans.

The South Branch flows into the confluence from the right, the North Branch from the left. They combine to form the Raritan River. This natural formation was an important landmark to the Lenape Tribe, which referred to this place as Tucca-Ramma-Hacking, “the meeting place of waters.”

An aerial view of the Raritan River clearly shows its two main branches, the South Branch and the North Branch. From the perspective of the confluence, its two main branches get their name, despite both arising north of their meeting place. The confluence marks the beginning of the Raritan River.

A closer look reveals the larger tributaries which feed the main branches; Rockaway creek, Black river/Lamington River and the Neshanic River, all of which are clearly noted on maps.

No less important are the numerous smaller brooks and creeks whose contributions are significant and whose names may appear only on old maps or engraved on marble plaques set in structures that bridge their banks. Peter’s brook, Chambers brook, Pleasant Run, Prescott Brook, Assicong Creek, Minneakoning Creek, Holland Brook and the First, Second and Third Neshanic Rivers, are identified on some maps though only Holland Brook has one sign along its nine mile winding course. Hoopstick and Bushkill are lesser known streams, within plain view, that bear no identifying signage and are often represented as nameless blue lines.

There are dozens more minor streams whose names appear nowhere except in obscure archives. Each one eventually feeds not the Raritan or its two main branches above the confluence. Knowing someone’s name is a sign of respect.

Calling someone by the wrong name can be embarrassing. However, the signs that misidentify the North Branch of the Raritan River as the Raritan River proper, have failed to embarrass those responsible for posting such signs.

Many smaller seeps and springs whose names have been lost to the ages add to the accumulated flow. Driving along the Lamington River for instance, there are endless watery traces arising from springs within the woods that empty into larger tributaries. Many are just moist creases worn through the soil over time, which collect rainwater and snowmelt to supplement the downstream daily flow.

Maps show endless springs, which make the cartographers final draft as thin blue lines. Often a network of converging shorter lines, each with a defined beginning, join to form larger streams like Pleasant Run and Holland brook.

Obscure water sources fascinate me simply because their anonymity and remote locations arouse my curiosity about the natural communities that might exist in such rarely visited places. Their presence represents a convergence of habitat types that attract birds and wildlife. Though they bear no labels to honor their faithful contribution to the next blue line and ultimate confluence, their importance must not be overlooked.

Many springs which appeared on old maps, no longer exist, eliminated by construction of sewer lines or otherwise diverted or filled in. As maps are revised and generations fade, these streams exist only in a cartographer’s archive.

My appreciation for these disappearing thin blue lines was heightened when I recently discovered that as a kid I walked over Slingtail brook every day on the way to school. At some point this little stream which bore a name, was diverted through a sewer line under the pavement. More amazing, even older residents had no memory of that stream, its presence and name lost to the ages. I did find a reference to Slingtail Brook in the Woodbridge, New Jersey newspaper archives dated 1939. The property through which a portion of the stream flowed was up for sale. A clause by the seller stipulated the brook not be diverted or covered over.

“Conveyance will be made subject to the following condition: That the course of Slingtail Brook as now existent, be not changed or diverted from its course or that said stream and flow of water therein be not blockaded, dammed or otherwise restricted.

Take further notice that the Township ………… “

Fords Beacon, May 12, 1939”

Somewhere in time the requirement that Slingtail remain unmolested, was lost to progress and legal wrangling. Such is the fate of so many smaller streams, especially when their names only exist in oral history and no signage marks there presence.

One small trickle of a stream that has miraculously retained its nature and name, is Cattail Brook.

Cattail brook arises from a convergence of network of bubbling springs, supplemented by runoff from rain and snowfall. It begins as hardly more than a trickle, directed by gravity, from the south facing ridge of the heavily wooded Sourland Mountains, near East Amwell, NJ. Cattail brook gives birth to Rock Brook, a tumultuous and moody stream that joins the more sedate Bedens Brook on its way to the Millstone River. The Millstone joins with the Raritan River to make its final contribution to the earth’s deep blue oceans.

Rock Brook derives its character from the influence of gravity and its bed of stone, which can change its mood from this idyllic mountain brook into a raging torrent

An extended winter freeze, preserving snow from a previous storm beyond its expected stay, was interrupted by a thaw and heavy rain. The melting snow joined the torrential downpour as it flowed over frozen ground to collect in every shallow crease leading to the river. The water’s velocity was enhanced by the decreasing gradient of deep well worn pathways etched into the earth.

The banks of successfully larger streams barely contained the accumulation of water delivered from the network of anonymous thin blue lines. Acting as a single entity, the collection agency, if you will, of the Raritan River drainage, faithfully delivered its contribution of sweet water to the world’s salty oceans.

The Raritan River becomes the Raritan Bay downstream of the New Jersey Garden State Parkway Bridge. With a poetic flourish, the salt water bay and lower Raritan River are stained blue, saturated with the blue ink used to represent the thousands of nameless pale blue lines drawn on maps of the extensive Raritan River watershed.

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. See more articles and photos at winterbearrising.wordpress.com.

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