Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
The Great Swamp is the remnant of a lake bottom of glacial lake called Glacial Lake Passaic that about 15,000 to 11,000 years ago extended for 30 miles (48 km) in length and was 10 miles (16 km) wide, in what is presently northern New Jersey. The lake was formed by the melting waters of the retreating Wisconsin Glacier at the end of the last Ice Age. The glacier had pushed a moraine ahead of its advance, a rubble of soil and rocks that plugged the existing outlet for the waters that drained into the area normally. As the retreating glacier melted, the waters rose to create the lake before a new outlet began to allow the water to exit at a much higher elevation, hence, the lake became established.
The refuge includes approximately one-quarter of the 140 km2 watershed comprising the Great Swamp that is the source of the Passaic River and the watershed's boundaries touch ten different communities, many of which were settled by European colonists long before the American Revolution. Dutch colonists preceded the British, who displaced the native tribes that hunted, fished, and farmed in the area for ten thousand years. The Amerindians had arrived in the area and established settlements shortly after the retreat of the glacier. When European explorers discovered the bounty of their hunting, trade became an established interaction with the natives in what the Dutch claimed as part of New Netherlands in 1614 for almost three quarters of a century prior to the pressure for European settlements that ensued after the British established dominion over what they called the Province of New Jersey.
Exemplary Ecosystem Services
Maintains ecological connectivity/cohesion
Aesthetic/Cultural Heritage Value/Provisioning
Recreation (birdwatching, ecotourism)
Water quality improvement
Conservation Status and Threats
Conservation statusFederal Protection
Adjacent land useResidential - low density
Approximate natural buffer width> 100 ft
Approximate size (ha):4,800
General wetland characterization:Inland Fresh Seasonally Flooded Basin/Flat, Inland Fresh Meadow, Inland Shallow Fresh Marsh, Inland Open Fresh Water, Inland Fresh Shrub Swamp, Inland Fresh Wooded Swamp
Adjacent water bod(ies)Pond, Stream
Approximate stream order2nd order
Name of body of waterPassaic River, Upper Passaic River Basin
New Jersey’s Great Swamp is nestled within a 55-square-mile natural basin, just 25 miles or so from New York City. It’s a quiet, undisturbed place today. But it wasn’t always that way.
Millions of years ago, the continent of Africa collided violently with North America, pushing up great mountains to the north and west. Erosion has since cut them down to size.
Later, when Africa broke away, hot molten rock flowed up from the earth’s interior, creating the Watchung Mountains to the south and east. Again, erosion has taken its toll.
Finally, about 18,000 years ago, a glacier advancing from the north ceased its forward motion and began to melt, leaving behind a great pile of rock and soil along a line from Chatham to Morristown. (For enlarged drawings of these events,
Together, these three events created the basin that contains Great Swamp today. The basin is called a watershed, because all of its streams flow into a single body of water – the swamp itself. From Great Swamp, the water exits south through Millington Gorge and becomes the Passaic River.
Somerset County, New Jersey (NJ035)
Map Unit Symbol
Map Unit Name
Acres in AOI
Percent of AOI
Califon gravelly loam, 3 to 8 percent slopes
Cokesbury gravelly loam, 0 to 8 percent slopes, very stony
Cokesbury gravelly loam, 0 to 8 percent slopes, extremely stony
Gladstone gravelly loam, 3 to 8 percent slopes
Gladstone gravelly loam, 8 to 15 percent slopes
Gladstone gravelly loam, 15 to 25 percent slopes
Meckesville moderately well drained gravelly loam, 2 to 6 percent slopes
Parker gravelly sandy loam, 3 to 15 percent slopes
Parker very gravelly sandy loam, 3 to 15 percent slopes
Parker very gravelly sandy loam, 25 to 45 percent slopes, rocky
Parker-Gladstone complex, 15 to 25 percent slopes, very stony
Udifluvents and Udepts, 0 to 3 percent slopes, frequently flooded
Subtotals for Soil Survey Area
Totals for Area of Interest
Flora and Fauna
Dominant floraReptiles: Eastern Gartner Snake, Spotted Turtle Amphibians: Red-Spotted Newt, Redback Salamander
Unique floraBog Turtle: State endangered, federally threatened Wood Turtle: State endangered
Dominant faunaReptiles, amphibians, fish
Rare faunaFive-lined Skink (Eumeces fasciatus) lizard, very rare according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service