Estuaries are most simply described as bodies of water and their surrounding habitats that are found where rivers meet the sea. Because their waters are brackish – a mixture of fresh water draining from the land and salty water from the ocean – estuaries are home of and nursery to a wide variety of plants and animals.
The Mullica River originates in central Camden County, flows for about 55 miles across Atlantic, Ocean and Burlington counties, and ultimately drains into Great Bay. The estuary is considered one of the most pristine and least-impacted marine wetlands habitats in the northeastern United States, due to the fact that most of the land in the Mullica River watershed is preserved or sparsely-developed.
This productive estuary supports a diversity of fish species, including striped bass, flounder and bunker. It contains nesting habitat for ospreys and bald eagles, and is an important nursery area for the region’s blue crab and hard shell clam fisheries.
New Jersey Conservation Foundation has been active in this area for a number of years and has recently preserved a number of properties surrounding the Mullica Estuary in partnership with the New Jersey Pinelands Commission and the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve.
In 2009, the partnership preserved the 20-acre Lee property in the Clark’s Landing section of Galloway Township, a breeding habitat for Pine Barrens tree frogs. Protection for the Mullica River estuary was further bolstered by the preservation of a 259-acre property in Washington Township, Burlington County. The property, formerly a private hunting preserve, was named “Turtle Creek Preserve” for the small tributary that begins on the property. The preserve borders the state’s Swan Bay Wildlife Management Area, and includes salt marsh, Atlantic white cedar swamp and lowland pitch pine forest.
To learn more about NJCF’s preservation work in the Pine Barrens, please contact Stephanie Monahan, Pine Barrens Regional Manager, at 1-888-LANDSAVE (1-888-526-3728) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Michele S. Byers,