Aquatic Habitats

Rivers and Streams in the Pine Barrens flow east into the estuaries and bays along the Atlantic.

Image of Oswego LakeOswego Lake © Bob Birdsall

One river, the Rancocas Creek, flows west to the Delaware River. These are all slow-moving streams and rivers, fed by rains and the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer. These rivers and streams, when undisturbed by human impacts, are highly acidic and very low in nutrients. These key water quality characteristics shape the biological cycles and communities within the rivers, streams and wetlands.

The streams and rivers of the Pine Barrens support unique plant communities and complex wildlife communities. About sixteen species of fish are considered indigenous to the Pinelands waters, and another forty-six species, including peripheral and introduced species, may be encountered.

Image of The river runs through a canyon of white cedar trees.[+ ZOOM] The river runs through a canyon of white cedar trees. © Albert D. Horner

Permanent natural lakes are absent from the Pine Barrens. The only natural ponds or lakes in the Pine Barrens are those created by beaver, which dam up streams to create ponds and foster growth of the aquatic plants they like to eat. The larger lakes one sees today are all manmade. People have been damming up watercourses in the Pinelands since the earliest European settlers arrived. Impoundments that can be called lakes in a technical sense (with water deep enough to limit plant growth in some areas) are the result of activities designed to use water power: people built dams and waterwheels to drive machinery such as grist mills, sawmills, and the bellows associated with the forges and furnaces.

People have been damming up watercourses in the Pinelands since the earliest European settlers arrived.

Ponds are technically any body of fresh water that is shallow enough to permit plant growth from the bottom throughout the entire area of the pond. Small impoundments made by people for various reasons qualify as ponds. Beavers make ponds throughout the area, when they have the opportunity.

Intermittent Pools or “Pingoes,” sometimes also called vernal ponds. These pools are only filled with water part of the year. They form in shallow depressions where the water table is very near the surface for most of the year. These ponds fill with water in the fall, winter and early spring, then dry up in the late spring and summer as the water table falls. Intermittent pools support many rare plants and animals. For example, they are favored by Pine Barrens Treefrogs and salamanders for breeding because they do not harbor fish that would prey on the amphibians’ eggs.

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