Just thought I'd share a few shots that I took during a little 4 wheeling trip yesterday. These are from a little slice o' heaven we call the Pine Barrens. About an hour and a half south of the "Chemical Coast" and the urban areas in the northeastern part of the state is a large expanse of nothing but sand, scrub pine, cedar bogs, and lakes. A lot of the land is publicly held as either game reserves or state forests. Conventional crops don't really grow in the sandy acidic soil, so the only agriculture that went on down there was cranberries and blueberries.
A lot of the state land is dotted with old cranberry bogs that went out of use as early as the Great Depression. I went to check out a few yesterday to scout for fishing spots. Pike and pickerel seem to love the "cedar water" which is stained brown from the tannin in the pine needles and the iron in the soil. This particular Wildlife Management Area is nearly 13,000 acres total and when you're sitting in the middle of it you can swear you left civilization behind. The only sounds I heard that day were the birds chirping and the occasional roar of a jet from nearby Maguire Air Force Base.
Anyway, here are some things I bet you never knew existed in New Jersey:
This is typical of the higher elevations-very dry, powdery, white sand with scrub pines. We call it sugar sand-it's just as tricky to drive on as beach sand so having aired down tires and a light foot pays.
A small cedar bog-these tend to occupy the low lying areas. Before and during the Revolution and up until about the 1870s iron was made here by harvesting "bog ore" out of bogs like this. The ore would be melted down in large furnaces fired by charcoal made from pine. Plenty of cannonballs for the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War were made in the Pine Barrens. In fact, at Mount Vernon in Virginia there is a cast iron fireplace liner in George Washington's house which was made at Batsto Ironworks, which still exists today as a park. General Washington saw a liner like it when visiting with the head of the company at his home in Batsto to negotiate a deal for munitions. He liked it so much he ordered one sent to his home where it still is. Eventually the discovery of coal in Pennsylvania as well as higher quality ore in other states killed the charcoal and bog iron industries.
Although this looks like a small lake it was actually a cranberry bog. I'm not sure when this particular property was acquired by the state, but the operation has been out of business for many years. There's basically nothing left but the bog and some remnants of the lock/floodgate system which controlled the flow of water. Now the stream that feeds it has completely flooded it permanently. Some people think that cranberries need water to grow-its actually not true. Some small operations and u-pick farms harvest them by hand, but for very large operations like the Ocean Spray co-ops that operate in the pines now, flooding the bog is the easiest way. Once the bog is flooded workers go in with machines which agitate the bushes and shake/knock the berries loose. They then float to the top where they can be corralled with a floating boom and picked up by a conveyor. The bogs can also save the berries from a freeze. During a cold snap the farmers will often flood the bogs in order to insulate the crop.
Just thought I'd share my Saturday afternoon with everybody. Although I don't live in the pines a large chunk of my family comes from the area, and I'm proud to be a "Piney."