Monday, December 6, 2010


New Jersey, south and east of the state capital, Trenton, is the Coastal Plain--an area of unconsolidated sand, gravel, and clay washed off the Appalachian Mountains and the Piedmont and deposited on the shallow continental shelf.

In New Jersey, the Coastal Plain is divided into two zones, the Inner Coastal Plain and (naturally) the Outer Coastal Plain.  The two zones are separated from one another by a series of low, sandy hills called cuesatas, which form a regional watershed divide.  Streams rising on the northwest side of the divide flow westward toward the Delaware River.  Streams rising on the southeast side of the divide flow eastward toward the Atlantic Ocean with one exception--Rancocas Creek--which rises on the Outer Coastal Plain, flows westward through a valley, and empties into the Delaware River like its Inner Coastal Plain brethren.
Kali and I visited Rancocas Creek State Park last Saturday afternoon.  The day was cool and overcast, but pleasant for walking.  New Jersey Audubon maintains a nature center with well-marked trails on 125 acres in the park, but the rest of the preserved land seems nearly abandoned by the state.  Foot trails are not marked and difficult to follow.  In addition, they are regularly interrupted by deer trails, making hiking especially challenging.  In addition, the state allowed a local chapter of the Lenni Lenape Indians to use a significant section in the center of the park for tribal activities, but the chapter has been split by internal rifts and the Indians have abandoned their facilities.
Nevertheless, we walked about four miles, enjoying the gently undulating landscape and the woodlands that feature oaks, sweet gums, beeches, and American hollies.  Most people have hollies in the foundation plantings around their houses; here (and throughout the Coastal Plain), they are evergreen components of the forest.  In addition, the streams are sand bottomed and stained with tannins.  All in all, a nice break from the Piedmont.

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