“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Oradell in Bergen County, New Jersey — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

Ecology Along the Hackensack River

Ecology Along the Hackensack River Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Michael Herrick, December 15, 2018
1. Ecology Along the Hackensack River Marker
Ecology Along the Hackensack River
Van Buskirk Island is located in a transition zone between river and ocean environments. This zone is demarcated by the dam on the northern side of the island. Above the dam there is no tidal influence and the Hackensack River remains a fresh water environment. Below that dam the situation gradually changes into more brackish conditions towards the tidal estuary extending south to Newark Bay and the Meadowlands. Here at its northern most point you find little influence of salt water on flora and fauna. But, as you travel south, plant and animal communities change drastically as they are more exposed to brackish water.

Regional Ecology
A watershed is a region of land whose topography funnels and directs water to one location, as the Hackensack River and its tributaries funnel into Newark Bay. In a natural watershed over 90% of the rainfall collects above and below the soil surface before the majority of the precipitation begins its journey dowrn stream. Natural watersheds are uniquely connected landscapes whose boundaries may cross many artificially drawn state and municipal
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The Hackensack River Watershed is a landscape that has been manipulated for centuries, its processes dominated by the addition of four man-made dams. These structures impact the dam-created and water reservoirs located in the river's upper reaches at the Oradell Reservoir, Lake Tappan, Lake DeForest, and Lake Lucille.

Human actions have also impacted the lower portions of the Hackensack River system. The Hackensack Meadowlands, now dominated by the Common Reed (Phragmites australis), was once an Atlantic White Cedar (Camaecyparis thyoides) swamp before the arrival of Dutch settlers in the 1600's. Using techniques from their home country, the Dutch channeled and drained the land while harvesting peat. This altered the natural ebb and flow of tidal influence forcing the salt water further upstream.

The last surviving Atlantic White Cedar died in 1939 as a direct result of restricted fresh water flow down the Hackensack River caused by the damming of the Oradell reservoir.

About the Watershed
The Water Works complex was the collection and delivery point of the Hackensack River's precious natural resource, water. The watershed for the Hackensack Water Works extends from northern New Jersey to New York State, where its topography directs all draining water through the Hackensack River and ultimately to Newark Bay.
Ecology Along the Hackensack River Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Michael Herrick, December 15, 2018
2. Ecology Along the Hackensack River Marker
This marker is in the middle.

Canoe Launch
The Hackensack Riverkeeper and Bergen County Parks Department hope to install a new canoe launch at the Van Buskirk Island County Park. As the northern-most stop of the Hackensack River Canoe Trail, the New Milford launch will be an ecological gateway to Bergen County's recreational waterways and historic trade routes.

At the time the Water Works opened, the Oradell, New Milford, and River Edge reaches of the river hosted numerous boating and canoe clubs. Boathouses dotted the shoreline. A century later, this 21st century canoe launch will once again reconnect boaters with this portion of the Hackensack River.

River Corridor
As the northern-most access point along the Hackensack River's tidal estuary, the New Milford location connects directly to eight County parks, the Hackensack Meadowlands Conservation and Wildlife Area, and the Atlantic Ocean through a series of canoe and boat launches.

The New Milford canoe launch will serve as the trail head for the collaborative effort between the Hackensack Riverkeeper and the National Parks Service in establishng a paddle trail using the Hackensack River as an ecological and recreational corridor, connecting the existing park system with water access points. This trail offers residents and eco-tourists the chance to experience the natural beauty of the Hackensack River,
Some of the Buildings of the Hackensack Water Works image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Michael Herrick, December 15, 2018
3. Some of the Buildings of the Hackensack Water Works
learn about what lives and grows in this river habitat, and explore the Hackensack Watershed.

Local Ecology
Van Buskirk Island is part of the Hackensack River riparian zone. The building of the Water Works and the adjacent infrastructure has changed the natural conditions in the core of the island. Maintained grass areas and horticultural plants are dominant on both sides of Elm Street. The island's peripheries contain many densely vegetated areas which serve as wildlife habitat. There are fresh water wetlands and associated riparian zones along the river channel. Most of the trees along the river are native and their root systems help to stabilize the stream banks. The River Birch (Betula nigra), Sucamore (Platanus acerifotia), Basswood (Tihar americana) and American Elm (Umus americana), a few of the most common trees on the island, are great perches for birds hunting for fish in the river.

Heavy flows, high oxygen levels and a coarse sandy bottom in the intake basins provide good living conditions for fishes and other marine wildlife. Many fishes are stranded behind the dams at the northern tip of Van Buskirk Island, making a great foraging ground for birds such as the Black-Crowne Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax.) Other wildlife on the island includes the Eastern Painted (Turtle Chrysemys p. picta) and
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the Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus.)

The peninsula south of New Milford Avenue is an assemblage of native plants as well as some ornamental and naturalized non-natives, creating the character of a mature forest canopy. A similar forest covers the site of the former workers housing at the southern end of the property. Though the buildings are gone, the remaining ornamental plants such as Mock Orange (Philadelphus sp.) and the Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum pilcatum) still tell the story of the gardens around former homes. And some of the ornamental plants are doing very well; a Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipfera) has produced a thicket of seedlings and shoots, and the ground cover Pachysandra terrminalis is spreading. Pictures
Watershed Map: United Water
Hackensack Regional Diagram: Rutgers
Canoe Launch Diagram: Rutgers
Historic Photo (Canoe): Bergen County (Lantern Plates D)
Heron: William Lynch - Rutgers
Turtle: James Petranka-University of North Carolina at Ashville
Bat: Timothy Carter - Ball State University
Phragmites: Rutgers
Upstream Hackensack River: Rutgers (Marker Number 3.)
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: EnvironmentNotable Places. A significant historical year for this entry is 1939.
Location. 40° 56.806′ N, 74° 1.556′ W. Marker is in Oradell, New Jersey, in Bergen County. Marker is at the intersection of Elm Street and New Milford Avenue, on the right when traveling north on Elm Street. Located at the Hackensack Water Works. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Oradell NJ 07649, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Vision for the Van Buskirk Island County Park (here, next to this marker); Water at the Hackensack Water Works (here, next to this marker); History of the Hackensack Water Works (within shouting distance of this marker); Richard T. Cooper House (approx. 0.3 miles away); Hagler’s Diner (approx. 0.4 miles away); New Milford World War I Memorial (approx. 0.6 miles away); New Milford Veterans Memorial (approx. 0.6 miles away); Oradell (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Oradell.
Also see . . .  New Milford Plant of the Hackensack Water Company on Wikipedia. (Submitted on February 12, 2019, by Michael Herrick of Southbury, Connecticut.)
Credits. This page was last revised on February 12, 2019. It was originally submitted on February 12, 2019, by Michael Herrick of Southbury, Connecticut. This page has been viewed 258 times since then and 70 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on February 12, 2019, by Michael Herrick of Southbury, Connecticut.

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Dec. 5, 2023