Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt: You've Never Seen The Swamp Like This Before

Did you know that you can watch bald eagles hunt for fish in suburban New Jersey?  Were you aware that the best place to catch a glimpse of America’s newest frog species is right here in Morris and Somerset Counties?  Do you remember why George Washington thought Morristown was a great place to camp the Continental Army during the worst winter of the Revolutionary War?

If you answered “no” to any of these question, then it’s probably time to take a refresher course on all of the amazing sites of natural, cultural, and historic importance hiding in your own backyard.

Starting at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 19, The Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt offers you, your family, and your friends a chance to reacquaint yourself with a few of the places and people that put New Jersey’s Great Swamp region on the proverbial map.  Oh yeah, it will be LOTS of fun too!

Since January, the Great Swamp Watershed Association has been working with the Friends of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Harding Land Trust, the Morris County Park Commission, the Morristown National Historical Park, the New Jersey Audubon Society, The Raptor Trust, the Somerset County Park Commission, and the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge  to create a one-of-a-kind interactive tour of the 55-square-mile Great Swamp Watershed.

Armed with a list of both GPS coordinates and street addresses, your own sense of adventure, and the Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt Clue Kit you pick up at Loantaka Brook Reservation (75 Kitchell Rd. in Morristown), you will get the chance to spend as much time as you like exploring more than a dozen sites of local, regional, and national significance, including the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (Harding), the Morristown National Historical Park (Morristown), the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center (Chatham), the Somerset County Environmental Education Center (Basking Ridge), the Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary (Bernardsville), and The Raptor Trust (Long Hill).

Along the way, your Clue Kit may prompt you to get out of your car or off your bicycle to find out what each destination is all about. Other challenge questions can be answered from the convenience of your car. Pay close attention at each stop because you will need to answer several challenge questions to prove that you have completed all your explorations.

Scavenge as much as you like, and wherever you like. But, remember, the more places you visit and the more Great Swamp challenge questions you answer correctly, the higher your Scavenger Hunt score will be.  Those who return to Loantaka Brook Reservation at 4:00 p.m. with the highest scores will be eligible receive special prizes provided and made possible by underwriters at PSEG, PNC Bank, REI – Recreation Equipment, Inc. (East Hanover), Blue Ridge Mountain Sports (Madison), and BaseCamp Adventure Outfitters (Bernardsville).

While you wait for your Scavenger Hunt score to be tallied, the Great Swamp Watershed Association will treat you and your fellow scavengers to a picnic in honor of all you have seen and experienced throughout the day. Celebrate! You earned it!

If this sounds like fun for you, your family, and your friends, you can register to participate in the Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt by visiting on the Web right now!  Registration is FREE, although donations are most welcome.  If you prefer, you may register to participate onsite at Loantaka Brook Reservation on May 19 between 9:00 a.m. and noon.

Click here to download and print a scavenger hunt flyer!

For more information about The Great Swamp Scavenger Hunt, please visit, call 973-538-3500, or send an email message to

It's Time To Start Conserving Water in New Jersey

New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection recently urged citizens to conserve as much water as possible.

Despite the recent nor'easter that prompted flood warnings throughout the state, New Jersey is experiencing a rainfall deficit thanks to a dry winter and an equally dry start to the spring season. In fact, here in Morris County, rainfall amounts stand at 5.8 inches BELOW normal (for the past 90 days).
Some of the environmental threats posed by these severely dry conditions are obvious. Take, for example, the recent spate of brush fires that have raged out of control and damaged property in the Meadowlands and the Pine Barrens.

Perhaps less obvious are threats facing groundwater throughout the state. In a press release dated April 27, 2012, NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin remarked, "Most concerning is that our stream levels and groundwater supplies are extremely stressed." Private and municipal well owners whose aquifers are shallow and unconfined should consider implementing water austerity measures before the peak-water-usage months of summer arrive.

New Jersey's current situation stands a far cry from that of the late-summer and early-fall months of 2011 when an abundance of precipitation resulted in several destructive flooding events in our area. However, it is important to remember that heat and rainfall conditions can change rapidly along with overall weather patterns. A few days of dry and windy weather could set water levels back even further, while a period of fast, heavy rains could produce unexpected flooding.

If you want more information about recent weather patterns and extreme weather events in New Jersey, check out GSWA's YouTube Channel and the video "Why Is New Jersey's Weather Changing?" Recorded on April 10 at GSWA's offices in Morristown, this presentation from guest speaker Dr. Anthony Broccoli of the Rutgers University Center for Environmental Prediction systematically reviews significant weather events in New Jersey between December 2010 and April 2012.

If you are looking for some practical water conservation tips from NJDEP that you can voluntarily implement at your home, check out the following list of tips from NJDEP.
  • Do not over-water lawns and landscaping. Watering two times per week for 20-30 minutes in early morning or early evening ensures that plants receive the most water while developing strong, healthy root systems.
  • Make sure sprinklers and irrigation systems do not water during or immediately after a rain and are set to avoid wasting water on the street, driveway and sidewalk.
  • Use a hose with a hand-held nozzle to water flowers and shrubs.
  • Turn off the faucet while brushing teeth and shaving.
  • To save water in the home, fix leaky faucets and pipes.
  • Run washing machines and dishwashers only when full.
  • Install high-efficiency, water saving toilets, faucets and shower heads
  • Use a broom to sweep the sidewalk, rather than a hose;  Use mulch and native plants to conserve water in the garden
  • Use a rain barrel to capture water from a downspout to use later for watering gardens and plants
  • Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation to water trees, gardens and flower beds.
Please be a good water steward and do what you can to conserve!

More information about water conservation and water supply status in all of New Jersey's drought regions can be found at