New Jersey Pine Barrens
June 27, 2005
The "Pine Barrens" of central New Jersey is a geologically and ecologically fascinating area where hundreds of feet of course sand lie flat upon the underlying bedrock. This sand is covered by a thin veneer of well-drained, dry, sandy soil, which is generally too poor to farm, except for the blueberry, virtually the only commercial plant that thrives in such conditions. The largest plants in this ecosystem are the shallow-rooted dwarf pines, which give the area its dominant appearance and name. The coarse sand subsurface, thin veneer of soil, and dwarf pines are all observed on the above photograph, taken from an unfinished access road in the Wharton State Forest on May 21, 2005.
It's believed that this unique area formed initially during the Pleistocene Epoch (from about 1.8 million years ago to about 12,000 years ago) when multiple cycles of glaciation scoured the underlying bedrock and deposited sand and debris over present day New England, New York (including Long Island) and New Jersey. The southern extent of the most recent glaciation is marked by a terminal moraine -- a low rise in the landscape running approximately east-west across central New Jersey. As this ice sheet melted, outwash plains formed, and coarse sands from the terminal moraine collected in what would become the Pine Barrens. About 25% of the state of New Jersey is covered by the Pine Barrens.Related Links: