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Passaic Basin Freshwater Wetlands

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About the Passaic Basin Freshwater Wetlands

The Passaic Basin Freshwater Wetlands is a marshy area located entirely within New Jersey, a bit west of New York City.

This region is nearly level, and was formed from a glacial lake. It consists of freshwater marshes, swamps, and peatlands. Soils are slowly permeable, consisting of clay, sands, and glacial till. Areas on land have a high water table and are subject to frequent flooding. This area consists entirely of freshwater, contrasting with the brackish waters of the Hackensack Meadowlands, another nearby region that was also formed as a glacial lake.

Dominant trees include red maple (Acer rubrum), American elm (Ulmus americana), pin oak (Quercus palustris), swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), white ash (Fraxinus americana), and silver maple (Acer saccharinum). Fens and bogs are dominated by sphagnum moss, ferns, and sedges. This region is just far enough north and inland that many more southerly species common in the Middle Atlantic Coastal Plain and Atlantic Coastal Pine Barrens are absent here.

This area is relatively intact, although there has been some suburban residential developments on drier grounds around its margins, and a small amount of industrial use, including the Morristown airport. Large areas have been preserved as the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and the Troy Meadows Wetlands, as well as some smaller local parks.

This region borders three other regions: it is interspersed with and partly surrounded by the rugged ridges of the Trap Rock and Conglomerate Uplands. In the northeast it is interspersed with the flatter but still better-drained Glaciated Triassic Lowlands, and in the southwest, with their unglaciated counterpart, the Triassic Lowlands. Each of these regions are geologically distinct and have markedly different plant communities.

An open wetland with some cattails in the foreground, forest in the background, all lush and greenThis photo shows the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, which occupies the center of the Passaic Basin Freshwater Wetlands. The wetter sites support freshwater marshes like in the foreground of this photo, and relatively drier ground supports swamps and forest like in the background. Crop of a photo © Chris M. Morris, CC BY 2.0, Source.


1. Woods, A.J., Omernik, J.M., Moran, B.C. "Level III and IV Ecoregions of New Jersey", (2007) Web.