A Raritan River Basin Aerial Expedition

Written by NWNL Project Manager, Sarah Kearns
All images © Alison M Jones

Jones_080418_NJ_4322Budd Lake – headwaters of the South Branch of the Raritan

The Raritan River Basin – one of NWNL’s six case-study watersheds – is the largest watershed in New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the USA. The Raritan collects water from 6 New Jersey counties and 49 municipalities, and terminates in the Raritan and Hudson Bays. The river is split into the upper watershed of its North and South Branches and its lower watershed has a main stem with many tributaries of varying size. 

Tomorrow, NWNL Director Alison M Jones, with Raritan River photographer Joe Mish and Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership Director Heather Fenyk, will fly with LightHawk pilot Stephen Kent across the Raritan River Basin. This cost-free flight, granted by LightHawk, will provide critical aerial documentation of the Raritan Basin and offer comparisons and contrasts to the other five NWNL case-study watersheds and their water-related issues – as well as to issues in our four spotlighted regions.

LH 190416-full-map -clean.png LightHawk flight plan & 63 waypoints NWNL chose for photos

This trip will allow NWNL to highlight the following water-related issues:

  • Unique land-cover/use/pollution impacts throughout the watershed
  • The Upper Raritan’s rural character and family-scaled farming, as a contrast to the Lower Raritan’s urban density, industry, development sprawl & impervious surfaces
Jones_080504_NJ_0367Farms in Tewksbury Township – North Branch of the Raritan
  • Visible threats to water quality: The Raritan River and its tributaries are susceptible in both its rural and urban areas
Jones_090515_NJ_4550Spillway on north bank of Raritan River – New Brunswick 
  • Raritan Basin wetlands:  Threatened by encroaching, increasing populations (sprawl), fragmentation, invasive species and sea level rise and in need of adaptation / mitigation solutions
  • The Raritan Bay:  An open space serving 6 million from NJ, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island; a shipping corridor; a commercial and recreational fishery; a fragile ecosystem vulnerable to climate change & extreme weather events.
Jones_080511_NJ_0758Former mill diversion – Rockaway Stream on North Branch of Raritan

Just a few of the key places that will be documented on this flight include:

  • Raritan Headwaters’ Fairview Farm in Bedminster, in the North Branch Basin
  • Budd Lake, the source of the South Branch, in Mt. Olive
    Jones_130331_NJ_2462Green Brook (on L) &  Ambrose Brook (on R) confluence – Bound Brook 
  • Krysowaty Farm Superfund Site along the South Branch where a farmer,  paid by chemical companies, buried drums of toxic waste:  just 1 of 10 Superfund Sites to be documented during the flight
  • Tewksbury Township in the North Branch Basin, including Mountainville, Oldwick, and the Rockaway Stream. (Fun fact: NWNL Director Alison M Jones grew up here!)
Jones_090807_NJ_0235Former coal-fired power plant – the Lower Raritan River
  • The proposed route for the Williams Pipeline (Stanton Loop and the Madison Loop in the Raritan Bay): a request for easement rights through preserved land, including South Branch Reservation, as it runs gas through Readington, Clinton and Raritan townships and under the Raritan Bay to Brooklyn
  • Duke Farms in the South Branch: a beautiful and critical Raritan River Basin stewardship and educational center.
  • Raritan Bay and the NY / NJ Harbor & Estuary: terminus of the Raritan River,  heavily impacted by intense industrial and storm runoff pollution.
  • Raritan River tributaries: Millstone River, Arthur Kill and Lawrence Brook
Jones_130824_NJ_0318Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park – next to the Millstone River tributary

Do subscribe to our blog so you can be sure to see photographs from this flight! NWNL blogs are published every Tuesday. 

Jones_150728_NJ_3822.jpg Raritan Bay Fishermen – Sandy Hook and Atlantic Ocean beyond

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