Photograph along Roberts branch in the New Jersey Pine-lands.
Roberts Branch Creek, Pine Barrens, Wharton State Forest is one of my favorite places in the Wharton Tract.
The Pine Barrens, also known as the Pinelands or simply the Pines, is a heavily forested area of coastal plain stretching across more than seven counties of southern New Jersey. The name “pine barrens” refers to the area’s sandy, acidic, nutrient-poor soil. European settlers’ attempts to cultivate their familiar crops there failed although the unique ecology of the Pine Barrens supports a diverse spectrum of plant life, including orchids and carnivorous plants. The area is also notable for its populations of rare pygmy Pitch Pines and other plant species that depend on the frequent fires of the Pine Barrens to reproduce. The sand that composes much of the area’s soil is referred to by the locals as sugar sand.
Despite its proximity to Philadelphia and New York City, and the fact that the Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway run through it, the Pine Barrens remains largely rural and undisturbed. The Pine Barrens territory helps recharge the 17 trillion gallon Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer containing some of the purest water in the United States. As a result of all these factors, in 1978 Congress passed legislation to designate 1.1 million acres (4,500 km²) of the Pine Barrens as the Pinelands National Reserve (the nation’s first National Reserve) to preserve its ecology. A decade later, it was designated by the United Nations as an International Biosphere Reserve. Development in the Pinelands National Reserve is strictly controlled by an independent state/federal agency, the New Jersey Pinelands Commission.