This Thanksgiving break, I returned to a place that is very special to me. I went to the Billie Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve in Princeton, New Jersey, about 20 minutes from where I grew up.This is my favorite place to hike locally, because while it is relatively small and contained, the properties which make it up are very diverse in their characteristics. There are forests, fields, boulder fields, a cave, a lake, and brooks to name a few. Each trail feels like it takes me to a different place, but they are all actually part of one space that is in the heart of my life in New Jersey. I went there a few times as a kid with my family, but began visiting in my junior year again almost weekly, weather permitting. The center of the main property is a manmade lake with a damn, which at the beginning of the 20th century was used for ice harvesting. (Because back then, it got cold enough in New Jersey for that!) As in other local parks and preserve, the some of topography surrounding the body of water is actually shaped by the earth excavated to create the lake
The spot I chose to study in particular is a stream on the edge of the preserve that is on a trail, where there are stepping stones across the stream. The water comes from Stony Brook, connecting briefly with the lake water but not coming from it or directly to it. It is hugged on one side by a private farm, and on the other side by the lake and the preserve. It is a small, easily crossable stream, and I really enjoy the stepping stones across it. On one side of the brook at my site there is a wildlife habitat restoration taking place, where another trail is sectioned off to allow for the forest to recover.
On the other, there is a patch of crushed grass that is said to be the result of deer, which are often sighted in or around the brook. The trees surrounding my site were mainly large hardwoods: shumard oaks, white oaks, and witch hazel, one of which has actually fallen across the brook.
I also used the Rock’D app recommended by my TA, which showed me geological information about the site, from which I learned that I was on a embayed coastal plane, aged in the Late Triassic period (~230 MYA). The lithology of the site, that is, the rocks present were listed as mudstone, shale, sandstone, and argillite (the results switched between two identified groupings). At Salmon Hole, the bedrock is Monkton Quartzite from the Middle Cambrian (~500MYA). There is sandstone and dolostone present, which indicates the major similarity between the two sites. Both bedrocks are composed of shale because both sediments were originally beneath oceans/seas, though the Passaic/Lockatong formation in New Jersey was formed more recently and because the water receded from there more recently. I think the main differences lie in climate and elevation, where I live is barely above sea level and is warmer than the climate in Vermont. Otherwise, I think the two spaces are pretty similar, though obviously the Winooski is much larger and has a greater impact on its surrounding landscape. I haven’t been to Salmon Hole in a while, but in the preserve all of the leaves are on the ground, though the shrubs and vines still have their leaves. Both landscapes were also cleared in the previous two centuries, and have since been allowed to regrow.
Photos I took during my visit: