December 1, 1993
miles of the Maurice River system (which includes Menanatico and
Muskee Creeks and the Manumuskin River) travels through five municipalities
and two counties in southern New Jersey on its way to the Delaware
The Maurice River
corridor is an unusually pristine coastal river with national and
internationally important resources. As part of the Atlantic flyway,
its clean waters and related habitats are vitally important to the
migration of shorebirds, songbirds, waterfowl, raptors,rails and
fish. The river supports New Jersey's largest stand of wild rice
and 53 percent of the animal species that the state has recognized
as endangered, excluding marine mammals. The river is a critical
link between the Pinelands National Reserve and the Delaware Estuary.
The Maurice River and its tributaries drain the southwest portion
of the Pinelands National Reserve. The Pinelands Commission considers
the entire Manumuskin watershed to be an ecologically critical area
which supports important aquatic communities characteristic of the
Pinelands. State and local governments, as well as conservation organizations,
own significant acreage for preservation and conservation purposes.
The huge, unspoiled Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer underlies most of the
region and the rivers and associated wetlands serve as nurseries for
ocean-going species. They offer food and habitat for both resident
and migrating species. Annually, huge flocks of birds alight within
the watershed to enjoy, if only briefly, the area's natural bounty.
The Maurice River
corridor is an area rich in natural, cultural and historical significance.
Its tributaries, and the bay beyond, not only shaped the lifestyle
and livelihood of the region's inhabitants in the past, they continue
to support the region's economy and the lifestyle of many of today's
corridor residents. Early industries depended on river water channeled
into swiftly flowing mill races. Some residents built dikes so they
could farm the often boggy lands close to the river. Many others
worked in maritime occupations. Local ship builders provided vessels
for fishing area waters and for carrying local products to distant
markets. The region's entire glass making industry emerged because
of, and still depends upon, the sandy deposits found throughout
the watershed. Cumberland County's heritage is steeped in the history
of the Lenni-Lenape people, a nation that numbered some 6,000 inhabitants
at the time of the earliest colonial explorations of the Delaware
New Nature Center for the Maurice?