New Jersey can often get a bad reputation, if not by the amount of suburban neighborhoods, then by the industrial compounds that line the Turnpike. And yet, there are still so many regions that have acres of natural beauty to be explored, provided you are respectful in your approach.
Respectful was a key description of Jacques Cousteau, a French naval officer, explorer, ecologist, filmmaker, innovator, scientist, photographer, author and researcher who studied the sea and all forms of life in water.
He co-developed the Aqualung, pioneered marine conservation, and became the face and name for a movement devoted to the protection and conservation of nature in the sea and on the land. On Oct. 20, 1997 the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve (JC NERR), located in Tuckerton, southeastern New Jersey, was dedicated in his honor.
The JC NERR covers more than 110,000 acres of terrestrial, wetland and aquatic habitats within the Mullica River-Great Bay Ecosystem; these comprise a wide range of habitats includes the pinelands, lowland swamps, freshwater marshes, salt and freshwater tidal marshes, barrier islands (sandy beaches and dune habitats), shallow bays and the coastal ocean. Little more than one percent of this reserve has been subject to human development.
Melanie Reding, Education Coordinator at the Reserve, offered a primer for those coming to the region. “We suggest a first stop be at the Tuckerton Seaport where our Life on the Edge Exhibit is housed. This exhibit serves as a gateway to the Reserve and covers the variety of habitats within our roughly 115,000 acre reserve and some of the research that is being conducted,” Reding said. “Visitors will also learn about what and estuary does and why they are important. (We are in the process of redesigning and updating our exhibit which we hope to have in place by spring of 2013.)”
The Tuckerton center serves as the hub for education and outreach programs associated with the Research Reserve. The Center is a state-of-the-art facility including a classroom equipped with video conferencing, Internet capable computer workstations, a library of K-12 curriculum materials, and a 16-bed dormitory.
The Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve combines the natural, educational, and scenic qualities of a truly memorable outing which is why we've selected the in for this installment of Day Tripper, a weekly look at destinations that are out of town, but in reach and worth the trip.
DAY TRIPPER DIGEST
Estimated Travel Time: 2 hours
Why it’s Worth the Trip: Respect for nature comes from experiencing it and learning about it, and that’s something a trip to JC NERR does best. Or you can simply come to enjoy this departure from the standard suburban/urban landscapes!
You’ll Probably Get Hungry: It might be a little strange to have a seafood dish after visiting JC NERR, but if you are in fact feeling strange try the shrimp with broccoli at China Palace, sushi from Ocean East Buffet, or anything your heart desires over at Scojo’s at Tuckerton Seaport. Cap it off with a treat from Debra’s Daydream Café in Little Egg Harbor Township.
While You’re in the Area: Melanie Reding wanted visitors to know the JC NERR is not the only worthwhile spot on this day trip. “You'll also see the old Coast Guard Station which now serves as the Rutgers University Marine Field Station. This station is only open to the public one time a year (usually in September). Great Bay Blvd. is well known for the wonderful birding opportunities and amazing views of the salt marshes along with remnants of times gone by (old Fish Factory). Since over 95% of our Reserve is in public ownership we would then suggest visiting some of our land management partners: Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge and drive the 8 mile birding loop; Visit Bass River State Forest and take a hike; and Head up to the Reserves headwaters at Wharton State Forest and tour the historic Batsto Village.”
The area that makes up the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve is one of the least disturbed estuaries in the northeastern portion of the country and is one of the twenty-eight national estuarine reserves created to promote the responsible use and management of the nation's estuaries through a program combining scientific research, education, and stewardship.
Estuaries occur where rivers meet the sea–where fresh and salt water mix to create a unique and very productive ecosystem vital to life both on land and in the sea.
Reding made other suggestions to potential visitors. “A drive down Great Bay Boulevard (just around the corner from the Seaport) will take visitors out onto the peninsula that separates the Mullica River-Great Bay Estuary and the Barnegat Bay Estuary." she said. "A series of one lane bridges will lead to the end of the road of the peninsula where you can walk a short path to a small beach.”
Reding suggested visitors check the Center's calendar, www.jcnerr.org, to see what family-friendly programs are offered.