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Meadowlands EcoCruise

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Published June 7th 2010
Regarded as a wasteland and a garbage dump, New Jersey's Meadowlands have long had their share of negative publicity. But now they are being seen in a new light. Hackensack Riverkeeper, Inc. have helped preserve 8,400 acres of these once reviled wetlands and invites you to come see them for yourself!

On Hackensack Riverkeeper's Meadowlands Discovery Eco-Cruise, you'll see the wetlands at their best. Departing from Secaucus' Laurel Hill County Park, each two to two-and-a-half hour tour is driven by a U.S. Coast Guard-licensed Captain who is chockfull of information on the area's history and ecology. He'll take you to Sawmill Creek Wildlife Management Area—an ecosystem healthy enough to earn the nickname, "The Jewel of the Meadowlands."

As the boat navigates the estuary, keep your eyes peeled for any of the 260 bird species recorded here. Tree swallows, snowy egrets, double-crested cormorants, osprey, and marsh wren are among the notable visitors. Beneath the once-polluted waters swim American eel, mummichog, blueback herring, winter flounder, striped bass, bluefish, goldfish, weakfish, sunnies, and diamond-back terrapin. Marsh fiddler, blue, and mud crabs, navigate the sandy shores while muskrats build their mud lodges.

But this natural scene has not always inhabited the Meadowlands. The Hackensack River's mere 50 miles has suffered from deforestation, development, industrialization, dumping, and toxicity. In fact, what is now a brackish estuary was once clear, fresh water. In 1923, the Oradell Dam divided the river in two, allowing sea water from Newark Bay to flow up the lower half of the river. This created the wetlands you see today, but killed former freshwater wildlife. Further pollution, filling, and development destroyed two-thirds of what was once a 25,000 acre network of wetlands and waterways.

Learn more about the history of land and water use on Hackensack Riverkeeper's Boating Through Bergen and Excursion Around the Bay tours. See their summer schedule.

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Why? To discover an urban wilderness.
When: Weekends, May 1 through October 10; times vary.
Where: At the End of New County Road, Secaucus, NJ
Cost: Adults $25; Kids (4 to 12) $10.
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