Linda's For the Birds: The Maurice National Scenic and Recreational River, Cumberland County
Maurice River Bluffs.
Photos courtesy of Linda Gangi
Recently, Lillian Armstrong and I spent the day together touring the area around the Maurice National Scenic and Recreational River in Cumberland County. Just this year, she became Executive Director of Citizens United (CU) to Protect the Maurice River and its Tributaries, Inc., and I thought there would be no one better to show me all the hot birding spots in the county.
I got more than I bargained for that day. Weaving together natural history, economics, and environmental activism, Lillian made it clear that our preserved spaces cannot be separated from the culture as well as the economy of the people, and that our history is shaped first and foremost by our natural resources.
Besides Purple Martins drawing people to the area these days, the bald eagle also provides an ecotourism attraction for the region. Every year, The Cumberland County Eagle Festival is held in early February (Saturday the 11th, 2012) at the Mauricetown Fire Hall. It incorporates guided walks, lectures, exhibits, and food into an all-day affair. CU Maurice River holds its annual Chili Bowl fundraiser and other non-profits such as New Jersey Audubon Society and Natural Lands Trust make contributions to the programming.
Traveling south through towns such as Port Norris and Bivalve (imagine they even named a town after the oyster), you begin to get a feeling for the history of the area without having to ask. Stopping at the Bayshore Discovery Project, one can see the remnants of the railroad track which carried the oyster harvest to Philadelphia. The shipping sheds that were built back then house the Delaware Bay Museum and Folklife Center today. New Jersey’s official Tall Ship, The A.J. Meerwald, a restored oyster schooner that is docked there, is used for educational purposes providing hands on experience to children of all grade levels. The Bivalve Discovery Tour combines a wetlands walk and a museum tour, helping to bring the past and the present together.
Another reason Lillian thought that membership and volunteerism was so high in the organization was because of the personal touch its president, Jane Morton Galleto, provides, and I can attest to this. During our drive, she called to make sure Lillian had taken me to the Maurice River Bluffs. When she found that we had not taken a walk out to the bluffs, and that we felt we were getting short on time, she told us about a short cut and gave us detailed directions as to its location just so I could see them.
Continuing south, we ended our tour at the East Point Lighthouse, located at the mouth of the Maurice River where it meets the Delaware Bay. The second oldest lighthouse in New Jersey, second only to Sandy Hook, it is the last remaining working lighthouse on the Delaware Bay. As we approached the lighthouse and parked, the breathtaking view of the bay was good enough reason to visit this spot, but the lighthouse made it all the more special and capped off an enjoyable and informative day.
I hope as you visit this area you will keep in mind that all the land that has been preserved has its advantages; no industry, no pollution, and great birding opportunities. But this comes at a cost. The local businesses depend more on ecotourism for their livelihoods. Perhaps you could, after a great morning of birding, make a point to visit the local shops, buy gas before you leave town, and learn about the local history by visiting the museums along with taking advantage of the environmental events that are staged there each year. This will help ensure that the bald eagle soars over the Maurice River, that the purple martins stage by the thousands in the phragmites, and that the ospreys return to their platforms.
For all things Maurice River visit CU website and make sure to check their calendar for upcoming events:
Maurice River Wild and Scenic homepage:
For more information about the purple martin staging along the http://www.mauricerivertwp.org/purplemartin.html
To read more about the Peek Preserve visit their website
For more information about the Maurice River Bluffs visit: http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/newjersey/placesweprotect/delaware-bayshores-maurice-river-bluffs-preserve.xml#thingsToDo
For more information about the East Point Lighthouse visit:
To find out more about the arts movement in Millville:
For information on the Bayshore Discovery Project visit:
- Linda's For the Birds: Volunteering at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge
- Linda's For the Birds: The Season's Swarming Swallows
- Linda's For the Birds: The Turning of the Seasons
- Linda's For the Birds: Cool Places: The Lighthouse Center
- Linda's For the Birds: The Pygmy Pines
- Linda's For the Birds: Our Industrious Wrens