EcoLogic: Where The Wild Things Are

The whoosh of roller-coasters and waterslides have faded, and fiery foliage, crisp air, harvest bounties, bird migrations, and other natural wonders are taking their place. New Jersey offers no shortage of eco-minded fall getaways that showcase the best the state has to offer.

Photo by Steve Greer.

• Covering more than 3,500 acres, the Manumuskin River Preserve in Cumberland County has been protected by the Nature Conservancy since 1983 and is open to visitors from dawn to dusk. A patchwork of swamps, meadows, upland forest, mudflats, and tidal marshes, the preserve includes more than 30 species that are classified as rare and features 3.6 miles of riverfront.

The Manumuskin is a tributary of the Maurice River, and from 9:30 am to 2 pm on October 17, the Nature Conservancy hosts Paddling Beside the Bluffs, which takes visitors along the Maurice, classified by the federal government as a Wild and Scenic waterway. Participants (who must reserve their place by calling 609-861-4134) will meet at the Maurice River Bluffs Preserve in Cumberland County. The cost is $100 and includes all kayak equipment and refreshments.

Other Nature Conservancy events include the free Sunrise Mountain Fall Raptor Migration hike and watch on Kittatinny Ridge in Stokes State Forest in Sussex County on October 10 (908-955-0339) and Fungus Among Us: A Guided Walk through the Eldora Nature Preserve in Cape May and Cumberland counties on October 15 (609-861-4134).

• From 10 am to noon on October 24, a free Fall Foliage Nature Walk takes leaf lovers along a mostly flat trail through Smith’s Woods at Historic Smithville Park in Eastampton (609-265-5068; co.burlington.nj.us).

• The Cape May Bird Observatory features events just about every day, including the Cape May Autumn Hawk Watch, The Birds of Cape May: A Bird Walk for All People on Thursdays, sunset birding, a butterfly walk in the Goshen Gardens, and bird identification mini workshops (birdcapemay.org).

Leaf No Trace

Leaf removal is a finicky thing. Raking leaves can be fun—at least until back pain builds. Leaf blowers speed up the process, but gas models emit significant air and sound pollution. Yet removing at least some of the crinkly, colorful biomass from your property is essential: heavy layers will smother the grass. But even curbside pickup can be a problem. “When leaves are placed at the curb and are carried away by stormwater, they can have detrimental effects on the surrounding community and environment,” says Karen Hershey of the DEP, adding that leaves “remove oxygen from the water during the decomposition process.”

So what to do? You can add leaves to your compost pile, mixed in with summer grass clippings. Or you can spread chopped leaves as mulch; in addition to retaining soil moisture and minimizing temperature fluctuations, they help slow the growth of weeds—and eventually decompose into the soil.

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