Cheesequake State Park Paddle, NJ
by Monica Orso
Sunday, July 10, 2022
Our guided paddle through the marshes of Cheesequake State Park, originally scheduled for July 9, was bumped to the 10th due to an uncertain forecast. Although a few of the 12 members that signed up could not do the following day, the vacant spots were quickly filled by folks on the waiting list.
To make things simple, the group elected to use the Park's kayaks. Classic old tupperware rec boats, they did a fine job of cruising the gentle waters of the tide marshes. I don't think I have ever witnessed so many known canoeists in kayaks at the same time! Most participants were actually quite happy about not having to load boats on their cars. We helped unload the kayaks from the park trailer that was waiting for us at the Crabbing Bridge put-in.
Leading the tour was Park Naturalist Jim Faczek, and two park helpers. We launched at a low tide level without a hitch, and proceeded to paddle the Creek towards Steamboat Landing. Jim paddled a good ways backwards so he could speak to the group about the ecology and history of the area. Those of you who have met Jim can vouch for the entertainment factor as well as the education factor.
The weather couldn't have been more perfect. The peaceful marsh sang to us with sounds of marsh wrens, gulls, redwings, osprey, willets, egrets and heron to name just a few. Minnows and fiddler crabs were everywhere scurrying about. A little tiff between a heron who had caught lunch, and an osprey who wanted to steal that catch entertained us. Cormorants were dipping in and out of the water, and sometimes if you were lucky you caught a glimpse of a little turtle head popping up in front of you.
Jim did a great job of identifying everything going on around us while weaving in little known facts like fiddler crabs going down into their holes at high tide are careful to plug the entrance of the hole with mud to trap enough air for them to breath. Who knew? Also learned that this area is well known for having extensive amber deposits dating back perhaps 100 million years, the deposit area being the second largest in the world behind the Baltics. New species have even been discovered here.
When we arrived at Steamboat Landing we took a snack break and Jim passed around historic photos of when this was actually a functioning dock, all that remains now are eerie pylons scattered about. It was hard to imagine that this waterway was capable of handling steamboats, but the proof was in the pics. One of the pylons was home to a tree swallow family which gave some great photo ops.
After our break, we headed back to the Crabbing Bridge at a leisurely pace. A few of us had packed a lunch and debriefed in the shade by the swimming area of the park before heading home.
A great ecotour, and as Jim put it, paid for by our tax dollars. But my attention was brought to an issue facing the park concerning funding. Donations to the park go into a general fund, and the food dollars for the park's resident 2 turtles and 1 tortoise are in jeopardy. I have decided to start a small fundraiser to help out, with the proceeds going towards the purchase of a Petco gift card presented to the Nature Center for the sole purpose of feeding these guys. The turtles apparently need live food, and Petco is where it is purchased. If you are interested in donating, contact me and I will send a link to where you can donate online. The park has so far given us 2 guided hikes and one paddling Ecotour, all free of charge. And the turtles are really quite cute...
Although Jim is going to be pretty much retired as of next year, he has told me he would come back to lead another paddling trip for us if he can. Happy to hear that, as he is a hard act to follow!
> Link to trip pics: https://photos.app.goo.gl/pbRJArqxXZ6uVN8WA