New Jersey (NJ) is one of the states in the US that forms a transition between the states of the north and the south. It exhibits characteristics in the physical geography and intermingling of various cultures of the US. It is one of the largest states in the US and has a multiethnic community. It has acted as a support home to several of its densely populated neighborhood. The community present in NJ is highly urbanized and is the second most densely populated state after California.
NJ remains to be one of the most densely populated states in the US. All the 21 counties that belong to the NJ state are classified as ‘metropolitan’. The density of the population has been about 1100 per square miles, compared to the nation average of about 79 per square mile (in 2000). The state concentrates on farming in some regions and for this reason it is frequently known as ‘the Garden State’. As early as the 17th century, farming was considered important due to the agricultural potential of the soil. In the Northwestern parts and the southern regions, the areas are sparsely populated due to the presence of mountains and tidelands in these region. Typically, New Jersey appears S-Shaped on the map (the upper limb is formed by the Appalachian highlands and the Piedmont plains, and the lower limb of the ‘S’ is formed by the Coastal plains) (Stansfied. 1998, Swartz & Stansfield. 2007 & US Census. 2007).
The land between the Hudson and the Delaware River is termed as ‘New Jersey State”. There are three unique characteristics of NJ. It is made up of a multi-ethnic community belonging to various races and ethnic groups. The second unique characteristics are that it has an orientation of both the metropolitan cities that it neighbors. Thirdly, people feel the NJ economy is based on the ability to reach the metropolitan cities, which it neighbors. I do feel that initially NJ State was much of a transition state, offering a place for people of various cultures and ethnic background to intermingle.
There has also been a climatic transition between the northern and the southern US, and this has had an effect on the economy and the social life of the state. The characteristics of NJ is somewhere between New York and New England (considering weather and geographical features). The state houses some of the features that seem to intermingle with these two other states. The Geology of NJ consists of the oldest rocks in the Appalachian and Piedmont regions and recent sediments in the southeastern regions. The state of NJ hence shows a transition, as two different types of geological characteristics are present. Besides, it has water sources concentrated in certain areas, whereas in other areas; the ground water is deep, leading to water problems (Stansfield. 1998).
NJ has an area of about 7, 200 square miles. On the other hand, the area of the US is about 3, 500, 000 square miles. It has an inland water area of about 1, 026 square kilometers. NJ State has a greatest inland length of about 166 miles, and the greatest inland breath of about 75 miles. More than 125 miles is actually coastline (Swartz & Stansfield. 2007, Murray et al. 2007 & Stansfield. 1998).
One of the physical characteristics of NJ State is that it is surrounded by water in all areas except the northern border, where it contacts New York State for about 80 kilometers or is about 12 % of the State’s land. NJ belongs to the middle Atlantic region of the US and lies along the eastern coast. The Hudson River runs along its border in the northeastern regions. Pennsylvania lies along its western border. The Delaware Bay and the Delaware River separate NJ from Delaware State in the southern and the southwest regions.
The largest city in NJ is Newark, and its capital is Trenton. Newark is one of the most important cities in NJ. From here people can easily travel to New York using the river ferry or the railroad. Trenton is located on the eastern side of the Delaware River. It houses several government and civil quarters for the NJ State. About 10 miles from Trenton is the town of Princeton that houses a major university in NJ.
The Northern portion of the state contains the Appalachian Highlands and the entire northern regions contain mountains, ridges, streams and lakes. This region is often known as ‘the New Appalachians’. One of the prominent sandstone ridges present in the northeast is Kittatinny Mountains. This ridge contains the Delaware River (in the Delaware water gap). The highest elevation present in the state is the Kittatinny Mountain that is at a height of 550 meters, present in a few kilometers with the border with New York State. The average elevation of the state is 80 meters (Swartz & Stansfield. 2007, Murray et al. 2007, & Stansfield. 1998).
In the Southeast of Appalachian Highlands, the Triassic lowlands and the Piedmont plains are present (the Piedmont plains lie to the east of the NJ Highlands). It occupies about 20 % of the entire NJ area. This extends from the Northeastern border and includes all the major cities such as Trenton. From the Hudson region, ancient rock ridges extent, which break the monotony of the lowlands. Between the highlands and the lowlands of NJ lies a valley that is highly populated. This valley is underlain with limestone and sandstone, which is bright red in color.
The other stones that are present in this region include conglomerates, shale, igneous stones, etc. These parts of NJ State contain older rock system compared to the coastal plains. The valley is located at a height of 120 to 150 meters and can be routed from the Hudson River, all the way to Alabama. The termination portion of the Piedmont plains in the Hudson region is known as ‘the Palisades’, and is made of trap rock (Cloister Hill). The Piedmont is about 30 kilometers wide.
The valley also contains dark rocks known as ‘trap rock’ that was formed during the earlier geological ages. This rock offers a wonderful arena for waterfalls in the region. The sandstone in several areas has eroded and now appears as prominent ridges. Some of the prominent mountains found in the Piedmont Highlands are the Watchung and the Sourland mountains. The Piedmont lowlands or the “Newark Basin” forms the area where most of the major cities are located. Through this region access to New York and New Jersey could be made. In this region, three of the major rivers drain, namely, the Raritan River, the Passaic River and the Hackensack River (Swartz & Stansfield. 2007).
The NJ Highlands is also known as “New England Upland”, as it is geologically similar to New England. It contains several lakes of great tourist interest. These include Greenwood Lake, Lake Hopatcong, Culvers Lake and Green Pond Lake. The NJ Highlands occupies about 12 % of the entire NJ area. The ridges formed in these regions are made up of an old rock known as ‘gneiss’. The Musconetcong and Pequest River are formed in this area (Murray et al. 2007, & Stansfield. 1998).
The Atlantic Coastal Plain, from the southeast to the coastal areas, occupies about 60 % of NJ area. It has one of the world’s largest chains of sandy barrier islands, which are continuous. It appears wedge shaped, which is thickest in the east-southeast region and thinnest in the center. It has two portions, namely, the inner plain and the outer coastal plain. The inner coastal plain or the “Greensand Belt” is located near the Piedmont area and has a size of 40 kilometers.
Many orchards and agricultural homes are located in this region as the soil is very fertile and conducive to agriculture. On the other hand, the land present in the outer coastal plain is very infertile and not very conducive to agricultural activities. It forms the western rim of the NJ state and area where it meets with the ocean. The outer coastal plain contains several hills, which are not more than 60 meters in height. The outer coastal plain also forms several beaches, lagoons and marshes. Several islands are located off the coast of NJ, some of which are inhabited and form popular tourist destinations.
The ocean currents and the tides have an effect on the offshore islands and the coasts of New Jersey State. On several occasions tidal waves have had an effect on the New Jersey Coast. In southern parts of NJ, the coastal plains contain high amounts of scrub oak and pine trees. Several cranberry and blueberry plantation are located in several areas of the outer coast. The Pine Barren is some of the vast forests located in the outer coastal plains. A few settlements of people and rivers are also located. Many a times, the Pine Barrens of NJ seems to be a source for forest fires.
The number of fires that have occurred since the 1940’s is about 1100. About 8, 000 hectares is usually burnt every year through wild forest fires, much less than the 22, 000 that existed before the forest department began to use effective means of reducing these fires. Most of the fires occur during the dry months of January to September periods. Many of the important resorts and spas are located in the coastal plains. The islands present close to the coast make harbor construction difficult.
Many ships have met with accidents along the NJ coast due to the rough ocean currents and the shallow waters. However, sheltered waterways are located which help to provide some relief for ships. Portions of the NJ coast even have offshore sandbars and barrier beaches. In parts of the northern NJ coast, the coastline is severely eroded (Swartz & Stansfield. 2007, Stansfield. 1998 & Forman et al. 1981).
The islands, beaches, sandpits, etc, present along the NJ coast, are one of the longest chain in the world. They run from the Texas region all the way up to the New York’s long island. The islands of NJ coast seem to be dynamic in nature. The ocean currents, tides, winds, waves, etc, have a dynamic effect on the NJ shoreline. Many of the estuaries located off the coast of New Jersey form important beds for natural oyster shelters and oyster cultivation. Several factors do favor the growth of oysters in the seabed including the tidal currents, the prevailing tides, eddies, prevailing winds (their force and direction), etc. The larvae of oysters can help in regulating their own populations by rising and settling in the tidal currents. In the NJ estuaries, the larvae do rise and settle in the tidal currents thus having potential to grow and develop along the coastal waters (Carriker. 1951 & Stansfield. 1998).
NJ State enjoys an extreme type of climate, with summers being warm and winters cold. To the west of NJ, lies a huge landmass, which causes an extreme type of climate during winter and summer. The climate is produced as a result of its latitude (located halfway between the equator and the North Pole), thus in a position to produce distinct seasons. The distance from the season and the height above sea level also has a role to play in the development of climate of NJ. During the summer, the moist tropical winds bring in hot air causing temperatures to rise and humid conditions to exist. During winter, the continental winds bring in freezing temperatures and causing snowfall in several regions.
The sea tends to retain the heat for greater amount of time during the day. Hence during the night, the sea breezes tend to cool the land. During the day, there is a strong sea breeze, which tends to cool the land. The average rainfall received by the state is more than 1000 per annum. The southwest regions of the state receive lower rainfall compared to other regions. In January, the average temperature in NJ State is about 1 degree centigrade and in July, one of the hottest months, the average temperature is about 23 degrees centigrade. However, extreme temperature have also been recorded, suggesting that at times the temperature can rise or fall to varying degrees. In the winter of 1904, the temperature once dipped to – 37 degree and in the summer of 1936, the temperature once rose to 43 degrees.
Due to the extremes of temperatures recorded in the Piedmont regions, seedlings do not become established within a year. They begin to get established after two or more years. Trees tend to invade areas occupied by herbs and shrubs. During winter, the free-thaw cycles occur which hinders the establishment of the tree seedlings. In portion of the Northwestern regions of the state, seasons last for about three to four months. However, in some of the southwestern regions, the seasons last for about 8 months.
Towards, the coastline, the climates tend to be less of an extreme. Hence, during summer, these places stay cooler than those inlands, and in winter they tend to stay warmer. Many people consider the NJ climate to be variable during various seasons of the year (Swartz & Stansfield. 2007, Stansfield. 1998 & Buell. 1971).
Thus, I do feel that NJ State offers variables in terms of geography, climate and landforms, compared to any other parts of the world. This has caused a diverse flora and fauna to exist in the region. Besides, it also forms a home to many people who would like to visit New York and the Philadelphia region. This has resulted in the population of NJ to be high compared to the other parts of the US.
C. A. Stansfield. A Geography of New Jersey. 2nd Ed. Rutgers University Press, 1998.
Hugh Murray, William Wallace, Robert Jameson et al. The Encyclopædia of Geography: Comprising a Complete Description of the Earth.. New York: Carey, Lea and Blanchard, 2007.
M. F. Buell, H. F. Buell, & J. A. Small, “Invasion of Trees in Secondary Succession on the New Jersey Piedmont.” Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, 98.2 (1971).
M. R. Carriker “Ecological Observations on the Distribution of Oyster Larvae in New Jersey Estuaries.” Ecological Monographs, 21.1 (1951).
R. T. T. Forman & R. E. Boerner “Fire Frequency and the Pine Barrens of New Jersey.” Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 108.1 (1951).
Swartz, J. & Stansfield, C. A. “New Jersey.” Microsoft Encarta. 2007. 3 Nov. 2007: http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761559873/New_Jersey.html
US Census Bureau. New Jersey. US Census Bureau. 2007. 3 Nov. 2007