Zion Crossing – A brand new park!

Zion Crossing is located on Hollow Rd in Montgomery.  Here is a drop pin of the location since there are no signs!

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Ahhh… Fishing…  I love it.  I used to go all the time as a child and young adult with my father, but after I graduated from undergraduate I never could coordinate our time and would wind up going once a year at most.  Then I had a child, and then started to cut out time in my schedule to fish again.  These fishing times were few and far in between, but there is something so meditative and exciting about fishing that it is addictive.  Lately I have been leaving my rod and tackle box in the car so that if I get even a few minutes of peace on my way to/from I can throw in my line.  That is exactly what I did this morning!  I pulled into the parking lot and saw this sign and decided I could spare 15 minutes to throw my line in and see who was hanging out!

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Almost as soon as my line hit the water I got a bite!

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A Chub, Semotilus atromaculatus!  I really don’t know much about fishing, and when I first caught this I thought perhaps it was a young trout, but was informed by a more experienced fisher, Akash, that it was a creek chub.  Here is a link to NJ Fish and Wildlife’s handout about creek chubs. 

Akash told me that in general, streams in the Sourlands are unable to support wild trout due to the water in our streams becoming too warm in the summer.  Warm water can cause two types of issues.  The first is that all organisms, animals/plants/fungi/bacteria/viruses have a temperature gradient that they can survive in.  Some organisms can have a wider temperature gradient that they can tolerate, while others have a very narrow gradient of only a few degrees either way.  So if the stream warms to a temperature that is above the tolerable zone for trout, it can stop them from being able to reproduce or kill them outright.  Another issue with warm water is that warm water does not hold as as much dissolved oxygen as cold water. Cold water is more oxygen soluble, meaning that more oxygen is able to be absorbed into the water and the water has a higher oxygen saturation level.  Here is an article that explains this in more detail.

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A very large English Ivy, Hedera helix, cut.  A common method of killing vines is to cut the vine near the base of the tree it is growing on.  Often it is impossible to remove a vine from a tree once the vine has become established, but by killing the vine it will no longer put out leaves that will compete with the trees leaves for light and also cannot grow any larger and weigh the tree down more than it already is.

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A lovely little picnic area.  I could imagine taking my children here for a picnic lunch and then to play in the stream.  I did not measure the depth of the stream, but it looked like it could be a nice place for them to splash around in!

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As you approach the water, there is a little trail on your left.  This was recently created by volunteers from the Sourland Conservancy and Montgomery Friends of Open Space during the recent clean up.  The volunteers removed invasive species and worked to clear this trail.

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The bird in the upper right portion of this photo I think is a Louisiana Waterthrush, Parkesia motacilla.  I could definitly be wrong because I know just about diddly about birds…  There is also a Northern Waterthrush, Parkesia noveboracensis, that looks very similar, but to be perfectly honest, I really don’t know.  If YOU know, please let ME know!  In any case, read about both birds at the Cornell Ornithology Lab here.

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A still little pool filled with all types of squirming larvae.  I don’t know what they were, but there were a couple different types of critters in there.

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A witches hat!  Well, sort of!  This is a gall on a Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, caused by the Witch Hazel Cone Gall Aphid (Hormaphis hamamelidis).  The gall protects a mother aphid while she feeds and reproduces.  More information on the Witch Hazel Cone Gall Aphid.

 

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The path of least resistance.  This stream has a fairly wide bed, but most of the water is funneling down along the right side of this section.  Rivers and streams are not stationary (duh!!!!), and the path of flow changes over time.  Many times flooding events will change how the water carves through the land.  On the right side of the stream here, you can see the water flowing along the bank, which is fairly steep and then a water fall caused by an exposed American Sycamore root.  More than likely, the water flowed along the left side, which is now mostly dry exposed rock.  During a flooding event, the right side was eroded, creating a deep channel, which after the flooding event was still the path of least resistance so the water continued to flow along this new path.

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Exposed American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) roots.  You can be sure that these roots were covered by soil for quite some before being exposed.  I absolutely love American Sycamores, you will see their beautiful mottled bark lining rivers and streams in this area.  I don’t know why they feel so iconic to me, but these trees just make me smile.  There is a very similar tree, London Plane Tree, Platanus x acerifolia, that can be easily confused with American Sycamore.  London Plane trees are actually a cross between an American Sycamore and an Oriental Plane (Platanus orientalis).  Some of the differences between American Sycamore and London Plane Trees are that the underbark of American Syacmore is white and London Plane is yellow/green.  The other mayor difference is that the fruit, a ball-like cluster of seeds, hang singly in American Sycamore and hang in Twos and Threes on London Plane Trees.  So why am I going on and on about these two trees?  Well, along the rivers and streams in this area you will see American Sycamores, and then you will walk down the streets of Philadelphia and say to yourself, “Hey!  American Sycamore!” and you would be mistaken…  London Plane Trees are used extensively as street trees, and they do a wonderful job tolerating the abuse that goes along with bring one!

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Volunteers were clearing a path to create a trail and sawed through this tree.  I don’t know if it was already down or if they took it down, but it looks like it has the start of perhaps heart rot.  I truly love some of the names of plant diseases, this makes me think of a weathered, bitter person with their heart rotting out…  But in reality, it is a fungal disease that causes the heart wood of the trunk and branches to rot.  Often times you will not see any evidence on the outside of the tree other than mushrooms growing along the stems, trunk or around the base of the tree.  I think in general it is good practice to regularly walk your property and check the trees around your property (especially if they are in close proximity to a living structure or someplace you spend a lot of time) and look for mushrooms or leaf die back!  Many trees will let you know they are dying when they lose 1/3 of their leaf canopy (the leaves might not have emerged) or there are mushrooms growing out of the tree or near the base.

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A daydream worthy stream cushioned by Sedges (Carex spp.).

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