In Search of the "Oak Bottom"

Rooftree

Explorer
Mar 24, 2017
115
229
43
73
Haddon Township
Back in the early 1900's, botanist, John William Harshberger described an area in the east lobe of the West Plains as an "oak bottom". An area of a depression with an oak forest in the valley of the Sykes Branch. Today, I had the incentive to find this location since my Grandfather knew Prof. Harshberger. I believe I was in the right area, but not to be found. I really didn't think I would. I'm sure this area has greatly changed over the past 100 years. Blueberries were farmed in this area since then, which created a very dense thicket today. I will be back along the Sykes Branch come July, so I'll keep an eye out for this; "oak bottom".

This is not good. This is the second consecutive trip that I came up short on meeting my objective. Anyhow, here's a few photos from the day.

One other note. While in the pygmy pine area, I saw an opening with some debris. As I checked it out, I came upon a strange and eerie looking spot. There was a dead deer (been there for a good while) and four dead birds, one bird being up in the tree. The birds appear to be pheasants.

IMG_7858.JPG

IMG_7860.JPG


IMG_7869.JPG


IMG_7873.JPG


Sand-myrtle
IMG_7875.JPG


The dead bird
IMG_7879.JPG



IMG_7882.JPG



IMG_7889.JPG


Oak or Maple? I was hoping for oak, but I think it is maple for what I saw on the ground
IMG_7891.JPG


I was hoping that was the oak forest.
IMG_7897.JPG
 

Rooftree

Explorer
Mar 24, 2017
115
229
43
73
Haddon Township
Well, to be a little graphic, two on the ground appeared to be eaten, but the other one on the ground was missing its head only, not eaten. The one in the tree had its head, not eaten. I have a picture at that angle, but I thought it would be best to show the one I posted.
 

bobpbx

Piney
Staff member
Oct 25, 2002
11,209
1,909
1,093
Pines; Bamber area
Well, to be a little graphic, two on the ground appeared to be eaten, but the other one on the ground was missing its head only, not eaten. The one in the tree had its head, not eaten. I have a picture at that angle, but I thought it would be best to show the one I posted.
Yeah, Ben don't like gory.

Maybe they drifted over to the plains from the shooting fields on 539. Not sure if they stocked those with pheasant this year though. Likely coyote or fox got 'em.
 

Rooftree

Explorer
Mar 24, 2017
115
229
43
73
Haddon Township
Thanks Rednek; You are probably right. The tree was in a wet area. Close by was another tree with a different bark structure. Red maple leaves were on the ground at both trees. The bottom line is, this oak forest needs to be much further away from the wet area. Who knows where that's at. Harshberger didn't give the name of oaks that made up the oak bottom.

IMG_7893.JPG
 

Spung-Man

Explorer
Jan 5, 2009
911
507
93
59
Richland, NJ
loki.stockton.edu
Awesome report, Rooftree!

It would be interesting to define what was once considered “oak bottom.” I agree, the Pine Barrens character has changed a lot over the last few centuries.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “bottom” is either “Low-lying land; (frequently in plural) a valley, a dell; an alluvial hollow” or it is “the channel, hollow, or basin in which a river runs. Obsolete."

—If the former, then Harshberger appears to be describing what I refer to as a cripple.

—If the latter, then he might be referring to paleochannel wetland, perhaps in an area where windblown sand raised a wetland up just enough to allow oak grow, a genus that doesn't particularly like wet feet.

It would be interesting to determine if a modern river channel cut (incised) into and passed through the oak bottom.

Cook-Vermeule (1887, map 12) indicates Sykes Branch is whitecedar dominated.

Region capture 6.png

Note the valley asymmetry (above) and its effect on vegetation type due to insolation.

McCormick & Jones (1973, map 28) in The Pine Barrens Vegetation Geography show hardwood forest in the upper reaches of the channel bottom. Pitch pine lowland replaced the whitecedar forest of 1887.

S-M
 

Oriental

Explorer
Apr 21, 2005
207
58
28
I love hearing about such descriptive places. Good luck with your search.

Interesting to me that old Dover Township (once part of Monmouth County) boasted a village named White Oak Bottom. I believe the locality still carries that name. Ann Wilbur, William B. Hyers, and Jonathan Johnson each operated taverns there at various times in the 1830s.
 

Spung-Man

Explorer
Jan 5, 2009
911
507
93
59
Richland, NJ
loki.stockton.edu
Oriental,

Thank you for suggesting another Pine Barrens “bottom.” White Oak Bottom appears to be at the head of a small cripple, or perhaps a stream. Is there a modern river channel cut (incised) into its floor?

Bottom is a common term for flat periglacial dells in the UK, like “The periglacial rock-stream at Clatford Bottom, Marlborough Downs, Wiltshire,” which was studied by Small et al. (1990). The rocks found there are silcrete, a stone that is present in South Jersey too.


Also, Clatford Bottom is full of folklore, including stories of a resident devil. Like Pine Barrens silcrete, the rock-stream’s lithics are also pitted with opferkessel (see link below) that fill with water. However, at Clatford the rock dimples’ water-fill will mysteriously drain at night, having been sucked dry by that demon.


Oak bottom is a fitting name for the shallow cripples around my place, which are ephemeral wetlands dominated by white oak—like the one cross from my property. It is a dune-filled Pleistocene paleochannel. A lot of people build in oak bottom as white oaks don't grow in swamps, right?

IMG_7404.jpg

Cheers,
S-M
 

Rooftree

Explorer
Mar 24, 2017
115
229
43
73
Haddon Township
Spung-Man; thanks for chiming in. I never expected you getting involve with one of my post. Good stuff!

As I mentioned, Harshberger described that the east lobe of the West Plain is separated from the main area by a "bottom" or depression with oak forest. Into this valley runs the Skyes Branch. (So I took it to be in the general area of the Sykes Branch. Since he mentioned 'east lobe', I thought he was referring to the more eastern part of the Sykes Br.. At that period it was just swamp for about 1/2 mile. That's were I was yesterday.) He further states he called this detached area the Little Plains. (How it appears he broaden area, and not just along the Sykes Br.) Then he goes on and states that this elevated area is the watershed of a number of major streams.

The Sykes Br flows into the Shoal Br which flows into the Wading R. The Sykes Br flows for about 1 3/4 miles, the last 3/4's being swamp. I've explored the first 3/4 miles upstream from the Shoal Br. a number of times. All along there, there is a distinct incline to the stream. So, in most cases, Atlantic White Cedars are only right near the stream edge and quickly changes to pines as the land goes uphill. However, there are some areas that is flat for about 50 to 70 yards and then there is a distinct uphill. Lastly, about 1 mile from Shoal Br, the Sykes Br. splits into two branches. The area between these two branches appear to be upland forest. Also, looking at old maps, logging was extensive in this area over the years.

Well, with all that's said, where is the "bottom"? It's probably a pine forest now.

Ron
 
  • Like
Reactions: Jon Holcombe

46er

Piney
Mar 24, 2004
8,338
1,829
1,093
Coastal NJ
Headless Pheasant are usually the result of an Owl kill. Pheasant were stocked this year, but pretty far from Coyle, see the map. The one in the tree may have been hit and eventually died in flight. Might also have been non-state stocked. The White Oak section of now Toms River Township is bordered by Rt 9 to the west, the GSP to the south and east and Rt 70 to the north. Used to be a gun club there I shot skeet at. Now its all houses and one church that sells great perogies. ;)

Pheasant stocking;
https://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/pdf/pheasmaps/greenwood.pdf
 

Rooftree

Explorer
Mar 24, 2017
115
229
43
73
Haddon Township
Thanks, 46er. That's interesting relating to the Owl. I thought maybe the pheasant was injured on the ground, but had the ability to fly 6 feet up to the branch and died there.
 

Spung-Man

Explorer
Jan 5, 2009
911
507
93
59
Richland, NJ
loki.stockton.edu
There is one more Piney speak use of "bottom," and that's for a resource pit aggregate. There are a number of pit specialty materials like infield mix, race track, bank run, screened topsoil, and thermal sand. Then there is "old furnace bottom," which is a mixture of of fine sand with a sticky clay content. It is an unwashed molding sand used for making open hearth steel furnace bottom and patching a furnace between heats. It was also used for steel casting purposes.

Region capture 2.png

Geologically it is an ancient deposit that contains silica grains deeply weathered under both warm humid (interglacial) conditions and—more importantly—under cold dry (glacial/periglacial) conditions. Each bright patch (below) of light yellow sand exposed along the old furnace bottom wall is associated with a sand wedge or their intersection with other sand wedges (called sediment-filled pots). Most of the sand wedge structures were deformed during permafrost thaw. The wedge infill is derived from sand sheet passage under cold, dry, and windy Ice Age conditions.

PICT2537.jpg

Two papers describe the above section of old furnace bottom in detail.

Demitroff M, Doolittle JA, Nelson FE. 2008. Use of ground-penetrating radar to characterize cryogenic macrostructures in southern New Jersey, USA. In Kane DL, Hinkel, KM (eds.). Proceedings, Ninth International Conference on Permafrost. Institute of Northern Engineering. University of Alaska, Fairbanks. pp. 355–360.

Demitroff M, Doolittle JA, Katz S, Nelson F, Roth P, Scholl S, Siegel A, Young R. 2007. Soils — Ground-penetrating radar field assistance. NJ04-07 Periglacial Features GPR. USDA/NRCS, Newton Square, PA, 10 pp.
Oak bottoms are old stream channels (cripples) filled with the same sand-sheet sand, which raises the ground just high (dry) enough above their old channel floor to allow the establishment of oaks. The ground below the old stream channel floor is deeply weathered too, perching the shallow groundwater table. In wet years they (oak bottoms) become intermittent drainage channels.

S-M
 
Last edited: