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Known as the “Everglades of Central Jersey,” the 1,240-acre Dismal Swamp Conservation Area is the largest natural area remaining in northern Middlesex County, spanning portions of Edison, Metuchen and South Plainfield. The Dismal Swamp serves as a natural oasis holding United States Environmental Protection Agency Federal Priority Wetlands. The Dismal Swamp is home to over 175 species of birds, and two dozen species of mammals, amphibians and reptiles, as well as a dozen threatened and endangered species, such as the American bittern, bald eagle, and spotted turtle. The Dismal Swamp also provides natural flood control, while its forests produce oxygen, and its wetlands clean and purify water. Our mission is to protect and preserve all remaining land in the Dismal Swamp Conservation Area for the benefit of Middlesex County families and endangered wildlife.



Small bands of paleo-Indians, or pre-historic people, lived in New Jersey during the Ice Age. They lived by fishing and hunting mammoths, mastodons, saber-tooth tigers, caribou, musk oxen, wild pigs, deer and bears. Spear points and ax heads have been found throughout central New Jersey that experts have dated to 8,000-10,000 years old. Five important archeological sites were identified within the Dismal Swamp near the crossing of Tamage Road and Bound Brook, where similar artifacts were discovered. The later generations were known as the Leni Lenape people. The word "Lenape" has been described as: a male of our kind, men of the same nation or common, ordinary, real people. The land occupied by the Lenape, included all of New Jersey, southern New York, eastern Pennsylvania, and northern Delaware, and was called "Lenapehoking." The Lenape clans were an agricultural society and farmed maize, beans and gourds, and supplemented their livelihood with hunting and fishing. A tribe of the Lenape Indians living in central New Jersey was called Raritaing, from which the name “Raritan” was derived. The name "Metuchen" first appeared in 1688/1689, and its name was derived from a Lenape chief, known as Matouchin. The European explorers in the 1600s described the Lenape as tall, with no beards, and black hair that was sometimes braided on one side of the head, while the hair was plucked out on the other side.

Paleo-Indians Photo from: uvm.edu

The Province of New Jersey was part of the Dutch New Netherlands colony until the English conquest in 1664. The Metuchen-Edison-South Plainfield region was always a transportation hub, which shaped its popularity and growth. The early settlers farmed, fished, hunted and trapped beaver and muskrats, logged, or were merchants. A sawmill and gristmill were established on nearby Cedar Brook in Edison in 1732. Colonial development near Metuchen began around 1750s when well established Indian trails served as carriage routes to New Brunswick, Trenton, New York City and Philadelphia. These routes led to roadways, and commercial rail and highway corridors. Historical maps and records indicate that in the 1800s the region was sparsely populated with only a few buildings in the Boroughs of Metuchen and South Plainfield. However, by the 1840s the Metuchen railroad station spurred commercial and residential development.

Lenape People Photo from ftschool.org

Lenape People Photo from ftschool.org

Information provided by websites for the historic societies of Metuchen, Edison and South Plainfield and the Hunterdon County Cultural and Heritage Commission were reviewed to provide the historic background for the Dismal Swamp.
Source: The Dismal Swamp Conservation Area Management Plan, Prepared by Princeton Hydro, LLC, April 2009.


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