Lake Pam — seen above on an autumn afternoon — is a very different kind of water body than those in the Lake Fred complex (Lake Fred, Upper Lake, Lower Lake, and Cedick Run Bog).
It is, first of all, much younger — only sixty years old, compared to Lake Fred’s two and a half centuries.
Its history is also much easier to trace — documented by aerial photographs and remembered by local citizens who witnessed the creation of the Garden State Parkway in the early 1950s.
As the Parkway road crews made their way north through Atlantic County, racing to meet the crews coming south from North Jersey and to complete the state-long route as quickly as possible, they needed sand in countless tons for the miles of concrete pavement they were laying down. In our area the good Pine Barrens sand right along the roadsides was the most easily-accessible, and the crews dug it up and used it wherever they could. Many of the borrow pits they left behind remain along the Parkway today.
Not all such pits are as deep or as constantly filled with water as Pam is, however. Apparently, the sand under that particular spot was so good that the crews kept digging down until they breached the water table. As far as I know, Pam has held water ever since.
The water is remarkably clear and inviting over the white sand, and the pond was a semi-secret nude beach through the 1960s and at least into 1970s, during the early years of the college. (Rumors persist that it is sometimes still used that way.)
Pam’s water is clear because it comes from only two directions: falling down from above as rain and seeping up from below as long as the water table is high enough. In neither case does it have the chance to pick up the dissolving organic materials — white cedar leaves, sphagnum moss, pine needles, and other lowland vegetation — that give most Pine Barrens’ waters their distinctive tea color.
The fluctuating depths make Pam’s height a very good measure of recent rainfall levels.
Because no streams regularly feed into it, Pam’s ecology is very different from the water bodies in the Lake Fred complex (which are fed by Morse’s Mill Stream and Cedick Run). With no pickerel, other large fish, snapping turtles, or water snakes to consume them, animals lower on the food chain can prosper in Pam. Over the decades this little pond surrounded by the Parkway on one side and an upland forest of pines and oaks on the other sides has become a haven for frogs, dragonflies, damselflies, and other aquatic life.
Several plant species are much easier to find here than elsewhere on campus, including:
One unsolved mystery about Lake Pam is how any fish reach it. Despite the lack of feeder streams, at least two species of smaller fish have somehow colonized the lake: the black-banded sunfish and the eastern mud minnow.
ENVL Professor Jamie Cromartie has one persuasive answer to the mystery, noted here: