Young Lake Pam

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 northern end of future campus in 1940 before the Garden State Parkway was constructed.

The northeastern section of our future campus in 1940 — before the Garden State Parkway was constructed.

The northern end of future campus in 1957: the rectangular pit is Lake Pam.

The northeastern section of our future campus in 1957: the rectangular pit alongside the Parkway’s new southbound lane is Lake Pam.

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.

Lake Pam at one of its lowest points in recent years, August 2002.

Lake Pam at one of its lowest points in recent years, August 2002, near the end of a long drought.

Lake Pam high again, about 7 months after photo above, March 2003.

Seven months after the photo above, in March 2003, following a winter of rain and snow, the lake had been restored to a more regular level.

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.

Southern leopard frogs are numerous in Lake Pam's nearly fish-less waters

Southern leopard frogs are numerous in Lake Pam’s nearly fish-less waters

Black saddlebags (dragonfly) at Lake Pam, October, 2008.

Black saddlebags are only one of more than a dozen species of odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) found at Lake Pam.

A twin-spotted spiketail, another of those two dozen+ species.

A twin-spotted spiketail, another of the dozen+ species of odonates.

No fish but other dangers exist:  here a damselfly has been captured by a insectivorous sundew on Lake Pam's shore.

Depending of recent water levels, Lake Pam can be a good place to see insectivorous sundews; here a spatula-leaved sundew, Drosera intermedia, has trapped a bluet damselfly.

Several plant species are much easier to find here than elsewhere on campus, including:

Lake Pam’s Strangest Plant

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.

Black-banded sunfish, a characteristic fish of Pine Barrens waters, captured by a student at Lake Pam, October, 2008.  How did it  find its way?

Black-banded sunfish, a characteristic fish of Pine Barrens waters, captured by a student along the Lake Pam shore, October 2008.

An eastern mud minnow captured by a student at Lake Pam, October 2014.

An eastern mud minnow captured by a student at Lake Pam, October 2014.

ENVL Professor Jamie Cromartie has one persuasive answer to the mystery, noted here:

How do fish reach Lake Pam?