The Red Watered Wood
These are the beautiful woods behind Gloucester County College. On the last day of Creative Photography Class, we took a relaxing trek through the woods. I was particularly struck by this bend in the creek. The water came up particularly red. Bob, my teacher explains below how the water gets its strange rusty red color. View On Black
Bog iron is a renewable resource, making it particularly important. It can be "harvested" from different parts of the bogs each year. After the limonite was removed, precipitation of the iron oxide began anew and in only 20 to 30 years a new "crop" was ready for production.
A full quarter century before the Industrial Revolution began in this country, a thriving iron industry had been established in remote sections of what is today the million acre New Jersey Pinelands, our country's first National Reserve. The unusual reddish brown color of Pinelands water is caused by decomposed plant material and dissolved iron.
Ground water in the coastal plains of New Jersey contains large concentrations of iron. This water seeped through the sands and sandpockets of the area carrying dissolved iron (Fe++) and manganese (Mn++). Upon reaching oxidized environments such as grottos, springs and swamps, these dissolved metals encountered so-called "iron bacteria" (e.g., Lepothrix), causing the chemical reactions that precipitate the ore masses. A thin film of rust forms on its surface and floats. The iron oxide combines with sand and gravel to form a low-grade iron ore that is deposited along stream banks.
These ore masses are composed of siderite, which is an iron carbonate ("white ore"), and various iron oxides ("brown ore"). Some of the ore masses can be larger than an automobile, but many are small. The miners laboriously dug the lumps from the clay, broke them in to smaller pieces, loaded them on wagons, and hauled them to the furnace. Much of the ore came from small pits on local farms, operated intermittently, supplementing meager winter incomes through mine work. For others, mining was their primary occupation.
In the 1840's, the discovery of anthracite coal near the magnetite iron ore beds of Pennsylvania foreshadowed the doom of iron production in southern New Jersey. Development of the Bessemer process and its incorporation in the new Pennsylvania furnaces was the nail in the coffin; the last of the great furnaces blew out its fire forever in the 1860's. By this time though, the iron of the Pines had already made its mark on the region and on the country as a whole.