The total complex of weathered rock particles, organic material, air and water that lies on a specific site between the vegetative cover and parent material is called soil. A soil is a cumulative result of regional geology and long-term climatic factors. A soil is specific to its location. It may, for historical reasons, occur in close proximity to several other kinds of soil.
The roots of living plants and natural mulch supplied by leaves and dead plants help keep soil in place. They offset natural processes of erosion which cause rock and soil particles to be broken down and transported from one location to another. (Current examples in Mountain Lakes where erosion has taken place following the removal of vegetation can be seen on the hill behind the football home bleachers, Island Beach boat launch and behind Birchwood Beach).
Factors controlling erosion and transportation are: the physical characteristics of the soil itself, slope of the land, amount and intensity of precipitation, infiltration rate, surface runoff, land use, extent and type of vegetative cover, and the capacity of the runoff waters to carry sediment. At higher velocities flowing water can carry a greater load of sediment; and when water velocity drops, the load settles to the bottom. This occurs, for example, when a stream’s gradient decreases as river water flows into a standing body of water, such as a lake, a reservoir or when a river reaches the ocean. Soil materials lost to erosion in one location are eventually deposited as sediment elsewhere and may contribute to the formation of a new soil in that location. The process of rock breakdown, transportation, and subsequent deposition of soil materials at a lower elevation in the landscape is continuous and is offset by long-term geological mountain building activity. Removal of vegetation and the disturbance of soil, such as occurs in the process of building construction, make the total natural system more unstable and accelerates the rate of natural redistribution. Therefore, the location of soil materials cannot be viewed as fixed.
The geologic history of Mountain Lakes has provided it with varied sources of material from which soils have formed. Because the physical properties of the rocks differ, the physical properties of the soils formed also differ. The U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Soil Conservation Service (SCS) has developed one standard system used for analysis of the physical characteristics of soils. For each soil, various physical properties are described, such as depth to bedrock, drainage characteristics and texture. The SCS analyzed these data to develop interpretations for certain engineering uses for each soil, such as the construction of light buildings with cellars, suitability for receipt of septic effluent, development of recreational areas, and construction of roads and parking lots. The interpretations are stated in terms of the degree to which the physical properties of the soil present limitations for the specified use. Limitations are classified as “slight”, “moderate”, or “severe”. “Severe” is defined by the SCS to be those “…resulting from the effects of steep slopes, high water tables, stream flooding, unfavorable soil texture, acidity, large numbers of stones, rocks and so forth. The Morris County Planning Board has further designated the following physical properties (which are categorized by the SCS as “severe”) as critically significant in this area: Greater than 15 percent slope, less than 6 feet depth to bedrock, and less than 2 feet to seasonal water table.
The location of the principal kinds of soil in Mountain Lakes are illustrated in the following NRCS Soil Survey:
Soil Series Descriptions
The following taken from “A Soil Survey of Passaic County, NJ” was created by the USDA Soil Conservation Service in cooperation with the NJ Agricultural Experiment Station and Cook College at Rutgers, December 1975.
- Riverhead Series: Consists of deep, well-drained moderately coarse textured soils. These gently sloping to extremely sloping soils are located in valleys adjacent to the rough stony Highlands. They formed in glacial outwash material derived mainly from granitic gneiss and lesser amounts of conglomerate, sandstone and shale. Permeability is moderately rapid in the surface layer and subsoil and rapid in the substratum. Available water capacity is moderate. This soil is a good source of sand and gravel. Rapid permeability in the substratum is a pollution hazard where the soils are used for onsite septic effluent disposal systems. These soils have slight to moderate limitations for most uses in community development.
- Rockaway Series: Consists of gently sloping to very steep soils that have a fragipan in the lower part of the subsoil. These soils are dominantly moderately well drained but in places are well drained. They are on side slopes in the rough, stony and rocky Highlands. The soils formed in glacial till derived mainly from granitic gneiss and from lesser amounts of conglomerate, sandstone and shale. Permeability is moderate above and moderately rapid below the fragipan. It is slow in the fragipan. Available water capacity is moderate. In excessively wet areas, water above the fragipan moves laterally. A seasonal perched water table is at a depth of 1 ½ to 2 ½ feet for short periods. The slowly permeable fragipan and perched water table limt the use of these soils for onsite septic filter fields. Slips are a concern on road banks and on other slopes where the soil has been scalped and boulders on the surface are concerns where construction and landscaping are performed. These soils are surrounded by rough and rocky areas that make accessibility for developments costly or economically prohibitive.
- Urban Land: Consists of areas that have been developed for residential, commercial or industrial use. During development, these areas were leveled or cut and filled to such an extent that 40-80% of the original soil has been altered.
- Preakness series: Consists of deep, nearly level, poorly drained, loamy soils that have a water table to the surface later in winter and early in spring. In most places these soils are subject to annual flooding. They are in low positions on the landscape and receive much runoff from the surrounding higher areas. The soils formed in glacial outwash derived mainly from granitic gneiss and lesser amounts of conglomerate, basalt, sandstone and shale. Permeability is moderate in the surface layer, moderately rapid in the subsoil, and rapid in the substratum. Available water capacity is moderate.
- Otisville Series: Consists of excessively drained soils that have a sandy and gravelly subsoil and substratum. These gently sloping to steep soils are on sides of valleys. They formed in glacial outwash derived mainly from granitic gneiss and lesser amounts of conglomerate, sandstone and shale. Permeability is moderately rapid in the surface layer and upper part of the subsoil, and rapid in the lower part of the subsoil in the substratum. The rapid permeability of the substratum is a potential hazard if the soil is used for onsite septic filter fields. Available water capacity is low. These soils are a source of gravel and sand. Limitations for use in community, recreation and industrial development range from slight to severe depending on the use and the slope.
- Hibernia Series: Consists of extremely stony, somewhat poorly drained soils that have a fragipan in the lower part of the subsoil. These gently sloping to strongly sloping soils occupy areas of the rough, stony and rocky Highlands. These soils formed in glacial till derived mainly from granitic gneiss and lesser amounts of conglomerate, sandstone, and shale. Permeability is moderate to moderately rapid above the fragipan and slow in the fragipan. Water is perched over the fragipan from late in winter until early in spring. Depth to the seasonally high water table is ½ to 1 ½ feet. The dense, firm, slowly permeable fragipan and the seasonal perched water cause severe limitations for onsite septic filter fields. Available water capacity is moderate. Boulders and stone content cause severe limitations for development.