dry-bottom swamp

Dry-bottom swamp and hard-bottom swamp are terms from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, foxhunting country. The different kinds of swamp alternate in a patchwork in most sections of the region. A dry-bottom swamp has less standing water throughout the year, and Atlantic white cedars grow right out of its gravelly soil and peat moss. In places where water tends to stand on sphagnum moss, the cedars grow out of hassocks, which are clusters or “knees” of roots and soil bound in cushions about a foot in diameter. The densely woven hassocks are very tough and hard to walk through. These swamps with hassocks are called hard-bottom swamps. Dry-bottom swamp is seasonal, while hard-bottom swamp is constantly flooded. The terms are used by local fox-hunters, and are recorded in One Space, Many Places: Folklife and Land Use in New Jersey’s Pinelands National Reserve by Mary Hufford. The swamps are described as “acoustically magnificent” for carrying the voices of the foxhounds.

Robert Morgan