Barnegat Bay

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Looking north-northwest from Barnegat Light toward mainland New Jersey
Map of Barnegat Bay area which is also declared as a No Discharge Zone by USEPA

Barnegat Bay is a small brackish arm of the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 42 miles (67.2 km) long, along the coast of Ocean County, New Jersey in the United States. It is separated from the Atlantic by a long barrier island, as well as by the north end of Long Beach Island. The bay is fed by several small rivers, including the Toms River and Metedeconk River, which empty into the bay through small estuaries along its inner shore. The communities of Toms River, Silverton, and Forked River sit along the river estuaries on the bay.

The bay is entered from the ocean through the Barnegat Inlet, along which sits the Barnegat Lighthouse. The bay is part of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, entered on its north end by the Point Pleasant Canal and connecting on the south end with Little Egg Harbor via the small Manahawkin Bay. In a broader sense, the bay is sometimes considered to stretch to the south end of Long Beach Island and to include Little Egg Harbor.

The area surrounding the Barnegat Bay and Barnegat Bay Inlet were described by Henry Hudson, in 1609, as "...a great lake of water, as we could judge it to be ... The mouth of the lake hath many shoals, and the sea breaketh on them as it is cast out of the mouth of it." The bay was originally named in 1614 "Barendegat," or "Inlet of the Breakers," by Dutch settlers, referring to the waterway's turbulent channel.[1] During the American Revolutionary War, the bay was used as refuge by American privateers.

Three bridges span the bay from the mainland to the peninsula: the Mantoloking Bridge from Brick Township to Mantoloking and the Thomas A. Mathis and J. Stanley Tunney Bridges from Toms River to Ortley Beach. The Barnegat Division of Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge comprises wetlands along the inner southern part of the bay. Along the outside of the bay, on the peninsula, is the Island Beach State Park. Various islands within the bay are a part of the Sedge Islands State Wildlife Management Area or Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. On the northern tip of Long Beach Island includes the Barnegat Lighthouse State Park.

The bay has been a longtime center for commercial fishing. The village of Toms River was a significant whaling port in the 19th century. While still popular for fishing, Barnegat Bay has also become a popular destination for recreational boating. The water quality of the bay has been degraded by pollution in the rivers and creeks that feed it. The preservation of the bay's water quality has been an ongoing effort of several public and private organizations.

The bay was immortalized by the famous writer E. B. White, who used it as a setting for his short story "The Family That Dwelt Apart". The story appears in his collection Preposterous Parables. It was adapted into the animated short The Family That Dwelt Apart, narrated by White, by the National Film Board of Canada.[2]

The song "My Eyes Adored You" by New Jersey native Frankie Valli contains a reference to "walking home everyday over Barnegat Bridge and Bay". On March 22, 1975 the song became one of the Hot 100 number-one hits of 1975 (USA).

The Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation group has done extensive work in the Barnegat Bay area for over two decades, protecting over 1,100 acres (4.5 km2) of land. The Trust recently began the new River to Bay Greenway, the primary goal of which is to create a 70-mile (110 km) multi-use recreational route across southern New Jersey from the Delaware River to Barnegat Bay.[3]


In the 2000s and 2010s, attention has been drawn[by whom?] to fish kills, algae blooms, low dissolved oxygen levels, loss of habitat, diminishing clam populations, and the rise in stinging Chrysaora quinquecirrha (Sea Nettle Jellyfish) populations in the bay.[4][5][6] The reason for this is the extremely high amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water, mainly due to fertilizers and other pollution.[7] The Environmental Protection Agency monitors the health of the bay by testing at four locations as frequently as once a week in the summer months, when surface water can reach 82 degrees Fahrenheit.[8]

Community members have also expressed concern over the impact of stored radiation and thermal pollution at the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in Lacey Township.[9] The plant is the oldest operating nuclear power plant in the United States and is scheduled to be retired by 2019.[10]


Middle Sedge Island in Barnegat Bay is a 25-acre (100,000 m2) island, 14 acres (57,000 m2) of it are developed with a single house.[11] Other islands include: Little Sedge Island, Northwest Point Island and Marsh Elder Island. Some are privately owned and some are owned by the state of New Jersey.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lloyd, John Bailey. "Eighteen Miles of History on Long Beach Island." p. 42. 1994 Down The Shore Publishing and The SandPaper, Inc.
  2. ^ "The Family That Dwelt Apart". Animated short. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 2009-11-13.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  3. ^ TPL Page on the Barnegat Bay Program
  4. ^ Associated Press. 11 July 2012 Retrieved 15 August 2012.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Urgo, Jacqueline (2 September 2011). "Researchers study nettlesome invasion in Barnegat Bay". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 15 August 2012. 
  6. ^ "Dreaded Intruders". The SandPaper. 1 August 2012. Retrieved 15 August 2012. 
  7. ^ "Rutgers study says Barnegat Bay ecosystem will continue to decline unless development, runoff decreases". Associated Press/The Star Ledger. 11 July 2012. Retrieved 7 August 2012. 
  8. ^ Smith, Shawn (August 7, 2012). "EPA Sets Sail on the Barnegat Bay to Measure Water's Health". Lacey Patch. Retrieved 15 August 2012. 
  9. ^ Ahearn, James (17 July 2012). "Opinion: Nuclear waste showdown looms for N.J., nation". The Bergen Record. Retrieved 15 August 2012. 
  10. ^ "Oyster Creek Generating Station". 
  11. ^ "Middle Sedge Island". Private Islands Online. Retrieved 2011-11-29. ... The property includes 14.4 acres of a 25 acre island. ... 
  12. ^ "SBB Conserves Islands in the Barnegat Bay". Ocean County Izaak Walton League. Retrieved 2008-03-01. Of the tidal marsh islands to the north - Northwest Point Island, Marsh Elder Island, and Middle Sedge Island off Chadwick - some are in private ownership and some are owned by the state of New Jersey. Save Barnegat Bay wishes to see all of these islands eventually come under public ownership on a willing seller basis. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°51′06″N 74°06′51″W / 39.851709°N 74.114113°W / 39.851709; -74.114113