Wetlands (swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas) are areas saturated by surface or ground water. Wetlands support distinct vegetation and serve as natural habitat for many species of plants and animals. This biodiversity is needed for a healthy ecosystem. Wetlands also absorb the forces of floods and tides, preventing the erosion of upland soil.
By restoring and enhancing wetlands, we re-create and protect nature’s efficient way of filtering pollutants and nutrients in stormwater runoff.
Lake George Wetlands
Lake George has very few wetlands due to the geomorphological processes that formed the Lake.
The watershed has very steep slopes that don’t offer too many areas for wetlands. But there are a few.
Some of the flat wetland areas bordering the Lake offer easy access to the water’s edge, and most of them have already been filled for residential and commercial use.
A Black Spruce-Tamarack Bog is a conifer forest that occurs on acidic peatlands in cool, poorly drained depressions like the Bolton Swamp and the Brayton Marsh. The characteristic trees are black spruce and tamarack.
The Lake George Wild Forest includes other wetland areas such as Red Maple-Tamarack Peat Swamps, Highbush Blueberry Bog Thickets, Dwarf Shrub Bogs, and Fens.
The trees and shrubs we find in these types of areas may include red maple, black spruce, tamarack, white pine, balsam fir, northern white cedar, yellow birch, serviceberry, alder and highbush blueberry. These habitats can be found in Harris Bay Marsh and Dunham Bay Marsh.
The Sucker Brook Wetlands in Putnam on the east side of the Lake is host to a rare Northern White Cedar Swamp. This conifer and mixed hardwood swamp occurs on organic soils in a cool, poorly drained depressions fed by springs and underground mineral-rich seepage. Soils are continually saturated. The characteristic tree, northern white cedar, makes up more than 30% of the canopy cover, mixing with other hardwoods typically found in wetland areas.
Wetlands are Valuable Ecosystems
Wetlands are home to a variety of rare species. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, up to 43% of threatened and endangered species rely on wetlands for survival. Wetlands are capable of supporting a wide variety of species due to the production of large volumes of detritus, or decaying leaves and stems that are broken down in the water. Detritus serves as food for insects, algae, fish and plants.
On a leisurely paddle by canoe or kayak into one of the marshes we might enjoy lavender blossoms of pickerelweed, fragrant white water lilies and the song of a red-winged blackbird clasping the tip of a pollen-laden cattail.
Growing in the soggy soils we might see the majestic royal fern and the edible fiddleheads of ostrich fern between mossy hummocks or scarlet plumes of cardinal flower and diminutive insectivorous round-leaved sundew (yes! a plant that eats insects!) sharing a patch of sun.
Few wildflowers, if any, rival the beauty and stature of pink and white showy lady slippers. Appearing in clusters reaching three-feet tall, they seem to thrive in the wet, conifer swamps below light openings in the forest canopy. Salamanders like the red-spotted newt and the red-backed salamander are at home where they can easily transition between water and land, as are leopard frogs and the familiar spring peeper.
Dragonflies with names like green darner, arrowhead spiketail and twelve-spotted skimmer are a welcome sight.
The dragonflies are environmental indicators that thrive only in areas of unpolluted waters, and make mosquitoes a favorite dietary choice. It would not be unusual to come upon painted turtles basking on a partially submerged log, a great blue heron stalking frogs in the shallows, or hear the slap of a beaver’s tail to round out our wetland experience.