WMA 4: Lower Passaic and Saddle

[The following information has been adapted from resources developed by the NJ Dept. of Environmental Protection Division of Watershed Management.]

WMA 4 HighlightWatershed Management Area (WMA) 4 includes the Lower Passaic River (from the Pompton River confluence downstream to Newark Bay) and its tributaries, including the Saddle River. This watershed drains an area that is roughly 180 sq. miles in size and spreads across portions of Passaic, Essex, Hudson, Morris, and Bergen Counties.

The 129 sq. miles that make up the larger Lower Passaic River watershed are primarily made up of urban, suburban, industrial/post-industrial land uses. Water quality conditions along this 33 mile stretch of the Passaic River are poor, which is reflective of the numerous point source discharges, significant nonpoint source contributions, and high sediment oxygen demands. Conditions are further impacted by a number of hazardous waste sites and other contamination problems located within this area. The lower 17 miles of the river are a federally designated Superfund site, as the riverbed is deeply contaminated with dioxin and other chemicals. This contamination is a relic of a time when chemical companies and other industries lined the shores and used the river as a dumping ground.

However, despite its impairments there are a number of beautiful natural features along this portion of the river including a number of waterfalls which culminate in the Great Falls at Paterson. Ospreys, herons, and even some species of mussel can now be found in the river, a sign that water quality is beginning to improve.

The Saddle River has a drainage area of 51 sq. miles. This watershed is densely developed and is dotted with older cities and industrial centers including Newark, Paterson, Clifton, and East Orange. Fish species in the Saddle River include largemouth bass, pickerel, bullhead catfish, sunfish and different varieties of stocked and wild trout. Like the Lower Passaic, water quality in the Saddle River is impacted by past industrial use, current point source discharges, and urban/suburban runoff.

Watershed Groups and Allies in the Region:

Friends of Clark’s Pond and Third River
Great Swamp Watershed Association
NJ Tree Foundation
Passaic River Coalition
Passaic River Institute