I decided to take one of those guided hikes / talks sponsored by the local chapter of the Sierra Club. This particular event was an exploration of a salt marsh near Stony Brook known as Flax Pond. Prior to 1803, Flax Pond was freshwater. The pond got its name from the fact that flax was grown here for making linen. The flax industry crashed in the late 1700s. In 1803 the inlet was dug to try and encourage a new industry of oysters and clams, and the pond turned to marsh.
Since the pond is located on a beach with private access, we parked at the marine research lab operated by Stony Brook University. From there we walked about a mile along the roads of Old Field to reach the beach. Along the way, our guide pointed out various vegetation along the edge of the road.
Once on the beach, we headed east towards the inlet. Walking on sand is generally difficult but along the North Shore of Long Island, your are typically strolling through sand mixed with rocks (quartz, basalt, etc.) left behind when the last glaciers receded a long time ago. During our walk, we spotted a unique tree, which I have identified as a “buoy” tree 🙂 I guess as buoys washed up along the shore, visitors placed them in the tree. I also found a stray fiddler crab along the shore, lost perhaps from his home in the mudflats above the shore.
As we approached the jetty, I noticed the water was a bit rough at the mouth of the inlet. The outgoing tide, along with soil deposits from the marshland had created a delta. This formation created a little whitecap action. At the other end of the jetty, closest to the marsh land, there was actually a bit of white water action going on where another delta had formed. I was told by our guide, that the small rapids were caused by the difference in water levels between the marsh and the Sound. In fact, this causes the tides between the two to be different by 1.5 hours. There were mounds of shells next to the stones of the jetty, deposited perhaps, by the high water of the tides.
From the inlet, we walked through the different sections of the marsh learning about the habitats and significance of each part. Horseshoe crabs and Spider crabs were in the wetlands area. As we wandered through the mudflats, we noticed the ground moving with Fiddler Crabs. Based on the length of time they took to reach their homes, I would say there were not really nervous about our approach. Looking closely through the matted grass, I noticed small Ribbed Mussels clinging to the mud.
At this point, we returned to the beach using a trail through a strand of cedar trees. After a short time we arrived back at the entrance to the beach. Everyone was hot and tired, as we trudged the mile along the road back to our cars.