New Jersey Conservation Foundation
New Jersey Conservation Foundation Menu
NJCF Homepage Contact Us Donate Events Search NJCF
New Jersey Land Conservation Organization
Donate to New Jersey Conservation Foundation
State We're In New Jersey Conservation Foundation Blog
American shad return to New Jersey river after 173 years
11/1/2018 Volume XLVIII, No. 44

The last time the fish known as American shad was seen in the Millstone River, James Polk was president and the Civil War had yet to be fought.

Until now. With the removal of an old, obsolete dam in Manville, Somerset County, American shad are successfully spawning in the lower section of the Millstone, a Raritan River tributary.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection just announced that juvenile shad were found in the Millstone River about 4.5 miles upstream of where the Weston Mill Dam was removed in the summer of 2017. It was the first shad sighting in this river since 1845!

"This is great news and a wonderful environmental success story," said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe. "These juvenile shad were found in the first unimpeded migratory season after removal of the Weston Mill Dam, indicating this species has an inherent tendency to recolonize once obstacles are removed from its migratory path."

"Removal of the Weston Mill Dam represents an important step in the restoration of the Millstone River and the larger Raritan River Basin," said Jim Waltman, Executive Director of The Watershed Institute, which advocated for the removal of the Weston Mill Dam. "We are proud to be working in partnership with federal and state conservation agencies to restore migratory fish, improve water quality, and remove a dangerous obstacle to recreational use of the Millstone River."

American shad (Alosa sapidissima) are the largest member of the herring family and are “anadromous,” meaning they spend most of their lives in saltwater but return to freshwater rivers each spring to spawn.

Author John McPhee called shad “The Founding Fish” in his 2002 book of the same name. Shad played an enormous role in American history and economics.

Legend has it that during the Revolutionary War, an early spring shad run up the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania helped feed George Washington’s starving troops after their bitter winter at Valley Forge. Decades later, Confederate General George Pickett may have lost a Civil War battle because he left the front lines to attend a shad picnic. The fish’s Latin species name “sapidissima” means most savory or delicious.

American shad are found up and down the east coast of North America, from Newfoundland to Florida. But they declined severely during the Industrial Revolution, when rivers were dammed for electric power and lakes. These dams stopped shad and other migratory fish from reaching their spawning habitats.

During the last decade, dam removal has become a new call to action. Besides preventing fish migrations, dams also harm water quality in rivers by blocking water flow, trapping sediment, and changing habitat.

In the Musconetcong River, a Delaware River tributary that flows through Warren and Hunterdon counties, several dams have been removed to open up a 6.5-mile section of river. In 2017, the Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service confirmed the return of shad to the Musconetcong after an absence of more than a century.

Dams were also removed on the Raritan River. The Calco Dam removal in Bridgewater helped facilitate the migration of shad to the Millstone River. Two other dams farther upstream on the Raritan, the Nevius Street and Robert Street dams, have also been removed.

In Warren County, the enormous Columbia Lake dam on the Paulinskill River is in the process of being removed, which will open up over 10 miles of free flowing river into the Delaware. The dam removal is part of a larger initiative led by The Nature Conservancy to improve stream habitat throughout the Paulinskill watershed.

Additional dam removals on the Millstone, Raritan, Musconetcong and Paulinskill rivers are planned.

In addition to the Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, organizations working to remove dams include The Watershed Institute, The Nature Conservancy, Musconetcong Watershed Association, American Rivers, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Horizon Foundation, Conservation Resources Inc., and the Raritan River Fish Passage Initiative.

For more information on American shad in New Jersey, go to .  To learn more about dam removals, visit the Watershed Institute website at

And to learn about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at or contact me at



Hard cider in the Garden State

Turkey Time

American shad return to New Jersey river after 173 years

Act now to avoid worst climate impacts

NJ Natural Lands Trust celebrates 50 years

Must love bats!

Move and improve your health!

Renewable energy: Save money and our land, water, air and health

Speak up for endangered species!

Save the bugs!

Check out New Jersey's fall bird migration

A little bit of respect...for native plants!

Explore New Jersey's wildflower meadows

All aboard floating classrooms

Catch the Perseids meteor shower!

Check out the 'fun' in fungi

Too hot to think? Studies shows heat affects your brain

Love NJ's outdoors? Take action now!

New Jersey's official reptile, the bog turtle

Sea level rise and New Jersey: Not perfect together

These New Jersey plants have an appetite for insects

Explore the Pine Barrens through paddles, hikes and tours

Like to jog? 'Plog' instead and keep NJ clean

Love Jersey fruit? Thank our native pollinators!

Good news for globally rare swamp pink lilies

Say cheese! Remote cameras aid wildlife research

Begone, single-use plastic bags!

3,000 birds and counting for 'bluebird grandfather'

The Pine Barrens gets some help from its friends

A clean energy future for New Jersey

Cowtown and rare grassland birds, perfect together

Fight light pollution during International Dark Sky Week

New film tells story of how Petty's Island was saved

Ten years of nipping invasive species in the bud

Welcome spring in a county park

Go for a walk and feel better!

Grab a friend and go outside

Recycle your way to zero waste!

Last call for winter wildlife watching on Jersey coast

Without its 'understory' layer, the forest will collapse

From whale songs to poetry, a remarkable journey

A cleaner, greener New Jersey

Let's keep New Jersey the Garden State, not the Pipeline State

New Jersey's winter hikes

'Trees don't vote' but Byrne saved Pine Barrens anyway

Governor-elect Murphy should set new course on the environment

Protect soils to keep the garden in our state

Clean, plentiful water is New Jersey's lifeblood

A breath of fresh air for New Jersey?

Keep Liberty State Park free and open


November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011


New Jersey Conservation Foundation on FacebookNew Jersey Conservation Foundation on TwitterNew Jersey Conservation Foundation on FlickrNew Jersey Conservation Foundation YouTube ChannelShare      
New Jersey Conservation Foundation           Bamboo Brook, 170 Longview Road, Far Hills, NJ 07931           908-234-1225 
home  | nj statewide eventscontact us  |  sitemap  |  privacy policy  |  DONATE