|Looking East on the Kittatinny Ridge. To the left, Red Hill, to the right, the AT as it climbs the Eastern Kittatinny Ridge on the other side of the Lehigh River Gap|
The Kittatinny Ridge was an impressive sight as we drove through Slatington towards the Lehigh Gap, and as we pulled into the parking lot at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center everyone’s eyes were fixed on that massive rise of rock laid bare. By the end of the visit, awestruck feeling inspired by the stark landscape shifted to awe at what a small number of determined people have been able to accomplish to restore a devastated environment. Dan Kunkle, Director of the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, narrated the story of zinc smelting in Palmerton. Zinc companies were drawn to the area because of the nearby coal mines—coal was more expensive to ship than zinc, so the zinc company shipped zinc from New Jersey to where the coal was coming right out of the ground. Between 1898 and 1980, two zinc smelting plants owned by the New Jersey Zinc Company poured zinc, cadmium, lead, and sulfur-containing smoke from their stacks, a deadly smog that eventually killed all the vegetation on the slopes of the surrounding hills. With the trees and other plants dead, topsoil washed off the slopes, leaving a rocky substrate contaminated to 8 inches with heavy metals. In 1983, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared the area a Superfund site.
|Ruin of the New Jersey Zinc Company West Plant|
|Canada Wild Rye|