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New Jersey Featured Soil: Rockaway

New Jersey Featured Soil


Photo of a Rockaway Soil Profile Photo of a Rockaway Series


Photo detailing the Geographic Extent of Rockaway soil series

The Rockaway Series was established as a soil series in 1939 in the Black Rock Forest Area of Orange County, New York. Rockaway first appeared in a USDA soil survey publication in New Jersey in the “Soil Survey of Passaic County, New Jersey”, published in 1975. Currently, Rockaway is mapped only in New Jersey, encompassing approximately 108,000 acres in the northern part of the state. It is named after the Town of Rockaway in Morris County, New Jersey.

Rockaway soils formed in parent material consisting of Wisconsinan-age till derived from the granite and gneiss bedrock types found in the New Jersey physiographic province known as the “Highlands”. A typical soil profile of Rockaway soils shows development of both argillic and fragipan horizons.

Rockaway soils are predominately wooded; however, some areas have been cleared for farming. Precautions need to be taken to prevent erosion on steeper slopes. Stones and boulders are commonly found on the ground surface and can present limitations for growing crops and using farming and construction equipment. The landscape picture above shows the typical land use of Rockaway soils. Rockaway soils are often associated with areas of rock outcrops and soils that are shallow or moderately deep to bedrock, which may create limitations for urban development.

Soil highlights for the Rockaway Series

In the three diagrams below, the black circle (or ellipse) shows the range of drainage class, depth to bedrock, and depth to seasonal high water table for the Rockaway series.

Drainage Class:

Photo depicting the Drainage Class of a Rockaway Series

Depth to Bedrock:

Photo Depicting the Depth to Bedrock of a Rockaway Series


Depth to Seasonal High Water Table:

Photo depicting the Depth to Seasonal High Water Table

Hydric Soil:

Not rated as hydric

Important Farmland Classification:


Can be Prime Farmland or Farmland of Statewide Importance if not limited by slope or surface stoniness



For more detailed information:

For information on Important Farmland Soils (which include the designations of Prime, Statewide and Local) refer to the web soil survey. The criteria are explained, and you can print Adobe Acrobat pdf files of maps of your area of interest.

The Official Series Description Web Page has a collection of descriptions of soil properties for each series in the entire country.

The National Soils Web Page has a wealth of information if you wish to learn more about the rating systems used to describe soil and the classification of soils.


Argillic horizon - a mineral soil horizon characterized by the accumulation of clay.
Depth to bedrock - The distance from the surface of the soil to solid rock that underlies the soil and other unconsolidated material. In some cases this material is exposed at the surface. Five depth phases are identified: very shallow, shallow, moderately deep, deep, and very deep.
Drainage class - Refers to the frequency and duration of wet periods under conditions similar to those under which the soil formed. This is a qualitative measurement. Seven classes of natural soil drainage are recognized: very poorly drained, poorly drained, moderately well drained, well drained, somewhat excessively drained, somewhat poorly drained, and excessively drained.
Fragipan – subsurface mineral soil horizon characterized by high bulk density, hard or very hard consistence when dry, and brittleness when moist. This horizon can restrict root penetration and impede downward water movement in a soil.
Hydric Soil - Soils that formed under conditions of saturation, flooding or ponding long enough during the growing season to develop anaerobic (lacking oxygen) conditions in the upper part. These soils will have water tables close to the surface of the soil.
Parent material - The primary material (both mineral and organic) from which the soil was formed.
Soil horizons - a layer of soil, approximately parallel to the soil surface
  • The O horizon is an organic layer, which forms above the mineral soil - consisting of material from plants and animals.
  • The A horizon is the surface layer where organic mater accumulates and is intermixed with the mineral fraction.
  • The B horizon is called the subsoil, there is evidence of an alteration by mineral or chemical accumulation and / or movement through the soil profile, often soil structure develops.
  •  The C horizon is called the substratum, it is relatively little affected by biological activity and soil forming processes (pedogensis) it can be like or unlike the A and B horizons above it.
Soil Series - The lowest category in the U.S. system of taxonomy, analogous to a species in classification of plants and animals. Soils that comprise a soil series have horizons that are similar in thickness and arrangement. They will also share close similarities in physical, chemical, and mineralogical makeup.
Till - Dominantly unsorted and unstratified drift, generally unconsolidated and deposited directly by a glacier without subsequent reworking by meltwater, and consisting of a heterogeneous mixture of clay, silt, sand, gravel, stones, and boulders; rock fragments of various lithologies are imbedded within a finer matrix that can range from clay to sandy loam. Till of the Wisconsinan continental glacier were deposited approximately 20,000 years ago.
Water Table - The upper limit of the part of the soil (or underlying material) wholly saturated with water.

Other Soils - Past Features