The Maurice River and its tributaries drain the southwest portion of the Pinelands National Reserve, providing a critical link between the Reserve and the Delaware Estuary. The Pinelands Commission considers the entire Manumuskin watershed an ecologically critical area, with the vast, unspoiled Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer underlying most of the region. State and local governments, and conservation organizations own significant acreage for preservation purposes. The rivers and associated wetlands serve as nurseries for ocean-going wildlife, offering food and habitat for resident and migrating species, many of which are considered endangered. Each year, huge flocks of birds alight within the watershed to enjoy the area's natural bounty. The Maurice River corridor is rich in natural, cultural and historical significance. Its tributaries, and the bay beyond, not only shaped the lifestyle and livelihood of the region's past inhabitants, but they continue to support the areas' economy and the lifestyle of many residents today. Early industries relied on the river water channeled swiftly into flowing mill races. Some residents built dikes so they could farm the often boggy land close to the river. Others worked in maritime occupations. Local ship builders provided vessels for fishing and for carrying local products to distant markets. The region's entire glass making industry emerged because of, and still depends on the sandy deposits found throughout the watershed. Cumberland County's heritage is steeped in the history of the Lenni-Lenape people, a nation that numbers some 6,000 inhabitants at the time of the earliest colonial explorations of the Delaware Bay region.