The Barnegat Bay watershed is a 75-square mile estuarine system, which consists of shellfish beds, finfish habitats, and waterfowl nesting grounds. More than 550,000 people live in the watershed, and the population more than doubles in the summer.
The watershed encompasses most of the 33 municipalities in Ocean County and four towns of Monmouth County. Nine rivers and streams, including the Toms River, empty into the bay, which is formed primarily by a barrier peninsula, as well as the northern stretch of Long Beach Island. The bay was named in 1614 by Dutch settlers and mention of its size was recorded by Henry Hudson as early as 1609.