Welcome to Passaic County’s Friendship Park!
The 45 acre park, located in Bloomingdale, NJ consists of deciduous wooded upland and wetlands.
The 1.2 Orange Blazed Trail we are going to follow was blazed courtesy of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. The actual hike described below took place in August 2012, about two months prior to Hurricane Sandy. Some changes to the trail have taken place since that time. Ok, ready to start?
From the parking area head east to the Orange Blazed Trailhead near a wetland.
Turn left heading north on the trail. Immediately you will notice a large outcrop of rocks of precambrian origin. The rocks are known as “basement rocks” and were originally covered by soil and other rocks. Through the years due to natural activities such as past glacier action the rocks became exposed. Most of the rocks are thought to be comprised of ancient granite-gneiss.
Pudding stone rocks, seen above, are common in the NJ Highlands and consist of well-rounded quartz and red sandstone cobbles in a fine-grained red ironstone matrix.
After a few minutes, you will pass over a seasonal stream. Wait! Where’s the water? That’s a good question and I am glad you asked it. This stream is part of the wetlands that exist in Friendship park and only flows when the water table located below the surface gets too high such as in heavy downpours in spring.
Continuing on we come to the northern boundary of Friendship park which is seen here as a fence separating the park from an old abandoned golf course. Let’s stop and look around for a second. It seems we are not alone. There’s an American Robin & Eastern Gray Squirrel keeping watch over the forest.
Wait! What’s this? It’s an American Chestnut Sprout!
The American Chestnut tree was an important member of the eastern forest found in the United States. A wide variety of wildlife fed on its chestnuts. American Chestnuts began to die off in 1904 due to imported Chestnut Blight from Asia. The blight, imported to the US via Asian chestnut trees, is a fungus dispersed by spores in the air, raindrops and animals. American Chestnut now survives only in the understory as shoots sprouting from old roots (which are not affected by the blight). The American Chestnut sprouts reach about twenty feet before the blight strikes. The roots then shoots up new sprouts and the process repeats itself. The American Chestnut Foundation is currently working to restore the once great American Chestnut back to its native range. Check out the book American Chestnut : The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree for more information. Click here!
Heading east now there is a slight climb where we see a large coppice Black Oak. The orange blazed trail now continues on top of a large rock ledge.
The trail now starts to descend as we turn right and head south. Be careful to follow the orange blazes here as there are other trails that are not blazed which meander through the forest. According to our trail map, it looks like we left the trail! Let’s head back and find the last blaze.
Whew! Back on the trail! Let’s stop and listen to the sounds of the forest: Sounds like we are hearing a White Breasted Nuthatch & a Blue Jay. Let’s continue on our hike! Now we have arrived at the bottom of the descent.
Continuing south we see….what exactly is this we are looking at?
It appears to be a makeshift shelter of some kind.
Turning right and heading north we are only a short distance from the trail’s end. But before we continue pause and check out those old growth White Oak Trees!
We have now come to the end of the orange trail and our exploration of Friendship Park.
Interested in checking out Friendship Park yourself? Check out below!
Directions (as taken from the NY NJ Trail Conference Website)
From I-287 north or south take Exit 53 (Bloomingdale) and turn left onto Hamburg Turnpike. Upon entering Bloomingdale, the name of the road changes to Main Street. In 1.3 miles (from Route 287), you will reach a fork in the road. Bear right (following the sign to West Milford), and in another 0.1 mile, turn right (uphill) onto Glenwild Avenue. Proceed for another 0.3 mile to the intersection of Woodward Avenue (on the left). Opposite this intersection, you will notice a dirt parking area bordered by stones on the right. Turn right and park here.
Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!
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Welcome to the Essex County Environmental Center (ECEC)!
ECEC is part of the Essex County Park System and features about 1 mile of hiking trails, a canoe launch on the Passaic River, frog pond & a Wigwam among other points of interests. ECEC hosts many fine environmental education programs. Click here for more information on ECEC programs! Originally established in 1972 and closed due to funding issues in 1995, ECEC re-opened in 2005 with a new environmentally friendly building.
Partners of the ECEC include the Essex County Nature Photography Club, the Sierra Club, NJ Audubon Society, Essex County Environmental Commission, Essex County Beekeepers Society & the Essex County Recreation & Open Space Trust Fund Advisory Board.
ECEC is located in the 1,360 acre West Essex Park which primarily consists of deciduous wooded wetlands. West Essex Park was created in 1955 when the Essex County Park Commission first acquired a portion of the land. Additional land was purchased from more than 70 additional landowners through the years.
ECEC Virtual Tour
From the parking area, head to the Environmental Center to pick up a trail map and check out the indoor exhibits. (PS this tour took place in September 2012-about 1 month prior to Hurricane Sandy and thus describes the center as I found it at that time)
Once inside, there are various exhibits regarding topics such as renewable energy.
After taking in the information, pick up a trail map, it’s time to explore the trails!
Head outside the center and turn right on the Lenape Trail.
Throughout the exploration numbered wooded posts will be encountered. These posts correspond with this interpretive trail guide (link includes the trail map!) which we will review as we proceed.
The first marker is in regards to the Sweetgum Tree which is found here near its northern natural limit. Sweetgum has star shaped leaves & spiny seedpods. Click here for more information regarding this interesting tree!
Just past marker 1 turn right on a short green blazed trail and come to marker # 2 which has the remains of a Gray Birch. Gray Birch, one of the first trees to grow after a disturbance, is a short lived species. Only the logs (located around the marker) remain of this particular Gray Birch.
Marker 3 appears just after Marker 2 and discusses the old log lying next to the post. The old log is known as a mother log because it is “nursing” the soil by slowly decomposing nutrients therefore creating a richer soil for future vegetation.
Behind this marker a tall deer proof fence will appear.
The fence was constructed to keep hungry white tail deer out so native vegetation may grow.
Continuing to Marker #4, a cool little body of water known as the Frog Pond appears. While we might not see any frogs today, we know they are present. Check out the native vegetation such as cattail and arrow arum growing in the pond!
A sign has been strategically placed so that you can learn how to construct a pond of your own to attract frogs. From the Frog Pond, leave the green blazed trail and pass Garibaldi Hall.
Garibaldi Hall was part of the original environmental center and is still used by the Master Gardeners of Essex County.
Head toward Eagle Rock Avenue to Marker # 5 found at the start of the White Blazed Patriots Path.
The flora identified by this marker is found at your feet. Garlic Mustard is its name, and, at least here in the eastern United States, establishment of itself as an invasive species is its game. White Tail Deer do not eat Garlic Mustard and the plant has no natural predators in the US. Garlic Mustard produces a chemical which suppress mycorrhizal fungi required by most plants to grow successfully. As a result, Garlic Mustard, once established, forms a monoculture in which native plants cannot become established. Heading further on the Patriot Path I encountered these three fellows in addition to a River Birch (Marker #6):
After passing marker six it’s time to leave the Patriot trail by heading left to a wooden boardwalk.
The boardwalk is raised above the Passaic River floodplain.
A wooden box will appear straight ahead near the Passaic River (Marker #7). This box has been placed for nesting Wood Ducks (a species that nests in tree cavities but will also utilize man-made structures).
Be careful of Poison Ivy (Marker #8) as you continue your journey on the boardwalk! Poison ivy contains a clear liquid known as urushiol which causing a burning itching rash in many people. Poison Ivy can be found as a hairy vine, a shrub reaching over three feet tall or as a trailing vine on the ground. It helps to remember the following jingles to remind you of the dangers of this vine:
“Hairy rope, don’t be a dope” & “Leaves of three, leave them be”
Leaving Poison Ivy behind, the Passaic River (Marker #9) appears to the right as we leave the boardwalk.
The river is located southwest behind the Environmental Center Building. This is a great spot to launch a canoe or kayak to go explore the river.
Some quick Passaic River facts: Spanning 80 miles, the Passaic River is the second largest river in NJ and flows through Morris, Somerset, Union, Essex, Passaic, Bergen and Hudson counties. The confluence of the Rockaway River with the Passaic River is located nearby. Fish including bass, herring & shad find a home in the Passaic River.
We now find ourselves back on the Lenape trail and passing a Pollinator Garden (Marker #10). Native plants are being grown here to attract bees which are our next point of interest (Marker #11).
The Essex County Beekeepers keep a selection of Honeybees here. Bee careful not to disturb it!
Wow! What’s this? Why it’s Marker #12 aka Lenape Life. Here you will find behind a gate a Wigwam and other items characteristic of Lenape Life. The Lenape were the original people who found a home in this area prior to European settlement.
Wigwams were created from saplings which were bent to create a dome frame. The frame was then covered with a mixture of animal skins & mats of reeds and rushes. In addition to the Wigwam, the Lenape learning center features a fire pit, meat drying rack, food cache, Lenape Gardens, fishing & tanning rack.
Looping back towards the Environmental Center a Northern Red Oak (Marker #13) appears. The Northern Red Oak is NJ’s state tree and is readily identified by its “ski-slope” bark. Northern Red Oak emits a foul odor when cut down.
Smooth gray bark is characteristic of the American Beech. It is this feature that attracts individuals to carve their initials. This practice is detrimental to American Beech as the carvings create opportunities for disease and could very well kill the tree. In winter, American Beech leaves remain until the spring when new leaves bud out. American Beech is usually found in forest in the final stage of succession.
Spicebush is one of the first native shrubs to bloom in spring. Spicebush earns its name from the spicy scent which emits from a broken twig. Spicebush is usually found in deciduous wooded wetlands such as those encountered at the ECEC.
Musclewood (aka Ironwood or American Hornbeam) is a small understory tree usually found in deciduous wooded wetlands. The form of the tree resembles a muscular arm. Straight ahead is the Environmental Center but we’re not quite finished with our tour yet. We still have a whole trail yet to explore!
Let’s turn right on the Lenape to Marker # 15 which discusses three common ferns found in the ECEC forest: Christmas fern, Hay scented Fern & Sensitive Fern. Christmas fern is evergreen and is thought to be given the name due to its leaves having the appearance of a stocking that you would hang on your chimney. Hay scented fern is named such due to its scent resembling, well, hay. Sensitive Fern is an appropriate name indeed as this fern is one of the first to wilt come the first frosts of fall.
We’ve now come to the beginning of the blue blazed Bird Lane Trail.
Continuing on we start our loop and see Marker #17 which describes the floodplain forest found at the ECEC. The forest here often will flood (especially in early spring when melting snow contributes to increase water flow in the Passaic River). Species here such as Red Maple flourish in the conditions provided by frequent flooding.
As we start to turn back there is a large rock (Marker #18) visible in the woods. This rock is known as a glacial erratic and was carried to this spot when the last glacier (Wisconsin Glacier) came through the area around 10,000 years ago. This rock was likely carried from the nearby Watchung Mountains.
Continuing back towards the Lenape Trail we pass Marker #19 which describes the past land use of the ECEC. Old farming equipment such as this piece found near this marker tells us that this land was once used as farmland. Looking around you can clearly see the forest has reclaimed the land. Well, we’ve now reached our last marker (#20) which describes the Mayapple plant. The Mayapple plant blooms a single flower in early spring and first emerges before the forest has fully leafed out in springtime.
Well, we’ve now reached the end of the Bird Lane Trail!
And with that, our tour has concluded. I hope it has inspired you to go visit the ECEC to see if for yourself! Click here for directions!
Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!
HELP SPREAD THE WORD ON THE ESSEX COUNTY ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER AND OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA BY CLICKING ONE OF THE BUTTONS BELOW!!
On December 4, 2011, Watershed Advocacy group Bergen SWAN (Save the Watershed Action Network) teamed with naturalist Nancy Slowik to host the first ever Emerson Woods nature walk. Once targeted for intense development, the woods are now preserved and help protect the Oradell Reservoir from non-point source pollution.
Bergen SWAN played a major role in preserving Emerson Woods. Bergen SWAN has fought for almost 24 years to help preserve the remaining forests surrounding upper Bergen County’s reservoirs. The most recent settlement occurred in 2009 with United Water. United Water manages the Oradell, Lake Tappan and Woodcliff Lake Reservoirs in Bergen County. After 5 years of negotiations with Bergen SWAN & the Hackensack Riverkeeper, United Water agreed to granting conservation easements on 3,100 watershed acres to the NJDEP in addition to setting aside $1 million to assist in acquiring and preserving additional land along the Hackensack River and its tributaries. United Water has since become a close ally of Bergen SWAN by helping to sponsor events such as the 2010 “Planting in the Park” in Pascack Brook County Park and allowing Bergen SWAN to host the December 4th nature walk on United Water watershed land-land which is normally not open to the general public.
The tour, led by naturalist Nancy Slowik, started in the United Water recreation parking lot near Lakeview Terrace in Emerson, NJ. Once the group was organized, Bergen SWAN opened up the gate to the Oradell Reservoir providing a rare opportunity to walk along the shore of the reservoir. Nancy directed the tour to the waterfowl present on the open water of the reservoir. Double-crested Cormorant were seen in addition to Hooded Mergansers.
Heading away from the shore, the tour passed a stand of American Sycamore with their white peeling bark.
Early settlers used to make buttons out of American Sycamore seedpods. The “button” is found inside the seedpod. This practice created another name for the American Sycamore: the Buttonwood Tree. Nancy pointed out Poison Ivy growing on a dead Eastern Hemlock tree. Members of the tour were advised to never touch the hairy vine of Poison Ivy as you can still get a painful itchy rash even in winter.
Palmolive dish washing liquid was recommended as an inexpensive cure for poison ivy. The tour then led participants up a gas line right of way for about ¼ a mile.
Along the way, White-Tail Deer were seen browsing in the woods west of the right of way.
As the group proceeded on, Nancy pointed out large rectangular holes found on a dead tree.
These holes were created by a Pileated Woodpecker, North America’s largest woodpecker. Most likely the bird was hunting carpenter ants, one it’s favorite sources of food. While the group admired the holes, a Black-Capped Chickadee, Northern Flicker and Red-Bellied Woodpecker were heard calling.
Up ahead on the gas trail was a stand of Northern Red Oak (NJ’s state tree!) with its characteristic “ski slope” bark. Nancy informed the tour that when a Northern Red Oak gets cut it admits a foul odor.
Shortly before turning west onto the Heck Ditch trail, the group happened upon a White Pine plantation.
White pines make excellent habitat for Great Horned Owls and other birds of prey which frequent Emerson Woods.
Cones of White Pine are sticky with the seeds found inside. Native Americans used to chew on White Pine needles to obtain Vitamin C.
As the group passed the Heck Ditch Nancy pointed out that the oily looking water surface of the ditch was caused by bacteria decomposing leaves.
Ground Pine was found growing in large colonies on the other side of the Heck ditch trail. Ground Pine takes years to become established.
After walking for about 15-20 minutes on the Heck Ditch trail, the tour headed south on the Equisetum trail which leads back to the United Water Recreating parking lot. Along the way, Nancy pointed out large growths of equisetum growing near massive Cottonwood trees. This collection of Equisetum is thought to consist of the largest stand in New Jersey. Equisetum are members of an ancient order of plants and appeared well before the appearance of the first flowering plants. Equisetum was known to early settlers as “Scouring Rush”-a name given for its ability to clean and scrub pots and pans.
Check out Plant Communities of New Jersey.
NJ’s geology, topography and soil, climate, plant-plant and plant-animal relationships, and the human impact on the environment are all discussed in great detail. Twelve plant habitats are described and the authors were good enough to put in examples of where to visit!
Click here for more information!
The group headed back to the parking lot as twilight descended. As we walked, we happened upon an abandoned Red-Eyed Vireo nest. The red-eye vireo spends the winter living in South America.
The group proceeded to the parking area and the tour concluded.
A special thanks to Bergen SWAN and Nancy Slowik for offering the opportunity to explore Emerson Woods in great detail. For more information on Bergen SWAN click here.
The Emerson Woods Preserve are accessible from off of Main Street in Emerson or Lakeview Drive. Ample parking is available on Summer Street. Be sure to check out Bergen SWAN if you wish to participate in nature walks, community clean-ups and educational events in Emerson Woods.
Browns Point Park in West Milford features a playground, picnic tables, woods and beautiful Greenwood Lake shoreline in addition to almost three and a half acres of wetlands. The park, located on the southwestern side of Greenwood Lake, has the Lake to the north and east, Belcher’s Creek to the west and Greenwood Lake Turnpike to the south.
Flora found in Brown’s Point Park includes the below among others:
Browns Point Park features Frisbee golf (aka disc golf) which is set up throughout the park.
A Mute Swan was present in Greenwood Lake the day I visited. Mute Swans originated from Europe and are not native to the US. The Mute Swan, according to legend, is silent all its life until right before it dies where the bird sings an achingly beautiful melody known as a “Swan Song“. The real story is Mute Swans are not mute but actually make a deep grunting territorial sound. Click here to hear a Mute Swan for yourself!
Brown’s Point Park provides wonderful opportunities for recreation, nature study and birding.
Brown’s Point park is located off of Greenwood Lake Turnpike near A&P in the Hewitt section of West Milford. Click here for directions!
If you are into nature and live in Bergen County chances are you might have visited the Tenafly Nature Center and Lost Brook Preserve. But have you visited Tenafly’s 8 acre Churchill Nature Preserve?
The Churchill Nature Preserves provides a wonderful opportunity for birding and nature study in a small suburban woodland. The trail head (a blue blaze) begins near the main entrance on Churchill Road.
The blue trail completes a loop around the entire nature preserve and is maintained by a local Boy Scout troop. Signs have been placed to inform the hiker of the various flora and fauna that may be found in the preserve. The blue trail contains two bridges and one stream crossing. The stream is a tributary of Overpeck Creek, which in turn is a tributary to the Hackensack River.
Churchill Nature Preserve contains diverse flora including:
- Northern Red Oak (NJ’s State Tree!)
- White Oak
- Red Maple
- White Ash
- Hay-Scented Fern
- Black Birch
Three benches have been placed throughout the preserve and are perfect to take a seat to bird watch and look for other wildlife.
This little preserve is the perfect place to get a quick fix of nature when you are on the go.
Click here for directions!