Welcome to the Poplar Road Wildlife Sanctuary! The preserve has Poplar Road to the north, Lake Tappan to the east, Cherry Brook flowing to the west and the confluence of Cherry Brook and the Hackensack River to the south.
The sanctuary consists of 18 acres of White Pine plantation, upland, wetlands and a meadow with beautiful views of the Lake Tappan Reservoir.
The 1,255 acre Lake Tappan Reservoir (formed by impounding the Hackensack River via the Lake Tappan dam in 1966) is owned and operated by United Water.
The 18 wooded acres were part of a 44 acre tract of woods known as the River Vale Woods. The 44 acres were once part of United Water’s watershed buffer but were later sold to developers who planned to turn the 44 wooded acres into high density dwellings. On December 23, 2002, after six years of wrangling, 18 of the 44 acres were bought by the township of River Vale using grants and loans from the Municipal Open Space Trust Fund, NJ Green Acres and the Bergen County Open Space, Recreation, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund. In 2010, 11 wooded acres off of Stanley Place near the sanctuary were preserved and will be part of the 18 acres of thePreserve bringing the total acreage to 29. An additional 5 acres (which contain a section of Cherry Brook) were purchased by the Township earlier in 2010. The remaining 10 acres, which are located across the street from the Poplar Road Nature Sanctuary were clear cut for a townhouse development in the summer of 2010.
After parking, proceed through the gate of the Poplar Road Nature Sanctuary towards the kiosk which is stored with informational brochures during the warmer months provided by Bergen SWAN.
From the kiosk, head west through a White Pine plantation which is in the final stages of succession. As time progresses and more of the White Pines succumb to storms and other natural conditions, hardwood forest trees such as Sugar Maple will take the White Pine tree place.
Follow the trail south to the Cherry Brook floodplain. Information signage regarding Sugar Maple and Tulip Tree may be found on the right of the trail near a chain link fence which separates the sanctuary from United Water watershed land. Turn left after skirting a brief wetland area and head east towards Lake Tappan. This section of the trail divides the White Pine plantation from the established hardwood forest.
Straight ahead is a meadow and views of Lake Tappan.
The meadow is a managed grassland that is periodically mowed to prevent it from becoming a forest via succession. Leaving the meadow, head north via a United Water service road and then take a left heading west back through the White Pine plantation to the kiosk to complete the hike.
Flora that may be found in the sanctuary include:
- Red Maple
- Sugar Maple
- White Pine
- American Beech
- Smooth Sumac
- Virginia Creeper
- Hay-Scented Fern
Fauna observed at the sanctuary and in the nearby watershed include
- Red Fox
- Spring Peeper
- Eastern Gray Squirrel
- Eastern Chipmunk
- Wild Turkey
- White-Tail Deer
- Great-Horn Owl
From Exit 5 off the Palisades Interstate Parkway head south on Route 303; turn left (west) onto Oak Tree Road; follow it around to make a left turn (west) onto Washington Street/Old Tappan Road; turn right onto Washington Avenue north (heading northeast); follow it around to a curved turn left onto Poplar Road. The parking area is a short ways down on the left (south side) of the road.
Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!