Welcome to Norvin Green State Forest’s Torne Mountain!
Torne Mountain, standing at 1,120 feet and located in Passaic County NJ, is situated in the southern section of the estimated 4,982 acre Norvin Green State Forest. The land comprising the forest was donated to the State of New Jersey by the nephew of Ringwood Manor’s Abram S. Hewitt in 1946.
Norvin Green State Forest has the largest concentrations of trails in the state of NJ. Most of the trails date back to the 1920’s when members of a local organization known as the Green Mountain Club constructed them.
Many of the rocks that are encountered during this hike have a rounded appearance due to the Wisconsin Glacier which came through the area around 10,000 years ago. This event is relatively recent as the Highlands rocks were formed over four billion years ago.
The rocks are “basement rocks” as the younger rocks which originally had covered them eroded away over time. Most of the rocks are thought to be comprised of ancient granite-gneiss.
Below is a brief virtual tour of a section of the 0.4 of a mile Torne Trail and a portion of the 6.4 mile Blue Blazed Hewitt-Butler Trail. Stops include outstanding views and an interesting man-made Stone Living Room. Ready? Let’s do it!
The hike is an estimated 1.5 miles from Otter Hole Road.
Starting from near the Otter Hole Road Parking area, head south to the trailhead of the red blazed Torne Mountain Trail.
Once on the Torne trail, signs advertising the blue-blazed Hewitt-Butler Trail will appear.
Head southwest then south on the blue blazed Hewitt-Butler Trail to Climb Torne Mountain.
The first view will be of Buck Mountain to the north. Continuing southeast views of the Newark Pequannock Watershed land appear to the west.
Near the western viewpoint, a short unmarked trail appears to the left leading to a man-made Stone Living Room. “Chairs” & “Sofas” have been constructed from surrounding rocks. The Stone Living Room is an excellent place to stop for lunch and rest while taking in views.
From the Stone Living Room, head back to the Hewitt Butler Trail. Continuing south, descend Torne Mountain passing a stand-alone Stone chair.
Here you will reach a ravine at the bottom of Torne mountain and the southern trailhead of the red blazed Torne Trail which will be your return back to Otterhole Road.
For now, pass the southern trail-head of the Torne Trail and continue southeast on the blue blazed Hewitt-Butler trail climbing to Osio Rock.
From here, views of the Wanaque Reservoir, the NYC Skyline (on a clear day) and High Mountain of the 2nd Watchung Mountain range may be viewed to the east.
After taking in the views, turn around and head north west to retrace your steps back to the ravine to the red blazed Torne trail trailhead.
Here you will take the Torne trail north back to Otterhole Road where the trail began.
Flora found along the trail includes the below among others:
Directions: (as taken from localhikes.com)
Hamburg Turnpike to Glenwild Ave. Parking area is next to Bloomingdale/West Milford border (look for Welcome to West Milford sign, or Welcome to Bloomingdale sign depending on which direction you are traveling.
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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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 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 cap chickadee, Northern Flicker and red-bellied woodpecker were heard calling.
Up ahead on the gas trail was a stand of Northern Red Oak 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 Horn 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.
The group headed back to the parking lot as twilight descended. As we walked, we happened upon an abandoned red-eye 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.
Welcome to the Secaucus Mill Creek Marsh! Mill Creek, a tributary of the Hackensack River meanders through the marsh. The estimated 209+ acre marsh was purchased from Hartz Mountain Industries in 1996 by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission for preservation purposes. The marsh was previously slated for a 2,750 unit housing development.
Though the marsh had not experienced direct industrial activities, habitat for wildlife was limited. The marsh had layers of fill and consisted of a monoculture of Common Reed which limited tidal inundation. The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission began enhancement of the marsh in 1998. The purpose of the enhancement was to create an intertidal brackish marsh, upland habitat, mudflats and shallow sub-tidal areas. Islands were created from fill in the marsh and were planted with salt tolerant flora such as Spartina (aka Salt Marsh Cordgrass). Spartina tolerates salt water by excreting excess salt. Two impoundments of Mill Creek (North/South) were created in addition to re-establishing tidal flow.
The term “enhancement “is used rather than “restoration” because there is no evidence to support that an intertidal marsh ecosystem with both mud flats and raised islands ever existed naturally in the meadowlands.
During the enhancement activities, removal of fill exposed old stumps of Atlantic White Cedar which had been buried for many years. It’s estimated that 1/3 of the Hackensack Meadowlands were once covered in Atlantic White Cedar. The decline of these majestic trees in the meadowlands began in the mid 18th century when the durable Atlantic White Cedar wood was used to make roads and houses. Later, swaths of the cedar forest were burned to eliminate hiding places for pirates. The last of the cedars died out with the completion of the Oradell dam on the Hackensack River which severely slowed the influx of freshwater pouring into the swamp and allowed an influx of saltwater into the marshes.
Over a short period of time former freshwater marsh became a brackish estuary. These stumps are all that is left of the once extensive Atlantic White Cedar forest in the meadowlands.
While the eco-system is certainly healthier than it was prior to the enhancement, water quality still has a long way to go. The creation of water channels has allowed for oxygen exchange and greater tidal flushing which has improved water quality. However, coliform bacteria is still present in Mill Creek at elevated levels most likely due to the proximity of a municipal sewage treatment plant near the marsh. Samples of macro invertebrates taken from Mill Creek primarily consists of pollutant tolerant species which is an indicator that water quality is not as healthy as it could become in the future.
A 1.5 mile handicapped-accessible trail was created during the NJMC enhancement activities at Mill Creek Marsh. The trail traverses both the south and north impoundments and ventures near Least Tern Island (one of the artificially created islands) and consists of a gravel footpath and footbridges. The trail offers a multitude of opportunities to view wildlife. Educational signs have been placed throughout the trail providing information to visitors of Mill Creek Marsh.
The trail can be walked in a looped fashion around the southern impoundment (for a shorter walk) or in a loop around the northern impoundment (for the full 1.5 miles).
Over 280 bird species have been documented in the NJ Meadowlands. Birds such as Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Black-Crowned Night Heron, American Bittern (a state endangered species), Terns, Tree Swallows and Double-crested Cormorants have all been spotted in Mill Creek Marsh among others. Of special note, a Eurasian Green-winged teal has been seen in Mill Creek Marsh both this year and last. Black Skimmers make an appearance in the summer.
Fiddler Crabs and different species of fish populate Mill Creek in addition to turtles such as Diamondback Terrapin. Diamondback Terrapin are the only turtles adapted to life in brackish waters. Muskrats also make their home here.
In addition to Common Reed, (which is still present in many locations), Gray Birch, Saltwater Cordgrass, rushes, sedges and other flora flourish in Mill Creek Marsh.
Today the Mill Creek Marsh is an oasis of nature in a sea of overdevelopment. There is no place else that I can think of where you can view ancient stumps of Atlantic White Cedar with the NYC skyline as a backdrop.
Thirsty to learn more about the high diversity of plant life found in the Garden State? It is strongly recommended you check out this wonderful informative book: 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!
Take the New Jersey Turnpike to Exit 16W and follow signs for Route 3 East. Cross the bridge over the Hackensack River and follow signs for “Secaucus/New Jersey Turnpike South/Exit Only.” Continue past the Turnpike exit and take the next exit (just beyond the underpass) for “Harmon Meadow Blvd./The Plaza/Mill Creek Mall.” Follow Harmon Meadow Boulevard to the third traffic light (Sam’s Club is on the left) and turn left onto Mill Creek Drive. Cross over the New Jersey Turnpike and continue straight ahead (do not bear left) at a sign for “Mill Creek Mall.” Park on the right, at a sign for “Mill Creek Trail.”
Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!
1. The Nature of the Meadowlands – The Nature of the Meadowlands illuminates the region’s natural and unnatural history, from its darkest days of a half-century ago to its amazing environmental revival. Click here for more information!
2. The Meadowlands: Wilderness Adventures on the Edge of a City – Author Robert Sullivan proves himself to be this fragile yet amazingly resilient region’s perfect expolorer, historian, archaeologist, and comic bard. Click here for more information
3. Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story – Slowly but surely, with help from activist groups, government organizations, and ordinary people, the resilient creatures of the Meadowlands are making a comeback, and the wetlands are recovering. Click here for more information
4. Fields of Sun and Grass: An Artist’s Journal of the New Jersey Meadowlands - The book has three central parts, respectively called “Yesterday,” “Today,” and “Tomorrow.” Each covers a different time period in the ecological life of the Meadowlands. Click here for more information.
Englewood’s Flat Rock Nature Preserve consists of 150 acres of second growth woodland, wetlands, meadows, gardens and ponds and nature building managed by Flat Rock Nature Association, a non-profit organization which hosts educational programs.
75 acres of the preserve are city owned Green Acres lands and 75 acres consist of the former Allison Woods Park which officially became part of Flat Rock Nature Preserve in 1988.
The preserve is surrounded on the north, south and west by dense residential housing. Englewood Cliffs is to the east of the preserve. Flat Rock Nature Preserve is a remnant section of a once massive hardwood forest on the western palisades. This forest remained intact until about 1859 when large scale logging occurred to provide railroad ties for the northern railroad which had extended into Englewood. Overtime, the forest grew back on land that was to become the Flat Rock Nature Preserve.
A Walk in the Woods
In the fall of 2012 a new permanent exhibit in the nature center known as “A Walk in the Woods” was completed. The exhibit showcases the four primary habitats found at Flat Rock:
Each exhibit has interactive puzzles, information fact cards & flip-books on the flora and fauna found in each habitat. Speaking of fauna, this Turtle has a home in “A Walk in the Woods”
Near the window where bird feeders have been placed are descriptions of common birds found at Flat Rock including their vocalizations!
I saw this American Goldfinch when I last visited.
The display also has exhibits on non-point source pollution and how it affects the Hackensack River watershed.
History of the Land
Over the years, several development proposals threatened the forest. In 1900, a few acres of the future nature preserve experienced quarrying which occurred until 1925. Today, the staging area of the quarry is the present day parking area of the nature center. A handicap accessible .1 of a mile boardwalk, constructed in 1989, goes near cliffs that were exposed during the quarry operations.
Around 1907, a huge cemetery was proposed for the woods of Flat Rock but was declined by the city due to the land being unsuited for this purpose. In 1927 Paterno Construction Company bought land in the future preserve in order to construct residential development. Roads were constructed throughout Flat Rock’s forest. Construction of the houses was soon to follow but the great depression occurred effectively canceling the development. The roads became the foundation of the present trails found in the nature preserve. Over the next few decades new development threats came and went but the woods remained.
In 1968, the citizens of Englewood voted to approve a city bond issue to acquire and preserve the remaining open land in Englewood. In 1973, the organization that would become Flat Rock Nature Preserve was formed to manage the preserved open space.
Flat Rock Brook
Flat Rock flows into the preserve from the north. The brook is a tributary of the Overpeck Creek (Flat Rock’s confluence with the Overpeck Creek is just south of the border between Englewood and Leonia) which is a tributary of the Hackensack River. Flat Rock Brook is classified as FW2-NT (Fresh water, non-trout). The water quality has been designated as poor as indicated by the variety and number of sampled invertebrates. The water quality was tested by the Flat Rock Brook Nature Association which formed a stream study team to evaluate the health of Flat Rock. Recently, the Flat Rock Brook Nature Association received a grant of $9, 625 to help restore Flat Rock Brook by encouraging native plant species and removing invasive exotic plants. The grant was received from the Watershed Institute.
Flat Rock Ponds
A prominent feature of Flat Rock Brook Nature Preserve is its Quarry Pond.
Quarry Pond is located to the south of the preserve near the nature center’s building. Quarry Pond has not been dredged since the 1970s. Sediment from nearby trails have been filling in the pond causing decreasing oxygen levels. Duckweed, an aquatic plant, has taken over the pond. In the fall of 2010, city officials voted to use funds from an unused 2007 bond ordinance to dredge the pond. In the summer of 2012 dredging of Quarry Pond commenced and was completed in the fall of 2012.
If Quarry pond wasn’t dredged, it would have disappeared and become a marshland which was the fate of Flat Rock’s MacFadden’s Pond. MacFadden’s Pond is now known as MacFadden’s wetland due to sedimentation filling in much of the pond. MacFadden’s wetland was formed by the damming of Flat Rock Brook as it enters the preserve from the north and is found in the northern area of the preserve.
The city of Englewood approved a dredging project for the pond in 2007 but when the cost to dredge the pond was found to be more than a million dollars, the dredging plan was canceled.
In addition to the quarry boardwalk, the preserve features over three miles of trails.
The red trail is the longest at 1.2 miles and traverses the heart of the preserve and helps to connect Macfadden’s wetland with the nature center. The white trail, at .6 encircles the nature center and goes through gardens and around Quarry Pond. The .6 orange trail traverses in the western section of the preserve near Flat Rock.
The yellow trail goes over a mystery bridge (called a mystery because the bridge appeared mysteriously one weekend) near Macfadden’s wetland and back to the red trail. Click here for a trail map.
Flora and Fauna
The preserve features flora such as:
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!
Fauna found in Englewood’s Flat Rock Brook Nature Center includes:
The preserve is open for hiking seven days a week from dawn to dusk. Click here for directions.
Check out below for more information regarding Northern NJ’s Forest Community and environment!
1. Eastern Deciduous Forest, Second Edition: Ecology and Wildlife Conservation – This book is a useful tool for anyone who wants to know or hopes to help one of North America’s great natural resources.
Click here for more information!
2. Protecting New Jersey’s Environment: From Cancer Alley to the New Garden State – With people as its focus, Protecting New Jersey’s Environment explores the science underpinning environmental issues and the public policy infighting that goes undocumented behind the scenes and beneath the controversies.
Click here for more information!
Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!
Kakeout Reservoir, at 150 acres, was constructed in the 1930′s by the works progress administration by impounding Stone House Brook over an old roadway connecting Butler and Kinnelon. Most of Stone House Brook, a Pequannock River tributary, is classified by the NJ DEP primarily as FW2-NT (Fresh Water, Non-Trout). Water with this classification are generally not suitable for trout because of physical, chemical or biological characteristics but may be suitable for a wide variety of other fish.
Kakeout Reservoir holds up to 950 million gallons of water and serves an estimated 9,600 people in Butler, West Milford and Kinnelon. Fishing in Kakeout Reservoir is allowed by permit only.
While it is possible to do a loop around the reservoir, (click here for a description) I prefer to take the blue blazed Butler-Montville trail north of Fayson Lake Road to Kakeout dam and back. This trail is maintained by volunteers of the New York New Jersey Trail Conference.
If you take the Butler-Montville Trail south of Fayson Lakes Road it will lead to Pyramid Mountain and its famous Tripod Rock. Taking this trail north of Fayson Lakes Road goes slightly west with views of the reservoir and a small island.
The trail then heads north to a bridge which goes over Stone House Brook.
Once you cross over Stone House Brook, the trail turns to the east and passes Kakeout Mountain to the northwest. The trail then hugs the Reservoir until you reach the dam.
There are wetlands beyond the dam where Stone House Brook once again narrows to form a stream which flows northeast. Stone House Brook (also called Kakeout Brook at this location) becomes C1 trout production from Lake Edenwold downstream. C1 is one of the highest classifications given to a stream in the state of NJ.
Once you reach the dam, turn around and follow the trail back to Fayson Lakes Road where the hike began.
- American Beech
- Mountain Laurel
- Red Oak
- White Oak
- White Pine
- Skunk Cabbage
From Route 23 in Kinnelon, take Kinnelon Road exit. Drive for about two miles and take a left on Fayson Lake Road. Parking is near the first causeway.
Feel free to comment or e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!
Teaneck Creek Conservancy (TCC) is a 46 acre urban forested wetland located in Teaneck, NJ. The park is bordered to the north by Fycke Lane, DeGraw Avenue to the south, Teaneck Road to the west and Teaneck Creek to the east. The park is owned by Bergen County and managed by the Teaneck Creek Conservancy.
TCC was founded in 2001 by the Puffin Foundation after red survey flags were found on the woodland in back of the building at 20 Puffin Way in Teaneck, NJ. After discovering that the property was owned by the County of Bergen, TCC signed a long term licensing agreement with the county to allow it to develop the property into a park. The conservancy applied and received $500,000 from NJ Green Acres, $450,000 from Bergen County Parks Department and Open Space Trust Fund, $50,000 from the Puffin Foundation and $300,000 from the NJ Wetlands Mitigation Council to form trails, site improvements and wetland hydrology analysis. Teaneck Creek Conservancy became part of Bergen County’s Overpeck Park system in July of 2004 and opened up to the public on May 7, 2006.
The conservancy has created a natural masterpiece by blending the perfect mixture of artwork with nature. The Puffin Sculpture Park greets you as soon as you arrive in the parking lot of the Puffin Cultural Forum.
Artwork may appear around the corner on any of TCC’s nature trails such as this wooden turtle (carved from a Black Locust tree trunk) which may be found on the blue trail or this wooden rabbit found near Dragonfly Pond off of the Red Trail.
The 1.5 mile Teaneck Creek, for which TCC is named, is a tributary of Overpeck Creek which in turn is a tributary of the Hackensack River.
There are two tributaries of Teaneck Creek found in the conservancy.
95% of Teaneck Creek’s watershed is urban which causes flash hydrology during storm events. Flash hydrology consists of the rapid movement of water through Teaneck’s storm system into Teaneck Creek, followed by a rapid elevation of water height, accelerated water flows and then a rapid return to low flow water levels. Flash hydrology can destabilize the stream channel by erosion of the stream banks.
Despite Teaneck Creek’s poor water quality due to non-point source pollution, the creek and surrounding wetlands and woodlands host a large diversity of wildlife. Wildlife that have been observed at TCC include snapping turtles, mallards, killifish, green frogs, bullfrogs, eastern box turtle, great egret, blue heron, red fox and white-tail deer.
The 46 acres which comprise Teaneck Creek Conservancy experienced degradation from dumping and filing of debris in the 1960’s during construction of the New Jersey Turnpike and Interstate 80. The dumping of debris caused degradation in TCC’s wetlands by cutting off the historic hydrology to Teaneck Creek causing the wetlands to act more as a perched bog rather than a functioning riparian wetland. A Conceptual Wetland Restoration Plan was developed for the preserve after three years of study by Rutgers University, United States Geologic Survey and TRC Omni. The restoration plan essentially breaks the 46 acres into four sections (Section A, B, C & D). Each section will have its own restoration plan based upon existing soil, vegetation and hydrology.
Section A consists of 9 acres and is located in the northeastern section of the preserve near Fycke Lane. Section A consists of the highest quality forested wetlands remaining in Teaneck Creek Conservancy. Analysis of the soil indicates that the 9 acres have remained unchanged for the past two to three hundred years. The goal for this area is to maintain the existing conditions and protect the 9 acres from future negative environmental impacts that may occur.
Section B, at 15 acres is located in the heart of the Teaneck Creek Conservancy. A prominent feature of Section B is a body of water known as Dragonfly Pond whose water comes directly from storm water runoff from nearby Teaneck Road.
Dragonfly pond is surrounded by large stands of Common Reed. The goal for Section B is to leave existing stands of Common Reed near the pond and prevent its spread by planting native shade trees. Common Reed, though invasive, is useful in removing excess nutrients and sequestering contaminants from water. In addition, given the source of water for Dragonfly Pond, the area is prone to drought conditions in the summer months. Under drought conditions, obligate wetland plants such as Skunk Cabbage cannot survive.
While invasive plants such as Garlic Mustard and mile-a-minute vine are found throughout Teaneck Creek Conservancy’s 46 acres, they are especially plentiful in the 14 acre Section C and 8 acre section D.
Section C and D are located in the southeast and southwest section of the park respectively. These areas of the park historically received the largest amount of disturbance during the construction of Route 80 and the NJ Turnpike. The soil consists primarily of debris. Only pockets of native vegetation remain in the 8 acre section D. The restoration plan for section D indicates that 5-6 acres will be clear cut and reconfigured into a series of freshwater wetlands. 3 upland native wooden acres will be spared. In Section C, a large clay berm was constructed in past wetland management efforts to help stem flooding from Teaneck Creek. Restoration efforts call for the clay berm to be broken so that water will be able to flow and pool creating new freshwater wetland habitat naturally.
It is hoped that 20 new forested freshwater wetlands will be created from the Conceptual Wetland Restoration Plan for the Teaneck Creek Conservancy.
Teaneck Creek Conservancy features 3 trails. All trails are nearly flat. Blazes are created in the shape of a turtle and are colored and numbered. Trail maps are available near the entrance by the parking lot for the Puffin Cultural Forum. Click here for a map of Teaneck Creek Conservancy from Bergen County’s Overpeck County Park webpage.
The handicapped accessible .65 of a mile red trail traverses the preserve from DeGraw Avenue to Fycke Lane. Starting from the Puffin Cultural Parking lot, the red trail leaves the parking lot heading down wooden stairs where artwork known as “Migration Milestones” showcases pictures of migratory birds and facts.
This information is all carved on old cement which was previously dumped in the conservancy during construction of the intersection of nearby I-80 and I-95.
From here, the red trail heads north or south. Heading south, the red trail passes upland forest to the east which contains a big silver maple with a label near blaze R2.
Continuing south, the red trail passes by the newly (as of July 2012) opened Bergen County Audubon Society’s Butterfly Garden.
The idea for the garden came about in the fall of 2011 and funding from the Bergen County Audubon and National Audubon Society helped make the dream a reality. Native plants such as Swamp Milkweed, Buttonbush, Ironweed and Spicebush among others were planted for a two fold purpose. The first is to provide habitat for butterflies to lay eggs and for their caterpillars to eat. The second purpose is to provide nectar sources for butterflies. It is hoped other species of wildlife will be attracted to the butterfly garden as well.
Volunteers from three groups assisted with the project. The Teaneck Creek Weed Warriors cleared the garden of non native vegetation such as Japanese Knotweed and Porcelain Berry. Volunteers from the Teaneck Garden Club (members stored plants over the winter donated by Metropolitan Plant Exchange. Finally, members from the Bergen County Audubon Society completed the planting and will maintain the garden.
The butterfly garden marks the first time native plants have intentionally been planted to replace invasive species at TCC.
Heading closer to DeGraw Avenue, a new section (as of July 2012) of Green trail appears to the northeast. Turning back north, the red trail retraces its steps and heads back to the entrance of the TCC. A little north of the main entrance, the red trail comes to a “T” near blaze R4. Turning left (west) this section of the red trail heads to Puffin Place and the Blue Trail.
Heading east, the red trail comes to blaze R5 with upland forest to the south and dense scrub shrub land to the north. Heading northeast, the red trail passes the green trail to the east and heads past Dragonfly Pond to the west near blaze R7.
This section of the red trail follows the historic public service trolley route which was in service from 1899-1938. The public service trolley route connected Paterson to Edgewater where a ferry took passengers to NYC.
Continuing north, the red trail comes to the 5 Pipes. The five pipes were leftover massive drainage pipes that are large enough to stand in. Rather than discard them, volunteers painted the interiors and exteriors to represent five eras of time.
The exteriors of the five pipes represent natures flora and fauna found at the Teaneck Creek Conservancy across time. The interiors of the five pipes represent the human relationship to TCC in 5 different historical eras. These eras include:
1. Native American (The Lenape)
2. Colonial Period (The Dutch and the English)
3. A new nation’s early years (1776-1899)
4. USA: The 20th Century
5. USA: The 21st Century and Beyond
From here, the northern end of the Green trail is accessible immediately after the five pipes to the east near Teaneck Creek. A bridge crossing Teaneck Creek from the Heritage Point of Teaneck is found here.
Continuing north, two massive Black Willows can be found at blazes R10 and R11 respectively. Near blaze R12, the Blue Trail is accessible to the west. Continuing north, the red trail crosses Teaneck Creek in the Fycke Woods section. (FYI: Fycke, is a Dutch word meaning fish or animal trap)
The Red Trail parallels Teaneck Creek to the west and comes to an outdoor ecology classroom at blaze R14. The outdoor ecology classroom is located near the highest quality forested wetlands remaining in TCC (Section A near Fycke Lane). The location of the classroom was previously surrounded by large dense stands of Common Reed. After most of the Common Reed was removed, native trees, shrubs and herbaceous species were planted. The outdoor ecology classroom was built after receiving funding of $100,000 from private and public sources in 2003. The classroom has four 12-foot long benches, a boardwalk and a 30 foot –wide five-sided opening in the middle that looks down into wetlands.
The red trail ends at Fycke Lane where the Fycke Lane Interpretive Project at Teaneck Creek Conservancy is found.
The Fycke Lane Interpretive Project was conceived in 2003 and constructed in 2011 after being funded with a grant from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.
The project consists of 8 educational signs which provide illustrations and information on landscape perspectives ranging from habitat, wealth, and history among other landscape perspectives. The signs were constructed by a wall made of recycled materials. These signs will be replaced from time to time to provide fresh perspectives. The Fycke Lane Interpretive Project opened Earth Day in 2012.
Starting from the red trail near DeGraw Avenue, the rustic estimated .41 of a mile green trail traverses northeast to the Lenape Turtle Peace Labyrinth at blaze G2.
The Labyrinth, located inside a Cottonwood Forest, was made from rubble found in Teaneck Creek Conservancy.
The turtle shaped Labyrinth was created to honor the Hackensack Lenape Native Americans whose lands included the TCC.
The Lenape Native Americans believed that the world began when a giant turtle swam to the surface of an ocean that covered the earth and the turtle’s back supported the continent. Hikers are encouraged to follow the rubblestone to the center of the labyrinth. A sign posted at the entrance states “A walk to the labyrinth’s center can provide an opportunity to meditate, heal and grow”.
From the labyrinth, the green trail continues through the cottonwood forest until it reaches Teaneck Creek at blaze G8. Here there is a bridge crossing Teaneck Creek connecting the Glen Pointe Development with TCC. The green trail continues north following Teaneck Creek to the east. The Green Trail ends at the Red Trail at blaze G10 near the Five Pipes.
An interesting note is the green trail is the only trail in the park system that was designed and built by volunteers. The red and blue trail were designed and built by contractors.
The woodchip lined .27 of a mile blue trail traverses the northwestern section of TCC. Starting from Puffin Place, the blue trail heads north through a dense area of wetlands and reeds and passes a picnic area known as Black Walnut Meadow near blaze B4.
Black Walnut Meadow is the location of one of the first ongoing art exhibits I saw at Teaneck Creek Conservancy: Windows on the Park. Generally once a year, old window frames are taken and hung up alongside the blue trail to challenge the separation between public and private spaces.
After leaving the Black Walnut Meadow, the blue trail heads north through wetlands and connects to the red trail at blaze B8 near the red trail’s R12.
TCC includes over 140 native species of plants including:
Teaneck’s Tokaloka Park is a remnant 10.58 acre deciduous woodland. The preserve is completely surrounded by dense housing development making the park a true forest island.
Tokaloka Park was once part of 50 acres of land owned by Christian Cole who was one of the township’s first council members. The land that ultimately became Tokaloka Park consists of over 70% of forested wetlands and was considered unsuitable for development when suburban sprawl began in the 1930s. The name of the park was derived from a large pond that once existed in the park called Tokaloka. Tokaloka pond may be gone, but a vernal pond still exists near the western border.
Below is a picture of the same vernal pond taken in the summer months.
Many signs exist in this nature preserve indicating that the land is a remnant forested wetland. For example, skunk cabbage is abundant throughout most of the woodland. Skunk cabbage is an obligate plant-meaning that it is found growing in wetlands 99% of the time.
Another indicator that wetlands abound is the presence of several buttressed tree trunks. Trees may develop enlarged trunks in response to frequent inundation.
Finally, there were several smaller vernal ponds present in the forest.
As of this writing the only official trail is a gently sloping path which leads from the entrance to the park at Maitland Avenue and Jefferson Street to its terminus at Dearborn Street. However, future plans, as indicated in the picture listed below, show a possible trail traversing the northern portion of the preserve including a loop around the vernal pond. This trail is recommended to have interpretive signage which would be a real plus in educating the public the value of this remnant natural area.
These changes were proposed in the 2008 Township of Teaneck comprehensive plan for recreation. The short (estimated .15 of a mile) existing trail only encourages you to really take your time and enjoy the sights and sounds of this unique woodland. The forest is always changing as indicated in the pictures below of the same scene taken at summer and winter.
In addition to skunk cabbage, the forest features a nice diversity of plants. They include:
- Red Maple
- Red Oak
The most amazing and unexpected event occurred last time I visited. Several White-tail deer were present near the main vernal pond and took off with their white tail in the air as I arrived near them. What a surprise to find in a forest island completely surrounded by development!
The forest was purchased with Green Acres funding. Grove Park has dense residential development to the west, the confluence of the artificial paths of the Ho-Ho-Kus Brook and Saddle River to the south, Grove Street to the north and the Saddle River Pathway and Saddle River to the east.
In 1996, the Ridgewood Sports Council proposed to destroy a portion of Grove park for a sports field. Residents from the nearby developments and the Ridgewood Council opposed this proposal as the woodland is environmentally sensitive and the remnant forest was preserved.
The park contains several trails. I found (as listed in the picture above) the best combination is to do a loop trail by combining the .34 of a mile White blazed trail with .28 of the .36 of a mile Yellow blazed trail for a total of .62 of a mile. From the entrance on Grove Street, walk to the white trail which traverses the western portion of the park through a wetland area. I usually spot white-tail deer in this area running away with their white tails upheld high.
Take the white trail until it terminates on a White Oak near the yellow trail to the east of the woods.
Follow the yellow trail north back to the entrance on Grove street. Be careful, during my last visit there were several large blowdowns blocking the trail. I just ducked and went under some and crawled over others.
The interesting thing about blowdowns is eventually all that dirt that surrounds the root structure will eventually come down and form a sort of pillow near the tree. These pillows, if left undisturbed, can last hundreds of years and are a way to determine if a forest is old growth. A forest that lacks these pillows was most likely farmed within the past hundred years or so.
Another way of reading the forested landscape is looking at bizarre tree formations. This American Beech tree in the picture below (found on the White Trail) was tipped by the wind and eventually was able to righten itself.
Grove Park provides much needed habitat for the fauna that inhabit this densely developed area of north jersey. Just like with the deer prints, I found evidence of raccoon prints (which look like little hands) in the mud.
Plus I’ve have seen these other characters during my travels in this urban woodland:
Grove Park features quite a diversity of flora. Flora I’ve found include:
- American Beech
- Black Birch
- Red Maple
- Northern Red Oak (NJ’s State Tree!)
- Tulip Poplar
- White Ash
- White Wood Aster
- Skunk Cabbage
- Virginia Creeper
- False Hellebore
- Dwarf Ginseng
The entrance to this park is available from Grove Street or off of the nearby Saddle River pathway. Parking is available on Berkshire Road which is located to the west of the park and is a quick walk away from the entrance. Click here for directions.
As part of an ongoing gas pipeline expansion and to safely position a new gas line 25 feet away from an existing 25 inch transmission, the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company is seeking to access 55 year old easements on the Wallish Estates Properties. The Wallish Estates Properties is the home of a former farmland, Ramapo College wetlands mitigation site and environmental educational trail. (Click here for a NJURBANFOREST description of this trail). A quarter of an acre of the Ramapo College mitigation site will be disturbed in return for a full acre to be remediated at the preserve. Construction will not begin until West Milford agrees to widen the current 10 foot easement which TGPC needs to complete the project.
The Wallisch Nature Preserve is accessible off of Lincoln Avenue in West Milford, NJ. Parking is available on Eisenhower Drive.
The Jerry Wyckoff Natural Preserve is a 7.18 green acres woodland located in the Borough of Ringwood NJ. The preserve is located on Fieldstone Drive off of Skyline Drive. It is named after the first chair of the Ringwood Environmental Commission. The Northgate Park housing development and Fieldstone Drive sit to the north of the preserve, Skyline Drive sits to the west and south of the preserve and High Mountain Brook flows to the east. High Mountain Brook is a fresh water trout production stream with a C1 classification which is one of the highest classifications given to a stream in the state of NJ. Its headwaters are formed from the artificially created 4 acre Brushwood Pond which contains Bass, catfish and other aquatic life and flows in a south west direction until it terminates in the 39+ acre artificially created Skyline Lakes.
Part of the purpose of the preserve is to maintain the rural character of Ringwood. The 7.18 acre site was previously threatened with development by the name of Bald Eagle Suites . Bald Eagle Suites would have contained the largest buildings in Ringwood. The development would have consisted of four four story high buildings containing a total of 100 units of assisted living high density housing. The North Jersey District Water Supply Commission which manages the nearby Wanaque Reservoir, opposed the development. NJDWS believed that runoff from the development would contaminate local reservoir feeding streams.
The development would have disturbed nearly 96% of the 7.18 acres by essentially blowing off the top of the mountain and moving 20 thousand cubic yards of soil for the construction of an entrance road and sewage treatment fields. The site would have been stripped of trees and several large retaining walls would have been in place. Thanks to the combined efforts of Skylands Clean and the Ringwood Zoning Board, the development was denied and the 7.18 acres was purchase from the developer by Ringwood for $600,000 on March 16, 2007. Green Acres provided $300,000, Passaic County Open Space provided $250,000 and the municipal OS Trust provided $50,000.The preserve is the first open space initiative led exclusively by Ringwood.
The estimated .27 of a mile orange blazed trail entrance is found off of Fieldstone Drive just north of the entrance to Stop and Shop. The trail was created and blazed by a local boy scout troup. No map is needed for this out and back trail. The total trail is an estimate .54 of a mile. Orange ribbons were found on many trees extending near the end of the trail during my last visit. This may indicate a longer planned trail for the future.
The trail provides many scenic viewpoints of nearby highlands and the Wanaque Reservoir (especially when the leaves are gone from the trees!)
The trail terminates at a glacial erratic.
Flora found along the trail include Christmas Fern, Sweet Fern, White, Chestnut and Red Oak, American Beech and Red Maple among others. I spotted this awesome little Eastern Chipmunk during a warmer month visit:
The Jerry Wyckoff Natural Preserve is located at the entrance to the center of town (Skyline Drive) from Route 287 (Exit 57) off of Fieldstone Drive. Parking is available in the nearby Stop and Shop.