Welcome to the 20.68 acre Alonzo F. Bonsal Wildlife Preserve! The preserve is located and owned by the Township of Montclair, New Jersey and was purchased with NJ DEP Green Acres funds. The City of Clifton is located to the north, and residential development surrounds the preserve to the south, east and west. There are 9.12 acres of adjacent lands located to the north of the preserve which are controlled by the North Jersey District Water Commission for its Wanaque Reservoir Balancing Tank which provide additional habitat for wildlife. A citizens group lobbied to save the woodland from development in the 1970′s. The Bonsal Preserve was named after a local resident whose family’s contribution augmented Green Acres funding of the site.
The preserve consists of remnant wetlands and uplands surrounding the Third River, a major tributary of the lower Passaic River watershed. The Third River headwaters are located in Rifle Camp Park in Woodland Park.
The headwaters were impounded in 1899 to form the Great Notch Reservoir which greatly reduced the river’s flow. The Third River’s current name was derived from the fact that it lies north of two other Passaic River tributaries (1st & 2nd Rivers).
Years ago, the river was known as Pearl River due to the discovery of the Queen Pearl aka Paterson Pearl . Freshwater pearls are found in a river’s mussel population. The Paterson Pearl, a 93 grain pink pearl, was one of the first freshwater pearl to be discovered in the United States. Other pearls were found in the Third River but none matched the Paterson Pearl.
Today, the mussels are long gone and the name Pearl River has been replaced by Third River as designated by cartographers.
The preserve has been left in its natural state with the exception of an old sewer line built in the early 1900′s. The sewer is owned by the City of Clifton. In 2008, around 10 trees in the preserve and a 12 foot wide woods road was constructed near Daniels Road, a dead end street in Clifton, to access a ruptured section of the pipe. The sewer is scheduled to be removed and rerouted in the spring of 2013.
The main entrance to the Bonsal Preserve is located in a right of way off of Riverview Drive in Montclair. After crossing the bridge over the Third River, you can continue north to Daniels Drive in Clifton or head east or west to explore the wetlands near the Third River. The trails are not blazed but due to the size of the preserve, you can’t get lost physically without soon discovering a spot you previously traveled.
Small preserves in urban settings really provide a great opportunity to take your time and enjoy nature right in your own backyard.
The richest concentration of wildlife found in the Third River watershed is found in the Bonsal Preserve. Baltimore Orioles, Red-Eyed Vireos, Red-Winged Blackbirds, White-Tailed Deer and Raccoon have all been spotted among others. I spotted the guys in the pictures below the day I visited:
Because a good percentage of the Bonsal Preserve consists of forested floodplains, obligate wetland plants such as Skunk Cabbage may be found in abundance.
Other species include the below among others:
Check out Plant Communities of New Jersey to learn more about the high diversity of plant life found in the Garden State!
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 preserve, known locally as Montclair’s paradise, is a great place to take a walk, birdwatch and just kick back and enjoy. 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!