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.
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 comment with any questions, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!
The Ridgefield Nature center consists of 5.4 acres of deciduous wooded wetlands and upland.
The nature center is only open on Saturdays to the public from 8AM-Noon.
Given the woods location on the Atlantic Flyway, many species of birds ranging from Red-winged Blackbird, White-breasted Nuthatch, Baltimore Oriole, American Goldfinch and other species are found here. A unique nonnative bird that can be found in the woods is the Monk Parakeet.
One of the more unique trees found at Ridgefield Nature Center is the American Persimmon tree. The tree is thought to be growing here at its extreme northern limit. The tree is found generally in the south. The bark of the Persimmon tree resembles alligator skin.
The day I visited the nature center this gigantic old mushroom was found and was on display.
The forest is surrounded by dense residential development to the north, south and west of the property. To the east of the forest is the Ridgefield Community Garden.
The garden is open for local residents to plant veggies or establish a butterfly garden. Wolf Creek flows to the east of the gardens and includes an estimated .58 of an acre of wetlands. The creek is a tribute of Bellmans Creek, a major lower Hackensack River Tributary. Both the community garden and Ridgefield Nature Center were once owned by the Great Bear Company which used the property to distribute bottled water. The Borough of Ridgefield purchased the combined 12 acres of the community garden and Ridgefield Nature Center land in 1975.
The woods are open to the public on Saturdays from 8am to Noon. Group Tours can be made by appointment by calling 201-943-5215 x353. The community garden is accessible to the public at any time during the day. Click here for more information regarding the Ridgefield Nature Center. The nature center is maintained by members of the Ridgefield Environmental Commission.
Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!
DeKorte Park is an amazing environmental story. The 110 acre park is a former landfill that has been given a second chance and features trails, butterfly garden, observatory and an environmental education center.
Near the Environmental Education center is the Jill Ann Ziemkiewicz Memorial Butterfly Garden. The garden is named after the youngest crew member of TWA Flight 800 which crashed off of Long Island in July of 1996. The centerpiece of the gardens is a bird bath hand carved to look like a sunflower.
After I visited the butterfly garden, I took a stroll to the Lyndhurst Nature Reserve.
The Lyndhurst Nature Reserve is a 3 1/2 acre island that is made entirely out of old garbage that was illegally dumped between 1969-1971. The island is now a nature preserve covered with native grassland meadows and young woodlands. The island is surrounded by mudflats.
The mudflats surrounding the reserve at one time contained an extensive Atlantic White Cedar Swamp. Due to factors such as the construction of the Oradell dam to create the Oradell Reservoir in 1921 the water became too brackish for Atlantic White Cedar to survive. Today there are only ancient stumps remaining of the once extensive forest.
After leaving the Lyndhurst Nature Reserve, I took the eastern portion of the Transco trail which is roughly 3/4 of a mile in length. The trail is built on a dike constructed in 1950 which contains a buried natural gas pipeline. Some flora along the trail includes Thistle, Milkweed and Pokeweed. Check out below for some pictures of the fauna found nearby.
I also walked the Kingsland Overlook which offers view of the surrounding Kingsland Impoundment. The overlook was once a productive salt marsh which was turned into a dump. The former dump was turned into a park for wildlife starting in 1989. The landfill was capped with 400,000 recycled plastic soda bottles and covered with top soil. Thousands of plugs and 20 foot trees were planted. A dike was built to prevent leachate from going into the impoundment. The area is now maturing and many animals make the park their home.
DeKorte Park offers hope for all blighted areas. It is living proof that brownfields really can become greenfields with enough effort.
Still thirsty for more Meadowlands information and its amazing environmental comeback?? Don’t miss Jim Wright of the Meadowlands Commission’s new book “The Nature of the Meadowlands“!
Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!