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Hiking Passaic County’s Friendship Park!

Friendship Park

Friendship Park

Welcome to Passaic County’s Friendship Park!

Friendship Park

Friendship Park

The 45 acre park, located in Bloomingdale, NJ consists of deciduous wooded upland and wetlands.

Virtual Hike

Friendship Park 8.25.12 Hke

Friendship Park 8.25.12 Hike

The 1.2 Orange Blazed Trail (aka Friendship loop) 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?

Orange Trail Trailhead

Orange Trail Trailhead

From the parking area head east to the Orange Blazed Trailhead near a wetland.

Rock Formation

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.

Dry Stream

Dry Stream

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.

American Robin

American Robin

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Wait! What’s this? It’s an American Chestnut Sprout!

American Chestnut

American Chestnut

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!

Black Oak Coppice

Black Oak Coppice

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.

Rock Ledge

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.

Back on the Trail!

Back on the Trail!

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.

Friendship Park Wetlands

Friendship Park Wetlands

Notice how the flora has changed. Before we came down here there was Chestnut Oak  but now we see the ground is wet and tussock sedge and Musclewood have appeared.



Continuing south we see….what exactly is this we are looking at?

Makeshift Shelter

Makeshift Shelter

It appears to be a makeshift shelter of some kind. (3/18/2014 Update: I am told the Makeshift Shelter has been removed)

Inside Makeshift Shelter

Inside Makeshift Shelter

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!

Massive Old Growth White Oaks

Massive Old Growth White Oaks

We have now come to the end of the orange trail and our exploration of Friendship Park.

Orange Trail End

Orange Trail End

3/18/2014 Trail Update: There are now three connector trails within the orange loop, blazed red, yellow and blue. (Thanks John!)

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.

Northern Red Oak Friendship Park

Northern Red Oak Friendship Park

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!



Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve!

Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve

Welcome to a virtual tour of the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve!

Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve

The 147 acre preserve consists of three bodies of water (lagoon, upper lake and lower pond) deciduous wooded wetlands and wooded upland habitat. The Borough of Franklin Lakes purchased the land in 2006 from the Borough of Haledon for $6.5 million using funding from Green Acres and the Bergen County Open Space Fund. The preserve was open to the public in June of 2011.

Upper Lake

The 75 acre Upper Lake is the centerpiece of the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve and is an extremely popular fishing spot. The Upper Lake, created from the impoundment of the Molly Ann Brook in 1919, provided water to Haledon, North Haledon and Prospect Park. The Molly Ann Brook is the last tributary of the Passaic River before the Great Falls in Paterson.


Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve Trail Map

The Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve features 2 primary hiking trails. Access is available from Ewing Avenue, a small parking lot off of High Mountain Road and from nearby High Mountain Park Preserve’s Red Trail via Reservoir Drive and crossing High Mountain Road.

Shoreline Loop Trail

The main trail is the 1.5 mile white blazed Shoreline Loop Trail which encircles the entire Upper Lake and Lagoon.

Shoreline Loop Trailhead on Upper Lake Dam

Starting from the parking area, the trail heads over the dam separating the Upper Lake from the small pond to the south. The trail follows alongside the Upper Lake and near High Mountain Road and Ewing Avenue.

Island Bridges Trail

The western portion of the Island Bridges Trail is accessible near where the Shoreline Loop Trail passes by Waterview Drive.

High Mountain as seen from the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve

Beautiful views of the Upper Lake with High Mountain visible can be seen from this area. After exploring the western section of the Island Bridges Trail (the Island Bridges Trail is about a half a mile in length) head back to the  Shoreline Loop  trail which will briefly exit the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve near an outflow from a neighboring swamp (you can also continue via two floating bridges on the Island Bridges Trail to continue to the eastern side of the Shoreline Loop Trail skipping the entire northern section).

Backwater Lagoon crossing

Backwater Lagoon crossing

Once the Shoreline Loop Trail enters back into the preserve, the trail crosses backwater of the lagoon.

Molly Ann Brook Crossing

Molly Ann Brook Crossing

Continuing on the trail you will cross the Molly Ann Brook over a wooden bridge. Frogs can be heard (and sometimes seen) splashing into the water here during the warmer months.

From here, the Shoreline Loop Trail heads east near a church and near the High Mountain Golf Club (2014 update: High Mountain Golf Club has been sold and will soon be a housing development) which is visible through the trees.

High Mountain Golf Course

Along the way, the trail comes across a basalt beach.

Basalt Beach

Basalt was  formed when molten lava extruded out of the earth’s surface and cooled rapidly. Basalt is found in nearby High Mountain Park Preserve which is situated on the 2nd Watchung Mountain. Once past the basalt beach, the trail turns south. The eastern section of the Island Bridges Trail is accessible from this point.

Island Bridges Trail

Island Bridges Trail (East)

After exploring the eastern section of the Island Bridges Trail, head back to the Shoreline Loop trail and continue south until the trail terminates near a picnic area in a pine grove near where the trail began. 2014 Update: Please Note that new Accessible Trails have been constructed in this area and intersect with Shoreline Loop Trail. The Accessible Trails will remain unblazed and are not currently maintained by the NYNJ Trail Conference.

Preserve Shoreline Loop Trailend

NYNJ Trail Conference has blazed and will maintain both the Shoreline Loop and Island Bridges Trails.  A trail map of the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve is available on the NYNJ Trail Conference website here.


Flora found at the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve includes the below among others:

American Beech

Gray Birch

Paper Birch

Skunk Cabbage

Trout Lily


Fauna that I’ve spotted at the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve includes:

Palm Warbler

Canada Goose

Canada Goose Eggs

American Robin

Tufted Titmouse

Cedar Waxwing

Eastern Chipmunk


This preserve is a great place to explore and just relax. Directions are listed below (as taken from the NYNJ Trail Conference Website)

Take N.J. Route 208 to the Ewing Avenue exit in Franklin Lakes. Turn left at the end of the ramp (if coming from the west, turn right) and continue for about two miles until Ewing Avenue ends at High Mountain Road. Turn left onto High Mountain Road and continue past a lake and a smaller pond on the left. In 0.5 mile, at the end of the smaller pond, you will see a small brown sign for the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve on the left. Turn left into a driveway, passing old reservoir buildings on the right, then turn left again at a sign for parking and continue to a parking area just below the dam.

Note: Part of the preserve, including the entrance and parking, is in North Haledon (Passaic County). The address for the preserve is 1196 High Mountain Road, North Haledon, N.J. 07508

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions!

Great Hiking/Ecology Books:

1. 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: New York City: Including northern New Jersey, southwestern Connecticut, and western Long Island – Packed with valuable tips and humorous observations, the guide prepares both novices and veterans for the outdoors. From secluded woods and sun-struck seashores, to lowland swamps and rock-strewn mountain tops, this practical guidebook contains all the information needed to have many great hikes in and around New York City.

Click here for more information!

2. Take a Hike New York City: 80 Hikes within Two Hours of Manhattan – In Moon Take a Hike New York City, award-winning writer Skip Card shows you the best hikes in and around The Big Apple—all within two hours of the city.

Click here for more information!

3. 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!

4. 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!

5. Wild New Jersey: Nature Adventures in the Garden State:

Wild New Jersey invites readers along Wheeler’s whirlwind year-long tour of the most ecologically diverse state for its size in America.

Click here for more information!

Ridgewood’s Grove Park

Grove Park Village of Ridgewood, NJ

Grove Park

Grove Park is a 32 acre deciduous forest and wetland owned by the village of Ridgewood, NJ and maintained by the Ridgewood Wildscape Association.

Grove Park

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.

Saddle River Pathway next to Grove Park

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.


Grove Park Trail Map

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.

Deer Hooves in the mud

Take the white trail until it terminates on a White Oak near the yellow trail to the east of the woods.

White Trail Terminus on White Oak

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.

Blowdown on the Yellow Trail

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.

Wind-tipped American Beech (White Trail)

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.

Raccoon Prints

Plus I’ve have seen these other characters during my travels in this urban woodland:

Mallards on Vernal Pond

American Robin

Eastern Chipmunk

Red-belly woodpecker

Red Tail Hawk


Grove Park features quite a diversity of flora. Flora I’ve found include:

False Hellebore

White Wood Aster

Trout Lily

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 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.

Local Ecology/Environment Books!

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!

3. Wild New Jersey: Nature Adventures in the Garden State:

Wild New Jersey invites readers along Wheeler’s whirlwind year-long tour of the most ecologically diverse state for its size in America.

Click here for more information!

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Scarsdale’s Greenburgh Nature Center!

Welcome to the Greenburgh Nature Center!

Welcome to the Greenburgh Nature Center! The Greenburgh Nature Center (GNC) is a 33 acre nature preserve located in Scarsdale, NY.

Greenburgh Nature Center

GNC features 27 acres of woodland, a pond, nature trails, gardens, outdoor and indoor animal exhibits and a greenhouse.

Manor House

The manor, constructed in 1918, contains nature & animal exhibits. The property was previously owned by the Hall family and was purchased for $725,000 using funding from the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and a bond issue from the Town of Greenburgh in 1973 to prevent development of single family housing which was proposed for the property.

Land and Water Conservation Fund

Inside the manor, for a fee, (free for GNC Members), visitors can tour various educational exhibits on the environment and visit the indoor animal exhibits.

Taking Nature’s Course

Nearly 140 reptiles and mammals are present in the indoor animal exhibit from all over the world displayed in ecologically realistic settings. Native animals include the Eastern Screech Owl and American Bullfrogs among others.

Live Animal Museum

Special nature themes of interest are also displayed from time to time.  As of June 2012 there is an exhibit featuring information on the wonders of dirt.

Beautiful Dirt!

There is also information on the nearby Bronx River where a tributary from the GNC flows into. An aquarium populated with fish found in the Bronx River is also displayed.

Do You Know These Bronx River Facts?

The preserve features several outdoor exhibits such as a barnyard habitat and an Aviary among other attractions.

Goat and Turkeys in Barnyard Exhibit

Birds of Prey Aviary

The Green Roof Exhibit was created in 2008 through generous sponsorship funds from Con Edison and provides an example on new views towards sustainability. Vegetation keeps buildings cooler and helps absorb storm water runoff.

Click here for a complete map of outdoor exhibits.

The Great Lawn

The nearly 2 acre great lawn  was created around 1918 when the estate was first built.

The lawn features Beehives and an organic garden.


Organic Garden


The Greenburgh Nature Center’s Manor House was built from stones quarried from the surrounding property in 1918.

Portion of Wall from GNC Manor

The rocks found in the GNC consist of Fordham Gneiss. Rocks of Fordham Gneiss have been altered by high heat and extreme pressure around 1.1 billion years.  The alteration caused the sedimentary rock to recrystallize forming black-and-white banded, metamorphic rock.

Blurry Eastern Chipmunk on Fordham Gneiss

The Orchard area of the preserve features sandstone in addition to the predominant Fordham Gneiss and is the only part of the center property that features this geologic deviation.


The preserve features four trails. The trails were originally developed by the previous owners of the land for quarrying and logging purposes.  A trail map is available online here.

Forest Trail

The Forest Trail is the main trail which begins and ends at the Manor house in a loop fashion for about a third of a mile in length.

Forest Trail Path

The main focal point of the Forest Trail is Woodfrog Pond.

Forest Trail Pond

The Woodfrog Pond area is the main source of water for GNC fauna and features freshwater wetlands at its northern and southern borders. Woodfrog Pond originated as a vernal pond which was created from past glacial activity. In 1980,  GNC dredged the pond and constructed a small dam to retain water. The water which forms the pond originates from an underground spring and from rainfall. An outflow from the pond drains to the Bronx River which in turn drains into the East River.

Woodfrog Pond

Woodfrog Pond is unsuitable for fish due to its warm shallow water. Amphibians such as Spring Peepers, Green Frogs, Bullfrogs and a variety of salamanders breed and lay their eggs in the pond (and yes, Wood Frogs make an appearance here too in March to lay eggs).

Turtles on log in Woodfrog Pond

Woodfrog Pond was restored in the fall of 2008. The pond and surrounding area had become degraded due to erosion and high usage. The restoration helped to increase the biodiversity of the pond itself as well as the surrounding wetlands. The Greenburgh Nature Center received a grant from the NYC environmental fund for $9,700 to partially dredge and fortify the pond as well as replant the surrounding area with native trees and shrubs.

North Forty Trail

The north forty trail meanders around the northern section of the preserve and eventually connects with the Forest Trail. The North Forty Trail passes near wetlands and traverses pass the  Scarsdale Country Club in an easterly direction to connect with the Forest Trail near Woodfrog Pond. The North Forty Trail is also accessible from the Oak and Orchard Trail from the west.

Scarsdale Country Club

Sylvia Stein Nature Trail

The Sylvia Stein Nature Trail is a short trail which traverses through the center of the woodlands heading in a north – south direction. The Sylvia Stein Nature Trail is accessible from c the Forest Trail. Ms. Stein was active with mycological groups and led field trips for both mycological groups and the Torrey Botanical Society.

Oak and Orchard Trail

The Oak and Orchard Trail leads from the North Forty Trail and heads southwest past the great lawn to the 3 acre orchard which is also a Box Turtle nesting site.

Box Turtle Nesting and Hatching Site

Flora found at the Greenburgh Nature Center includes:

Fauna includes the below along with many others:

American Robin

Eastern Cottontail

Eastern Chipmunk

Gray Catbird

The preserve is small at just 33 acres but it contains many diverse habitats and is worth a visit. Click here for more information.

The Greenburgh Nature Center is located at 99 Dromore Road, off Central Park Avenue, Scarsdale, New York.  There is free parking available.

Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!

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