Welcome to the Rockefeller State Park Preserve! Located in Sleepy Hollow, NY, the 1,000 + acre park features a variety of habitats ranging from open meadows, deciduous forest & wetlands. Rockefeller State Park Preserve is listed as an “IBA” (Important Bird Area) by the National Audubon Society. Over 180 species of birds have been documented in the preserve!
Common birds (depending on the time of the year) found in the preserve include the belong among others:
- Black-Capped Chickadee
- Blue Jay
- Northern Cardinal
- Baltimore Oriole
- Orchard Oriole
- Indigo Bunting
- Yellow Warbler
- Warbling Vireo
- Wood Thrush
The 22 acre Swan Lake was created by impounding a tributary of the Pocantico River (a tributary of the Hudson River).
The carriage roads we will be walking on were developed by John D Rockefeller Sr & John D Rockefeller Jr between the years 1910-1950. Every winter the Friends of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve evaluates which trails need fresh surface material added. Drainage of trails is completed every spring to ensure carriage roads stay dry. Trail maintenance is a 12 month process!
After paying the minimal parking fee ($6 at the time of this writing) let’s walk over to the visitor center.
After picking up a trail map let’s check out the interesting flowering plants blooming nearby. These flowers are Japanese Peony and are known as the “King of Flowers” in Japan.
Just past the flowers and the visitor center there is a kiosk chock full of information about the Rockefeller State Park preserve.
Here we can find excellent information regarding common flora and fauna of the preserve. All set? Let’s head towards Swan lake!
But first let’s poke around the Fern Garden found just past the visitor center. The fern garden is populated with Cinnamon, Royal & Sensitive Ferns among other species including some rather large Jack-in-the-Pulpits!
Leaving the Fern Garden we follow a brief trail through a forest to get to Brother’s Path.
We are going to be following the 1.1 mile Brother’s Path which encircles Swan Lake.
As we start out heading south on the Brother’s Path, the trailhead of the .7 mile Overlook Trail appears to our right.
Let’s take a quick detour from Brother’s Path to walk a section of the Overlook Path for a few minutes. According to the Hudson River Audubon Society website this area is one of the best spots to view Eastern Bluebirds. Eastern Bluebirds, New York’s state bird, are a small thrush whose habitats include open woodlands and meadows such as where we are right now. Eastern Bluebird populations have experienced a decline due to strong competition from aggressive non-native birds like the House Sparrow and European Starlings.
As we ponder the future fate of these birds a blue blur flies by and lands on a nesting box which has been placed in the meadow by a member of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve staff. Ready to head back to the Brother’s Path? Let’s head back to continue our journey around Swan Lake. Heading south on Brother’s Path we see continuous views of Swan Lake mixed with occasional Flowering Dogwood to our left.
Flowering Dogwood, native to the eastern United States, is a common understory tree found in forest edges.
Continuing south an opening has appeared to our right providing a view of the sweeping meadows we sampled on the Overlook Trail. As we walk Swan Lake is becoming narrower. Turning east we cross over two Pocantico River tributaries draining Swan Lake.
Passing the Farm Meadow Trailhead to our south we continue to follow the Brothers Path heading north. Swan Lake is now on our left.
As we walk, we pass Canada Mayflower to our left in bloom. Canada Mayflower is part of the Lily family and native to the Eastern United States.
A sudden squeak makes an Eastern Chipmunk known to us.
I’m not sure if the chipmunk is sounding the alarm over us or this Northern Black Racer lurking nearby. Maybe both?
As we leave the chipmunk and snake we hear a sudden “meow” sound and realize that the sound is not coming from a cat but a bird! The bird is a Gray Catbird. Gray Catbirds are migratory and fly to the southeaster US, Mexico and Central America for the winter months.
Continuing north and passing the trailhead to the Ridge Trail, we spot some Striped Wintergreen, a species which is considered vulnerable in New York.
We cross over a Swan Lake feeder stream and pass a couple of Mallards and a turtle as we head west on the Brothers Path back to the parking lot to complete our hike. I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of Swan Lake and that it inspired you to visit it for yourself!
Click here for directions!
1) WALKABLE WESTCHESTER – The book covers over 180 parks with almost 600 miles of trails in Westchester County.
Click here for more information!
2) The Nature of New York – This work offers a sweeping environmental history of New York State. Author David Stradling shows how New York’s varied landscape and abundant natural resources have played a fundamental role in shaping the state’s culture and economy.
Click here for more information!
3) Eastern Deciduous Forest Ecology and Wildlife Conservation – This book is a useful tool for anyone who wants know or hopes to help one of North America’s great natural resources!
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!