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Hiking Buttermilk Falls County Park!


Buttermilk Falls Park

Buttermilk Falls Park

Welcome to Buttermilk Falls Park! Located in West Nyack, New York, the park features a scenic waterfall and two western views where on a clear day you can see up to 16,000 acres. The 75 acre Buttermilk Falls Park was purchased by Rockland County with additional acquisitions in 1981. 

Geology

Diabase

Diabase

Buttermilk Falls Park is location in a portion of the Palisades ridge north of the Sparkill Gap. The Palisades are located along the western shoreline of the Hudson River in southeastern New York and in north eastern New Jersey. Rocks found in the Palisades are known as diabase and were formed during the Triassic period around 200 million years ago.

Ecology

Buttermilk Falls consists of a mixed-oak forest community including the following species among others:

White Oak

Chestnut Oak

Northern Red Oak

Tulip Tree

American Beech

Black Birch

Maple-leaved viburnum

Bluestem Grass

Virtual Hike

Welcome! Today, using this Trail Map, we are going to explore some of the 75 acres that make up Buttermilk Falls Park! Along the way, we’ll see some cascades and check out some cool western views. The total hike is an estimated 1.2 miles. Ready? Let’s go!

Blue Trail Trailhead

Blue Trail Trailhead

From the parking lot we are going to head northeast on 0.9 of a mile blue blazed trail.

Entrance to the Blue Trail

Entrance to the Blue Trail

Entering the park on the blue trail, the path starts flat but we find it is deceiving as we start to climb.

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed

But before we start any kind of climbing let’s take a quick scan of some of the flora that’s sprouting near the entrance. What’s this plant that sort of looks like little bamboo shoots sprouting up everywhere alongside the trail? It’s Japanese Knotweed, a obnoxious invasive plant which, once established, is generally there for good. If you find Japanese Knotweed on your property try using this Japanese Knotweed Removal Guide (thanks to the Pequannock River Coalition for creating the guide!) to remove this plant which forms monocultures, excludes native plants and does not provide any benefit to wildlife.

Blue Trail Steps

Blue Trail Steps

Leaving the Japanese Knotweed for now the Blue Trail is taking us up some wooden steps.

Blue Trail Climb

Blue Trail Climb

However, we soon find that the steps end and now we must drudge up the hillside through a pleasant woodland. All around us is American Beech, Black Birch, Northern Red Oak and Chestnut Oak among other species of trees.

Wineberry

Wineberry

Taking another look at the flora coming up, what’s this 3 leaved spiked covered plant popping up all over the place? It’s Wineberry. Wineberry is native to Asia and is an established invasive plant in the United States.

Blue Trail Climb 2

Blue Trail Climb 2

Continuing on we start hearing the sound of water, a good sign as we must be approaching Buttermilk Falls!

Buttermilk Falls

Buttermilk Falls

Whew! After all that climbing (it wasn’t that bad) we have arrived at Buttermilk Falls. The stream comprising Buttermilk Falls is a Hackensack River Tributary and joins the Hackensack River just north of the Lake Tappan Reservoir.

Trout Lily Leaves

Trout Lily Leaves

Taking a look around the forest floor we spot the leaves of Trout Lily, a native woodland plant which blooms in early spring. And here you thought all we would be looking at is invasive plants! The “trout” in it’s name is said to come from its mottled leaves which are said to resemble wild trout.

Heading southeast on the blue trail we come to an open area on the trail with Eastern Red Cedar and occasional trap rock.

Blue Trail View 1

Blue Trail View 1

We have also come to the first of two view points. This view has us looking south towards New Jersey and west towards the Ramapo Mountains which are part of the NY NJ Highlands region. It is said that President Teddy Roosevelt rode horseback through this area stopping at this point for a view when he was in the area.

Orange Trail Trailhead

Continuing southeast on the blue trail we pass the .21 of a mile Orange Trail trail head.

Blue Trail Second Viewpoint 2

Blue Trail Second Viewpoint 2

Shortly after we pass the orange trail trail head we arrive at the second westerly viewpoint. What a beautiful day! From an ecological perspective we are currently in a traprock glade/rock outcrop surrounded by dry grass and forb-dominated species.

Dutchman Breeches

Dutchman Breeches

Leaving the second and last viewpoint we continue on the blue trail and pass a small but interesting plant known as Dutchman Breeches. Dutchman Breeches are a native to the eastern US. The flowers (which have since wilted) are said to look like old fashioned breeches hence its name.

Blue Trail Rock Seat

Blue Trail Rock Seat

Tired? Want to take a seat? There is a seat carved out of the diabase to our left. Neat!

Blue Trail Trail end

After a series of switchbacks we have come to the end of the Blue trail at the intersection with the white trail. Turning right on the white trail we walk in a north west direction.

White Trail

The White Trail is turning into a pleasant peaceful walk on a wide woods road. As we walk we hear Black-Capped Chickadees, a Northern Flicker and a Hairy Woodpecker.

Old Car White Trail

What’s that up ahead? Someone long ago dumped an old car off of the White Trail.

 

Rock Wall White Trail

Rock Wall White Trail

Looking to our left we pass by an old rock wall which is a sure sign the land we are walking on was at one time farmland.

Boardwalk White Trail

Boardwalk White Trail

Looking ahead we spot a boardwalk further down the White Trail.

Swamp White Trail

Swamp White Trail

As we walk on it we come to a Red-Maple Swamp to our left. Red Maple (Acer Rubrum) are one of the most common maples found in the northeast and is a common tree in wetlands.

White Trail end

White Trail end

Just past the swamp we have reached the end of the White Trail at the parking lot where we started our hike. And that concludes our hike! I hope you enjoyed it and that it inspires you to visit Buttermilk Falls County Park for yourself!

Click Here for Directions!

Feel free to Comment with any Questions, Memories or Suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Hiking/Ecology Books!

1. The Nature of New York – An Environmental History of the Empire State – This work offers a sweeping environmental history of New York State

Click here for more information!

2. 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!

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Exploring Rockefeller State Park Preserve’s Swan Lake!


The Rockefeller State Park Preserve

The Rockefeller State Park Preserve

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!

Female Yellow Warbler

Female Yellow Warbler

Common birds (depending on the time of the year) found in the preserve include the belong among others:

Virtual Tour

Rockefeller State Park Trail Map

Rockefeller State Park Trail Map

Welcome! Today, using the map above, we are going to explore the Swan Lake area of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve! (Click here for a trail map of the Rockfeller State Park Preserve)

Swan Lake

Swan Lake

The 22 acre Swan Lake was created by impounding a tributary of the Pocantico River (a tributary of the Hudson River).

Carriage Road Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Carriage Road Rockefeller State Park Preserve

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!

Virtual Tour

After paying the minimal parking fee ($6 at the time of this writing) let’s walk over to the visitor center.

Japanese Peony

Japanese Peony

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.

Information about The Rockefeller State Park Preserve

Just past the flowers and the visitor center there is a  kiosk chock full of information about the Rockefeller State Park preserve.

Birds and Wildflowers of the Preserve

Birds and Wildflowers of the Preserve

Here we can find excellent information regarding common flora and fauna of the preserve. All set? Let’s head towards Swan lake!

Fern Garden

Fern Garden

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!

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Leaving the Fern Garden we follow a brief trail through a forest to get to Brother’s Path.

Brother's Path

Brother’s Path

We are going to be following the 1.1 mile Brother’s Path which encircles Swan Lake.

Swan Lake

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.

Overlook Trail

Overlook Trail

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.

Eastern Blue Bird (NY's State Bird!)

Eastern Blue Bird (NY’s State Bird!)

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

Flowering Dogwood

Flowering Dogwood, native to the eastern United States, is a common understory tree found in forest edges.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve Meadow

Rockefeller State Park Preserve Meadow

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.

American Beech Trees

American Beech Trees

Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage

We pass near a few American Beech trees and a Skunk Cabbage dominated wetland.

Farm Meadow Trail Trailhead

Farm Meadow Trail Trailhead

Passing the Farm Meadow Trailhead to our south we continue to follow the Brothers Path heading north. Swan Lake is now on our left.

Swan Lake to our left

Swan Lake to our left

Canada Mayflower in bloom

Canada Mayflower in bloom

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.

Eastern Chipmunk near it's home

Eastern Chipmunk near it’s home

A sudden squeak makes an Eastern Chipmunk known to us.

Northern Black Racer (Thanks Brian!)

Northern Black Racer (Thanks Brian!)

I’m not sure if the chipmunk is sounding the alarm over us or this Northern Black Racer lurking nearby. Maybe both?

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

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.

Striped Wintergreen

Striped Wintergreen

Continuing north and passing the trailhead to the Ridge Trail, we spot some Striped Wintergreen, a species which is considered vulnerable in New York.

Mallards near Swan Lake

Mallards near Swan Lake

Turtle Swan Lake

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!

Recommended Books:

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!

Emerson Woods Preserve Tour!


Emerson Woods Preserve

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.

Emerson Woods and Oradell Reservoir

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.

Nature Tour

Emerson Woods Nature Tour

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.

Double Crested Cormorant

Heading away from the shore, the tour passed a stand of American Sycamore with their white peeling bark.

American Sycamore

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 Eastern 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.

Poison Ivy Rope on Dead Hemlock Tree

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.

White Tail Deer

As the group proceeded on, Nancy pointed out large rectangular holes found on a dead tree.

Pileated Woodpecker Holes

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-Capped Chickadee, Northern Flicker and Red-Bellied Woodpecker were heard calling.

Up ahead on the gas trail was a stand of Northern Red Oak (NJ’s state tree!) with its characteristic “ski slope” bark. Nancy informed the tour that when a Northern Red Oak gets cut it admits a foul odor.

Northern Red Oak

Shortly before turning west onto the Heck Ditch trail, the group happened upon a White Pine plantation.

White Pine Plantation

White pines make excellent habitat for Great Horned Owls and other birds of prey which frequent Emerson Woods.

Possible Hawk or Owl nest in White Pine

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.

Heck Ditch

Ground Pine

Ground Pine was found growing in large colonies on the other side of the Heck ditch trail. Ground Pine takes years to become established.

Scouring Rush near Cotton Wood Tree

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.

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!

Giant Cottonwood

The group headed back to the parking lot as twilight descended. As we walked, we happened upon an abandoned Red-Eyed Vireo nest.  The red-eye vireo spends the winter living in South America.

The group proceeded to the parking area and the tour concluded.

Emerson Woods Preserve

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.

Wayne’s Dave Waks Memorial Park (formerly Barbour Pond)!


Dave Waks Memorial Park

Dave Wak’s Memorial Park

Dave Waks Memorial Park (formerly known as Barbour Pond Park) is located in the township of Wayne, NJ. It was renamed Dave Waks Memorial Park as a tribute to a former mayor of Wayne who passed away in 2007. At 103 acres, it is Wayne’s largest developed park. There’s a playground, 3 lighted softball fields, 1 lighted baseball field, three lighted soccer fields, a model airplane flying area and a half mile paved walking path around the fields. The centerpiece of the park is Barbour Pond which features a 1.96 mile hiking trail which encircles the pond.

Barbour Pond

Barbour Pond was created by impounding part of the 8.9 mile Preakness (Singnac) Brook via the Barbour Pond dam. The brook is a tributary of the Passaic River. It’s watershed is located almost entirely in Wayne. The headwaters, located in the nearby High Mountain Nature Preserve, are considered to be trout production and are classified as C1. C1is one of the highest classifications given to a stream in the state of NJ.  Preakness Brook enters Barbour Pond from Valley Road , where it ventures through (along with a tributary stream) a recently protected 17 acre woodland. Preakness Brook from Barbour Pond to its confluence with the Passaic River is non trout production and is considered impaired. Impairments include fecal coliform bacteria and habitat decline which are indicated by an increase in pollution-tolerant macro invertebrate species. Non-point source pollution is thought to be the culprit.  In 2005, William Paterson University was granted $408,586 to collect and access water quality data along the length of the stream. The purpose of the study was to reduce fecal coliform, restore macro invertebrate health and protect the C1 headwaters segment.

Preakness Brook

For more information on the streams that flow in your backyard check out the Pocketguide to Eastern Streams. This wonderful field guide covers common plants and animals found in a stream ecosystem. Click here for more information!

Ok, back to the trail! Access to the Barbour Pond trail may be obtained off the half mile paved walking path, off of Valley Road near Barbour Pond dam, or near the model airplane area. Entrance areas are marked by a wooden pole.

Entrance to the Barbour Pond trail from the paved walking path

The trail is mostly level and pleasant. There is a serene crossing over Preakness Brook and many beautiful views of Barbour Pond.

Mallards & Canadian Geese on Barbour Pond

Barbour Pond and the surrounding woodland provide much needed habitat for many animals and especially birds. I’ve spotted the below during my ventures:

Black-Capped Chickadee

Mourning Dove

Downy Woodpecker

Three Killdeer Birds right outside Barbour Pond

Ring-Necked Ducks on Barbour Pond

Bufflehead & Ring Neck Ducks

Male Yellow Warbler

Male Yellow Warbler

Eastern Cottontail

Eastern Cottontail

The trail contains varied flora. Flora includes:

  • Red Maple
  • Black Birch & Yellow Birch
  • American Beech
  • Red Cedar
  • Christmas Fern

    Red Cedar

    Christmas Fern

    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!

    While exploring around the pond I found some interesting graffiti found on one of the wood post and several trees.

  • Protect Nature

    Directions:

    Take US 80 west to exit 55B, for Union Boulevard north, Totowa. Within a short drive turn left on Crews Road. At the stop sign, go straight which connect the driver to Totowa Road. Turn right at the light after passing the Dey Mansion in Preakness Valley Park. Then take the next right for Valley Road. Pass through the intersection with Hamburg Turnpike. Take the first left turn (Barbour Pond Drive) and go .3 of a mile to the end of the road for the entrance of the park.

    Dave Waks Memorial Park (formely Barbour Pond Park)

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

Reid Park Nature Trail!


Welcome to Reid Park!

Paramus Wetlands (location of Reid Park Nature Trail)

Welcome to Paramus’s Reid Park Interpretive Nature Trail!

The nature trail, created in 2004 by Boswell Engineering, meanders about .20 of a mile through part of an estimated 59 + acres of forested wetlands. The trail stretches from the Reid Park fields and playground area to Soldier Hill Road.

Most of the forest is under threat of development. As of this writing there was a partial clear cut in November 2009 which the borough of Paramus has since halted.

Two footbridges and 3 boardwalks were placed over the more saturated soil on the trail.  The boardwalks actually rise with the water level and were installed without heavy machinery.

Forested Wetlands Interpretive Signage

Interpretive signage describing the flora & fauna found in Reid Park has been placed throughout the entire length of the trail. Most of the signs are intentionally placed next to the items they describe.

Lichen and Moss Interpretive Signage

Lichen

Moss

Eastern Skunk Cabbage with interpretive signage

Others are more of a chance encounter. For example, moments after reading the below Red-Tail Hawk sign on my last visit, there was a screech from a Red-Tail Hawk soaring above.

Red-Tailed Hawk Interpretive Signage

Red-Tail Hawk (a bit on the blurry side)

Flora found along the Reid Park Nature Trail includes:

Fauna includes the below among others:

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Black-Capped Chickadee

Red Admiral Butterfly

Reid Park is located at the end of Spencer Place in Paramus, New Jersey and is definitely worth checking out.

Directions

Route 17 to the exit for Ridgewood Avenue heading towards River Edge/Oradell (eastbound). Proceed straight and go over the Garden State Parkway (GSP). Continue past the 1st light (Pascack Rd.) and turn left into Terrace Dr (Landmark: Savnio’s Pizza). Bear right at the fork in the road, then turn left on to Spencer Pl. (1st street). The field is at the end of the street.

Click here for directions to Spencer Place (as per above)

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