Welcome to Brinton Brook Sanctuary! Brinton Brook Sanctuary, located in Croton-on -Hudson, is managed by the Saw Mill River Audubon and is its largest sanctuary at 156 acres. The preserve originated as a donation of 112 acres to the National Audubon Society from Laura and Willard Brinton. In 1975, after Laura Brinton’s death, an additional 17 acres were added to the preserve. Saw Mill River Audubon gained full ownership of the preserve in 1991 from the National Audubon Society.
Brinton Brook Sanctuary provides necessary habitat for wildlife and includes over three miles of hiking trails.
Welcome to Brinton Brook Sanctuary! Using this trail map we will be traversing through forest, meadow, wetlands and the shoreline of the 5 acre Brinton Pond.
We find the trailhead of the 1.2 mile yellow blazed Pond Loop Trail (the longest trail found in Brinton Brook Sanctuary) both to our right and right in front of us. Let’s head straight on the Pond Loop Trail and see where it takes us. The Pond Loop Trail is marked with twenty interpretive signs and traverses through woods, a meadow and around Brinton Pond before it heads southwest back to the parking lot.
Here we come to the first of twenty interpretive signs (please note we will see and note some but not all of the interpretive signs) which welcome us to Brinton Brook and reminds us we are in a sanctuary where all life is protected.
Just up the trail we spot the second interpretive sign which refers to the Tulip Trees, the tallest trees found in the eastern US. Common names are Tulip Poplar or Yellow Poplar. Tulip Trees belong to the Magnolia family and are named as such due to its tulip shaped leaves and flower which blooms around late May and early June each year. Due to the height of the trees we generally only spot the flowers once they have fallen. Since we are in early fall we missed the flowers this year. But there is always next spring!
The third sign we come across has to with Black Locust trees which are found all around us in this section. A member of the Pea Family, Black Locust trees are native to the southeast of the United States and are considered to be an invasive plant elsewhere due to its ability to monopolize where it has established. In May, Black Locust produces extremely sweet smelling cluster of flowers. Mature Black Locust tree trucks are deeply furrowed and its roots help fix nitrogen levels in the soil.
As we walk the trail has widened and we find a kiosk straight ahead which includes a trail map. Let’s head to the left to continue our hike on the Pond Loop Trail.
Shortly after the kiosk we come to interpretive signage #4 discussing an Ecotone. An Ecotone is an transition found between two different habitats (in this case forest and meadow). Sassafras Trees are plentiful in this area.
We have now officially left the forest and are standing in a managed meadow. This meadow must be constantly managed otherwise over time, due to ecological succession, this meadow would convert to forest.
Leaving the meadow behind we reenter the forest and come to interpretive signage # 6: Two Kinds of Forests which discusses Red Maple (the most common Maple tree found in Northeast America) & Northern Red Oak which is found primarily to our left on the hillside.
As we arrive at Brinton Brook we see a massive old growth Red Maple.
Nearby is interpretive signage #7: Pond View which discusses common wildlife found in and around Brinton Pond such as Wood Ducks.
We have now arrived at Brinton Pond. The pond, created by the impoundment of Brinton Brook (a tributary of the Hudson River) is man made and was created as an “ice pond”. During the winter chunks of ice were carved from the pond and stored (this was in an age before the modern refrigerator) for use. As we can see by the growth of plants in and around the pond, the pond is slowly becoming marshland.
What’s that we see on a rock? It’s a female Wood Duck and its ducklings!
Heading east we come to the next interpretive signage “The Edge of the Pond”.
The sign discusses wildlife we may see near the pond and pictures a dragonfly and a Wood Frog. As we walk we don’t see any frogs but we hear plenty of Green Frogs (which sounds a bit like a banjo) and Bullfrogs (which makes a bellowing call) announcing their presence from the pond.
Continuing east the trail crosses over an earthen dam of the pond.
And here is the next interpretive sign which discusses the wetland plants found to the left of the pond. Common wetland plants found here include Skunk Cabbage, Sensitive Fern as well as Spicebush (the most common wetland shrub found in Westchester County).
Just past the wetland heading north is the trailhead of the blue blazed .5 of a mile Turkey Trail which climbs to the highest elevation in the sanctuary (390 feet). Let’s stretch our legs and take this trail.
As we climb through the forest notice that there is little to no understory. The culprit is an overabundance of White-Tailed Deer. With no natural predators to control the herd, the deer population in the eastern United States has exploded in recent decades. All these hungry deer feed on saplings and native shrubs displacing them and give many non-native shrubs (such as Japanese Barberry which deer do not eat) a competitive advantage.
What’s that blur to our right? A White-Tailed Deer which must have heard us discussing it is running away with its tail up high.
As we head east there is an abrupt end to the hardwood forest as we come to to a meadow near Con Edison power lines. We are now at the highest elevation in Brinton Brook at 360 feet.
As we continue on the Turkey Trail heading south the entrance to the green Blazed .4 mile Coyote trail appears to our left. Let’s go ahead and take it!
Heading southwest on the Coyote trail we pass the white blazed Highlands Trail (which has arrived here from the Croton Arboretum) which now jointly follows Coyote trail.
We have now arrived at an intersection with the Red Blazed .7 of a mile Hemlock Springs Trail which is named after the stately Eastern Hemlock tree.
Unfortunately many of the Hemlocks found in Brinton Brook Sanctuary are dead or dying due to the Woolly Adelgid, a non-native pest from Asia. The Adelgid feeds by sucking sap from Hemlock trees. This exotic pest was accidently introduced to North America circa 1924 and is currently established in eleven states ranging from Georgia to Massachusetts. It is estimated that 50% of the geographical range of the Eastern Hemlock has been affected by the adelgid. Biological control (i.e. using adelgid predators to control infestations) has been the major emphasis of control since 1997.
As we continue to head east, the Highlands Trail exits to the nearby Hudson National Golf Club. Now the Hemlock Springs Trail heads south west and we come to the first of two Brinton Brook crossings.
There is something that looks like a small piece of gray rope on the ground…wait a minute! It’s a ring-necked snake! These snakes are normally nocturnal so we are lucky to spot one!
Leaving the ring-necked snake we pass first entrance Yellow Blazed .5 of a mile Laurel Rock Trail. Just as we pass we hear a beautiful songbird melody. And we’ve spotted the culprit! It’s a Wood Thrush! Wood Thrushes are common in mesic (moist) forests.
As we continue on we pass the 2nd entrance to Laurel Rock Trail and cross Brinton Brook.
As we cross over Brinton Brook there is a sudden splash! The culprit is a Green Frog. See him hiding? Green Frogs are common residents of streams, ponds and wetlands. We have now arrived back on the Pond Loop Trail which we left some time ago when we went to go explore the Turkey Trail.
While we missed some of the interpretive signs we will catch the remainder of the 20 signs now starting with sign#17 which discusses Shagbark Hickory the tree seen in the picture above. Shagbark Hickory is one of the most common Hickory trees found in the eastern forest. It is readily identifiable due to its peeling “shaggy” bark. Shagbark Hickory nuts are feasted upon by Eastern Gray Squirrels and Black Bears among others.
Continuing on our way we come to sign #18 which discussed the opening seen straight ahead as “a sun trap” which is a natural clearing in the forest where migratory birds may be spotted in the spring and fall.
Two more signs to go! Here we see sign # 19 “Feathery Ferns” which describes common ferns found in the Brinton Brook Sanctuary such as the Christmas Fern. The Christmas Fern is evergreen and is said to be named “Christmas Fern” due to its fronds resembling Christmas stockings.
We have now reached our last sign on the Pond Loop Trail #20 “Trail End or Beginning!”. For us it is the end of the trail and we are back at the parking lot! Whew! What a great hike! It is my hope that this virtual hike inspires you to check out Brinton Brook Sanctuary for yourself!
Click here for directions!
Feel free to Comment with Questions, Memories or Suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!
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!
3.60 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!
4. 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!
Teaneck Creek Conservancy (TCC) is a 46 acre urban forested wetland located in Teaneck, NJ. The park is bordered to the north by Fycke Lane, DeGraw Avenue to the south, Teaneck Road to the west and Teaneck Creek to the east. The park is owned by Bergen County and managed by the Teaneck Creek Conservancy.
TCC was founded in 2001 by the Puffin Foundation after red survey flags were found on the woodland in back of the building at 20 Puffin Way in Teaneck, NJ. After discovering that the property was owned by the County of Bergen, TCC signed a long term licensing agreement with the county to allow it to develop the property into a park. The conservancy applied and received $500,000 from NJ Green Acres, $450,000 from Bergen County Parks Department and Open Space Trust Fund, $50,000 from the Puffin Foundation and $300,000 from the NJ Wetlands Mitigation Council to form trails, site improvements and wetland hydrology analysis. Teaneck Creek Conservancy became part of Bergen County’s Overpeck Park system in July of 2004 and opened up to the public on May 7, 2006.
The conservancy has created a natural masterpiece by blending the perfect mixture of artwork with nature. The Puffin Sculpture Park greets you as soon as you arrive in the parking lot of the Puffin Cultural Forum.
Artwork may appear around the corner on any of TCC’s nature trails such as this wooden turtle (carved from a Black Locust tree trunk) which may be found on the blue trail or this wooden rabbit found near Dragonfly Pond off of the Red Trail.
There are two tributaries of Teaneck Creek found in the conservancy.
95% of Teaneck Creek’s watershed is urban which causes flash hydrology during storm events. Flash hydrology consists of the rapid movement of water through Teaneck’s storm system into Teaneck Creek, followed by a rapid elevation of water height, accelerated water flows and then a rapid return to low flow water levels. Flash hydrology can destabilize the stream channel by erosion of the stream banks.
Despite Teaneck Creek’s poor water quality due to non-point source pollution, the creek and surrounding wetlands and woodlands host a large diversity of wildlife. Wildlife that have been observed at TCC include:
- Snapping Turtles
- Green Frogs
- Eastern Box Turtle
- Great Egret
- Great Blue Heron
- Red Fox
- White-tailed Deer
The 46 acres which comprise Teaneck Creek Conservancy experienced degradation from dumping and filing of debris in the 1960’s during construction of the New Jersey Turnpike and Interstate 80. The dumping of debris caused degradation in TCC’s wetlands by cutting off the historic hydrology to Teaneck Creek causing the wetlands to act more as a perched bog rather than a functioning riparian wetland. A Conceptual Wetland Restoration Plan was developed for the preserve after three years of study by Rutgers University, United States Geologic Survey and TRC Omni. The restoration plan essentially breaks the 46 acres into four sections (Section A, B, C & D). Each section will have its own restoration plan based upon existing soil, vegetation and hydrology.
Section A consists of 9 acres and is located in the northeastern section of the preserve near Fycke Lane. Section A consists of the highest quality forested wetlands remaining in Teaneck Creek Conservancy. Analysis of the soil indicates that the 9 acres have remained unchanged for the past two to three hundred years. The goal for this area is to maintain the existing conditions and protect the 9 acres from future negative environmental impacts that may occur.
Section B, at 15 acres is located in the heart of the Teaneck Creek Conservancy. A prominent feature of Section B is a body of water known as Dragonfly Pond whose water comes directly from storm water runoff from nearby Teaneck Road.
Dragonfly pond is surrounded by large stands of Common Reed. The goal for Section B is to leave existing stands of Common Reed near the pond and prevent its spread by planting native shade trees. Common Reed, though invasive, is useful in removing excess nutrients and sequestering contaminants from water. In addition, given the source of water for Dragonfly Pond, the area is prone to drought conditions in the summer months. Under drought conditions, obligate wetland plants such as Skunk Cabbage cannot survive.
While invasive plants such as Garlic Mustard and Mile-a-Minute Vine are found throughout Teaneck Creek Conservancy’s 46 acres, they are especially plentiful in the 14 acre Section C and 8 acre section D.
Section C and D are located in the southeast and southwest section of the park respectively. These areas of the park historically received the largest amount of disturbance during the construction of Route 80 and the NJ Turnpike. The soil consists primarily of debris. Only pockets of native vegetation remain in the 8 acre section D. The restoration plan for section D indicates that 5-6 acres will be clear cut and reconfigured into a series of freshwater wetlands. 3 upland native wooden acres will be spared. In Section C, a large clay berm was constructed in past wetland management efforts to help stem flooding from Teaneck Creek. Restoration efforts call for the clay berm to be broken so that water will be able to flow and pool creating new freshwater wetland habitat naturally.
It is hoped that 20 new forested freshwater wetlands will be created from the Conceptual Wetland Restoration Plan for the Teaneck Creek Conservancy.
Teaneck Creek Conservancy features 3 trails. All trails are nearly flat. Blazes are created in the shape of a turtle and are colored and numbered. Trail maps are available near the entrance by the parking lot for the Puffin Cultural Forum. Click here for a map of Teaneck Creek Conservancy from the Teaneck Creek Conservancy website.
The handicapped accessible .65 of a mile red trail traverses the preserve from DeGraw Avenue to Fycke Lane. Starting from the Puffin Cultural Parking lot, the red trail leaves the parking lot heading down wooden stairs where artwork known as “Migration Milestones” showcases pictures of migratory birds and facts.
This information is all carved on old cement which was previously dumped in the conservancy during construction of the intersection of nearby I-80 and I-95.
From here, the red trail heads north or south. Heading south, the red trail passes upland forest to the east which contains a big Silver Maple with a label near blaze R2.
Continuing south, the red trail passes by the newly (as of July 2012) opened Bergen County Audubon Society’s Butterfly Garden.
The idea for the garden came about in the fall of 2011 and funding from the Bergen County Audubon and National Audubon Society helped make the dream a reality. Native plants such as Swamp Milkweed, Buttonbush, Ironweed and Spicebush among others were planted for a two fold purpose. The first is to provide habitat for butterflies to lay eggs and for their caterpillars to eat. The second purpose is to provide nectar sources for butterflies. It is hoped other species of wildlife will be attracted to the butterfly garden as well.
Volunteers from three groups assisted with the project. The Teaneck Creek Weed Warriors cleared the garden of non native vegetation such as Japanese Knotweed and Porcelain Berry. Volunteers from the Teaneck Garden Club (members stored plants over the winter donated by Metropolitan Plant Exchange. Finally, members from the Bergen County Audubon Society completed the planting and will maintain the garden.
The butterfly garden marks the first time native plants have intentionally been planted to replace invasive species at TCC.
Heading closer to DeGraw Avenue, a new section (as of July 2012) of Green trail appears to the northeast. Turning back north, the red trail retraces its steps and heads back to the entrance of the TCC. A little north of the main entrance, the red trail comes to a “T” near blaze R4. Turning left (west) this section of the red trail heads to Puffin Place and the Blue Trail.
Heading east, the red trail comes to blaze R5 with upland forest to the south and dense scrub shrub land to the north. Heading northeast, the red trail passes the green trail to the east and heads past Dragonfly Pond to the west near blaze R7.
This section of the red trail follows the historic public service trolley route which was in service from 1899-1938. The public service trolley route connected Paterson to Edgewater where a ferry took passengers to NYC.
Continuing north, the red trail comes to the 5 Pipes. The five pipes were leftover massive drainage pipes that are large enough to stand in. Rather than discard them, volunteers painted the interiors and exteriors to represent five eras of time.
The exteriors of the five pipes represent natures flora and fauna found at the Teaneck Creek Conservancy across time. The interiors of the five pipes represent the human relationship to TCC in 5 different historical eras. These eras include:
1. Native American (The Lenape)
2. Colonial Period (The Dutch and the English)
3. A new nation’s early years (1776-1899)
4. USA: The 20th Century
5. USA: The 21st Century and Beyond
From here, the northern end of the Green trail is accessible immediately after the five pipes to the east near Teaneck Creek. A bridge crossing Teaneck Creek from the Heritage Point of Teaneck is found here.
Continuing north, two massive Black Willows can be found at blazes R10 and R11 respectively. Near blaze R12, the Blue Trail is accessible to the west. Continuing north, the red trail crosses Teaneck Creek in the Fycke Woods section. (FYI: Fycke, is a Dutch word meaning fish or animal trap)
The Red Trail parallels Teaneck Creek to the west and comes to an outdoor ecology classroom at blaze R14. The outdoor ecology classroom is located near the highest quality forested wetlands remaining in TCC (Section A near Fycke Lane). The location of the classroom was previously surrounded by large dense stands of Common Reed. After most of the Common Reed was removed, native trees, shrubs and herbaceous species were planted. The outdoor ecology classroom was built after receiving funding of $100,000 from private and public sources in 2003. The classroom has four 12-foot long benches, a boardwalk and a 30 foot –wide five-sided opening in the middle that looks down into wetlands.
The red trail ends at Fycke Lane where the Fycke Lane Interpretive Project at Teaneck Creek Conservancy is found.
The Fycke Lane Interpretive Project was conceived in 2003 and constructed in 2011 after being funded with a grant from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.
The project consists of 8 educational signs which provide illustrations and information on landscape perspectives ranging from habitat, wealth, and history among other landscape perspectives. The signs were constructed by a wall made of recycled materials. These signs will be replaced from time to time to provide fresh perspectives. The Fycke Lane Interpretive Project opened Earth Day in 2012.
Starting from the red trail near DeGraw Avenue, the rustic estimated .41 of a mile green trail traverses northeast to the Lenape Turtle Peace Labyrinth at blaze G2.
The Labyrinth, located inside a Cottonwood Forest, was made from rubble found in Teaneck Creek Conservancy.
The turtle shaped Labyrinth was created to honor the Hackensack Lenape Native Americans whose lands included the TCC.
The Lenape Native Americans believed that the world began when a giant turtle swam to the surface of an ocean that covered the earth and the turtle’s back supported the continent. Hikers are encouraged to follow the rubblestone to the center of the labyrinth. A sign posted at the entrance states “A walk to the labyrinth’s center can provide an opportunity to meditate, heal and grow”.
From the labyrinth, the green trail continues through the cottonwood forest until it reaches Teaneck Creek at blaze G8. Here there is a bridge crossing Teaneck Creek connecting the Glen Pointe Development with TCC. The green trail continues north following Teaneck Creek to the east. The Green Trail ends at the Red Trail at blaze G10 near the Five Pipes.
An interesting note is the green trail is the only trail in the park system that was designed and built by volunteers. The red and blue trail were designed and built by contractors.
The woodchip lined .27 of a mile blue trail traverses the northwestern section of TCC. Starting from Puffin Place, the blue trail heads north through a dense area of wetlands and reeds and passes a picnic area known as Black Walnut Meadow near blaze B4.
Black Walnut Meadow is the location of one of the first ongoing art exhibits I saw at Teaneck Creek Conservancy: Windows on the Park. Generally once a year, old window frames are taken and hung up alongside the blue trail to challenge the separation between public and private spaces.
After leaving the Black Walnut Meadow, the blue trail heads north through wetlands and connects to the red trail at blaze B8 near the red trail’s R12.
TCC includes over 140 native species of plants including:
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!
Great Ecology/Hiking Books!
1. 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!
2. 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!
Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!