Welcome to Manhattan’s Hallett Nature Sanctuary! The Hallett Nature Sanctuary is located in the southeastern section of world famous Central Park near Central Park South and 5th Avenue. The sanctuary is an estimated 4 acre rocky upland woodland slope that forms the northern boundary of the artificially created 59th street pond.
59th Street Pond
A fence surrounds the forest to the north and west. The western side features a man-made waterfall which falls over Manhattan schist.
Waterfall at Hallett Nature Sanctuary
The Hallett Nature Sanctuary is the smallest of Central Park’s three woodlands. Formerly known as the Promontory, it was renamed the Hallett Nature Sanctuary in 1986 after George Hervey Hallett, Jr. Hallett was a well known NYC civic leader and nature lover. The land which became the Hallett Nature Sanctuary was declared a bird sanctuary and formally closed to the general public in 1934.
The preserve served as a living experiment to see how 4 acres of woodland would ecologically function in the United State’s most populated city. The results of the experiment were less than encouraging. All four layers of the forest (the canopy, sub-canopy, shrub and herbaceous layers) were found to be under onslaught from invasive plants including:
Wisteria has been shown to strangle and leave deep indentations on plants it grasps as shown in the picture listed below.
Effects of Invasive Wisteria on shrub after removal
Hallett Nature Sanctuary Trail Map taken from the Central Park Conservancy Website
On occasion, the Central Park Conservancy holds tours of the 59th Street pond and the Hallett Nature Sanctuary. The preserve is also open for your own exploration depending on weather conditions.
A short log lined woodchip trail encircles the sanctuary. The woodchip trail helps water to absorb more easier into the ground preventing erosion on the steep sections of the sanctuary. In the growing season (spring & summer) as you walk the trail and listen to the tour guide it is hard to believe that you are feet away from Central Park South.
Hallett Nature Sanctuary Forest
The highlight of the tour is discovering the source of the waterfall located on the western border that empties into the pond. Visitors walking by may think the waterfall is generated by a natural spring. The real source is man-made; the waterfall can be turned on and off.
Flora in the Hallett Nature Sanctuary includes the below among others:
GNC features 27 acres of woodland, a pond, nature trails, gardens, outdoor and indoor animal exhibits and a greenhouse.
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. When I visited in June 2012 there was an exhibit featuring information on the wonders of 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 Wild 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.
The nearly 2 acre great lawn was created around 1918 when the estate was first built.
The lawn features Beehives and an 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 were altered by high heat and extreme pressure for 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.
2020 Update: The map above is current as of June 2020. The trail map above was taken from the Greenburgh Nature Center website. The trail descriptions below were as I found them in 2012 when I visited. At the time there were only four trails.
2012 Trail Descriptions
The preserve features four trails. The trails were originally developed by the previous owners of the land for quarrying and logging purposes.
The blue blazed 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.
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 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 Wooodfrog 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 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:
Welcome to the NJ Audubon’s Lorrimer Sanctuary! The property was bequeathed to the NJ Audubon Society by Ms. Lucine Lorrimer in 1956. The 14 acre preserve features forest and field habitats, a butterfly garden and a visitor center with a gift shop and exhibits including live animals. The sanctuary features an excellent self guided trail through the Field, Butterfly and Woodland trails.
Outside a large window in the visitor center is a multitude of bird feeders. This Hairy Woodpecker was there the day I visited.
Lorrimer Sanctuary Trail Guide
There are two main trails (in addition to a butterfly garden trail) which are mostly flat to be explored at the Lorrimer Sanctuary. Both trails travel in a loop fashion and make for very easy walking. Be sure to take your time and enjoy the forest!
The 1/6 of a mile field trail once wound through an actual field. Through succession, the trail now wounds through a young forest. Before the surrounding private property was developed, barn owls frequented the area. This box pictured below was built for barn owl habitat.
At 1/3 of a mile, the woodland trail is the longest trail and features both wetlands and upland habitat. The trail loops past secondary growth forest. A special attraction found in early spring on the woodland trail are the wildflowers such as Dutchman Breeches, Bloodroot and Spring Beauties.
The past land usage of the Lorrimer Sanctuary includes an orchard, farmland and livestock pasture. Interpretive signage has been placed on both the Field and Woodland trails to describe the geology, flora and fauna of the Lorrimer Sanctuary.