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Exploring the Pequannock River Watershed!


Pequannock River Coalition Preserving the Future

Pequannock River Coalition Preserving the Future

The 2013 Pequannock River Coalition (PRC) Winter Hike took participants on an exploratory hike through the Pequannock River Watershed.  Led by PRC Executive Ross Kushner, the 4 mile hike promised education & exercise.

Pequannock Watershed Forest

Pequannock Watershed Forest

Started in 1995, the Pequannock River Coalition provides a crucial voice in protecting the watershed of the Pequannock River, one of the cleanest rivers in New Jersey and a tributary of the Passaic River.

Virtual Hike

PRC 2013 Winter Hike

PRC 2013 Winter Hike

Ah, there you are! Welcome! Ready for the 4 mile hike? There’s plenty of snow on the ground to help us look for animal tracks.

Ross Kushner Executive Director of the Pequannock River Coalition

Ross Kushner of the Pequannock River Coalition

Let’s begin by meeting Ross Kushner, the Executive Director of the Pequannock River Coalition. He’s going to lead the hike today!

Beginning Our Hike!

Beginning Our Hike!

Right now we are at a small gravel lot off Green Pond Road near Route 23 in the Newfoundland section of West Milford.

Welcome to Rockaway Township

Welcome to Rockaway Township

We will be exploring the area just north of Copperas Mountain in nearby Rockaway Township. Ross has just taken attendance and now we are heading southwest on Green Pond Road and will be heading into the woods of the vast Pequannock watershed!

Blow Downs

Blow Downs

What happened here? These trees appear to have collapsed like dominoes. The fallen trees were part of plantations planted in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and were to be maintained (i.e. trimmed) every 10-15 years. With the onset of WWII the plantations were all but forgotten. Fast forward to 2012, we now have a tangle of trees growing close to one another. Hurricane Sandy came and knocked the trees down. Ross explained that in general other than habitat for Northern Goshawks and Red Squirrels, plantations are a monoculture and do not provide the diversity most wildlife require.

White-Tail Deer Track

White-Tail Deer Track

Look at all these white-tail deer prints around this fallen tree!

Hardwood Tree Blowdown

Hardwood Tree Blowdown

Hardwood trees that fell during the hurricane have become popular with White-Tail Deer who enjoy nibbling on sections of tree normally inaccessible.

Ross Kushner Praying Mantis Egg Case

Ross Kushner Praying Mantis Egg Case

Leaving the fallen tree and coming to a small field, Ross has just found a curious looking egg pouch attached to a plant in a frozen field.  This is a Praying Mantis egg case.

Praying Mantis Egg Case

Praying Mantis Egg Case

You can purchase Praying Mantis egg cases and use them as a natural “pesticide” for pests such as Japanese Beetles.

American Tamarack

American Larch

Heading back to Green Pond Road, Ross points out a stand of deciduous conifers near the side of the road and has identified them as American Larch. American Larch needles turn orange in the fall and fall off in winter.

Phragmites Swamp at Base of Green Pond Mountain

Phragmites Marsh at Base of Green Pond Mountain

Heading back on Green Pond Road, we’re now walking over a Pequannock River Tributary near Deerhaven Lane. The Pequannock River Tributary draining the marsh in the foreground was straightened to drain the marsh. Phragmites, a common plant which thrives in disturbed wetlands, is abundant.

Green Pond Mountain

Green Pond Mountain

Around 10,000 years ago the Wisconsin Glacier piled boulders on the north side and sheared off the southern side of mountains in the NJ Highlands. As the glacier retreated at the end of the ice age, they tended to melt in place. The sheered cliffs visible on Green Pond Mountain were testimony to that theory.

Walking along Green Pond Road

Walking along Green Pond Road

We’re now continuing our journey down Green Pond Road. It’s been about a quarter of a mile but we are now again entering the Pequannock River Watershed forest.

Old Homestead

Old Homestead

What are these ruins we are looking at? Ross is now explaining that when the City of Newark acquired the land in the early 1900’s people were living throughout the watershed property and had been for over a hundred years. Their property was taken by imminent domain to protect the water supply. Back in the 1890s and early 1900s Newark’s population was dying as their water supply was derived from the Passaic River in Newark. This section of the Passaic River was and is severely impaired.

Running Deer Tracks

Running Deer Tracks

Walking a bit further in the snow Ross has suddenly stopped. “Look at the space between these deer prints!” he says. “This guy was flying, but not from us-these are old prints”. There must be 20 feet present between the gaps of the prints!!

Bear Tree (American Tamarack)

Bear Tree (American Larch)

What is Ross looking at? It’s another American Larch tree with a good portion of its bark missing. Ross states “The bark has been taken off over the decades by Black Bears biting and rubbing their backs on the tree. The higher the bite, the bigger the bear. Sort of a territorial thing-every bear that comes by can determine what other bears have been in the area”.

Ross walks a bit further into the woods and suddenly stops.

Mink Tracks

Mink Tracks

Mink tracks! Minks, a member of the Weasel family can usually be spotted by water.

White Pines

White Pines

We just happen to be by Deerhaven Lake where a number of White Pines are standing. These pines grew naturally. Though we don’t spot any today, there have been reports of Great Blue Heron nests in these pines. Ross turns around and starts heading back to Green Pond Road.

Four Birds Trail

Four Birds Trail

We are back on Green Pond Road on our way to a section of the white blazed 19.4 Mile Four Birds Trail. This trail, maintained by members of the NYNJ Trail Conference, is named Four Birds to represent the ecological diversity that can be encountered on the trail. Wild Turkeys, Red-Tail Hawks, Great Blue Herons & Ospreys represent the “Four Birds” in the name.

Opossum Tracks

Opossum Tracks

Near the beginning of the trail we see tiny footprints heading to a log. They belong to an Opossum.

American Beech Eye of the Forest

American Beech Eye of the Forest

It looks like we are now leaving the Four Birds Trail and are walking by a rather large American Beech with marks that look like eyes keeping watch over the forest.  American Beech is considered a climax species in succession and is an indicator that the forest present here has not been disturbed in a long time.

Ross Kushner American Beech Bear Claw Mark

Ross Kushner American Beech Black Bear Claw Mark

Ross Pointed out black bear claw marks and noted that they are perfectly spaced.

Beaver Lodge Deerhaven Pond

Beaver Lodge Deerhaven Lake

Looking northwest towards Deerhaven Lake we see a large active beaver lodge with several others in the distance.  Ross stated that the primary predator of beavers is the gray wolf which has been extirpated from New Jersey. Time to stop for lunch!

Northern Red Oak Leaf

Northern Red Oak Leaf

I find the leaf of the Northern Red Oak (NJ’s state tree) on my seat.

White Oak with Black Bear Claw Marks

White Oak with Black Bear Claw Marks

After eating our lunch Ross spots a White Oak tree covered with Black Bear claw marks. White Oak acorns are sweeter than other oaks such as Black or Red Oak. Black Bears love White Oak acorns so much that they will go up into the tree to retrieve them before they fall.

Firefly

Firefly

While checking out the claw marks we spot an out of season Firefly on the White Oak. Apparently it was tricked by the abundant sunshine.

Otter Scat

Otter Scat

River Otter droppings containing fish scales were spotted near an outlet of a Pequannock River tributary leaving Deerhaven Lake. River Otters are usually active near the outlet of a beaver pond and the droppings are indicators of River Otter territorial tendencies.

Otter Sliding Marks

Otter Sliding Marks

We even see the slides they made on the ice!

Pequannock River

Pequannock River

Ross is taking us on a shortcut back to our cars near the Pequannock River.

Stonefly

Stonefly

What’s this? A stonefly! Soneflies are a sure indicator of the good water quality found in the C1 Trout Production Pequannock River.

Pequannock River Watershed Forest

Well, we’ve reached our cars and the tour has concluded. I hope this virtual hike has inspired you to explore your local forest.

 

 

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Welcome to Essex County Mills Reservation!


Welcome to the Mills Reservation

Welcome to Essex County’s Mills Reservation County Park! Mills reservation, located primarily in Cedar Grove, NJ became a part of the Essex County Park system in 1954 due to a donation from the Davella Mills foundation which had previously owned the land.

Mills Reservation County Park

The reservation consists of deciduous woodland and wetlands with the only development consisting of a small parking lot located off of Normal Avenue and the development of an excellent trail system.  Parking is also available on Old Quarry Road near the southern entrance to the reserve. Mills Reservation has Normal Avenue to the north, Montclair’s Mountain Side Park to the east, Reservoir Drive & the Cedar Grove Reservoir to the west and Old Quarry Road to the south.

Originally an estimated 119 acres, Mills Reservation’s total acreage was brought to 157 acres through a land swap in Newark between the years 1962 and 1967.

Geology

Volcanic Basalt

Mills Reservation is located on the 1st Watchung Mountain. The word “Watchung” is of Native American origin and means “high hill”. The rock which forms the Watchungs is known as basalt which formed when molten lava extruded out of the earth’s surface and cooled rapidly.

Mysterious Normal Avenue Purple Box Information

Emerald Ash Borer Detector

Visitors who park in the Normal Avenue parking lot may notice a strange purple box hanging from a White Ash Tree.  This purple box has been placed to detect the presence of the Emerald Ash Borer, a non-native destructive pest from Asia which threatens all ash trees. The mature emerald ash borer does not pose a threat. It is the larva of these borers which eat away at the heartwood of ash trees. The color purple attracts the emerald ash borer. Once the insect lands on the box they become trapped on the sticky surface.

Trails

Mills Reservation Trail Map

Mills Reservation features 7 trails totaling 6.1 miles (with several trails overlapping in sections).  The main trail is known as the 1.5 mile Mills Loop Trail which consists of a large gravel road.

Mills Reservation Loop

This is the most popular trail in Mills Reservation and you are almost guaranteed to come across people walking their dogs no matter what the weather.

Dog near Mills Reservation Loop

The other six trails (including a portion of the estimated 34 mile Essex County Lenape Trail) found throughout Mills Reservation also offer the chance to explore deep into this wooded forest island.

Reservoir Trail Blaze

  • Reservoir Trail  (Red Blazes, 1 Mile) heads west from the Normal Avenue Parking Lot and follows the western border of Mills Reservation near Reservoir Drive. Seasonal peaks of the City of Newark owned Cedar Grove Reservoir may be seen to the west of the trail. The Reservoir trail ends where the southern section of the Eastview Trail begins.

    Eastview Trail

  • Eastview Trail  (Blue Blazes, 1.1 Miles) Southern portion of this trail begins near the Old Quarry Road entrance to Mills Reservation and, as the name implies, heads east to Quarry Point before turning north on the eastern portion of the reserve. Quarry Points contains volcanic basalt outcrops in addition to a very old cement platform where anti-aircraft guns were installed during World War II.

    Quarry Point Ruins

    Quarry Points offers great views of NYC and is considered one of the highlights of Mills Reservation. NJ Audubon Society hosts their Spring Hawk count at Quarry Point due to the great views.

    Manhattan View from Quarry Point

    The Eastview Trail’s northern terminus is the Normal Avenue parking lot.

    Woodland Trail Trailhead

  • Woodland Trail  (Purple Blaze .8 of a mile) The northern portion of this trail is accessible off of the red blazed Reservoir trail near the Normal Avenue parking lot.  This trail traverses down the heart of Mills Reservation heading in a mostly southwest direction before turning southeast to end near Quarry Point near the Eastview and Lenape Trail.

    Welcome to the Lenape Trail

  • Lenape Trail– is accessible from the Normal Avenue parking lot via the .1 of a mile Lenape Link Trail (Yellow on White Blazes) which heads west from the Normal Avenue parking lot to connect with the Lenape Trail which enters Mills Reservation from the northwest.

    Lenape Trail Connector to Lenape Trail

    The Lenape Trail then heads southwest crossing through the Reservoir Trail, Mills Loop Trail and the Woodland Trail before turning south to cross the Woodland Trail and Mills Loop Trail again. Once the Lenape Trail crosses the Woodland and Mills Loop Trail, it heads east to briefly meet with the Eastview Trail where it then turns east to Quarry Point. From Quarry Point the Lenape Trail heads north paralleling the Eastview Trail before turning east into Montclair’s Mountainside Park on its way to Newark.

  • Mills Gate Trail  (Orange Blaze .1 of a mile) is a side loop of the Mills Reservation Loop and can be accessed from the eastern border of Mills Reservation. The trail goes through the original and once primary entrance of Mills Reservation.

    Original Entry into Mills Reservation

    Flora

    Mills Reservation contains an interesting array of native flora including:

    Gray Birch

    American Beech

    Chestnut Oak

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 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!

  • Directions: (As taken from NYNJCT Botany)Take the Garden State Parkway south to exit 151 (Watchung Avenue in Montclair).  Turn west from the exit ramp onto Watchung Avenue.  Drive about two miles until the road ends at Upper Mountain Avenue.  Turn north and go 1.7 miles to the traffic light at Normal Avenue.  Turn west and drive 0.3 miles to the entrance on the left.

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

Check out the latest bird sightings here!

 

Hiking West Milford’s Echo Lake!


Echo Lake Recreation Area

Echo Lake Recreation Area

Echo Lake West is one of the most beautiful trails I’ve ever been on. The Echo Lake West trail follows the western shore of Echo Lake. Another trail exists (Echo Lake East) on the other side of the lake.  It is not possible to do a loop around the lake due to houses located on the north eastern border of the lake. Echo Lake West follows the Highlands Trail , a NYNJCT Trail Conference project. The trail head is located at the office of the NWCDC located near Echo Lake Road.

The trail passes near Camp Watershed a summer camp for the City of Newark youth. The beginning of the trail is gravel covered but then changes to a rough nature trail.

Echo Lake

Echo Lake is part of the Newark Pequannock watershed lands. The lake is an estimated 270 acres and is fed by the Macopin River. The Echo Lake channel and Macopin River drain from the lake and into the Pequannock River.  The lake, with the exception of the northeast corner is completed surrounded by upland forest and wetlands. Kanouse Mountain sits to the west of the lake. Kanouse Mountain is around 1,100 feet in elevation.

Echo Lake

One of the great things about hiking is you never know what is around the corner. For example, we saw this tree completely  covered with  claw marks and (though you can’t see it in this photo) black bear fur. Black bears do this to mark territory.

We also saw the Southern Leopard Frog pictured below.  The Southern Leopard Frog is usually found near freshwater.

Flora found on the trail included:

Canada Goldenrod

Ground Pine

Aside from a few muddy spots, the Echo Lake West trail is mostly dry until you reach near the end when wetlands abound.

Wetlands

It was near here that I found one of my favorite plants: Jewelweed

Jewelweed

Our goal for the hike was to make it to this rock (shown below) rest a bit and head back.

However, due to what appears to be beaver activity, the old (white blazed) Echo Lake West trail which led from the Highlands Trail to this rock is impassable and the trail now ends near the wetlands section.

For me, one of the more unusual finds of the day was finding what appeared to be the shell of a freshwater clam in Echo Lake.

Freshwater Clam Shell

This trail is mostly flat and is located in the heart of the NJ highlands. For more information on Newark Watershed hiking trails and obtaining a Newark watershed permit click here.

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 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!

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

Check Out the Latest Bird Sightings Here!

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