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Welcome to the Essex County Environmental Center!


Welcome to the Essex County Environmental Center (ECEC)!

Essex County Environmental Center

Essex County Environmental Center

ECEC is part of the Essex County Park System and features about 1 mile of hiking trails, a canoe launch on the Passaic River, frog pond & a Wigwam  among other points of interests. ECEC hosts many fine environmental education programs. Click here for more information on ECEC programs! Originally established in 1972 and closed due to funding issues in 1995, ECEC re-opened in 2005 with a new environmentally friendly building.

Rutgers Cooperative Extension

Partners of the ECEC include the Essex County Nature Photography Club, the Sierra Club, NJ Audubon Society, Essex County Environmental Commission, Essex County Beekeepers Society & the Essex County Recreation & Open Space Trust Fund Advisory Board.

Essex County Environmental Center

Essex County Environmental Center

ECEC is located in the 1,360 acre West Essex Park which primarily consists of deciduous wooded wetlands. West Essex Park was created in 1955 when the Essex County Park Commission first acquired a portion of the land. Additional land was purchased from more than 70 additional landowners through the years.

ECEC Virtual Tour

ECEC Front Desk

ECEC Front Desk

From the parking area, head to the Environmental Center to pick up a trail map and check out the indoor exhibits. (PS this tour took place in September 2012-about 1 month prior to Hurricane Sandy and thus describes the center as I found it at that time)

Renewable Energy

Renewable Energy

Once inside, there are various exhibits regarding topics such as renewable energy.

Wind Energy

Wind Energy

After taking in the information, pick up a trail map, it’s time to explore the trails!

Start of Interpretive Trail

Start of Interpretive Trail

Head outside the center and turn right on the Lenape Trail.

Welcome to the Lenape Trail

Welcome to the Lenape Trail

Throughout the exploration numbered wooded posts will be encountered. These posts correspond to the trail map pictured below (taken from the Essex County Environment Center Website)  which we will review as we proceed.

Essex County Environmental Center Trail Map

Essex County Environmental Center Trail Map

Sweetgum Leaf

Sweetgum Leaf

The first marker is in regards to the Sweetgum Tree which is found here near its northern natural limit. Sweetgum has star shaped leaves & spiny seedpods.

Marker 2 Gray Birch

Just past marker 1 turn right on a short green blazed trail and come to marker # 2 which has the remains of a Gray Birch. Gray Birch, one of the first trees to grow after a disturbance, is a short lived species. Only the logs (located around the marker) remain of this particular Gray Birch.

Marker 3 Mother Log

Marker 3 Mother Log

Marker 3 appears just after Marker 2 and discusses the old log lying next to the post. The old log is known as a mother log because it is “nursing” the soil by slowly decomposing nutrients therefore creating a richer soil for future vegetation.

Deer Fence

Deer Fence

Behind this marker a tall deer proof fence will appear.

Habitat Restoration Area Please Stay on Trail

Habitat Restoration Area Please Stay on Trail

The fence was constructed to keep hungry white tail deer out so native vegetation may grow.

Frog Pond

Frog Pond

Continuing to Marker #4, a cool little body of water known as the Frog Pond appears.  While we might not see any frogs today, we know they are present. Check out the native vegetation such as cattail and arrow arum growing in the pond!

Create a Pond

Create a Pond

A sign has been strategically placed so that you can learn how to construct a pond of your own to attract frogs. From the Frog Pond, leave the green blazed trail and pass Garibaldi Hall.

Garibaldi Hall

Garibaldi Hall

Garibaldi Hall was part of the original environmental center and is still used by the Master Gardeners of Essex County.

Patriots Path

Patriots Path

Head toward Eagle Rock Avenue to Marker # 5 found at the start of the White Blazed Patriots Path.

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

The flora identified by this marker is found at your feet. Garlic Mustard is its name, and, at least here in the eastern United States, establishment of itself as an invasive species is its game.  White Tail Deer do not eat Garlic Mustard and the plant has no natural predators in the US. Garlic Mustard produces a chemical which suppress mycorrhizal fungi required by most plants to grow successfully. As a result, Garlic Mustard, once established, forms a monoculture in which native plants cannot become established. Heading further on the Patriot Path I encountered these three fellows in addition to a River Birch (Marker #6):

White Tail Deer

White Tail Deer

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Eastern Chipmunk

Eastern Chipmunk

After passing marker six it’s time to leave the Patriot trail by heading left to a wooden boardwalk.

Boardwalk

Boardwalk

The boardwalk  is raised above the Passaic River floodplain.

Wood Duck Box

Wood Duck Box

A wooden box will appear straight ahead near the Passaic River (Marker #7). This box has been placed for nesting Wood Ducks (a species that nests in tree cavities but will also utilize man-made structures).

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy

Be careful of Poison Ivy (Marker #8) as you continue your journey on the boardwalk! Poison ivy contains a clear liquid known as urushiol which causing a burning itching rash in many people.  Poison Ivy can be found as a hairy vine, a shrub reaching over three feet tall or as a trailing vine on the ground. It helps to remember the following jingles to remind you of the dangers of this vine:

“Hairy rope, don’t be a dope” & “Leaves of three, leave them be”

Leaving Poison Ivy behind, the Passaic River (Marker #9) appears to the right as we leave the boardwalk.

Passaic River Canoe and Kayak Access

Passaic River Canoe and Kayak Access

The river is located southwest behind the Environmental Center Building.  This is a great spot to launch a canoe or kayak to go explore the river.

Passaic River

Passaic River

Some quick Passaic River facts: Spanning 80 miles, the Passaic River is the second largest river in NJ and flows through Morris, Somerset, Union, Essex, Passaic, Bergen and Hudson counties. The confluence of the Rockaway River with the Passaic River is located nearby.  Fish including bass, herring & shad find a home in the Passaic River.

Pollinator Garden

Pollinator Garden

We now find ourselves back on the Lenape trail and passing a Pollinator Garden (Marker #10). Native plants are being grown here to attract bees which are our next point of interest (Marker #11).

Busy Bees at Work

Busy Bees at Work

The Essex County Beekeepers keep a selection of Honeybees here. Bee careful not to disturb it!

Marker 12 Lenape Life

Marker 12 Lenape Life

Wow! What’s this? Why it’s Marker #12 aka Lenape Life. Here you will find behind a gate a Wigwam and other items characteristic of Lenape Life. The Lenape were the original people who found a home in this area prior to European settlement.

Wigwam

Wigwam

Wigwams were created from saplings which were bent to create a dome frame. The frame was then covered with a mixture of animal skins & mats of reeds and rushes. In addition to the Wigwam, the Lenape learning center features a fire pit, meat drying rack, food cache, Lenape Gardens, fishing & tanning rack.

Red Oak

Red Oak

Looping back towards the Environmental Center a Northern Red Oak (Marker #13) appears. The Northern Red Oak is NJ’s state tree and is readily identified by its “ski-slope” bark. Northern Red Oak emits a foul odor when cut down.

Soon after Marker #13 appears Marker #14 (Forest Composition) which describes Musclewood, American Beech & Spicebush.

American Beech

American Beech

Smooth gray bark is characteristic of the American Beech. It is this feature that attracts individuals to carve their initials. This practice is detrimental to American Beech as the carvings create opportunities for disease and could very well kill the tree. In winter, American Beech leaves remain until the spring when new leaves bud out. American Beech is usually found in forest in the final stage of succession.

Spicebush

Spicebush

Spicebush is one of the first native shrubs to bloom in spring. Spicebush earns its name from the spicy scent which emits from a broken twig.  Spicebush is usually found in deciduous wooded wetlands such as those encountered at the ECEC.

Musclewood

Musclewood

Musclewood (aka Ironwood or American Hornbeam) is a small understory tree usually found in deciduous wooded wetlands. The form of the tree resembles a muscular arm. Straight ahead is the Environmental Center but we’re not quite finished with our tour yet. We still have a whole trail yet to explore!

Marker 15 Ferns

Marker 15 Ferns

Let’s turn right on the Lenape to Marker # 15 which discusses three common ferns found in the ECEC forest: Christmas fern, Hay scented Fern & Sensitive Fern.  Christmas fern is evergreen and is thought to be given the name due to its leaves having the appearance of a stocking that you would hang on your chimney. Hay scented fern is named such due to its scent resembling, well, hay. Sensitive Fern is an appropriate name indeed as this fern is one of the first to wilt come the first frosts of fall.

Bird Lane Trail

Bird Lane Trail

We’ve now come to the beginning of the blue blazed Bird Lane Trail.

Bird Lane Trail Trailhead

Bird Lane Trail Trailhead

Let’s take a right to go explore it. The first marker on the Bird Lane Trail is #16 the Fox Grape Vine. Birds such as Northern Cardinal enjoy the grapes this vine produces.

Passaic River Floodplain

Continuing on we start our loop and see Marker #17 which describes the floodplain forest found at the ECEC.  The forest here often will flood (especially in early spring when melting snow contributes to increase water flow in the Passaic River). Species here such as Red Maple flourish in the conditions provided by frequent flooding.

18 Boulder

As we start to turn back there is a large rock (Marker #18) visible in the woods. This rock is known as a glacial erratic and was carried to this spot when the last glacier (Wisconsin Glacier) came through the area around 10,000 years ago. This rock was likely carried from the nearby Watchung Mountains.

Old Equipment

Old Equipment

Continuing back towards the Lenape Trail we pass Marker #19 which describes the past land use of the ECEC. Old farming equipment such as this piece found near this marker tells us that this land was once used as farmland. Looking around you can clearly see the forest has reclaimed the land. Well, we’ve now reached our last marker (#20) which describes the Mayapple plant. The Mayapple plant blooms a single flower in early spring and first emerges before the forest has fully leafed out in springtime.

Bird Lane What will you find?

Bird Lane What will you find?

Well, we’ve now reached the end of the Bird Lane Trail!

Bird Lane Trail End

Bird Lane Trail End

And with that, our tour has concluded. I hope it has inspired you to go visit the ECEC to see if for yourself! Click here for directions!

Great Ecology Books:

1. 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!

2. 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!

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

HELP SPREAD THE WORD ON THE ESSEX COUNTY ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER AND OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA BY CLICKING ONE OF THE BUTTONS BELOW!!

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Butler Forest Preserve & Butler Raceway!


Wildlife Sanctuary

Welcome to the Passaic River Coalition’s Butler Forest Preserve & Butler Raceway! Both preserves are contiguous and have a combined acreage of 14.9 acres of which four are deciduous wooded wetlands. Located in Butler, NJ, The Butler Forest Preserve and Butler Raceway were purchased to prevent the development of townhouses and provide protection of the Pequannock River.

Butler Forest Preserve & Butler Raceway

Butler Forest Preserve & Butler Raceway

The Passaic River Coalition was established in 1969 and provides stewardship for the preservation and protection of over 1,000 miles of waterways associated with the Passaic River. The Pequannock River, a tributary of the Passaic River is labeled C1 indicating the water consists of some of the highest quality in the state of New Jersey.

Virtual Tour

American Beech Butler Forest Preserve

American Beech Butler Forest Preserve

This was how the Butler Forest Preserve and Butler Raceway appeared when I explored it near the end of September 2012, nearly a month before Hurricane Sandy arrived. I find Jericho Road to be the best entrance to the Butler Forest Preserve & Butler Raceway.

Pequannock River Tributary

Pequannock River Tributary

Entering the forest here I noticed a stream to my left (an unnamed Pequannock River Tributary) and plenty of American Beech. American Beech is part of the Beech-Sugar Maple climax forest community and are a sure indicator that this forest has not been disturbed for a very long time.

Pequannock River

Pequannock River

I carefully followed the woods down a somewhat steep slope while a steady roar increased. Thinking it was urban noise coming from nearby Route 23 and housing developments I was somewhat surprised to see the source was far more natural: The Pequannock River rushing by.

Ruins

Ruins

I noticed the river just as my eye caught old ruins. These ruins were part of the Butler Raceway which once provided water from the Pequannock River to power machinery to what was once the country’s largest rubber factory. The historic function of the raceway was to provide water from the Pequannock River to power machinery at the Butler Rubber Factory. The rubber factory was destroyed by fire in 1957.

Waterfall on Pequannock River

Waterfall on Pequannock River

Near the ruins is a beautiful man-made waterfall on the Pequannock River.

Butler Raceway

Butler Raceway

Carefully scrambling over the ruins I made it to the Raceway just in time for a Great Blue Heron to fly by (unfortunately too fast for me to get its picture).

Abandoned Motorcycle

Abandoned Motorcycle

After admiring the Heron I came across an abandoned motorcycle.

Yellow Birch

Yellow Birch

Continuing east Yellow Birch appeared in good numbers. Yellow Birch favors north facing slopes.

Pre-Cambrian Rocks along Butler Raceway

Pre-Cambrian Rocks along Butler Raceway

Rock Outcrops of Precambrian origin appear occasionally to the right of the path.  The Butler Raceway ends near Gifford Street. To get back to Jericho Avenue, simply turn around on the Raceway and proceed west until you come back to the cement ruins. Proceed south going up the hill until you reach Jericho Road.

Butler Forest Preserve

Butler Forest Preserve

The Butler Forest Preserve and Butler Raceway is a great place to explore. Check it out for yourself!

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

HELP SPREAD THE WORD ON THE BUTLER FOREST PRESERVE & BUTLER RACEWAY ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER AND OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA BY CLICKING ONE OF THE BUTTONS BELOW!!

Morris County’s Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center!


Morris County Park Commission Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center (with Common Reed)

Welcome to Morris County’s Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center!

Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center

The Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center (GSOEC) consists of a 44 acre portion of the Great Swamp managed since 1963 by the Morris County Parks Department. The GSOEC hosts guided nature walks, school, scout and public educational programs.

Herp Study in Progress

The GSOEC hosts periodic studies of the flora and fauna to determine the overall health of the Great Swamp.

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

The estimated 7,768 acre Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge  (GSNWR) abuts the GSOEC to the west. The GSNWR is one of 553 refuges administered by the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Lands comprising a National Wildlife Refuge are managed for the protection of wildlife and its habitat.

History of the Great Swamp

The origin of the Great Swamp begins with the melting and subsequent retreat of the Wisconsin Glacier around 25,000 years ago.  Debris from the glacier blocked the passage of an ancient river creating an enormous lake known as Lake Passaic. Lake Passaic is thought to have been 30 miles long and 10 miles wide.  Over time, an outlet was formed near Little Falls NJ draining the lake via the Passaic River. This drainage is still occurring today. Today the Great Swamp forms a remnant component of the once great Lake Passaic.

GSOEC Forest

In the late 1950’s the area now known as the Great Swamp was identified by the NYNJ Port Authority as an ideal location for a new jetport.  The Great Swamp Conservation Foundation mobilized volunteers to protect the Great Swamp. The result was the establishment of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The Great Swamp Conservation Foundation later became the North Jersey Conservation Foundation and then finally known as  New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

Trails:

GSOEC features four short loop trails. Two of the four trails (Orange & Red) are interpretive and follow 16 markers listed in a self guided trail booklet available at the education center. Click here for a trail map!

The total length of the trails is 1.4 miles.

Virtual Tour:

Ready to take a virtual tour of the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center? Let’s Go!

Stop by the kiosk near the parking lot to pick up a trail map. From the kiosk, head to the education center to view the exhibits on the flora and fauna of the Great Swamp.

Outdoor Education Nature Center with Kiosk

Mammals of The Great Swamp

Endangered in New Jersey

After checking out the exhibits inside, it’s time to start our hike.

Orange Trail Trailhead

Let’s begin our virtual hike by taking the Orange Blazed trail located to the south of the education center. The Orange Trail at .61 Miles is the longest trail present in the GSOEC. It contains Markers 1-10 from the self guided trail.

Marker 1

The first marker, regarding the Red Maple tree, appears shortly after the beginning of the orange trail. Red Maple is the most common tree in the Great Swamp as well as the eastern deciduous forest.

Red Maple Leaves

Red Maple’s flowers are red in the spring and the leaves turn a brilliant red in the fall. Though the Sugar Maple may come to mind when it comes to maple syrup, Red Maple can be tapped for syrup as well. Red Maple should be tapped before budding occurs as the buds change the chemical makeup of the syrup.

Marker 2

Continuing on the orange trail, marker #2 comes into view on the right where a large depression may be found.

Large Depression

The large depression is known as a vernal pond. Vernal ponds do not support fish and may be dry or filled with water. Due to the lack of predators (i.e. fish) the vernal pond provides a safe haven for amphibians such as Wood Frogs, Spring Peepers and Blue-Spotted Salamanders among other species to breed and lay eggs.  Continuing past the vernal pond, two fenced areas appear shortly after on the left.

Marker 3 with Deer Enclosure in background

Marker # 3 explains that these sections of the GSOEC were fenced in 2009 to study how plant communities recover from the damage caused by an overpopulation of white tail deer.

Marker 4 EcoTone

Marker #4 describes an Ecotone. An Ecotone is anywhere two habitats meet and create an edge. The Ecotone present here was created by the Power line right of way. The positive aspects of this man-made Ecotone is  the creation of suitable nesting habitat for the local turtle population in addition to providing a valuable hunting ground for birds of prey. On the flipside, the disturbed ground caused by the creation of the power lines have provided ideal habitat for invasive plants  as Autumn Olive, Multiflora Rose, Garlic Mustard, Wineberry & Japanese Barberry.

Marker 5 The Pond

Continuing in a southwest direction, the dirt path changes to a boardwalk as the trail traverses the wetland area.

Orange Trail Boardwalk

A short boardwalk appears to the right of the main boardwalk which leads to the Pond which is marker #5.

The Pond

Ponds are usually less than 18 feet deep. Eventually as plant matter and other organic material decays, the pond will begin to become a marsh, progress to a forested wetland and finally upland habitat after many years.

Painted Turtles on the Pond

The Pond at GSOEC is manmade and provides habitat for Eastern Painted Turtles, Snapping Turtles, Wood Ducks, Mallards, Belted Kingfisher and River Otters among others. Flora of the Pond includes Yellow Flowered Spatterdock & Duckweed.

Poison Ivy

Continuing on the trail leads to Marker #6 which describes Poison Ivy which is seen here growing as a hairy vine.  Poison ivy contains a clear liquid known as urushiol which causing a burning itching rash in many people.   In addition to a hairy vine Poison Ivy can be found as a shrub reaching over three feet tall or as a trailing vine on the ground.

Several rhymes exist warning of the dangers of Poison Ivy:

“Leaves of three, let them be”

“Hairy rope, don’t be a dope”

“Hairy vine, no friend of mine”

Common plants often misidentified as Poison Ivy include Virginia Creeper and Box Elder Maple among other species.

Despite the negative publicity this native plant receives, Poison Ivy has tremendous value for wildlife.  Native birds such as Eastern Bluebird, Gray Catbird, Dark Eyed Junco and Northern Flicker eat Poison Ivy’s white berries. Mammals such as White-Tail Deer and Eastern Cottontail consume Poison Ivy’s leaves.

Mountain Laurel

At this point of the hike you may notice abundant Mountain Laurel. Marker # 7 appears here.

Marker 7 The Browse Line

Its purpose is to briefly touch upon “the browse line”. The over abundant white- tail deer have stripped all leaves of vegetation from six feet down. If the current trend continues, there may not be a forest here in the future.

From this area, the trail head of the .23 of a mile Blue trail loop appears.

Blue Trail Trailhead

Let’s take a brief break from the interpretive trail to explore this short trail.

Blue Blaze Swamp Chestnut Oak

The Blue Trail Loop goes through an upland area consisting of mostly Mountain Laurel and Swamp Chestnut Oak.

Dried Vernal Pond Blue Trail

The trail encircles a small vernal pond (the vernal pond, seen here at the end of September 2012 was dry).

Blue Trail trailend

Completing the Blue Trail Loop, head back to the Orange Trail and to Marker # 8 which describes the function of a rotting log in the forest.

Rotting Log

Standing dead trees or snags play an important role in the eastern deciduous forest. Woodpeckers including Pileated, Downy and Red-Bellied among others excavate holes in the dead trees searching for tasty insects. These excavated holes in turn create habitat for birds including Black-Capped Chickadee. Fungus will usually invade the dead wood further softening it. Eventually, the tree will fall to the forest floor where it will continue to decay creating a rich organic soil which will support future species of trees.

Marker 9 Phragmites Marsh

Proceed  east  to Marker # 9 The Phragmites Marsh. Phragmites (aka Giant Reed) is a giant species of grass which can grow from 10-20 feet.  Phragmites thrives in disturbed areas. Phragmites found in the Great Swamp are native to the eastern deciduous forest. Phragmites are considered invasive because of its aggressive growth and tendency to overwhelm all other vegetation.

Marker 10

Outdoor Study Area

From here the trail leaves the boardwalk and heads south to marker # 10 which passes an outdoor study area and leads to a Wigwam replica.

Wigwam

The Lenape Native Americans (the original people) created Wigwams as shelter from saplings, tree bark and Cattail Mats among others. This replica would have been big enough for two people. Marker #10 is the last marker for the orange trail.

Orange Trail Trailend

After heading back from the Wigwam, turn right on the Orange Trail and follow the trail a brief distance to its terminus.

Prayer of the Woods

The “Prayer of the Woods” sign is found right before the start of the Red Trail. After reading the Prayer and taking in its message, turn right to start hiking the .39 mile Red Trail to continue the interpretive trail.

Red Trail Trailhead

The first marker on the Red Trail is #11 which identifies trees found in the Eastern Deciduous Forest.

Marker 11 Deciduous Forest

Trees found in the Eastern Deciduous Forest include the below among others:

Musclewood

Black Oak

Pin Oak

Tupelo

Sassafras

The term “deciduous” indicates that the trees comprising this type of forest lose their leaves each fall and grow new leaves in the spring.

Marker 12 Transmission Lines and Marsh

Continuing on the red trail leads Marker #12 “Transmission Lines and Marsh”.

Red Trail Power Cut

Here, vegetation is periodically removed or trimmed back so as to not interfere with the power lines. This wet marsh provides habitat to Wood Ducks, Mallards, Muskrats and Red-Wing Blackbirds among others.

Red Trail to Education Center

From here turn left at the sign leading to the education center to go to Marker # 13.

Marker 13 Stream

The Red Trail approaches Marker #13 as it crosses a stream.

Red Trail Stream Crossing

Sediments and rocks on the stream bottom provides habitat for a variety of Crayfish and Macro-invertebrates. Marco-invertebrates lack backbones and can be seen without the aid of a microscope.  Certain macro-invertebrates such as Caddisflies are pollutant intolerant. Presence of pollutant intolerant macro-invertebrates are one way to indicate the health of a stream. Macro- invertebrates eat many different things depending on the species-there are predators, scavengers, and herbivores among them. In turn, macro-invertebrates are a source of food for various turtles, fish and frogs.

Marker #14 The Wet Meadow

Continuing on the red trail leads to Marker #14 which discusses“The Wet Meadow”. The Wet Meadow is a man-made habitat created by a power-line cut and is home to field mice, star-nosed moles and various hawks & owls among others.

Marker #15 American Beech

Marker #15 leads to an American Beech Tree. The smooth gray bark of the American Beech Tree usually invites individuals to carve their names and other messages into the trunks. Carving in a tree trunk is similar to a cut on your finger. However, unlike your injured finger, a tree cannot put a band-aid on its wound. The carved bark is an open door for disease.

Beechdrops

Beechdrops, seen here in this picture, lack both leaves and chlorophyll and is a parasitic plant of the American Beech Tree.

#16 The Swamp

Marker #16 The Swamp

The final marker on the red trail briefly discusses the importance of the Great Swamp. The land comprising the Great Swamp is a mix of meadows, upland woods, marsh and brush covered swamps. Only 40% of the Great Swamp is wet either part of the year or all year long whereas 60% of the Great Swamp  consists of upland forest & meadows.

Red Trail End

You are now at the end of the Red Trail.

Green Trail Blaze

At the end of the red trail head north to catch the beginning of the short .20 of a mile Green Trail near the parking area. The Green trail traverses in a short loop in an upland portion of the GSOEC.

Mushrooms Green Trail

Check out these mushrooms found growing in September 2012!

Asian Long Horn Beetle Detector

In the parking area near the end of the Green Trail you may notice a black box hanging from a tree. The Black boxes are used to detect for the presence of the Asian Long-Horn Beetle, an invasive species from Asia.

Wildlife Blind

After the Green Trail is complete, it’s time to visit the Observation Blind located off the parking lot which views the Pond looking west.

Turtles on the Pond from Wildlife Blind

This concludes our virtual hike! I hope you enjoyed it and it inspired you to take a trip to see the GSOEC for yourself!

Click here for directions!

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

HELP SPREAD THE WORD ON THE MORRIS COUNTY GREAT SWAMP OUTDOOR EDUCATION CENTER ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER AND OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA BY CLICKING ONE OF THE BUTTONS BELOW!!

Westchester County’s Cranberry Lake Preserve!


Welcome to Cranberry Lake Preserve!

Welcome to Westchester County’s Cranberry Lake Preserve! Cranberry Lake Preserve (CLP), purchased by Westchester County in 1967, contains 190 acres of deciduous woodland, wetlands, an old quarry, several bodies of water and old ruins.

In the early 1900’s the land that was to become CLP was an active quarry utilized for the construction of the nearby Kensico Dam which holds NYC drinking water.

Kensico Dam

Trails

Cranberry Lake Preserve Trail

Trails are open dawn to dusk.  Trail maps are available at a kiosk outside or you can click here for a digital version.

  • CLP features four blazed loop trails. All trails begin and end with blazes featuring the Westchester County Parks logo.  Periodic numbers appear on blazes occasionally which correspond to your current location on the trail map. These numbers are found on wooden posts. (Please note the numbers do not appear on the online version of the trail map)

All trails are accessible by either orange or white blaze connector trails.

To Nature Lodge

Many sections of CLP trails display signs which lead back to the Nature Lodge. Click here for a trail map!

Red Trail

Red Blaze

At 2.4 miles the red trail is the longest trail featured in CLP. The red trail follows CLP boundaries with the exception of the quarry.

Blue Trail

Blue Blaze

The Blue Trail loops around both Cranberry Lake and South Pond for a total distance of 1 mile.

Cranberry Lake

Cranberry Lake is a natural body of water formed around 18,000 years ago by glacier activity. The lake is fed by an underground spring.

Ground Pine

Ground Pine can be found growing along the Blue Trail.

Yellow Trail

Yellow Trail Trailhead

The Yellow trail traverses rocky upland and a section of Cranberry Lake.

Purple (History) Trail

Purple Trail Trailhead

The Purple Blazed History trail is a self guided trail which explores most of the preserve including the quarry. The self guided trailmap can be found by clicking here.

Exploring CLP

While CLP’s trails are open dusk to dawn, the nature lodge and its parking area are closed most days by 5PM. It is strongly recommended that you park in the designated parking area near Old Orchard Street if you plan on hiking past 5PM.

It is from the Old Orchard Street parking entrance that the below description starts out from on the way to explore CLP. Let’s go!

Eastern Chipmunk Cranberry Lake Preserve

From the parking area, walk up the road to the nature lodge.

Cranberry Lake Preserve Nature Lodge

Just to the west of the nature lodge is an interesting wetland with a dock.

Wetlands Near Nature Lodge

It was here that I saw this snake.

Head inside the nature lodge to check out the exhibits and pick up a trail map.

Inside Cranberry Lake Nature Lodge

From the nature lodge, head south to take the yellow trail down to an Orange connecting trail.

Here there is a sign advertising Cranberry Lake. The orange blazed connector trail leads to a jointly blazed yellow/blue trail with Cranberry Lake straight ahead.

Yellow Blue Blazed Trail near Cranberry Lake

Follow the Yellow/Blue blazed trail south with Cranberry Lake to your left.

Bent Bridge

Continuing south, take the Orange Blazed Connector trail which will appear to your left near a wooden boardwalk known as Bent Bridge.

View of fen from Bent Bridge

Bent Bridge provides a good opportunity to check out the fen located to the south of Cranberry Lake. In the summer, white water lilies appear on the water.

Stone Chamber

Leaving Bent Bridge, the Orange blazed connector trail leads to a man-made “cave” known as the Stone Chamber.

Looking outside from inside Stone Chamber

The ruins surrounding the stone chamber were the property of a farmer named Thomas Cunningham. The Stone Chamber is a very neat little man-made “cave” of sorts that is fun to explore.

Ruins outside Stone Chamber

From here, the orange blaze connector trail leads past more stone ruins to the Purple Trail (aka History Trail). The path here follows an old railroad which separates the fen from South Pond.

South Pond

You are sure to hear splashes in the warmer months of frogs jumping in the water as you walk by.

Head east on the Purple Trail to a bench strategically placed in front of a beautiful cascade.

Cascade

It’s a good spot to rest and relax in a peaceful setting.

To Quarry

From the cascade, continue east on the Purple Trail following signs for the quarry.

Abandoned Tennis Court

An abandoned tennis court will appear to your right.

Quarry Pond

The tennis court was part of the Birchwood Swim club which used the Quarry Pond for Swimming.

Tulip Poplar & Milkweed Abandoned Tennis Court

Nature is slowly reclaiming the tennis court. Birchwood Swim Club was discontinued in 1997.

Fish Quarry Pond

Once past the quarry pond the purple trail heads past old railroad car wheels which were used to haul granite during the quarry operation.

Railroad Wheels

The Purple Trail continues heading north climbing over the rocky quarry.

Quarry Trail

The height here is an estimated 450 feet above sea level.

Derrick

Derrick anchors which once held heavy quarry machinery are still fastened in the rocks along the trail.

Old Automobile on Purple Trail

From here, the trail starts to descend the quarry and heads west passing an old abandoned car.

Continuing north the Purple Trail comes across the remains of a stone cutting shed.

Stone Cutting Shed Ruins

After exploring this area, follow the Purple Trail south until it meets with the red trail. From here, take the red trail southwest with Cranberry Lake to your right. Continuing south, retrace your steps until you pass the cascade with the bench at an intersection with the Purple Trail that you previously took into the Quarry territory. Continuing south, the red trail passes South Pond to the West.

South Pond

South Pond is man-made and was created during quarry activities.

Bird Tower on South Pond

A Bird Observation tower appears to your left. This tower provides great views of South Pond.

Remains of Stone Crusher

The red trail passes near the remains of a stone crusher foundation. The stone crusher was capable of crushing up to 1000 cubic yards of gravel per day when the quarry was active.

Signs for NYC Watershed appear to east of the trail.

Hush Pond

From here, the red trail turns west and temporarily leaves CLP & enters White Plains watershed land and passes Hush Pond to the south.

Stone Wall by Red Trail

From Hush Pond, the red trail passes a couple of connector trails and turns north following an old stone wall delineating NYC watershed property from CLP. According to David Steinberg who wrote a description of Cranberry Lake Preserve in his book “Hiking the Road to Ruins” the lower, crude, sharper-tipped walls are of colonial origin and the larger, cut-stone flat-topped walls are NY DEP watershed boundaries dating from the 1960s.

Indian Pipe

It was here that I found Indian Pipe growing when I visited in June of 2012. Continue following the red trail north with the wall to your left until you reach your car.

Black Capped Chickadee at Cranberry Lake Preserve

Directions

Cranberry Lake Preserve contains diverse habitats within its 190 acres. It is worth checking out yourself!

  • 1609 Old Orchard Street, North White Plains, NY
  • Park hours: Park open dawn to dusk. Nature Lodge and front gate are open Wednesday-Sunday. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Phone: (914) 428-1005

Click here for Directions!

Check out David Steinberg’s description of this hike in the book “Hiking the Road to Ruins

Click here for more information!

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!

Montclair’s Alonzo Bonsal Wildlife Preserve!


Alonzo F. Bonsal Wildlife Preserve

Welcome to the 20.68 acre Alonzo F. Bonsal Wildlife Preserve! The preserve is located and owned by the Township of Montclair, New Jersey and was purchased with NJ DEP Green Acres funds. The City of Clifton is located to the north, and residential development surrounds the preserve to the south, east and west. There are 9.12 acres of adjacent lands located to the north of the preserve which are controlled by the North Jersey District Water Commission for its Wanaque Reservoir Balancing Tank which provide additional habitat for wildlife.  A citizens group lobbied to save the woodland from development in the 1970’s. The Bonsal Preserve was named after a local resident whose family’s contribution augmented Green Acres funding of the site.

Alonzo F. Bonsal Wildlife Preserve

The preserve consists of remnant wetlands and uplands surrounding the Third River, a major tributary of the lower Passaic River watershed.  The Third River headwaters are located in Rifle Camp Park in Woodland Park.

Third River

The headwaters were impounded in 1899 to form the Great Notch Reservoir which greatly reduced the river’s flow. The Third River’s current name was derived from the fact that it lies north of two other Passaic River tributaries (1st & 2nd Rivers).

Years ago, the river was known as Pearl River due to the discovery of the Queen Pearl aka Paterson Pearl . Freshwater pearls are found in a river’s mussel population. The Paterson Pearl, a 93 grain pink pearl, was one of the first freshwater pearl to be discovered in the United States. Other pearls were found in the Third River but none matched the Paterson Pearl.

Today, the mussels are long gone and the name Pearl River has been replaced by Third River as designated by cartographers.

The preserve has been left in its natural state with the exception of an old sewer line built in the early 1900’s. The sewer is owned by the City of Clifton. In 2008, around 10 trees in the preserve and a 12 foot wide woods road was constructed near Daniels Road, a dead end street in Clifton, to access a ruptured section of the pipe. Plans are being made to remove and reroute the sewer as of January 2014.

Trail

Bridge over Third River

The main entrance to the Bonsal Preserve is located in a right of way off of Riverview Drive in Montclair. After crossing the bridge over the Third River, you can continue north to Daniels Drive in Clifton or head east or west to explore the wetlands near the Third River. The trails are not blazed but due to the size of the preserve, you can’t get lost physically without soon discovering a spot you previously traveled.

Bonsal Preserve Trail

Small preserves in urban settings really provide a great opportunity to take your time and enjoy nature right in your own backyard.

Fauna

The richest concentration of wildlife found in the Third River watershed is found in the Bonsal Preserve. Baltimore Orioles, Red-Eyed Vireos, Red-Winged Blackbirds, White-Tailed Deer and Raccoon have all been spotted among others. I spotted the guys in the pictures below the day I visited:

Mourning Cloak Butterfly

White Throated Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Flora

Because a good percentage of the Bonsal Preserve consists of forested floodplains, obligate wetland plants such as Skunk Cabbage may be found in abundance.

Skunk Cabbage

Other species include the below among others:

American Beech

Black Cherry

 Check out Plant Communities of New Jersey to learn more about the high diversity of plant life found in the Garden State!

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!

The preserve, known locally as Montclair’s paradise, is a great place to take a walk, birdwatch and just kick back and enjoy. Click here for directions!

For more information on this fantastic preserve be sure to contact Friends of the Bonsal Preserve at the email address BonsalPreserve@verizon.net.

Great Ecology/Birding Books!

1. Pocket Guide to Eastern Streams – This book is perfect for nature-lovers, hikers, anglers, naturalists, and wildlife professionals
* Includes information on restoring and preserving threatened or damaged stream ecosystems!

Click Here for more information!

2. Stream Ecology: Structure and function of running waters – Great working reference for stream ecology and related fields!

Click Here for more information!

3. Birds of Eastern North America – This wonderful book’s format allows for quick and easy reference using detailed artworks, maps and text!

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!

Tenafly Nature Center & Lost Brook Preserve!


Tenafly Nature Center

The Tenafly Nature Center & Lost Brook Preserve  (TNC & LBP) is a beautiful estimated 380 acre preserve located in Tenafly, New Jersey. The preserve has the Montammy Country Club to the North, Route 9W and the Greenbrook Nature Sanctuary to the east and residential deveopment to the west and south. In addition to featuring relaxing hiking trails, the preserve boasts a 3 acre waterbody known as Pfister’s Pond which attracts a multitude of wildlife.

Pfisters Pond

Outdoor wildlife exhibits include two Barred Owls and a Red-Tailed Hawk. These raptors were previously injured prior to coming to the nature center and cannot survive on their own in the wild. Other attractions include the the John A. Redfield Building which includes the Stephen Minkoff Memorial Library and indoor animal exhibits.

John A. Redfield Building

Indoor Animal Exhibits

The nature center provides public & after school programs as well as a summer day camp. There is also a butterfly garden, backyard habitat exhibit, picnic area and an outdoor education pavilion.

Education Pavilion

History

Tenafly Nature Center & Lost Brook Preserve

The land that was to become the TNC & LBP was sold in lots by 1874.  Over time, the land owners could not afford the taxes and the lots reverted back to the town.  The land was purchased from Tenafly by developers in the 1950’s.  In 1958, a plan to construct 225 houses was approved by Tenafly but the plan lapsed.  Developer Bernard Gray proposed building a million dollar country club in 1960 but later backed out.

In 1962, NY developer Norman Blankman proposed to build 300 homes and a golf course on the land.  Tenafly swapped 60 acres of land with Blankman in 1963 to consolidate his land and the boroughs.  The 60 acres became the Tenafly Nature Center. Soon after the consolidation, Blankman abandoned his original proposal and created a plan to develop 5 office buildings and a golf course. This development was rejected by Tenafly’s planning board.  After other development ideas came and went, Blankman sold the land to Centex Developers in August of 1973 for 9 million.  Centex proposed the construction of 1,780 houses, town homes and apartment complexes on the land.  The land, valued at around 8.5 million dollars, was condemned by Tenafly which wanted to purchase the property for preservation purposes.

Green Acres Land & Water Conservation Fund

Tenafly completed the purchase of the land in 1976 using Green Acres funding, bonds and donations from the public. The new preserve became known as the Lost Brook Preserve.  Tenafly Nature Center took over management of the Lost Brook Preserve in 2005 bringing the total acreage of TNC & LBP to 380 acres.

In 2009, the Bergen County board of chosen freeholders announced a $900,000 grant to the Borough of Tenafly to acquire once acre of land adjacent to the nature center.  The nature center’s intent is to let the land revert to forest via succession.  The acre is uphill of Pfister’s Pond whose streams drain into the Tenakill Brook, an important tributary of the Oradell Reservoir which is a source of drinking water for a large percentage of Bergen County.

Trails

An estimated 7 miles of blazed trails are waiting to be explored at the TNC & LBP.

Map of the Tenafly Nature Center

The picture above shows all the trails in the Tenafly Nature Center section of the preserve. Click here for a map that also includes trails found in the Lost Brook Preserve.  All trails are directly or indirectly accessible from the estimated .55 of a mile Main Trail which can be accessed from the parking lot of the Tenafly Nature Center.

Main Trail

The Main Trail is the unpaved continuation of Hudson Avenue which heads from the parking lot down to Route 9W. The yellow, white (De Filiipi) and Bischoff Trail are accessible to the north of the Main Trail and the Red Trail, Allison Trail and Little-Chism Trail are accessible to the south of the Main Trail. The Main Trail passes by the historic Lambier House (private property) where Lambier Brook dead ends to the south of the trail.  Beautiful viewpoints of the 3 acre Pfister’s Pond are visible to the north of the Main Trail. Wild Geranium grows along the side of the trail in springtime.

Yellow Trail Trailhead

The 1/3 of a mile interpretive Yellow Trail is the best introduction to the TNC & LBP. Numbered markers found throughout this trail match with this booklet providing excellent information on the flora & geology of the TNC & LBP including topics such as American Chestnut, New York Fern, Diabase Trap rock and much more.

Numbered Marker on interpretive yellow trail

At the end of the booklet there is a quiz to test your knowledge.  The yellow trail follows the western border of Pfister’s pond and features a 50 foot watchable wildlife viewing dock that extends out on the western border of Pfister’s Pond.

Watchable Wildlife Grant Site

The trail then heads east and south to rejoin the Main Trail in a loop fashion.

De Filippi (White Trail)

The eastern side of Pfister’s Pond is accessible via the .4 of a mile white trail (aka De Filippi) trail.  The white trail is accessible from the Main Trail or the western terminus of the Bischoff Trail. The trail traverses north near the eastern border of Pfister’s Pond passing the De De Filippi shelter on boardwalks before turning east and then turning south to connect either to the Bischoff Trail to the east or the Main Trail to the south.

View of Pfisters Pond from De De Filippi Shelter

De Filippi Trail Boardwalk

Bischoff Trail

The 0.6 white/red blazed Bischoff trail is accessible from the White trail from the west or off the Main Trail near 9W. From the Main Trail, the Bischoff Trail heads north and passes over a stream draining a small pond.

Bischoff Trail Swamp

From here, the trail turns west and passes to the south of the pond and traverses near Montammy Country Club to the North and the historic (private) Lambier house to the south.

Lambier House

The Bischoff trail then terminates when it meets the white trail.

Red Trail Trailhead

The .3 of a mile Red Trail, accessible from the Main Trail, heads south before turning east and north paralleling the east brook as it empties Pfisters Pond on its way to the Tenakill Brook.

East Brook

Many wildflowers such as Spring Beauty, Dwarf Ginseng, Trout Lily, Canada Mayflower and others appear on this trail in the spring.  The purple trail trailhead is accessible to the east of the red trail. The red trail continues north and terminates into the Main Trail.

Purple Trail Trail Head

The .5 of a mile Purple Trail heads southeast from the Red Trail and crosses over the east brook and the Blue Spur (short .2 of a mile trail which leads to Highland Avenue).

Blue Spur Trailhead

Once past the blue spur trail, the purple trail continues southwest crossing over Lambier Brook before terminating into the Allison Trail.

Allison Trail

The yellow blazed 1.4 mile Allison Trail is accessible from the north via the Main Trail, the east and south via the Little-Chism Trail and the west from the purple trail. Heading southwest from the Main Trail the Allison Trail passes wetlands and interesting rock formations.

Massive Rock Formation Allison Trail

These formations are made up of rock known as diabase which was formed when molten lava cooled underground.  The trail then traverses southeast where it briefly follows the Little-Chism Trail.

Little-Chism Allison Trail

From here the trail  crosses the Green Brook before heading southwest once more paralleling the Green Brook to the west and its wetlands before terminating into the Little-Chism trail near East Clinton Avenue.

Allison Trail End Near East Clinton Avenue

An interesting trail that is accessible from the Allison Trail is the 0.6 of a mile orange blazed Haring Rock Trail.

Haring Rock Trail Trailhead

This trail traverses the western portion of the preserve. Heading south from the Allison Trail, the Haring Rock Trail travels in a meandering fashion passing wetlands to the east. The trail terminates at the Haring Rock.

Haring Rock

The Haring Rock is a glacial erratic named after a Dr. John J. Haring who made sick calls in the area around the turn of the century on horseback. Doctor Haring often stopped at this rock to rest. An interesting fact about this glacial erratic is that it was originally located east of its current position on top of traprock where the Jewish Community Center is located. When the Jewish Community Center was developed the rock was moved to its current location. It was discovered that the rock would not stay put in its original position and was instead cemented in place upside down. The Haring Rock Trail ends at this rock and the Seely Trail begins here.

Seely Trail Trailhead

The 0.3 yellow/orange blazed Seely Trail is accessible from the Haring Rock Trail & connects to the Little-Chism trail once it crosses Green Brook.

Green Brook Crossing Seely Trail

The short trail traverses near East Clinton Avenue in the southern boundary of the preserve.

Little-Chism Trailhead

At 2.1 miles, the red blazed Little-Chism Trail is the longest trail featured in the TNC & LBP.  The Little-Chism Trail is accessible from the Seely Trail in the south of the preserve near East Clinton Avenue, the Allison Trail in the southern boundary near Route 9W or from the north off of the Main Trail. Exploring the trail starting from the Seely Trail terminus, the trail heads east near wetlands and turns north briefly leaves the preserve and traverses next to Route 9W before heading back to the forest.

Little-Chism Trail by Route 9W

Continuing north, the trail crosses over Lost Brook where a dam is visible.

Dam on Lost Brook Little-Chism Trail

Lost Brook

The trail joins with the Allison Trail briefly after it crosses Green Brook near more wetlands.

Green Brook Little-Chism Trail

Both the Green Brook, Lost Brook are tributaries of the nearby Hudson River. The trail then passes the trail terminus for the short Sweet Gum Trail (which leads to the nearby members only Greenbrook Sanctuary to the east).

Sweet Gum Spur Trailend

The trail continues heading north crossing over two additional tributary streams before terminating at the Main Trail near Route 9W.

Little-Chism Trailend

Flora

American Beech Forest Haring Rock Trail

Musclewood

Skunk Cabbage Flower Seely Trail

Ground Pine

Fauna

Directions

Tenafly Nature Center is located at 313 Hudson Avenue Tenafly, New Jersey. There is a small parking lot. Click here for directions.

Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! 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.

Exploring Secaucus Mill Creek Marsh!


Welcome to Mill Creek Marsh!

Welcome to the Secaucus Mill Creek Marsh!  Mill Creek, a tributary of the Hackensack River meanders through the marsh. The estimated 209+ acre marsh was purchased from Hartz Mountain Industries in 1996 by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission for preservation purposes.  The marsh was previously slated for a 2,750 unit housing development.

Mill Creek Marsh

Though the marsh had not experienced direct industrial activities, habitat for wildlife was limited. The marsh had layers of fill and consisted of a monoculture of Common Reed which limited tidal inundation. The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission began enhancement of the marsh in 1998. The purpose of the enhancement was to create an intertidal brackish marsh, upland habitat, mudflats and shallow sub-tidal areas. Islands were created from fill in the marsh and were planted with salt tolerant flora such as Spartina (aka Salt Marsh Cordgrass).  Spartina tolerates salt water by excreting excess salt. Two impoundments of Mill Creek  (North/South) were created in addition to re-establishing tidal flow.

Stand of Gray Birch next to Mill Creek Marsh Trail

The term “enhancement “is used rather than “restoration” because there is no evidence to support that an intertidal marsh ecosystem with both mud flats and raised islands ever existed naturally in the meadowlands.

Mill Creek Marsh NYC Background

During the enhancement activities, removal of fill exposed old stumps of Atlantic White Cedar which had been buried for many years. It’s estimated that 1/3 of the Hackensack Meadowlands were once covered in Atlantic White Cedar. The decline of these majestic trees in the meadowlands began in the mid 18th century when the durable Atlantic White Cedar wood was used to make roads and houses. Later, swaths of the cedar forest were burned to eliminate hiding places for pirates. The last of the cedars died out with the completion of the Oradell dam on the Hackensack River which severely slowed the influx of freshwater pouring into the swamp and allowed an influx of saltwater into the marshes.

Atlantic White Cedar Stumps in Mill Creek Marsh

Over a short period of time former freshwater marsh became a brackish estuary.  These stumps are all that is left of the once extensive Atlantic White Cedar forest in the meadowlands.

Mallards, Yellowlegs, Little Blue Heron

While the eco-system is certainly healthier than it was prior to the enhancement, water quality still has a long way to go. The creation of  water channels has allowed for oxygen exchange and greater tidal flushing which has improved water quality. However, coliform bacteria is still present in Mill Creek at elevated levels most likely due to the proximity of a municipal sewage treatment plant near the marsh.  Samples of macro invertebrates taken from Mill Creek primarily consists of pollutant tolerant species which is an indicator that water quality is not as healthy as it could become in the future.

Trail

Mill Creek Marsh Trail Map (Trail in Green)

Mill Creek Marsh Trail

A 1.5 mile handicapped-accessible trail was created during the NJMC enhancement activities at Mill Creek Marsh. The trail traverses both the south and north impoundments and ventures near Least Tern Island (one of the artificially created islands) and consists of a gravel footpath and footbridges. The trail offers a multitude of opportunities to view wildlife. Educational signs have been placed throughout the trail providing information to visitors of Mill Creek Marsh.

Example of Educational Signage found along Mill Creek Marsh Trail

The trail can be walked in a looped fashion around the southern impoundment (for a shorter walk) or in a loop around the northern impoundment (for the full 1.5 miles).

Fauna

Monarch Butterfly

Over 280 bird species have been documented in the NJ Meadowlands. Birds such as Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Black-Crowned Night Heron, American Bittern (a state endangered species), Terns, Tree Swallows and Double-crested Cormorants have all been spotted in Mill Creek Marsh among others. Of special note, a Eurasian Green-winged teal has been seen in Mill Creek Marsh both this year and last.  Black Skimmers make an appearance in the summer.

Little Blue Heron on Ancient White Cedar Stump

Yellowlegs

Fiddler Crabs and different species of fish populate Mill Creek in addition to turtles such as Diamondback Terrapin. Diamondback Terrapin are the only turtles adapted to life in brackish waters.  Muskrats also make their home here.

Flora

Hibiscus

In addition to Common Reed, (which is still present in many locations), Gray Birch, Saltwater Cordgrass, rushes, sedges and other flora flourish in Mill Creek Marsh.

Sunflowers

Mill Creek Marsh

Today the Mill Creek Marsh is an oasis of nature in a sea of overdevelopment. There is no place else that I can think of where you can view ancient stumps of Atlantic White Cedar with the NYC skyline as a backdrop.

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!

Be sure to click here to check out additional great photos of Mill Creek Marsh! (Thanks Hope)

Driving Directions (as stated in the  NYNJ Trail Conference Mill Creek Trail Description)

Take the New Jersey Turnpike to Exit 16W and follow signs for Route 3 East. Cross the bridge over the Hackensack River and follow signs for “Secaucus/New Jersey Turnpike South/Exit Only.” Continue past the Turnpike exit and take the next exit (just beyond the underpass) for “Harmon Meadow Blvd./The Plaza/Mill Creek Mall.” Follow Harmon Meadow Boulevard to the third traffic light (Sam’s Club is on the left) and turn left onto Mill Creek Drive. Cross over the New Jersey Turnpike and continue straight ahead (do not bear left) at a sign for “Mill Creek Mall.” Park on the right, at a sign for “Mill Creek Trail.”

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

Great Books on the Meadowlands

1. The Nature of the Meadowlands – The Nature of the Meadowlands illuminates the region’s natural and unnatural history, from its darkest days of a half-century ago to its amazing environmental revival.

Click here for more information!

2. The Meadowlands: Wilderness Adventures on the Edge of a City – Author Robert Sullivan proves himself to be this fragile yet amazingly resilient region’s perfect expolorer, historian, archaeologist, and comic bard.

Click here for more information!

3. Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story – Slowly but surely, with help from activist groups, government organizations, and ordinary people, the resilient creatures of the Meadowlands are making a comeback, and the wetlands are recovering.

Click here for more information!

4. Fields of Sun and Grass: An Artist’s Journal of the New Jersey Meadowlands – The book has three central parts, respectively called “Yesterday,” “Today,” and “Tomorrow.” Each covers a different time period in the ecological life of the Meadowlands.

Click here for more information!

Hiking West Milford’s Kanouse Mountain!


Kanouse Mountain

The 2011 Pequannock River Coalition Fall Hike took place in West Milford’s Kanouse Mountain located in the Newark Watershed lands. The mountain is part of West Milford’s baker’s dozen-a series of mountains you can hike in West Milford.

Attendees of 2011 PRC Fall Hike near trail entrance off Route 23

The 1,100 foot Kanouse Mountain is located off of Route 23 North near Echo Lake Road in the Newfoundland section of West Milford. Dense woodlands surround the mountain to the north, Echo Lake is to the north east, Kanouse Brook is to the west, the Echo Lake Channel is to the east and Route 23 is to the south and southeast.

Kanouse Brook Tributary

Kanouse Brook has a naturally regenerating trout population and drains into the Pequannock River.

Attendees of the hike parked off of Old Route 23 near the NJ Transit Park & Ride and walked to the entrance of the trail off of Route 23 North near the entering Newfoundland sign.

Entering Newfoundland

The hike took place on unmarked wood roads starting in a northeast direction to the summit of Kanouse Mountain where a large star, American flag and outstanding views were present.

Star on top Kanouse Mountain

US Flag on top of Kanouse Mountain

View of Charlottesburg Reservoir from top of Kanouse Mountain

Views of Route 23

View of Copperas Mountain (Foreground) & Green Pond Mountain (Background)

Charlottesburg Reservoir was formed from the impoundment of the Pequannock River which is given C1 water classification. The C1 classification is used to indicate that the river is relatively unspoiled in comparison to other rivers in NJ.

As with all Pequannock River Coalition Hikes, Ross Kusher (the executive director of PRC) discussed different points of interest along the hike including ecology and geology. This interesting information makes a hike much more than a physical journey. The information provided by Ross’s expertise boosts the strength of your mind as you learn new aspects of your surroundings.

Fall Colors

The geology of Kanouse Mountain and the surrounding highlands is estimated to be between 400-435 million years old and thought to be from the Silurian Period of the Paleozoic Era. Past glacier activity courtesy of the Wisconsin Glacier is evident by gentle slopes on the north side of the mountain and a sudden drop on the south side.  As the Wisconsin glacier moved through the area 10,000 years ago it pushed rocks and carved out hillsides creating this phenomenon present throughout the highlands region.

Small trace amounts of copper have been found alongside the much more abundant iron in the highlands region. It is said that nearby Copperas Mountain was named so because of the copper that was once taken from it.

Coyote Footprint

Occasionally the group came across muddy areas when the trail crossed through wetlands. These muddy spots are prime spots to look for animal prints. Ross pointed out this Eastern Coyote print found in the picture above.

Wood Frog

The group found this Wood Frog near the trail. Though hard to tell from this photo, wood frogs generally look like they have a robber’s mask on due to the dark patch which extends backward from their eye. These frogs are often found in moist wooded areas.

American Chestnut Leaf

American Chestnut saplings were found periodically in the forest. Once a dominant tree in the forest canopy, the Chestnut blight has reduced the tree to the shrub layer. Once the American Chestnut reaches about twenty feet or so the blight strikes and kills it. The tree may die, but the root structure is still alive and sends up new sprouts. The American Chestnut Foundation is working to defeat the blight and restore its former footprint.

Other flora found includes these among others:

Northern Red Oak

Shagbark Hickory

Christmas Fern

Chestnut Oak

Ground Pine

Ross explained that Black Bears love the fruits of Shadbush. He once tasted the berries and compared them to wet cardboard. White Oak Ross said was cherished by wildlife for its sweet acorns.

The hike was an estimated six miles and went in a loop fashion so that attendees came out the same way the came in.  What a great fall hike!

The Pequannock River Coalition holds three hikes a year (Fall, Winter and Spring). They are worth checking out!

Remember, to hike in the Newark Watershed land a permit is required. For more information on  obtaining a Newark watershed permit click here.

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

West Milford’s Apshawa Preserve!


Apshawa Preserve A Passaic County Park

Welcome to the Apshawa Preserve! The 576 acre Apshawa Preserve is located in West Milford in the heart of the NJ Highlands region.

Apshawa Preserve

Apshawa Preserve

The preserve is a cooperative project of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF) and the county of Passaic. Passaic County has owned 501 acres of the preserve after purchasing the land from the Borough of Butler with Green Acres funding in 1971. Public Access to the property was limited until NJCF purchased the adjacent Faustini property in 2002 bringing the total acreage to 576. The property was previously going to be developed and would have fragmented a crucial highlands forest and degraded water quality in nearby High Crest Lake. The Faustini property includes an estimated .93 of an acre pond and rock outcrops.

Apshawa Preserve

The forty acre Butler Reservoir is the centerpiece of the Apshawa Preserve and was formed from the impoundment of the Apshawa Brook which flows from the northwest. Once used for the Borough of Butler’s water supply, the reservoir is now only used during emergency drought situations.

Butler Reservoir in fall

From Butler Reservoir, Apshawa Brook continues south through an old mixing pond and cascades until its confluence with the Pequannock River near Route 23.

Apshawa Brook

Samples of macro invertebrates taken from the Apshawa Brook show healthy populations of Mayflies, Stoneflies and Caddis flies. These species are all pollutant intolerant species.  Macro indicates that the organism can be seen without the aid of a microscope whereas invertebrate indicates that the organism has no backbone. The presence of these pollutant intolerant species indicates the Apshawa Brook’s water quality is very high.  The NJ DEP has classified the stream as Trout Production and labeled the brook with “C1” status which is one of the highest water classifications in NJ.

Apshawa Deer Fence

Passaic County Freeholders Forest Restoration Fence

In December of 2010, The New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF) completed construction of a 16,800 feet (3.2 Mile), 8 feet high wire mesh deer fence on three hundred acres of the Apshawa Preserve. The NJCF states that the Apshawa Preserve is at a “deer tipping point” and that the forest is partially degraded. 18 White-Tailed Deer were observed in the fenced 300 acres during a NJCF sponsored deer drive on December 10, 2010. NJCF states that 18 deer on 300 acres equals to about 40 deer per square mile. A deciduous forest becomes degraded when deer density is greater than 20 deer per square mile.

White-Tailed Deer

White-Tailed Deer

The purpose of the fence is to keep white-tail deer from over-browsing native herbaceous plants & young tree saplings. The fence will be in place for 10 to 15 years. Assessments of native plant populations found both in and out of the fenced areas will be taken on occasion to determine the effectiveness of the fence. According to the NJCF, so much native vegetation has been consumed by the white-tail deer that non-native plants such as Mugwort, Garlic Mustard, Oriental Bittersweet, Japanese Barberry and Japanese Stiltgrass have taken hold in many areas of the forest where native species once flourished. These nonnative plants crowd out beneficial native plants by forming a monoculture which offers few benefits to native wildlife. Seeds of these plants were carried via foot traffic and illegal ATV use.

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

The Pequannock River Coalition (PRC) has called the forest restoration project “the fence that makes no sense” and has stated that the design of the fence impedes travel of other animals such as the state endangered Bobcat and Wood Turtle. PRC published a field review of the Apshawa Preserve and fence on November 22, 2010. The report stated that while deer sign was present in the preserve, the PRC did not encounter any deer during a three mile assessment.  Greenbrier, which becomes scarce in areas where excessive deer browse is excessive, was found abundant in thickets in many areas. The report goes on to state that many young saplings were present indicating that the forest is regenerating. The biggest threat to new growth appears to be the dense canopy of dense shade and not excessive deer browse. The report concluded that several smaller enclosures would be more feasible to manage.

Apshawa Deer Fence Gate

Apshawa Deer Fence Gate

However, NJCF stated that managing many small enclosures is too expensive and that the design of the fence can be modified. The fence was placed tight to the ground in many places which prompted the NJ DEP to state that amphibians and snakes may have difficulties getting through to critical food supplies or breeding grounds with the current design of the fence. To accommodate, sections of the fence have been raised 7 inches high and 12 inches wide every 15-20 feet depending on the terrain. NJCF has stated that the purpose of the fence is to minimize deer presence but acknowledges that it is impossible to keep deer completely out. The PRC stated that studies have proved that hungry deer have been shown to squeeze in areas 7 inches high and 12 inches wide.

Deer Fence Animal Crossing Apshawa Preserve

Deer Fence Animal Crossing Apshawa Preserve

Other methods to ease animal crossing include old snags (dead trees) placed over the top of the fence (seen in the picture above) to help animals such as Bobcats to cross over to the other side.

Black Bears have made a habit of breaking through sections of fence to get to the other side. The NJCF studied areas of high Black Bear traffic in the preserve and placed strategic “Bear Ladders” to aid in their crossing.

Bear Climb

Bear Climb

Under NJ law, almost all land modifications where there are stream corridors are governed by N.J.A.C. 7:13 aka the flood hazard control act. Fences are only exempted from this act if they are located outside of a floodway and if the fence is not designed in a way that will catch debris in a flood.

Stream Crossing Chains

Stream Crossing Chains

The NJCF responded by placing heavy chains at the bottom of the fence to prevent debris from catching and permitting the flow of water. It is hoped that if White-Tail Deer feel the heavy chains on their heads they will turn around.

Trails

Apshawa Hike 5.29.11 and 6.21.11

There are almost 7 miles of blazed trails to be explored in the Apshawa Preserve.  These trails were created with the assistance of volunteers and funding was provided through the National Recreation Trails Program.  All trails are accessible from the white trail whose trailhead may be found in the Apshawa Preserve parking lot. Be sure to stay on the marked trails as there are unmarked trails throughout the preserve. There are signs posted letting you know if you are going to stray from the marked trail.

Leaving Trail System

While it is possible to hike (if you start early in the day) the entire preserve in one trip, I find it best to explore the Apshawa Preserve over two separate trips. The best introduction to the Apshawa Preserve is to hike the northern section of the Apshawa Preserve to the scenic Butler Reservoir.  Start by taking part of the 2 mile white trail from the parking lot.

White Trail trailhead

The white trail heads northwest and goes through a swamp and traverses to a ridge top providing excellent views of the Butler Reservoir.

One of the views from White Trail

After stopping here for a look at the surrounding highlands, follow the white trail down to shore of Butler Reservoir and look to the left for the start of the 1.25 mile red trail.

Red Trail Trailhead

The red trail traverses along the western shore of Butler Reservoir and crosses over tributaries of the Apshawa Brook located to the northwest of Butler Reservoir. Once the trail passes over the tributaries, the trail heads east to once again meet with the white trail which traverses the northern section of the Butler Reservoir.  Continuing to head east, the white trail meets the .5 of a mile yellow trail which encircles an 8 acre pond.

Yellow Trail with Pond

However, I found most of the yellow trail was under water due to Beaver activity when I visited in May 2011. I spoke to a NJCF representative regarding the condition of the yellow trail and was told that a possible reroute may be possible for the future.

Yellow Trail Closed due to Beaver

Yellow Trail Closed due to Beaver

As of June 2013 the Yellow Trail is closed due to Beaver Activity. Continuing on our virtual tour: Heading west away from the flooded area, the yellow trail connects to the white trail and goes southwest and then east to the parking lot.

The second hike explores the southern portion of the preserve via the 3 mile green trail.

Green Trail

The green trail is the longest trail created in the Apshawa Preserve. From the white trail, the green trail heads south and passes a historic mixing pond and interesting ruins from the time when this property was watershed land for the Borough of Butler.

Dam at Historic Mixing Pond on Green Trail

Ruins on Green Trail

The trail continues northwest and does a switchback climb. There are scenic views here of adjacent protected Newark watershed land which looks great in any season but looks absolutely spectacular in the fall.

View on Green Trail

From here, the green trail continues north until it reaches Butler Reservoir and the red trail. Follow the red trail east and north until you connect back to the white trail. Take the white trail east and southwest back to the parking area.

Flora:

The Apshawa Preserve consists primarily of a oak-sugar maple forest. Before the Chestnut blight, American Chestnut was likely abundant. Saplings of American Chestnut still occur.

American Chestnut

Today there are new threats facing the eastern forest. The Emerald Ash Borer threatens all Ash trees. Purple boxes have been hung in the preserve and throughout New Jersey to detect for the presence of this destructive pest from Asia. The mature emerald ash borer does not pose a threat. It is the larva of these borers which eat away at the heartwood. The color purple attracts the emerald ash borer. Once the insect lands on the box they become trapped on the sticky surface. So far as of the summer of 2011, the emerald ash has not been identified in NJ.

Emerald Ash Borer Detection Survey Tool

Other flora found include:

Mayapple

Clubmoss under Mountain Laurel Shrub

False Hellebore

Jack in the Pulpit

Sensitive Fern

Sessile Bellwort

Pale Corydalis

Pale Corydalis

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!

Fauna includes the below among others:

Fowler’s Toad

Garter Snake

Fox Tracks

Click here for directions and a description of the Apshawa Preserve by the NJ Conservation Foundation.

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

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