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Exploring the Wanaque River Watershed!


Pequannock River Coalition Preserving the Future

Pequannock River Coalition Preserving the Future

Welcome to the Pequannock River Coalition’s 2013 Spring Hike! 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) since 1995.

Ross Kushner Executive Director Pequannock River Coalition

Ross Kushner Executive Director Pequannock River Coalition

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

Today we are going to explore four miles of the watershed of the C1 classified Wanaque River, a tributary to the Pequannock River.

PRC Spring Hike 4.14.13

PRC Spring Hike 4.14.13

Right now we are at the parking lot on Beech Road in Ringwood, NJ just east of Monksville Reservoir.

Monksville Reservoir

Monksville Reservoir

Ross begins by explaining that the Monksville Reservoir was created in 1987 by impounding the  2.8 mile Wanaque River and the .4 mile Beech Brook (a Wanaque River tributary). The land comprising Monksville Reservoir was formerly a river valley. Dead Trees (snags) still poke through the water where dry land once existed.

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Looking out at the reservoir a large white bird has caught Ross’s attention. The bird is a Mute Swan, he explains. Mute Swans originated from Europe and are not native to the US. The Mute Swan, according to legend, is silent all its life until right before it dies where the bird sings an achingly beautiful melody known as a “Swan Song“. The real story is Mute Swans are not mute but actually make a deep grunting territorial sound.  Click here to hear a Mute Swan for yourself!

Gray Birch

Gray Birch

Standing near the reservoir Ross points to a stand of Gray Birch Trees across the water. Gray Birch is a pioneer species that is one of the first trees to grow following a disturbance and can be found growing on poor soils. Ross says we’ll see two additional species of Birch on the hike. Let’s begin!

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

As we walk  a Tree Swallow is seen flying erratically over the water. Tree Swallows prefer inland wetland ecosystems and are among the first in the American Swallow family to migrate back after winter. You can hear a Tree Swallow Sing by clicking here!

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

A second after seeing the Tree Swallow a Red-Winged Blackbird makes its presence known. Red-Winged Blackbirds are usually found in wetlands such as those found in the intact woodlands surrounding Monksville Reservoir. Click here to hear a Red-Winged Blackbird!

Beaver Lodge

Beaver Lodge

Near the northern edge of the reservoir Ross points out an active Beaver Lodge to us.  A beaver lodge is the home of the American Beaver and is created from sticks, mud and rocks. A small opening at the top of the lodge provides air.

Pileated Woodpecker Holes

Pileated Woodpecker Holes

As we walk closer to the woods we stop in front of an old Eastern Hemlock tree which has been punctured with large rectangular holes. The holes were created by a Pileated Woodpecker looking for one of their favorite foods: Carpenter Ants. Pileated Woodpeckers are North America’s largest living woodpecker and provided the model for the famous cartoon Woody Woodpecker. Their habitat is large mature forest such as the woods which surround Monksville Reservoir. Click here to hear a Pileated Woodpecker!

Tranqulity Ridge Passaic County Park System

Tranqulity Ridge Passaic County Park System

At the end of Beech Road, we find ourselves at the entrance to Tranquility Ridge County Park  (part of the Passaic County Park System).

Preserve in Natural State sign with Monks Connector Trail

The 2,100 acre Tranquility Ridge County Park is an extension of New York’s Sterling Forest found just north of where we are now.

End of Monks Connector

End of Monks Connector

Entering the park we are now near the end of the green-blazed Monk’s Connector trail which connects to nearby Monk’s Mountain (part of Long Pond Ironworks State Park) with Tranquility Ridge County Park.

Yellow Birch

Yellow Birch

Barely inside Tranquility Ridge County Park, Ross has spotted our second birch: Yellow Birch. Yellow Birch prefers to grow near streams & wetlands. The tree’s characteristic peeling bark is visible to all. The hairy looking vine growing on the Yellow Birch is Poison Ivy.

Yellow Birch Wolf Tree

Yellow Birch Wolf Tree

Ross spots a massive tree in the distance branching out in all directions and surrounded by young trees. Ross explains that trees can only grow sideways or to the top but can’t do both.  This “lone wolf” tree will eventually be crowded out by the young trees competing for sunlight.

On Hasenclever Iron Trail

On Hasenclever Iron Trail

We are now turning left on the Hasenclever Iron Trail. The creation of the six mile Hasenclever Iron Trail was first conceived in 2001 by the Friends of Long Pond Ironworks.  The Hasenclever Iron Trail follows an old Woods Road which dates from the 1760’s. The road connected Long Pond Ironworks with ironworks located in Ringwood.  The Friends of Long Pond Ironworks installed nine interpretive signs  along the trail in 2007. The installation was funded with a grant from the NJ Recreation Trails Program. We’ll be passing by historical signs #’s 4 through 1 today.

Beech Brook Tributary

Beech Brook Tributary

After we cross a tributary to Beech Brook Ross tells us that Beech Brook contains a naturally occurring population of Brook Trout. We have now entered the 6,911 acre Long Pond Iron Works State Park.

Beech Farm Information

Beech Farm Information

We have just passed an unmarked trail to our right and historical marker #4. Marker #4 tells us that the unmarked trail leads to Beech farm which has long been abandoned.

Wild Turkey Sign

Wild Turkey Sign

As we walk Ross points out dirt patches in the leaf litter on the ground. This was caused by Wild Turkeys looking for food.

Turkey Feather

Turkey Feather

A turkey feather has just been found in the litter. Given all this Turkey sign Ross takes out a device which makes a female turkey sound that hunters use to attract the male turkeys (toms). Ross used the device but the Turkeys have moved on for now and we do not see any.

Ross Kushner with Turkey Call

Ross Kushner with Turkey Call

Ross strongly recommended not to play the device during Wild Turkey hunting season. Want to hear what a Wild Turkey sounds like? Click here to hear!

Ross Kushner Squirrel Markings

Ross Kushner Squirrel Markings

Ross has stopped at another Eastern Hemlock and says this tree has been designated a “marking tree” by an Eastern Gray Squirrel. Squirrels rub the glands found under their chin on trees as a sign of territory to other squirrels in the other area.

Edward Hewitt Interpretive Signage

Edward Hewitt Interpretive Signage

We are now at historical marker #3 which describes Edward Hewitt, who was a member of the last family to own most of Ringwood State Park before it became state land. The Hewitt family also owned hunting and fishing camps which were built in the area we are now standing.

Ross Kushner discussing invasive Plants

Ross Kushner discussing invasive plants

This hike is taking place in early spring and the only plants we see blooming are invasive species like Japanese Barberry and Winged Euonymus (aka Burning Bush) both of which thrive in disturbed areas. Ross explains that invasive species are non-native species which lack natural predation to control their spread. As a result invasive plants crowd out native plants by forming a monoculture.

Limestone Interpretive Signage

Limestone Interpretive Signage

We’ve now at historical marker #2 which describes the role of limestone in iron making. Limestone was crushed and added to iron furnaces with iron ore where it acted as a fluxing agent to separate impurities from iron.

Ross Kushner Black Birch

Ross Kushner Black Birch

Ross has just found our third and final species of Birch: Black Birch. Black Birch twigs and bark have a strong scent of wintergreen when scraped. Ross is scraping away some the bark of a Black Birch to take a whiff. Wintergreen oil was derived from Black Birch for commercial purposes in the past.

Shagbark Hickory Grape Vine

Shagbark Hickory Grape Vine

Ross has stopped in front of an old Shagbark Hickory with an old Grape Vine wrapped around it.  Only mature Shagbark Hickories (such as the one we are looking at here) have actual “shagbark”. Young trees have smooth bark. The grape vine wrapped around the Shagbark Hickory is probably as old as the tree itself. Grape Vines prefers to grow where sunshine is plentiful and prefers forest edge habitat.

Rock Outcroppings

Rock Outcroppings

The rock outcroppings we are passing to our right are part of Big Beech Mountain which is one of the NJ Highlands “Baker’s Dozen”.

After a brief climb on the Hasenclever trail we pass near wetlands to our right.

Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage

The green leaves of Skunk Cabbage are starting to poke through. Skunk Cabbage is one of the first native flowering plants and generates heat to poke through ice and snow. It generally blooms in February. Skunk Cabbage earns its name due to a foul odor emitted by torn leaves.

Hasenclever Iron Trail #1 Interpretive Signage

Hasenclever Iron Trail #1 Interpretive Signage

We’ve just reached historical marker #1 on the Hasenclever Iron Trail. This is the last marker we will see today. This marker describes Long Pond Village, a long ago industrial village that supported the nearby Long Pond Ironworks.

Wanaque River

Wanaque River

We are now approaching the Wanaque River. The word “Wanaque” is Native American for “place of the Sassafras Tree”. A good portion of the length of the Wanaque River is impounded to form the Monksville and Wanaque Reservoirs.  Ross tells us that a bridge used to cross the Wanaque River to the old Long Pond Ironworks but was washed away when Hurricane Irene struck in 2011. The NYNJ Trail Conference is planning to rebuild the bridge in 2013.

Sterling Ridge Trail Blaze

Sterling Ridge Trail Blaze

We have now left the Hasenclever Iron trail and are turning north on the joint Sterling Ridge/Highlands Trail. The Blue-on-white 8.6 mile Sterling Ridge Trail leads to Sterling Forest State Park in New York if we kept going straight. Don’t worry! Ross has no plans to take us out of New Jersey today.

Highlands Trail Blaze

Highlands Trail Blaze

We are also sharing the same path with a section of the estimate 45 mile long interstate Highlands Trail.  The Highlands Trail is a project by the NYNJ Trail Conference which highlights the unique characteristics of the Highlands region. The Highlands Trail is still a work in progress.

Tributary

Tributary

We are now following a tributary of the Wanaque River.

Eastern Hemlocks

Eastern Hemlocks

We have stopped just as we enter a cool ravine. Eastern Hemlocks favor this habitat. Indeed, Eastern Hemlocks are all around us!

Ross Kushner Iron Slag

Ross Kushner Iron Slag

What is Ross holding in his hand? It’s an old piece of iron slag left over from the iron making operations that took place here over a hundred years ago.

Wanaque River

Wanaque River

We are heading briefly off the marked trail and walking towards the Wanaque River. The segment of the Wanaque River seen here is draining Greenwood Lake. What a great spot for lunch! After resting we continue to walk leaving the Wanaque River and following a tributary stream.

Tributary Stream Crossing

Tributary Stream Crossing

Crossing the tributary on rocks we pass the Yellow Blazed Jennings Hollow Trailhead to our left and are now stopped at the base of a Tulip Tree.

Tulip Poplar

Tulip Poplar

Tulip Trees grow straight and narrow with fissured bark. The tree’s leaves actually look like Tulip Flowers! It flowers in Mid-May to early June.

Woods Road

Woods Road

We are now walking northeast on an unblazed woods road. This is the same woods road we passed to our right when we first started out on the Hasenclever Iron Trail.

Patterson Mine

Patterson Mine

As we walk, we pass a deep impression in the ground to our left. The impression is a remnant of the Patterson Mine.  The Patterson Mine last saw operation at the end of the 1800’s. Ore from the Patterson Mine was sold to the local market or supplied ironworks found in the area.

Abandoned Motorcyle

Abandoned Motorcyle

Check out the abandoned motorcycle to our right! It’s pretty old but it is still standing.

Vernal Pond

Vernal Pond

Off to the left of the woods road is a vernal pond.  Vernal ponds are temporary pools of water that are free of fish and provide valuable areas for amphibians such as Wood Frogs to lay eggs. Wood Frogs are found further north than any other species of frog. Ross explains that the theory is this: water found in cells will expand to the point of explosion when frozen. Wood frogs have found a way to move water molecules outside their cells when they get frozen to prevent this from happening.

Red Velvet Mite

Red Velvet Mite

We’ve just turned right on another unmarked trail following Beech Brook to our right. Ross suddenly stops. He’s found a Red Velvet Mite!  Red Velvet Mites live in the soil and eat fungi and bacteria. Red Velvet Mites are harmless to humans and are part of the arachnid family (the same family spiders belong to).

Well, we’ve arrived back at the gate and back at our cars! What a great hike!

Monksville Reservoir Near the Parking Lot

Monksville Reservoir Near the Parking Lot

Want to check out this hike for yourself? Here are the directions to the parking lot where the hike begins!

Take exit 57 on Rt. 287 to Skyline Drive. Follow Skyline 5 miles north to Greenwood Lake Turnpike. Make a right there onto Greenwood Lake Turnpike and follow it about 4 miles to a right on Beech Road. Look for a gravel parking area at the reservoir on the left.

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!

Don’t miss The Highlands: Critical Resources, Treasured Landscapes! The Highlands exemplifies why protection of New Jersey’s Highlands is so important for the future of the state. It is an essential read on the multiple resources of the region.

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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Little Ferry’s Losen Slote Creek Park!


Losen Slote Creek Park

Welcome to the 28 acre Losen Slote Creek Park! The Park is located in Little Ferry, NJ and contains 26 acres of woodland and meadows. 2 acres are dedicated to recreation.

Losen Slote Creek Park Boundaries

The park, named for the creek which flows through it, was created in 1990 by an agreement with the Borough of Little Ferry and the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC). The NJMC has a 99 year lease agreement with Little Ferry for public access. Losen Slote Creek Park has the Little Ferry Department of Public Works to the north, the Bergen County Utilities Authority Nature Preserve to the east, Losen Slote on its western border and the Richard P Kane Natural Area to the south.

Losen Slote Creek Park

Habitat found in the preserve includes forested freshwater wetlands, meadows and a portion of the Losen Slote Creek, a major tributary of the lower Hackensack River watershed. The name “Losen Slote” is of Dutch origin and translates to “curvy creek”. As such, the name of the park translates to “Curvy Creek Creek Park”. 🙂

Losen Slote

Losen Slote is not influenced by tidal waters because of a tide gate that is present near Losen Slote’s confluence with the Hackensack River. The tide gate was installed by the Bergen County Mosquito Authority around 1921. Losen Slote has been labeled by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection as “FW2-NT/SE2”. This classification indicates that these waters do not contain trout (NT=No Trout) and are a mixture of fresh and salt water.

May 6, 2012 NJMC & Bergen County Audubon Society Tour

Birders in Losen Slote Creek Park

The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) (now known as the NJ Sports and Exposition Authority) & the Bergen County Audubon Society led a 1.5 mile 2 hour tour of Losen Slote Creek Park on May 6, 2012 to look for migrating birds and other wildlife.

The trail map of Losen Slote along with the color blazed trail map is shown below:

Losen Slote Creek Park Trail Map

Losen Slote Creek Park Trail Map

Jim Wright formerly of the previously named New Jersey Meadowlands Commission  informed the group of the different habitats found in the park before the tour began.

I was happy to attend because it provided a chance to explore & undertake a deeper understanding of the flora & fauna that can be found in Bergen County’s sole remaining lowland forest.

Losen Slote Creek Park Wet Meadow Habitat

After the group assembled in the parking lot, we stopped near the entrance to the forest by a wet meadow where Solitary Sandpipers and Greater Yellowlegs were poking around. Most attendees commented that they had never seen so many Solitary Sandpipers gathered in one spot before.

Losen Slote Creek Park Trail

After entering the forest, the group almost immediately spotted a Baltimore Oriole and at least 2 Scarlet Tanagers high in the trees (and too high for me to get a picture). I did get a picture of a Gray Catbird who was singing a territory song.

Gray Catbird

Soon after I took the picture of the catbird, a splash was heard in a nearby ditch as a Muskrat made a quick getaway which I caught on camera as a blur.

Blurry Muskrat

As we traveled further into the woods, a good amount of native flora was present:

Don Torino of the Bergen County Audubon Society with Mayapple in Bloom

Arrowwood

Black Cherry In Bloom

Sweet Pepperbush

Canada Mayflower In Bloom

Cinnamon Fern

Gray Birch became the dominant species as the group came into the meadows portion of the preserve.

Gray Birch

Reaching the creek turtles were spotted basking on a rock and a surprised Great Blue Heron flew away before I could get its picture.

Turtles on a rock in the Losen Slote

As we got into the meadows there were plenty of butterflies (especially the Red Admiral) flying around.

Losen Slote Creek Park Field Habitat

A Brown Thrasher was waiting for the group in the meadows and put on quite a show.

Brown Thrasher

Heading in, Raccoon tracks were found in the mud on parts of the trail.

The group did notice some Mile-A-Minute, an invasive plant which had sections eaten by insects which  were released in the park to control Mile-A-Minute from taking over.

Mile-a-Minute Insect Holes

Reaching near the end of the trail, the group turned back to the forest and to the parking lot where the tour concluded.

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!

Losen Slote

Many thanks to the NJMC & Bergen County Audubon Society for hosting an excellent walk! Check out the Meadowlands Blog or the Bergen County Audubon Society’s webpage for information regarding future events!

Click here for directions to Losen Slote Creek Park!

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

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!

Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve!


Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve

Welcome to a virtual tour of the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve!

Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve

The 147 acre preserve consists of three bodies of water (lagoon, upper lake and lower pond) deciduous wooded wetlands and wooded upland habitat. The Borough of Franklin Lakes purchased the land in 2006 from the Borough of Haledon for $6.5 million using funding from Green Acres and the Bergen County Open Space Fund. The preserve was open to the public in June of 2011.

Upper Lake

The 75 acre Upper Lake is the centerpiece of the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve and is an extremely popular fishing spot. The Upper Lake, created from the impoundment of the Molly Ann Brook in 1919, provided water to Haledon, North Haledon and Prospect Park. The Molly Ann Brook is the last tributary of the Passaic River before the Great Falls in Paterson.

Trails

Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve Trail Map

The Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve features 2 primary hiking trails. Access is available from Ewing Avenue, a small parking lot off of High Mountain Road and from nearby High Mountain Park Preserve’s Red Trail via Reservoir Drive and crossing High Mountain Road.

Shoreline Loop Trail

The main trail is the 1.5 mile white blazed Shoreline Loop Trail which encircles the entire Upper Lake and Lagoon.

Shoreline Loop Trailhead on Upper Lake Dam

Starting from the parking area, the trail heads over the dam separating the Upper Lake from the small pond to the south. The trail follows alongside the Upper Lake and near High Mountain Road and Ewing Avenue.

Island Bridges Trail

The western portion of the Island Bridges Trail is accessible near where the Shoreline Loop Trail passes by Waterview Drive.

High Mountain as seen from the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve

Beautiful views of the Upper Lake with High Mountain visible can be seen from this area. After exploring the western section of the Island Bridges Trail (the Island Bridges Trail is about a half a mile in length) head back to the  Shoreline Loop  trail which will briefly exit the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve near an outflow from a neighboring swamp (you can also continue via two floating bridges on the Island Bridges Trail to continue to the eastern side of the Shoreline Loop Trail skipping the entire northern section).

Backwater Lagoon crossing

Backwater Lagoon crossing

Once the Shoreline Loop Trail enters back into the preserve, the trail crosses backwater of the lagoon.

Molly Ann Brook Crossing

Molly Ann Brook Crossing

Continuing on the trail you will cross the Molly Ann Brook over a wooden bridge. Frogs can be heard (and sometimes seen) splashing into the water here during the warmer months.

From here, the Shoreline Loop Trail heads east near a church and near the High Mountain Golf Club (2014 update: High Mountain Golf Club has been sold and will soon be a housing development) which is visible through the trees.

High Mountain Golf Course

Along the way, the trail comes across a basalt beach.

Basalt Beach

Basalt was  formed when molten lava extruded out of the earth’s surface and cooled rapidly. Basalt is found in nearby High Mountain Park Preserve which is situated on the 2nd Watchung Mountain. Once past the basalt beach, the trail turns south. The eastern section of the Island Bridges Trail is accessible from this point.

Island Bridges Trail

Island Bridges Trail (East)

After exploring the eastern section of the Island Bridges Trail, head back to the Shoreline Loop trail and continue south until the trail terminates near a picnic area in a pine grove near where the trail began. 2014 Update: Please Note that new Accessible Trails have been constructed in this area and intersect with Shoreline Loop Trail. The Accessible Trails will remain unblazed and are not currently maintained by the NYNJ Trail Conference.

Preserve Shoreline Loop Trailend

NYNJ Trail Conference has blazed and will maintain both the Shoreline Loop and Island Bridges Trails.  A trail map of the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve is available on the NYNJ Trail Conference website here.

Flora

Flora found at the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve includes the below among others:

American Beech

Gray Birch

Paper Birch

Skunk Cabbage

Trout Lily

Fauna

Fauna that I’ve spotted at the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve includes:

Palm Warbler

Canada Goose

Canada Goose Eggs

American Robin

Tufted Titmouse

Cedar Waxwing

Eastern Chipmunk

Directions

This preserve is a great place to explore and just relax. Directions are listed below (as taken from the NYNJ Trail Conference Website)

Take N.J. Route 208 to the Ewing Avenue exit in Franklin Lakes. Turn left at the end of the ramp (if coming from the west, turn right) and continue for about two miles until Ewing Avenue ends at High Mountain Road. Turn left onto High Mountain Road and continue past a lake and a smaller pond on the left. In 0.5 mile, at the end of the smaller pond, you will see a small brown sign for the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve on the left. Turn left into a driveway, passing old reservoir buildings on the right, then turn left again at a sign for parking and continue to a parking area just below the dam.

Note: Part of the preserve, including the entrance and parking, is in North Haledon (Passaic County). The address for the preserve is 1196 High Mountain Road, North Haledon, N.J. 07508

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

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!

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

Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge Wood Duck Nature Trail!


Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge Wood Duck Nature Trail

Welcome to the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge Wood Duck Nature Trail!

Kiosk at Entrance to Wood Duck Nature Trail

The estimated 3.5 mile Wood Duck Nature Trail is part of the 5,000 + acre Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge, located about 60 miles northwest of New York City, was established in 1990 along a nine mile stretch of the river in the northeastern section of Sussex County, New Jersey (in Wantage, Hardyston, and Vernon) and  in southern Orange County New York (in Minisink and Warwick).

Wood Duck Nature Trail

The trail, which opened in October of 1997, follows the path of the former New York Susquehanna and Western Railroad. This particular section of the railroad was created in 1872 and abandoned in 1958.  Most of the railroad infrastructure was removed when the line was abandoned but reminders such as moss covered railroad ties can still be found.

Old Railroad Tie

The trail was constructed by hard working dedicated volunteers and named after the Wood Duck, which may be found in the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge.

Wood Duck

The trail is flat and makes for very easy walking.

Benches & Interpretive Signage Wood Duck Nature Trail

Interpretive signage has been strategically placed throughout the trail informing visitors of the surrounding habitat and its residents.

Wood Duck Interpretive Signage

Beaver Interpretive Signage

In addition to the interpretive nature signs, there are plenty of benches and even a wildlife viewing blind.

Wildlife Viewing Blind

The trail features footbridges over Wallkill River tributaries such as Beaver Run.

Foot Bridge over Beaver Run

Habitats found along the way include red maple dominated swamps located near the beginning of the trail.

Red Maple

Red Maple is one of the most abundant native trees found in eastern North America.  It is common in swampy slow draining flats and along small sluggish streams. These habitats can be found throughout the Wood Duck Nature Trail.

This out and back trail runs for about 1.75 miles before it ends at the Wallkill River. Out and back trails always provide the opportunity to see additional wildlife or scenery you might have missed heading in. Future plans for the Wood Duck Nature Trail include a foot bridge over the Wallkill River and extending the trail by another .75 of a mile.

Wallkill River

Wallkill River

The Wallkill River, a tributary of the Hudson River, begins by draining Lake Mohawk in Sparta, New Jersey and flows about 88 miles northeast through a wide glacial valley  between the Kittatinny Mountains to the west and the Hudson Highlands to the east. The river is unusual for flowing north in between the south flowing Hudson and Delaware rivers.

Beaver Run as seen from footbridge

The Wallkill River and Beaver Run are labeled FW2-NT. (Fresh Water, Non-Trout).  Water with this classification are generally not suitable for trout because of physical, chemical or biological characteristics but may be suitable for a wide variety of other fish.

Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge Habitat

The Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge contains one of the last large areas of high quality waterfowl habitat left in northwestern New Jersey.  The refuge contains emergent marshes, vernal pools, wet meadows and forested wetlands surrounded by oak covered limestone ridges paralleling the Wallkill River.

Endangered Species

The Bog Turtle Recovery Plan (USFWS 2001) has identified the Wallkill River watershed as a recovery subunit making the refuge one of only two national wildlife refuges that supports the endangered Bog Turtle.

Bog Turtle

Bog Turtle

Measuring in at only 3-3.9 inches, the Bog Turtle is one of the smallest and secretive of North America’s turtle population.  Habitat suiting the bog turtle includes calcareous (limestone) fens and wet, grassy pastures which are all found within the Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge.

Wet Meadows

Just like the interpretive signs of wildlife picture listed below (and found on the Wood Duck Nature Trail), you don’t have to necessarily see physical animals to know they are present.

Signs of Wildlife Interpretive Sign

Animals and birds leave tracks and other signs that they have been in the area.

Wallkill River Wood Duck Nature Trail

Given that there are an estimated 40 species of animals living in the Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge, you are bound to come across some clue to key in on what species has been poking around. Animals documented include the following among others:

More than 225 species of birds have been documented in the refuge.  Birds documented include these among many others:

During my last visit, I heard a Red-Tail Hawk and observed White Breasted Nuthatches and a Blue Jay.

Blue Jay

Common amphibians and reptiles found in the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge include Redback Salamander, Spring Peeper, Eastern Garter Snake and Snapping Turtle.

Flora found in and around the Wood Duck Nature Trail includes:

Young Eastern Red Cedar

Gray Birch

American Sycamore

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!

The Wood Duck Nature Trail trailhead is located on Route 565 in Wantage, New Jersey, approximately 200 yards north of Route 23 near the Sussex Queen Diner on Route 23 North. There is a small parking lot available right outside the Wood Duck Nature Trail trailhead.

Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge Wood Duck Nature Trail

The refuge contains three other hiking trails in addition to the Wood Duck Nature Trail providing visitors to experience the refuge in and out. If you are in the area, be sure to check it out!

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!

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!

Phelps Park Arboretum!


Phelps Park

Teaneck’s Phelps Park is a beautiful manicured 15.71 acre urban park that many consider to be one of the finest jewels in the Teaneck park system.  The park boasts many fine amenities typical of urban parks such as baseball fields, basketball and tennis courts, picnic area and a swimming pool. But the feature that stands out is the 1 acre Arboretum. Phelps Park is the only park in Teaneck’s park system to feature an Arboretum.

Arboretum Area

This section of the park (located in the most northern section of the park near River Road) was designated an Arboretum in 2002. The Arboretum features an estimated 150 trees. Most of the trees consist of varieties of Oak such as Red Oak, Scarlet Oak, and White Oak.  Other trees include:

Gray Birch

Many trees have labels on them (most are placed high on the trees) with the common and scientific name of the tree.

Black Cherry

A small estimated .46 of an acre south of the Aboretum is remnant wetlands, which is most unusual to find in an urban park.  At one time a stream flowed through this area on the way to the Hackensack River.

Phelps park is heavily used by FDU students (FDU is located right across the street from the park) and local residents but is worth a look for those interested in a museum of trees.

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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