Welcome! After a long hiatus, NJUrbanForest.com is proud to be back with a new hike to virtually explore! Today’s hike will take us deep into southwest Florida’s Fakahatchee Strand Preserve via the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk. I hope you got your binoculars with you because this boardwalk is chock full of flora and fauna goodness!
Before we begin you may be wondering what in the world is a strand? A strand is generally shallow and has formed where the underlying limestone dissolved. The most common trees found are Bald Cypress, Royal Palm and Red Maple. Within the strand are numerous sloughs which are deeper channels of water. The Fakahatchee Strand is one of the most ecologically rich areas found in the greater Everglades ecosystem.
The Fakahatchee Strand is the world’s largest subtropical strand stretching around 20 miles long and about five miles wide and is the only one with a mixed Royal Palm and Cypress canopy. The park is the largest state park in Florida and contains more native orchids than any other area found in North America. This is why the nickname of the Fakahatchee Strand is the Orchid Swamp.
There are four sections in the park:
Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk
The East River
The Jones Grade Lakes
Janes Memorial Drive
The Fakatchee Strand was harvested for its cypress for ten years stretching from 1944-1954 with the exception of the portion we will explore today. The former logging site was then turned into a state park.
Birds, mammals and reptiles common to the Fakahatchee Stand include:
Ready? Let’s go! As we walk along there are interpretive signs indicating the flora and fauna found in the Fakahatchee Strand. The trail from the parking lot to the boardwalk is about 856 feet long. The actual boardwalk is 2,300 feet or about .6 of a mile. The boardwalk ends at an observation deck at an alligator pond.
Here we have come across a Laurel Oak. The Laurel Oak’s native habitat includes swamps and wet hammocks. The tree can reach heights of 100 feet. In Florida, many homeowners use this tree for their yards.
Next we have a Live Oak. The Live Oak grows to about a maximum of fifty feet in height. The Live Oak’s acorns are popular with wildlife.
A blur of white appears to the side as we walk the boardwalk. Check out the beak on this bird! It’s a Great Egret. In the early 1900’s the Great Egret was pushed to the edge of extinction due to the high demand for its feathers for women’s hats. This of course was before the Migratory Bird Act of 1918.
As we walk along a huge old-growth Bald Cypress is being attacked by something. That something is a Strangler Fig. The Strangler Fig reminds me of sculptures found in the movie Beetlejuice. The tree starts life as an air plant (aka epiphyte). Once the roots of the Strangler Fig touch the ground the plant is no longer an epiphyte but is now considered a terrestrial plant. Strangler Figs can reach heights of 50-60 feet.
Royal Palm is found here. The tree is native to southern Florida and is commonly planted. But here it is wild and not planted.
A Limpkin is around the corner but appears a tad blurry. I thought I just got my eyes checked? You won’t find Limpkins up north. In fact, Florida is the only state in the United States with a Limpkin population.
As we walk along there are beautiful Iris in full bloom.
As we walk looking at the Iris flowers and other vegetation we spot something that at first looks like rope. This snake means us no harm and we keep walking.
We see many dead trees as we walk. Dead trees (aka snags) serve a valuable purpose. Insects consume the tree which provide food for a variety of birds. Woodpeckers make holes which serve their young and later provide shelter for animals such as the raccoon.
Splash! A River Otter makes a surprise appearance. What an honor to meet its acquaintance before it slips beneath the water.
Next we come across a hungry River Cooter who is eating non-stop. River Cooters eat anything it finds. It’s not picky! Let’s keep going!
Check out this guy. It is a Cormorant aka fish hawk. There must be a lot of fish in these waters to keep seeing birds like the Great Egret and this guy.
Nice! We have come across Wild Coffee. Wild Coffee is evergreen and grows to a maximum of eight feet in height. The seeds resemble coffee (hence its name) but is not actually used for coffee.
And here is the star of today’s walk: an American Alligator. I think we will keep on moving and leave this guy to his day.
There are many types of ferns as we walk on the boardwalk. Among them include:
From Naples, drive 17.1 miles east from the intersection of CR 951 (Collier Blvd) along US 41 (Tamiami Trail), passing Collier-Seminole State Park and Port of the Isles. There is a very large sign on the right, but parking is in a small space to the left. Do not block the gate to the Miccosukee Village. From the east, the boardwalk is 6.9 miles west of the blinker at the intersection of US 41 and SR 27 near Everglades City, which is 17 miles south of the I-75 Everglades City / Immokalee exit.
Check out the books below for more information on Florida’s swamps!
Teaneck Creek Conservancy (TCC) is a 46 acre urban forested wetland located in Teaneck, NJ. The park is bordered to the north by Fycke Lane, DeGraw Avenue to the south, Teaneck Road to the west and Teaneck Creek to the east. The park is owned by Bergen County and managed by the Teaneck Creek Conservancy.
Teaneck Creek Conservancy
TCC was founded in 2001 by the Puffin Foundation after red survey flags were found on the woodland in back of the building at 20 Puffin Way in Teaneck, NJ. After discovering that the property was owned by the County of Bergen, TCC signed a long term licensing agreement with the county to allow it to develop the property into a park. The conservancy applied and received $500,000 from NJ Green Acres, $450,000 from Bergen County Parks Department and Open Space Trust Fund, $50,000 from the Puffin Foundation and $300,000 from the NJ Wetlands Mitigation Council to form trails, site improvements and wetland hydrology analysis. Teaneck Creek Conservancy became part of Bergen County’s Overpeck Park in July of 2004 and opened up to the public on May 7, 2006.
The conservancy has created a natural masterpiece by blending the perfect mixture of artwork with nature. The Puffin Sculpture Park greets you as soon as you arrive in the parking lot of the Puffin Cultural Forum.
Puffin Sculpture Park
Example of Artwork found in Puffin Sculpture Garden
More Artwork found in Puffin Sculpture Garden
Artwork may appear around the corner on any of TCC’s nature trails such as this wooden turtle (carved from a Black Locust tree trunk) which may be found on the blue trail or this wooden rabbit found near Dragonfly Pond off of the Red Trail.
There are two tributaries of Teaneck Creek found in the conservancy.
Tributary stream confluence with Teaneck Creek
95% of Teaneck Creek’s watershed is urban which causes flash hydrology during storm events. Flash hydrology consists of the rapid movement of water through Teaneck’s storm system into Teaneck Creek, followed by a rapid elevation of water height, accelerated water flows and then a rapid return to low flow water levels. Flash hydrology can destabilize the stream channel by erosion of the stream banks.
Despite Teaneck Creek’s poor water quality due to non-point source pollution, the creek and surrounding wetlands and woodlands host a large diversity of wildlife. Wildlife that have been observed at TCC include:
The 46 acres which comprise Teaneck Creek Conservancy experienced degradation from dumping and filing of debris in the 1960’s during construction of the New Jersey Turnpike and Interstate 80. The dumping of debris caused degradation in TCC’s wetlands by cutting off the historic hydrology to Teaneck Creek causing the wetlands to act more as a perched bog rather than a functioning riparian wetland. A Conceptual Wetland Restoration Plan was developed for the preserve after three years of study by Rutgers University, United States Geologic Survey and TRC Omni. The restoration plan essentially breaks the 46 acres into four sections (Section A, B, C & D). Each section will have its own restoration plan based upon existing soil, vegetation and hydrology.
A, B, C & D Restoration Areas
Section A consists of 9 acres and is located in the northeastern section of the preserve near Fycke Lane. Section A consists of the highest quality forested wetlands remaining in Teaneck Creek Conservancy. Analysis of the soil indicates that the 9 acres have remained unchanged for the past two to three hundred years. The goal for this area is to maintain the existing conditions and protect the 9 acres from future negative environmental impacts that may occur.
Section B, at 15 acres is located in the heart of the Teaneck Creek Conservancy. A prominent feature of Section B is a body of water known as Dragonfly Pond whose water comes directly from storm water runoff from nearby Teaneck Road.
Dragonfly pond is surrounded by large stands of Common Reed. The goal for Section B is to leave existing stands of Common Reed near the pond and prevent its spread by planting native shade trees. Common Reed, though invasive, is useful in removing excess nutrients and sequestering contaminants from water. In addition, given the source of water for Dragonfly Pond, the area is prone to drought conditions in the summer months. Under drought conditions, obligate wetland plants such as Skunk Cabbage cannot survive.
While invasive plants such as Garlic Mustard and Mile-a-Minute Vine are found throughout Teaneck Creek Conservancy’s 46 acres, they are especially plentiful in the 14 acre Section C and 8 acre section D.
Mile-a-minute-weed and 1st year Garlic Mustard rosettes
Section C and D are located in the southeast and southwest section of the park respectively. These areas of the park historically received the largest amount of disturbance during the construction of Route 80 and the NJ Turnpike. The soil consists primarily of debris. Only pockets of native vegetation remain in the 8 acre section D. The restoration plan for section D indicates that 5-6 acres will be clear cut and reconfigured into a series of freshwater wetlands. 3 upland native wooden acres will be spared. In Section C, a large clay berm was constructed in past wetland management efforts to help stem flooding from Teaneck Creek. Restoration efforts call for the clay berm to be broken so that water will be able to flow and pool creating new freshwater wetland habitat naturally.
It is hoped that 20 new forested freshwater wetlands will be created from the Conceptual Wetland Restoration Plan for the Teaneck Creek Conservancy.
Mallards on Teaneck Creek
Teaneck Creek Conservancy features 3 trails. All trails are nearly flat. Blazes are created in the shape of a turtle and are colored and numbered. Trail maps are available near the entrance by the parking lot for the Puffin Cultural Forum. Click here for a map of Teaneck Creek Conservancy from the Teaneck Creek Conservancy website.
The handicapped accessible .65 of a mile red trail traverses the preserve from DeGraw Avenue to Fycke Lane. Starting from the Puffin Cultural Parking lot, the red trail leaves the parking lot heading down wooden stairs where artwork known as “Migration Milestones” showcases pictures of migratory birds and facts.
Red Knot Migration Milestone
This information is all carved on old cement which was previously dumped in the conservancy during construction of the intersection of nearby I-80 and I-95.
Silver Maple Red Trail
From here, the red trail heads north or south. Heading south, the red trail passes upland forest to the east which contains a big Silver Maple with a label near blaze R2.
Bergen County Audubon Society Butterfly Garden (before its official opening)
The idea for the garden came about in the fall of 2011 and funding from the Bergen County Audubon and National Audubon Society helped make the dream a reality. Native plants such as Swamp Milkweed, Buttonbush, Ironweed and Spicebush among others were planted for a two fold purpose. The first is to provide habitat for butterflies to lay eggs and for their caterpillars to eat. The second purpose is to provide nectar sources for butterflies. It is hoped other species of wildlife will be attracted to the butterfly garden as well.
The butterfly garden marks the first time native plants have intentionally been planted to replace invasive species at TCC.
Updated Green Trail as of July 2012 (circled area)
Heading closer to DeGraw Avenue, a new section (as of July 2012) of Green trail appears to the northeast. Turning back north, the red trail retraces its steps and heads back to the entrance of the TCC. A little north of the main entrance, the red trail comes to a “T” near blaze R4. Turning left (west) this section of the red trail heads to Puffin Place and the Blue Trail.
Teaneck Creek Conservancy
Heading east, the red trail comes to blaze R5 with upland forest to the south and dense scrub shrub land to the north. Heading northeast, the red trail passes the green trail to the east and heads past Dragonfly Pond to the west near blaze R7.
This section of the red trail follows the historic public service trolley route which was in service from 1899-1938. The public service trolley route connected Paterson to Edgewater where a ferry took passengers to NYC.
Remains of Historic Public Trolley Route on Red Trail
Continuing north, the red trail comes to the 5 Pipes. The five pipes were leftover massive drainage pipes that are large enough to stand in. Rather than discard them, volunteers painted the interiors and exteriors to represent five eras of time.
Fives Pipes before any work was done
Primer with sketching
The exteriors of the five pipes represent natures flora and fauna found at the Teaneck Creek Conservancy across time. The interiors of the five pipes represent the human relationship to TCC in 5 different historical eras. These eras include:
1. Native American (The Lenape)
2. Colonial Period (The Dutch and the English)
3. A new nation’s early years (1776-1899)
4. USA: The 20th Century
5. USA: The 21st Century and Beyond
From here, the northern end of the Green trail is accessible immediately after the five pipes to the east near Teaneck Creek. A bridge crossing Teaneck Creek from the Heritage Point of Teaneck is found here.
Massive Black Willow
Continuing north, two massive Black Willows can be found at blazes R10 and R11 respectively. Near blaze R12, the Blue Trail is accessible to the west. Continuing north, the red trail crosses Teaneck Creek in the Fycke Woods section. (FYI: Fycke, is a Dutch word meaning fish or animal trap)
2 Gray Catbirds Teaneck Creek Conservancy
The Red Trail parallels Teaneck Creek to the west and comes to an outdoor ecology classroom at blaze R14. The outdoor ecology classroom is located near the highest quality forested wetlands remaining in TCC (Section A near Fycke Lane). The location of the classroom was previously surrounded by large dense stands of Common Reed. After most of the Common Reed was removed, native trees, shrubs and herbaceous species were planted. The outdoor ecology classroom was built after receiving funding of $100,000 from private and public sources in 2003. The classroom has four 12-foot long benches, a boardwalk and a 30 foot –wide five-sided opening in the middle that looks down into wetlands.
Outdoor Ecology Classroom
The red trail ends at Fycke Lane where the Fycke Lane Interpretive Project at Teaneck Creek Conservancy is found.
Welcome to the Fycke Lane Entrance of the Teaneck Creek Conservancy
The Fycke Lane Interpretive Project was conceived in 2003 and constructed in 2011 after being funded with a grant from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.
Fycke Lane Entrance
The project consists of 8 educational signs which provide illustrations and information on landscape perspectives ranging from habitat, wealth, and history among other landscape perspectives. The signs were constructed by a wall made of recycled materials. These signs will be replaced from time to time to provide fresh perspectives. The Fycke Lane Interpretive Project opened Earth Day in 2012.
Starting from the red trail near DeGraw Avenue, the rustic estimated .41 of a mile green trail traverses northeast to the Lenape Turtle Peace Labyrinth at blaze G2.
Lenape Turtle Peace Labyrinth Teaneck Creek Conservancy
The Labyrinth, located inside a Cottonwood Forest, was made from rubble found in Teaneck Creek Conservancy.
The Lenape Native Americans believed that the world began when a giant turtle swam to the surface of an ocean that covered the earth and the turtle’s back supported the continent. Hikers are encouraged to follow the rubblestone to the center of the labyrinth. A sign posted at the entrance states “A walk to the labyrinth’s center can provide an opportunity to meditate, heal and grow”.
Brown Headed Cowbird Teaneck Creek Conservancy
From the labyrinth, the green trail continues through the cottonwood forest until it reaches Teaneck Creek at blaze G8. Here there is a bridge crossing Teaneck Creek connecting the Glen Pointe Development with TCC. The green trail continues north following Teaneck Creek to the east. The Green Trail ends at the Red Trail at blaze G10 near the Five Pipes.
An interesting note is the green trail is the only trail in the park system that was designed and built by volunteers. The red and blue trail were designed and built by contractors.
The woodchip lined .27 of a mile blue trail traverses the northwestern section of TCC. Starting from Puffin Place, the blue trail heads north through a dense area of wetlands and reeds and passes a picnic area known as Black Walnut Meadow near blaze B4.
2009 Windows on the Park Exhibit
Black Walnut Meadow is the location of one of the first ongoing art exhibits I saw at Teaneck Creek Conservancy: Windows on the Park. Generally once a year, old window frames are taken and hung up alongside the blue trail to challenge the separation between public and private spaces.
Windows on the Park Public Space-Private Space
Windows on the Park IV April-May 2012
After leaving the Black Walnut Meadow, the blue trail heads north through wetlands and connects to the red trail at blaze B8 near the red trail’s R12.
TCC includes over 140 native species of plants including:
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!
Bergen County’s Saddle River County Park is a wonderful 577 acre linear greenway which parallels the Saddle River. There are six park areas and a historic site which are all linked by a paved path which may be used by bicycles, pedestrians and roller skating. Click here to view maps of the six areas of the trail. The total length of the trail is six miles. Mileage signs appear every tenth of a mile on the path to help see how far you have progressed.
Fishing is allowed throughout the park with a license at the trout stocked Saddle River and Ho-Ho-Kus Brook as well as the three ponds found throughout the park. (The Ho-Ho-Kus Brook is trout stocked from Whites Pond in Waldwick until its confluence with the Saddle River).
Saddle River Pathway BEGIN
The northern section of the park begins in Ridgewood at the Wild Duck Pond Area. The Ridgewood Area of the park features the Wild Duck Pond, Dog Run, picnic area and playground.
The Glen Rock Area features a pond, playground and tennis. The Ho-Ho-Kus Brook flows to the east of the park. The brook has no mow zones to help clean the water and provide habitat for wildlife.
Heading south from the Glen Rock Area will go to the Fair Lawn Area which features soccer and a section for hangers/gliders and to the Dunkerhook Area of the park in Paramus. Dunkerhook (which means “Dark Corner”) was named by the Dutch who first settled in this area in the early 18th Century. This section of the park features a beautiful waterfall at the confluence of the Ho-Ho-Kus Brook with the Saddle River in addition to a picnic area and playground.
Waterfall at confluence of Ho-Ho-Kus Brook and Saddle River
The Easton Tower was initially built in 1900 to pump water for the estate of Edward Easton who made his fortune as a founder in the recording industry and was president of the Columbia Phonograph Company. Water from the tower was pumped to several fountains. Construction of nearby Route 208 divided the estate and isolated the tower. The tower was acquired by Bergen County in 1956 and restored a few years later. An earlier red mill tower which stood in its place sometimes leads to the present tower being mistakenly called the “Red Mill”.
Once pass the Easton Tower, the trail leads to the Otto C. Pehle Area in Saddle Brook. This section features a pond, model boating (permit required), ball fields, playground and picnic areas.
DeKorte Park is an amazing environmental story. The 110 acre park is a former landfill that has been given a second chance and features trails, butterfly garden, observatory and an environmental education center.
Marsh View Pavillion
Near the Environmental Education center is the Jill Ann Ziemkiewicz Memorial Butterfly Garden. The garden is named after the youngest crew member of TWA Flight 800 which crashed off of Long Island in July of 1996. The centerpiece of the gardens is a bird bath hand carved to look like a sunflower.
American Goldfinch (NJ’s State Bird!) in the Sunflower Bird Bath
After I visited the butterfly garden, I took a stroll to the Lyndhurst Nature Reserve.
Trail Head for Transco Trail and Lyndhurst Nature Reserve
The Lyndhurst Nature Reserve is a 3 1/2 acre island that is made entirely out of old garbage that was illegally dumped between 1969-1971. The island is now a nature preserve covered with native grassland meadows and young woodlands. The island is surrounded by mudflats.
Black Eye Susans
Ancient Atlantic White Cedar
The mudflats surrounding the reserve at one time contained an extensive Atlantic White Cedar Swamp. Due to factors such as the construction of the Oradell dam to create the Oradell Reservoir in 1921 the water became too brackish for Atlantic White Cedar to survive. Today there are only ancient stumps remaining of the once extensive forest.
After leaving the Lyndhurst Nature Reserve, I took the eastern portion of the Transco trail which is roughly 3/4 of a mile in length. The trail is built on a dike constructed in 1950 which contains a buried natural gas pipeline. Some flora along the trail includes Thistle, Milkweed and Pokeweed. Check out below for some pictures of the fauna found nearby.
I also walked the Kingsland Overlook which offers view of the surrounding Kingsland Impoundment. The overlook was once a productive salt marsh which was turned into a dump. The former dump was turned into a park for wildlife starting in 1989. The landfill was capped with 400,000 recycled plastic soda bottles and covered with top soil. Thousands of plugs and 20 foot trees were planted. A dike was built to prevent leachate from going into the impoundment. The area is now maturing and many animals make the park their home.
DeKorte Park offers hope for all blighted areas. It is living proof that brownfields really can become greenfields with enough effort.
For more information and the official website click here. You can also check out the Meadowlands blog.
Still thirsty for more Meadowlands information and its amazing environmental comeback?? Don’t miss Jim Wright of the Meadowlands Commission’s new book “The Nature of the Meadowlands“!
Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!