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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.

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Hackensack RiverKeeper Meadowlands Eco-Cruise!


Hackensack Riverkeeper!

After doing some research online, I decided to do the Hackensack Riverkeeper Meadowlands Discovery Eco-Cruise. It was  worth it. The eco-cruise takes place on a pontoon boat and visits wetlands like Kingland Creek, Berry’s Creek Canal and a trip to what is known as the jewel of the Meadowlands, the Sawmill Creek Wildlife Management Area which is home to birds and other wildlife.

Pontoon Boat

Most people see the Hackensack Meadowlands from the NJ Turnpike and think of it as a vast wasteland. The eco-cruise takes on a different perspective and makes you realize that the Meadowlands is a true urban treasure.

Our captain was Bill Sheehan, the Riverkeeper himself.  He was great, pointing out wildlife and the happenings of the Meadowlands including enhancement efforts such as replacing Common Reed with native species such as Smooth Cordgrass. The picture below is a good example of the enhancement effort and shows an island which is virtually free of Common Reed.

Enhanced Island

The eco-cruise also made it past Laurel Hill (aka Snake Hill) which is said to have been infested with black water snakes during colonial times. Prudential Life Insurance Company was inspired by the formation of the rocks which was said to be similar to the Rock of Gibraltar and is still used in Prudential advertising to this day.

Laurel Hill

Kudos to Hackensack Riverkeeper for providing this fun and educational experience of the Hackensack Meadowlands. Be sure to check out http://www.hackensackriverkeeper.org/ for more information.

Feel free to comment below with questions memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Oscar E Olsen Park in Bogota!!


Welcome to Oscar E. Olsen Park!  The park consists of the largest remaining open space in Bogota, NJ and should be considered it’s crown jewel.

Oscar E Olsen Park

Oscar E Olsen Park was built on former marshland adjacent to the Hackensack River.  Though an urban park, wildlife abounds for the patient observer. I was rewarded with a Bald Eagle flying over the Hackensack River.

Bald Eagle over Hackensack River

A focal point of the park is a bridge known as  “The Olsen Park Hackensack River Environmental Walkway”.  The walkway is a raised boardwalk strategically built next to the Hackensack River. Educational signs have been  placed with assistance from  the  Hackensack Riverkeeper and Ducks Unlimited with information on the fauna of the adjacent Hackensack River. The signs describe typical flora and fauna of the Hackensack River and the nearby Meadowlands.

The Olsen Park Hackensack River Environmental Walkway was originally built in 1993 and was known as a “bridge to nowhere”.  A lot of people thought it was a waste of tax payer money when it was built.

From the walkway you can view the nearby World War II era submarine USS Ling.

USS Ling with Bergen County Courthouse in background

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority added educational signage regarding flora and fauna found in this section of the Hackensack River which is just north of the New Jersey Meadowlands.

And don’t worry-the educational signs on the walkway are not blurry, just this picture.

There is a pathway which extends from the bridge that encircles the park. Olsen Park is a great place to explore and view wildlife on the Hackensack River.

Directions: 

From NYC: Go West over the George Washington Bridge; Route 4 west; get off at the exit for River Road just before the bridge over the Hackensack River.  Head south on River Road.  At the junction with West Main Street on the left, turn right.  On the left is an entrance for the park.

Feel free to comment with any questions, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

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