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Hiking Buttermilk Falls County Park!


Buttermilk Falls Park

Buttermilk Falls Park

Welcome to Buttermilk Falls Park! Located in West Nyack, New York, the park features a scenic waterfall and two western views where on a clear day you can see up to 16,000 acres. The 75 acre Buttermilk Falls Park was purchased by Rockland County with additional acquisitions in 1981. 

Geology

Diabase

Diabase

Buttermilk Falls Park is location in a portion of the Palisades ridge north of the Sparkill Gap. The Palisades are located along the western shoreline of the Hudson River in southeastern New York and in north eastern New Jersey. Rocks found in the Palisades are known as diabase and were formed during the Triassic period around 200 million years ago.

Ecology

Buttermilk Falls consists of a mixed-oak forest community including the following species among others:

White Oak

Chestnut Oak

Northern Red Oak

Tulip Tree

American Beech

Black Birch

Maple-leaved viburnum

Bluestem Grass

Virtual Hike

Welcome! Today, using this Trail Map, we are going to explore some of the 75 acres that make up Buttermilk Falls Park! Along the way, we’ll see some cascades and check out some cool western views. The total hike is an estimated 1.2 miles. Ready? Let’s go!

Blue Trail Trailhead

Blue Trail Trailhead

From the parking lot we are going to head northeast on 0.9 of a mile blue blazed trail.

Entrance to the Blue Trail

Entrance to the Blue Trail

Entering the park on the blue trail, the path starts flat but we find it is deceiving as we start to climb.

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed

But before we start any kind of climbing let’s take a quick scan of some of the flora that’s sprouting near the entrance. What’s this plant that sort of looks like little bamboo shoots sprouting up everywhere alongside the trail? It’s Japanese Knotweed, a obnoxious invasive plant which, once established, is generally there for good. If you find Japanese Knotweed on your property try using this Japanese Knotweed Removal Guide (thanks to the Pequannock River Coalition for creating the guide!) to remove this plant which forms monocultures, excludes native plants and does not provide any benefit to wildlife.

Blue Trail Steps

Blue Trail Steps

Leaving the Japanese Knotweed for now the Blue Trail is taking us up some wooden steps.

Blue Trail Climb

Blue Trail Climb

However, we soon find that the steps end and now we must drudge up the hillside through a pleasant woodland. All around us is American Beech, Black Birch, Northern Red Oak and Chestnut Oak among other species of trees.

Wineberry

Wineberry

Taking another look at the flora coming up, what’s this 3 leaved spiked covered plant popping up all over the place? It’s Wineberry. Wineberry is native to Asia and is an established invasive plant in the United States.

Blue Trail Climb 2

Blue Trail Climb 2

Continuing on we start hearing the sound of water, a good sign as we must be approaching Buttermilk Falls!

Buttermilk Falls

Buttermilk Falls

Whew! After all that climbing (it wasn’t that bad) we have arrived at Buttermilk Falls. The stream comprising Buttermilk Falls is a Hackensack River Tributary and joins the Hackensack River just north of the Lake Tappan Reservoir.

Trout Lily Leaves

Trout Lily Leaves

Taking a look around the forest floor we spot the leaves of Trout Lily, a native woodland plant which blooms in early spring. And here you thought all we would be looking at is invasive plants! The “trout” in it’s name is said to come from its mottled leaves which are said to resemble wild trout.

Heading southeast on the blue trail we come to an open area on the trail with Eastern Red Cedar and occasional trap rock.

Blue Trail View 1

Blue Trail View 1

We have also come to the first of two view points. This view has us looking south towards New Jersey and west towards the Ramapo Mountains which are part of the NY NJ Highlands region. It is said that President Teddy Roosevelt rode horseback through this area stopping at this point for a view when he was in the area.

Orange Trail Trailhead

Continuing southeast on the blue trail we pass the .21 of a mile Orange Trail trail head.

Blue Trail Second Viewpoint 2

Blue Trail Second Viewpoint 2

Shortly after we pass the orange trail trail head we arrive at the second westerly viewpoint. What a beautiful day! From an ecological perspective we are currently in a traprock glade/rock outcrop surrounded by dry grass and forb-dominated species.

Dutchman Breeches

Dutchman Breeches

Leaving the second and last viewpoint we continue on the blue trail and pass a small but interesting plant known as Dutchman Breeches. Dutchman Breeches are a native to the eastern US. The flowers (which have since wilted) are said to look like old fashioned breeches hence its name.

Blue Trail Rock Seat

Blue Trail Rock Seat

Tired? Want to take a seat? There is a seat carved out of the diabase to our left. Neat!

Blue Trail Trail end

After a series of switchbacks we have come to the end of the Blue trail at the intersection with the white trail. Turning right on the white trail we walk in a north west direction.

White Trail

The White Trail is turning into a pleasant peaceful walk on a wide woods road. As we walk we hear Black-Capped Chickadees, a Northern Flicker and a Hairy Woodpecker.

Old Car White Trail

What’s that up ahead? Someone long ago dumped an old car off of the White Trail.

 

Rock Wall White Trail

Rock Wall White Trail

Looking to our left we pass by an old rock wall which is a sure sign the land we are walking on was at one time farmland.

Boardwalk White Trail

Boardwalk White Trail

Looking ahead we spot a boardwalk further down the White Trail.

Swamp White Trail

Swamp White Trail

As we walk on it we come to a Red-Maple Swamp to our left. Red Maple (Acer Rubrum) are one of the most common maples found in the northeast and is a common tree in wetlands.

White Trail end

White Trail end

Just past the swamp we have reached the end of the White Trail at the parking lot where we started our hike. And that concludes our hike! I hope you enjoyed it and that it inspires you to visit Buttermilk Falls County Park for yourself!

Click Here for Directions!

Feel free to Comment with any Questions, Memories or Suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

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!

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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.

River Vale’s Poplar Road Wildlife Sanctuary!


Welcome to the Poplar Road Wildlife Sanctuary! The preserve has Poplar Road to the north, Lake Tappan  to the east, Cherry Brook flowing to the west and the confluence of Cherry Brook and the Hackensack River  to the south.

Poplar Road Nature Sanctuary with Lake Tappan Dam and confluence of Cherry Brook with Hackensack River

The sanctuary consists of 18 acres of White Pine plantation, upland, wetlands and a meadow with beautiful views of the Lake Tappan Reservoir.

Lake Tappan

The 1,255 acre Lake Tappan Reservoir (formed by impounding the Hackensack River via the Lake Tappan dam in 1966) is owned and operated by United Water.

The 18 wooded acres were part of a 44 acre tract of woods known as the River Vale Woods. The 44 acres were once part of United Water’s watershed buffer but were later  sold to developers who planned to turn the 44 wooded acres into high density dwellings. On December 23, 2002, after six years of wrangling, 18 of the 44 acres were bought by the township of River Vale using grants and loans from the Municipal Open Space Trust Fund, NJ Green Acres and the Bergen County Open Space, Recreation, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.  In 2010, 11 wooded acres off of Stanley Place near the sanctuary were preserved and will be part of the 18 acres of the Preserve bringing the total acreage to 29.  An additional 5 acres (which contain a section of Cherry Brook)  were purchased by the Township earlier in 2010. The remaining 10 acres, which are located across the street from the Poplar Road Nature Sanctuary were clear cut for a townhouse development in the summer of 2010.

Trails

Poplar Road Sanctuary Trailmap

After parking, proceed through the gate of the Poplar Road Nature Sanctuary towards the kiosk which is stored with informational brochures during the warmer months provided by Bergen SWAN.

Kiosk in White Pine Plantation

From the kiosk, head west through a White Pine plantation which is in the final stages of succession.  As time progresses and more of the White Pines succumb to storms and other natural conditions, hardwood forest trees such as Sugar Maple will take the White Pine tree place.

White Pine Plantation

Follow the trail south to the Cherry Brook floodplain. Information signage regarding Sugar Maple and Tulip Tree may be found on the right of the trail near a chain link fence which separates the sanctuary from United Water watershed land.  Turn left after skirting a brief wetland area and head east towards Lake Tappan. This section of the trail divides the White Pine plantation from the established hardwood forest.

Trail

Straight ahead is a meadow and views of Lake Tappan.

Poplar Nature Sanctuary Meadow

The meadow is a managed grassland that is periodically mowed to prevent it from becoming a forest via succession.  Leaving the meadow, head north via a United Water service road and then take a left heading west back through the White Pine plantation to the kiosk to complete the hike.

Flora that may be found in the sanctuary include:

Jewelweed

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 observed at the sanctuary and in the nearby watershed include

Directions:

From Exit 5 off the Palisades Interstate Parkway head south on Route 303; turn left (west) onto Oak Tree Road; follow it around to make a left turn (west) onto Washington Street/Old Tappan Road; turn right onto Washington Avenue north (heading northeast); follow it around to a curved turn left onto Poplar Road.  The parking area is a short ways down on the left (south side) of the road.

Great Ecology Books:

1. 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!

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!

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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