Category Archives: Land Conservation

Tenafly Nature Center & Lost Brook Preserve!


Tenafly Nature Center

Tenafly Nature Center

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

Pfisters Pond

Pfisters Pond

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

John Alden Redfield Building

John A. Redfield Building

Corn Snake Animal Display

Indoor Animal Exhibits

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

Education Pavilion

Education Pavilion

History

Tenafly Nature Center & Lost Brook Preserve

Tenafly Nature Center & Lost Brook Preserve

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

Tenafly Nature Preserve

Diabase Boulders Tenafly Nature Center

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

Green Acres Land & Water Conservation Fund

Green Acres Land & Water Conservation Fund

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

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

Trails

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

The picture below was taken from the Tenafly Nature Center webpage.

Tenafly Nature Center Trail Map

All trails are directly or indirectly accessible from the estimated .5 of a mile Main Trail which can be accessed from the parking lot of the Tenafly Nature Center.

Mail Trail

Mail Trail

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

Yellow Trail Trailhead

Yellow Trail Trailhead

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

Point 7 Northern Red Oak

Numbered Marker on interpretive yellow trail

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

Watchable Wildlife Grant Site

Watchable Wildlife Grant Site

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

De Filippi (White Trail)

De Filippi (White Trail)

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

View of Pfisters Pond from De Fillipi Shelter

View of Pfisters Pond from De Fillipi Shelter

De Filippi Trail Boardwalk

De Filippi Trail Boardwalk

Bischoff Trail

Bischoff Trail

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

Bischoff Trail Swamp

Bischoff Trail Swamp

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

Lambier House

Lambier House

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

Red Trail Trailhead

Red Trail Trailhead

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

East Brook

East Brook

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

Purple Trail Trail Head

Purple Trail Trail Head

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

Blue Spur Trailhead

Blue Spur Trailhead

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

Allison Trail

Allison Trail

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

Massive Rock Allison Trail

Massive Rock Formation Allison Trail

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

Little-Chism Allison Trail

Little-Chism Allison Trail

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

Allison Trail End  Near East Clinton Avenue

Allison Trail End Near East Clinton Avenue

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

Haring Rock Trail Trailhead

Haring Rock Trail Trailhead

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

Haring Rock

Haring Rock

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

Seely Trail Trailhead

Seely Trail Trailhead

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

Green Brook Crossing Seely Trail

Green Brook Crossing Seely Trail

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

Little-Chism Trailhead

Little-Chism Trailhead

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

Little-Chism Trail by Route 9W

Little-Chism Trail by Route 9W

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

Dam on Lost Brook Little-Chism Trail

Dam on Lost Brook Little-Chism Trail

Lost Brook

Lost Brook

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

Green Brook Little-Chism Trail

Green Brook Little-Chism Trail

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

Sweet Gum Spur Trailend

Sweet Gum Spur Trailend

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

Little-Chism Trailend

Little-Chism Trailend

Flora

American Beech Forest Haring Rock Trail

American Beech Forest Haring Rock Trail

Musclewood

Musclewood

Skunk Cabbage Flowers Seely Trail

Skunk Cabbage Flowers Seely Trail

Ground Pine

Ground Pine

Fauna

Directions

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

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Check out the latest bird sightings here!

Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge Wood Duck Nature Trail!


Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge Wood Duck Trail

Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge Wood Duck Trail

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

Kiosk at Entrance to Wood Duck Trail

Kiosk at Entrance to Wood Duck 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

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

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

Wood Duck

The trail is flat and makes for very easy walking.

Benches & Interpretive Signage Wood Duck Nature Trail

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

Wood Duck Interpretive Signage

Beaver 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

Wildlife Viewing Blind

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

Foot Bridge over 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

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

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

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.

See the link for how water is classified in NJ –> NJDEP Water Classifications RE 2012-8-8

Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge Habitat

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

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

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

Green Frog 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-Tailed Hawk and observed White-Breasted Nuthatches and a Blue Jay.

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

Eastern Red Cedar

Gray Birch

Gray Birch

American Sycamore

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.

Trail Map

The trail map above was taken from the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge webpage.

Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge Wood Duck Nature Trail

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!

Check out the latest bird sightings here!

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Emerson Woods Preserve Tour!


Emerson Woods Preserve

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

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 (now Suez). Suez 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

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

Double-Crested Cormorant

Heading away from the shore, the tour passed a stand of American Sycamore with their white peeling bark.

American Sycamore

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

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-Tailed Deer were seen browsing in the woods west of the right of way.

White Tail Deer

White-Tailed Deer

As the group proceeded on, Nancy pointed out large rectangular holes found on a dead tree.

Pileated Woodpecker Holes

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

Northern Red Oak

Shortly before turning west onto the Heck Ditch trail, the group happened upon a White Pine plantation.

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

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

Heck Ditch

Ground Pine

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

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!

12.04 Giant Cottonwood

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

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.

Click below for a list of plants found in the Emerson Woods Preserve:

Emerson Woods Preserve Flora

Exploring Secaucus Mill Creek Marsh!


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

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

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

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

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, Snowy Egret

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 Map (Trail in Green)

Mill Creek Marsh Trail

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.

Tidal Bays The lungs of the Hackensack

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

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.

Snowy Egret on Ancient White Cedar Stump

Little Blue Heron on Ancient White Cedar Stump

Yellowlegs

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.

Fauna & Flora

Flora

Hibiscus

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

Sunflowers

Mill Creek Marsh

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.

Below is a list of partial plant life found in Mill Creek Marsh.

Mill Creek Marsh Flora

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 comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Check out the latest bird sightings at Mill Creek Marsh Here!

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!

West Milford’s Apshawa Preserve!


Apshawa Preserve A Passaic County Park

Apshawa Preserve A Passaic County Park

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

Apshawa Preserve

Apshawa Preserve

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

Apshawa Preserve

Apshawa Preserve

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

Butler Reservoir

Butler Reservoir in fall

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

Apshawa Brook

Apshawa Brook

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

See the link for how water is classified in NJ –> NJDEP Water Classifications RE 2012-8-8

Apshawa Deer Fence

Passaic County Freeholders Forest Restoration Fence

Passaic County Freeholders Forest Restoration Fence

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

White-Tailed Deer

White-Tailed Deer

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

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

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

2019 Update: Please note that the Pequannock River Coalition is now defunct and the field review report is no longer available online.

Apshawa Deer Fence Gate

Apshawa Deer Fence Gate

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

Deer Fence Animal Crossing Apshawa Preserve

Deer Fence Animal Crossing Apshawa Preserve

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

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

Bear Climb

Bear Climb

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

Stream Crossing Chains

Stream Crossing Chains

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

Trails

2020 Trails Update – Please note the below trail descriptions were as I found it when I wrote this blog in 2011.  Some of the trails have been re-blazed/re-routed since this blog post was first posted.

For an updated Trail Map please visit the NJ Conservation Foundation Website.

Trail

Apshawa Hike 5.29.11 and 6.21.11

Apshawa Hike 5.29.11 and 6.21.11

There are almost 7 miles of blazed trails to be explored in the Apshawa Preserve.  These trails were created with the assistance of volunteers and funding was provided through the National Recreation Trails Program.

2020 Update: Reminder: Please note the trail descriptions below were from 2011. Trails have been re-blazed since then. If you go (and I hope you do!) please pick up a trail map from the kiosk in the parking lot or print a trail map from the NJ Conservation website.

All trails are accessible from the white trail whose trailhead may be found in the Apshawa Preserve parking lot. Be sure to stay on the marked trails as there are unmarked trails throughout the preserve. There are signs posted letting you know if you are going to stray from the marked trail.

Leaving Trail System

Leaving Trail System

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

White Trail trailhead

White Trail trailhead

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

View from White Trail

One of the views from White Trail

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

Red Trail Trailhead

Red Trail Trailhead

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

Yellow Trail with Pond

Yellow Trail with Pond

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

Yellow Trail Closed due to Beaver

Yellow Trail Closed due to Beaver

As of June 2013 the Yellow Trail is closed due to Beaver Activity.

2020 Update – It is my understanding that the Yellow Trail is still closed.

Continuing on our virtual tour: Heading west away from the flooded area, the yellow trail connects to the white trail and goes southwest and then east to the parking lot.

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

Green Trail

Green Trail

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

Dam at Historic Mixing Pond on Green Trail

Dam at Historic Mixing Pond on Green Trail

Ruins on Green Trail

Ruins on Green Trail

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

View on Green Trail

View on Green Trail

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

Flora:

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

American Chestnut Sprout

American Chestnut

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

Emerald Ash Borer Detection Survey Tool

Emerald Ash Borer Detection Survey Tool

Other flora found include:

Canada Mayapple

Mayapple

Clubmoss under Mountain Laurel Shrub

Clubmoss under Mountain Laurel Shrub

False Hellebore

False Hellebore

Jack in the Pulpit

Jack in the Pulpit

Sensitive Fern

Sensitive Fern

Sessile Bellwort

Sessile Bellwort

Pale Corydalis

Pale Corydalis

Blue Water Iris

Blue Water Iris

Check out Plant Communities of New Jersey.

NJ’s geology, topography and soil, climate, plant-plant and plant-animal relationships, and the human impact on the environment are all discussed in great detail. Twelve plant habitats are described and the authors were good enough to put in examples of where to visit!

Click here for more information!

Fauna includes the below among others:

Fowler's Toad

Fowler’s Toad

Garter Snake

Garter Snake

Fox Tracks (2)

Fox Tracks

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

Great Hiking/Ecology Books:

1. 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: New York City: Including northern New Jersey, southwestern Connecticut, and western Long Island – Packed with valuable tips and humorous observations, the guide prepares both novices and veterans for the outdoors. From secluded woods and sun-struck seashores, to lowland swamps and rock-strewn mountain tops, this practical guidebook contains all the information needed to have many great hikes in and around New York City.

Click here for more information!

2. Take a Hike New York City: 80 Hikes within Two Hours of Manhattan – In Moon Take a Hike New York City, award-winning writer Skip Card shows you the best hikes in and around The Big Apple—all within two hours of the city.

Click here for more information!

3. Eastern Deciduous Forest, Second Edition: Ecology and Wildlife Conservation – This book is a useful tool for anyone who wants to know or hopes to help one of North America’s great natural resources.

Click here for more information!

4. Protecting New Jersey’s Environment: From Cancer Alley to the New Garden State – With people as its focus, Protecting New Jersey’s Environment explores the science underpinning environmental issues and the public policy infighting that goes undocumented behind the scenes and beneath the controversies.

Click here for more information!

5. Wild New Jersey: Nature Adventures in the Garden State:

Wild New Jersey invites readers along Wheeler’s whirlwind year-long tour of the most ecologically diverse state for its size in America.

Click here for more information!

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!