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Hiking Ramapo Valley County Reservation!


 

Ramapo Valley Reservation Bergen County Dept of Parks

Ramapo Valley Reservation Bergen County Dept of Parks

Welcome to Ramapo Valley County Reservation! At 4,000 acres, Ramapo Valley County Reservation is Bergen County‘s largest park. The park has Ringwood State Park to the west and Ramapo Mountain State Forest to the southwest (both which are accessible by trails found in the park).

Ramapo Valley County Reservation Land Usage

Ramapo Valley County Reservation Land Usage

Ramapo Mountain County Park is located in the Ramapo Mountains which are a part of the NY NJ Highlands geographic region (Ramapo is said to be Lenape for “Round Ponds”).

Virtual Hike

Today’s hike will be an estimated 4.2  miles. We will be using this Trail Map to help us find our way through the woods.

Today’s virtual hike will take us pass a lake, the Ramapo River, ruins, scenic overview and a waterfall!

Ready to begin?

Ramapo Valley County Park Kiosk

Ramapo Valley County Park Kiosk

From the parking area just past the kiosk marks the start of the Orange Blazed 6.5 mile Shuber Trail (the longest trail found in Ramapo Valley County Reservation) and the .8 mile Silver blazed trail (All trails are maintained by volunteers of the NYNJ Trail Conference)

Shuber (Orange) & Silver Trailhead

Shuber (Orange) & Silver Trailhead

Heading west on the combined orange blazed Shuber and the Silver trail a bridge appears ahead crossing the Ramapo River.

Bridge over Ramapo River

Bridge over Ramapo River

The Ramapo River eventually flows into the Pequannock River to form the Pompton River which is a major tributary of the Passaic River. Whew! That’s a mouthful.

Scarlet Oak Lake

Scarlet Oak Lake

Continuing west, scenic Scarlet Oak Pond (once part of a former gravel quarry) appears to our right. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of people we will see on our hike will be found here walking their dogs (as this is an extremely popular park to bring your dog) around this beautiful pond.

Shuber Trail Left

Shuber Trail Left

Come on, let’s leave the crowds and take the path less traveled. Keeping our eyes peeled to the left we follow the Orange Blazed Shuber Trail as it leaves the Silver Trail heading south west following the Ramapo River through a floodplain forest where Red Maple is the staple tree.

Ramapo River

Ramapo River

We are lucky today. The trail which travels alongside the Ramapo River is relatively dry. During times of snowmelt and rainstorms this path would be inaccessible.

Shuber Trail passing Blue Trail end near bridge over MacMillan Stream

As we continue heading west on the orange blazed Shuber Trail we pass  the 3.0 mile Green on White Blazed Halifax Trail trailend to our right and cross over MacMillan Brook on a wooden footbridge.

Orange Trail Bridge Crossing

Orange Trail Bridge Crossing

At this point as you take in your surroundings you might start to question a couple of items. Is all this beauty actually in New Jersey? In Bergen County? The answer is a resounding yes!

But wait, what’s this before us? Old ruins of a stone cabin built by a church camp which once operated here appears as we turn right on the orange blazed Shuber trail. (update February 12, 2016: the ruins have been removed by the Bergen County Parks Department)

Cabin Ruins Orange Trail

The orange blazed Shuber trail starts climbing to the northwest of the Ramapo River. But don’t get discouraged by the climb, we are in a for a treat! Scenic cascades and pools of the Macmillan Brook parallels the trail to our right.

Cascades along orange trail

The Macmillan Brook is a tributary of the Ramapo River.

Orange Trail Silver Trailend

Orange Trail Silver Trailend

As we continue past the cascades we meet up with the trailend of the .8  of a mile Silver Trail we had originally started with the Shuber trail. As we turn right on the orange blazed Shuber trail, our footpath turns to an asphalt road.

Yellow Silver Trailhead

Yellow Silver Trailhead

Leaving the asphalt road and continuing on the orange blazed Shuber trail, the  1.6 mile Yellow Silver Trail appears to our left which traverses an area known as Matty Price Hill.

Macmillion Reservoir

Macmillion Reservoir

Passing the trailhead of the Yellow Silver Trail and continuing on the Shuber trail we pass a dam and outlet of Macmillan brook and see the beautiful estimated 13.11 acre MacMillan Reservoir to our  right.

Red Trail Trailhead

Red Trail Marsh Loop Trailhead

Continuing west past the reservoir the red blazed .3 mile Marsh Loop Trailhead appears to the south. Passing this trailhead we continue on our way traveling through an area of the Ramapo Mountains known as the Middle Valley.

Ridge Trail Trailhead

Ridge Trail Trailhead

A short distance ahead the 1.9 mile Blue Blazed Ridge trail appears to our right. Let’s take it!

Ridge Trail Macmillan Stream Tributary #1

Ridge Trail Macmillan Stream Tributary #1

Heading north and leaving the Shuber trail behind us we carefully walk on rocks over a couple of Macmillan Brook tributaries. I should probably mention here that these rocks and the Ramapo Mountains themselves are situated in a geologic area known as the Highlands Region. Dating from the pre-cambrian time period, these rocks are probably as old as the Earth itself.

Ridge Trail Stream 2

Ridge Trail Stream 2

Turning  right and heading southeast on the Ridge Trail the .8 Blue on White Havemeyer Trail appears to our left.

Ridge Trail & Blue on White Trailhead

Ridge Trail & Havemeyer Blue on White Trailhead

While we will be continuing on the Ridge Trail, the Havenmeyer trail explores a section of the Ramapo Mountains known as the Monroe Ridge. Though we can’t see it, an abandoned mine known as the Nickel Mine is found to the right of the Ridge Trail. The Nickel Mine is said to have been associated with the Hopkins and Dickinson Manufacturing Company which had operations producing bronze locks and iron castings in the 1870s along the Ramapo River. The Nickel Mine was created by digging two pits (both now are filled with water) in a search for nickel-bearing rock (hence the name Nickel Mine).

Ridge Trail Chestnut Oak Forest

Ridge Trail Chestnut Oak Forest

As we continue our walk on the Ridge Trail with the Monroe Ridge to our north we have left the forest of Birch and Beech we were passing through and have entered a Chestnut Oak Forest. Chestnut Oak Forest canopies are up to 65% dominated by its namesake species. Associate plant communities of Chestnut Oak Forest include:

Ridge Trail White Trailend

Ridge Trail White Trailend

Continuing southeast on the Ridge Trail we come across the trailend of the 1.0 mile White Trail which traverses across the Monroe Ridge which is located north of where we are now.

Ridge Trail Overlook Sign

Ridge Trail Overlook Sign

Heading south on the Ridge Trail a sign for a Scenic Overlook appears. Let’s take it!

Overlook

Overlook

Following a brief Red Triangle on a blue background we come to outcrops. The outcrops  are  “basement rocks” as the younger rocks which originally had covered them eroded away over time. Most of the rocks are thought to be comprised of ancient granite-gneiss.  Enough geology for now, let’s take a look at the view!  Here we have a great eastern view of the surrounding Ramapo Mountains along with Campgaw Mountain. Though we cannot see it today due to hazy conditions in the distance NYC may be seen on a clear day.

RidgeTrail End Silver Trail

RidgeTrail End Silver Trail

Heading back to the blue blazed Ridge Trail we turn south where the Ridge Trail ends at an intersection with the Silver Trail. Heading South on the Silver Trail we see a sign advertising a waterfall. Let’s check it out!

Waterfall

Waterfall

After a steep descent we come to the base where we have terrific views of the waterfall.

Waterfall Rocks

Waterfall Rocks

Whew! Believe it or not but we are almost done and it seems like we just got started! Alright, let’s head back to the Silver Trail.

Scarlet Oak Lake Return

Scarlet Oak Lake Return

Heading south on the the Silver Trail we pass scenic Scarlet Oak Pond where the orange blazed Shuber Trail joins us.

Silver Trail & Shuber Trail End

Silver Trail & Shuber Trail End

Well we have come to the end of the jointly blazed silver and shuber trail back at the parking lot where we began our hike. I hope you enjoyed our virtual hike and that it inspires you to check out Ramapo Valley County Reservation for yourself! Thanks for reading!

Wanna Hike Ramapo Valley County Reservation? Click Here for Directions!

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

Click here for more information!

3.60 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!

4. 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!

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

 

 

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Hiking Ramapo Mountain State Forest!


Ramapo Mountain State Forest

Ramapo Mountain State Forest

Welcome to Ramapo Mountain State Forest! Today we are going to be hiking near a portion of Ramapo Lake, see outstanding views and explore old ruins!

Ramapo Mountain State Forest

Ramapo Mountain State Forest

Ramapo Mountain State Forest extends six miles between Pompton Lakes and Oakland NJ and is maintained by the NJ Division of Parks and ForestryRamapo Mountain Reservation is located to the east of the park and Ringwood State Park is located to the north. These three parks form a combined 10,000 acres of protected forest.

Virtual Hike

Today’s hike will be an estimated 2.9 miles. We will be using this Trail Map (Note: map is of neighboring Ramapo Mountain Reservation but shows Ramapo Mountain State Forest trails near Ramapo Lake) to help us find our way through the woods. Ramapo Mountain State Forest trails were built by the New Jersey Youth Conservation Corps in 1978 and are now maintained by volunteers of the NYNJ Trail Conference.

Hoeferlin Trail

Hoeferlin Trail

From the parking area off of Skyline Drive in Oakland, let’s head past the kiosk and head to the yellow blazed Hoeferlin Trail. The 6.0 mile Hoeferlin Trail, formerly called the Suffern-Midvale Trail, is named after Bill Hoeferlin, who was a well known north Jersey trail builder and map maker. Ready? Let’s go!

Pond

Pond

As we begin our hike a small pond appears to our right which forms the start of a Ramapo River tributary we will be following (and crossing) as we head south on the Hoeferlin trail.

Witch Hazel in Bloom

Witch Hazel in Bloom

Just past the pond we spot Witch Hazel in bloom off the trail. Witch Hazel is one of the last native plants to flower in the fall and is unusual because it’s conspicuous yellow flowers stay in bloom even after the leaves have fallen off.

Ramapo River Tributary

Ramapo River Tributary

As we walk the only noise we hear besides the crunch of newly fallen leaves under our feet is the sound of the Ramapo River tributary flowing nearby.

Sassafras

Sassafras

Continuing south we find Sassafras in fall colors. Sassafras has three types of leaves: Solid, Three Prong and Mitten Shaped. Click here to view pictures and descriptions of this unique tree! All parts of Sassafras are fragrant.

Mile-a-Minute

Mile-a-Minute

Continuing south we cross over the Ramapo River tributary and find some Mile-a-Minute weed growing at our feet. Native to eastern Asia, Mile-a-Minute is an established invasive species in New Jersey and is capable of forming a monoculture excluding native plants.

Hoeferlin-McEvoy Combined Trail Blazes

Hoeferlin-MacEvoy Combined Trail Blazes

Continuing south the Hoeferlin trail briefly becomes combined with the blue blazed MacEvoy trail coming from the east.

MacEvoy Trail

MacEvoy Trail

The MacEvoy trail is named for Clifford E. MacEvoy who was a wealthy contractor of large public works. MacEvoy helped conceive and construct the nearby Wanaque Reservoir.  In the 1920’s, MacEvoy bought property in the Ramapo Mountains to form the Bergen County Hunting and Fishing Club. MacEvoy’s estate was sold and purchased by the State of NJ using Green Acres and federal funds in 1976 and became what is now known as Ramapo Mountain State Forest.

Ramapo Lake

Ramapo Lake

Heading northwest on the dual blazed Hoeferlin/MacEvoy trail we see Ramapo Lake before us. Here the Hoeferlin trail leaves to the south and we continue on the Blue Blaze MacEvoy trail which becomes a paved road. The 120 acre Ramapo Lake is the centerpiece of Ramapo Mountain State Forest. Fish such as Largemouth Bass, Yellow Perch and Pickerel among other species are found in the lake. Ramapo Lake was originally a 25 acre pond known as Roten Pond. (“Roten” is Dutch for Muskrat). English translation corrupted “Roten” to  “Rotten” Lake. The pond was later dammed to form the present Ramapo Lake.

Cannonball Trail Blaze

Cannonball Trail Blaze

After passing a private residence and the Cannonball Trail to our right we come to the 1.0 mile White Blazed Castle Point Trailhead.

Castle Point Trail

Castle Point Trail

Leaving the MacEvoy trail we turn right to head north on Castle Point.

Castle Point Trail Climb

Castle Point Trail Climb

Almost immediately Castle Point proves to be an uphill challenge.

Wanaque Reservoir

Wanaque Reservoir

Stopping we can see glimpses of the Wanaque Reservoir to the west. The Wanaque Reservoir was constructed in 1928 and is the second largest reservoir in NJ. Water is received from the Pompton, Ramapo and Wanaque Rivers. After enjoying the view, let’s continue our climb on Castle Point.

Castle Point Climb over Old Wall

Castle Point Climb over Old Wall

As we walk, a wall appears with the white blaze of the castle point trail. Let’s carefully climb the wall over the rocks.

Castle

Castle

Wow! What’s this? A medieval castle in the middle of the woods? The ruins we see before us were known as Van Slyke Castle. The ruins stand 350 feet above Ramapo Lake on Fox Mountain.

Ramapo Lake View near ruins

Ramapo Lake View near ruins

The Castle (aka Foxcroft) was a stone mansion built by a William and Alice Porter in 1909 as their summer home. William died in 1911 and Alice died in 1940. The mansion sat empty for years until vandals broke in and torched the mansion in 1959 giving the appearance we see today.

Nature reclaims castle

Nature reclaims castle

Castle Point Blaze on ruins

Castle Point Blaze on ruins

Leaving the castle behind, we head north on the Castle Point Trail.

Ruined Swimming Pool

Ruined Swimming Pool

A short distance from the ruins of the castle we come to the ruins of the castle’s swimming pool.

Water Tower

Water Tower

Leaving the pool behind we arrive at the Ramapo Water Tower which provided water to the Van Slyke Castle. The water tower is still in great shape.

Ramapo Lake View

Ramapo Lake View

Stopping to catch our breath we look behind us to see the distant Ramapo Lake.

New York City from Ramapo Mountain State Forest

New York City View from Ramapo Mountain State Forest

Looking east we see the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan in the distance just visible to the right of High Mountain.

Ramapo Lake View

Ramapo Lake View

Heading northeast on the Castle Point Trail we turn around one last time to say goodbye to Ramapo Lake which appears even further in the distance.

Castle Point Trail End

Castle Point Trail End

We’ve now arrived at the end of the Castle Point Trail. Ahead of us is a paved road leading to private residences nearby. Let’s turn right heading south on the paved road skirting the Cannonball Trail.

Red White Trail Head

Red White Trail Head

A Red and White Trailhead (Skyline Connector Trail) appears to our left. This is our route back to our cars!

Red White Trail

Red White Trail

The Red White Trail is a brief pleasant trail…

Red White Trailend

Red White Trailend

…which ends too soon at the parking lot where we began. I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of Ramapo Mountain State Forest and that it inspires you to check it out for yourself!

Directions (As per the NYNJ Trail Conference webpage)

Take Interstate Route 287 to Exit 57 (Skyline Drive) and proceed north on Skyline Drive for about one mile to the upper parking area for Ramapo Mountain State Forest on the left side of the road, just beyond milepost 1.4, opposite the entrance to Camp Tamarack.

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

Click here for more information!

3.60 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!

4. 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!

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

Hiking Wawayanda State Park’s Cedar Swamp Natural Area!


Wawayanda State Park

Wawayanda State Park

Welcome to Wawayanda State Park! Located in the NJ Highlands, Wawayanda State Park was one of the first major acquisitions by the New Jersey Green Acres program. Wawayanda State Park was purchased in 1963 from the New Jersey Zinc Company which had proposed development for the property. The name “Wawayanda” is of Lenape origin and is said to mean water on the mountain. Many prefer to call it “way way yonder” since the park is located in a remote area of northwestern Passaic and southeastern Sussex counties.

Wawayanda State Park

Wawayanda State Park

Wawayanda State Park is home to a multitude of wildlife including state threatened Red-Shouldered Hawk, Barred Owl and Bobcat. The park is also a strong hold for Black Bears in NJ.

Trails

Trail

Today we are going to explore a portion of the 2,167 acre Wawayanda Swamp Natural Area-home to a globally rare inland Atlantic White Cedar Swamp and the largest natural area present in the park.

Atlantic White Cedar

Atlantic White Cedar

Wawayanda’s Atlantic White Cedar Swamp formed around 15,000 years ago and sections of the swamp have remained unchanged since the last ice age.

Wawayanda Lake

Wawayanda Lake

Using this trail map, let’s start our journey by heading to the trail-head of the 1.6 mile yellow blazed Double Pond Trail near the camping areas of Wawayanda State Park. Double Pond Trail is named after the original name of nearby Wawayanda Lake which was once two bodies of water separated by a thin strip of land.

Wawayanda Furnace

Wawayanda Furnace

On our way to the Double Pond Trail we pass the ruins of the Wawayanda Furnace, a 37 foot tall charcoal blast furnace where pig iron, a crude form of iron, was produced for railroad car wheels. The charcoal blast-furnace is a remnant of a once-thriving village and was last used in 1857.

Double Pond Trail Trailhead

Double Pond Trail Trailhead

Leaving the furnace behind, let’s head east to the start of the Double Pond Trail.

Entering the forest we find Indian Cucumber growing alongside American Beech. Indian Cucumber is an indicator of rich moist woods. The plant can grow up to 30 inches high.

Indian Cucumber

Indian Cucumber

As we walk there are several rock outcrops comprised of ancient granite whose age is likely around 1 billion years old.

Mayapple with Rock Outcrop

Mayapple with Rock Outcrop

Here we see Mayapple sprouting near the base of one outcrop. As we continue closer to the Cedar Swamp we find an interesting small tree known as Striped Maple with bark striped green and white.

Striped Maple

Striped Maple

Striped Maple is a common understory tree of cool mesic forests.

Striped Maple Leaves

Striped Maple Leaves

After walking about .4 of a mile on the Double Pond Trail we have reached a bridge crossing a creek.

Double Pond Trail Bridge

Double Pond Trail Bridge

Swamp

After checking out the views, let’s take the trail back into the forest passing the trailhead for the Red Dot Trail to our right.

Red Dot Trail Trailhead

Red Dot Trail Trailhead

Double Pond Trail

Double Pond Trail

Continuing on the Double Pond Trail dense Rhododendrons are appearing to the side and branching overhead forming a tunnel in places mixed with Eastern Hemlocks making this part of the park appear to be a jungle.

Cedar Swamp Trail Trailhead

Cedar Swamp Trail Trailhead

After traveling about .9 of a mile on the Double Pond Trail we find ourselves at the Trail-head of the 1.5 mile Blue Blazed Cedar Swamp Trail appearing to the right. This trail will take us right into the center of the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp! Today we will hike only about half a mile of the Cedar Swamp trail since there has been much rain causing the water levels in the swamp to rise and flood most of the trail.

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Boardwalk

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Boardwalk

After walking a short distance through more Rhododendron tunnels we find planks of wood have been placed over permanent flooded sections of the trail.

Frog Tannin Stained Water

Frog Tannin Stained Water

We have arrived in the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp. The water is shallow and tannin stained and filled with frogs.

Atlantic White Cedar

Atlantic White Cedar

Atlantic White Cedar occurs on hydric soils in low nutrient water usually on or near the coastal plain. This is what makes finding this pocket of thriving Atlantic White Cedar located so far away from the coastal plain so special.

Other common tree species found in Atlantic White Cedar Swamps include:

Abandoned Car

Abandoned Car

About .05 of a mile into the trail we find the remains of an old car that has been here for many years. Nature is reclaiming the car for its own. As we proceed slightly further we find the boardwalks have ended and the trails are flooded due to the recent heavy rains.

Frog

Frog

Turning around on the Cedar Swamp Trail we head back to the boardwalks and see numerous frogs in the tannin stained water of the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp.

Heading back to the Double Pond Trail we hear a low grunt of a Black Bear nearby alerting us of his presence.

Possible Bear Print

Possible Bear Print

Judging by the above wet paw print on this rock we just missed him!

Wood Ducks and Mallar

Wood Ducks and Mallard

Heading back on the Wooden Bridge catch we glimpses of Wood Ducks and a solitary Mallard out on the water.

Yellow Birch

Yellow Birch

As we leave the swamp and head into mesic (moist) woods, we pass a Yellow Birch tree with its roots exposed. This tree likely began life growing on an old log that has since long ago decayed and returned to the earth.

Red Eft

Red Eft

As we walk we see a bright orange movement on the ground. It’s a Red Eft! Red Efts are juvenile terrestrial Eastern Newts. When fully mature the newt will spend the rest of its life (12-15 years) in the waters of the swamp.

We’ve now made it back to the old iron furnace! I hope you enjoyed this virtual hike of Wawayanda’s Cedar Swamp and that it inspires you to visit it for yourself!

Wawayanda's Jungle (Cedar Swamp Trail)

Wawayanda’s Jungle (Cedar Swamp Trail)

Directions: (As taken from NJ DEP Website)

Directions:
Take Route 23 north to Union Valley Road. Follow Union Valley Road about 6 miles to stop sign. From Stop sign, go to second traffic light. Turn left, travel to fork in road (about 2 miles) go left about 1/2 mile to Warwick Turnpike. Turn left. The park entrance is four miles on the left.

Great Ecology/Hiking Books!

1. 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!

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

Click here for more information!

3. 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!

4.60 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!

5. 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!

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

Welcome to the Essex County Environmental Center!


Welcome to the Essex County Environmental Center (ECEC)!

Essex County Environmental Center

Essex County Environmental Center

ECEC is part of the Essex County Park System and features about 1 mile of hiking trails, a canoe launch on the Passaic River, frog pond & a Wigwam  among other points of interests. ECEC hosts many fine environmental education programs. Click here for more information on ECEC programs! Originally established in 1972 and closed due to funding issues in 1995, ECEC re-opened in 2005 with a new environmentally friendly building.

Rutgers Cooperative Extension

Partners of the ECEC include the Essex County Nature Photography Club, the Sierra Club, NJ Audubon Society, Essex County Environmental Commission, Essex County Beekeepers Society & the Essex County Recreation & Open Space Trust Fund Advisory Board.

Essex County Environmental Center

Essex County Environmental Center

ECEC is located in the 1,360 acre West Essex Park which primarily consists of deciduous wooded wetlands. West Essex Park was created in 1955 when the Essex County Park Commission first acquired a portion of the land. Additional land was purchased from more than 70 additional landowners through the years.

ECEC Virtual Tour

ECEC Front Desk

ECEC Front Desk

From the parking area, head to the Environmental Center to pick up a trail map and check out the indoor exhibits. (PS this tour took place in September 2012-about 1 month prior to Hurricane Sandy and thus describes the center as I found it at that time)

Renewable Energy

Renewable Energy

Once inside, there are various exhibits regarding topics such as renewable energy.

Wind Energy

Wind Energy

After taking in the information, pick up a trail map, it’s time to explore the trails!

Start of Interpretive Trail

Start of Interpretive Trail

Head outside the center and turn right on the Lenape Trail.

Welcome to the Lenape Trail

Welcome to the Lenape Trail

Throughout the exploration numbered wooded posts will be encountered. These posts correspond to the trail map pictured below (taken from the Essex County Environment Center Website)  which we will review as we proceed.

Essex County Environmental Center Trail Map

Essex County Environmental Center Trail Map

Sweetgum Leaf

Sweetgum Leaf

The first marker is in regards to the Sweetgum Tree which is found here near its northern natural limit. Sweetgum has star shaped leaves & spiny seedpods.

Marker 2 Gray Birch

Just past marker 1 turn right on a short green blazed trail and come to marker # 2 which has the remains of a Gray Birch. Gray Birch, one of the first trees to grow after a disturbance, is a short lived species. Only the logs (located around the marker) remain of this particular Gray Birch.

Marker 3 Mother Log

Marker 3 Mother Log

Marker 3 appears just after Marker 2 and discusses the old log lying next to the post. The old log is known as a mother log because it is “nursing” the soil by slowly decomposing nutrients therefore creating a richer soil for future vegetation.

Deer Fence

Deer Fence

Behind this marker a tall deer proof fence will appear.

Habitat Restoration Area Please Stay on Trail

Habitat Restoration Area Please Stay on Trail

The fence was constructed to keep hungry white tail deer out so native vegetation may grow.

Frog Pond

Frog Pond

Continuing to Marker #4, a cool little body of water known as the Frog Pond appears.  While we might not see any frogs today, we know they are present. Check out the native vegetation such as cattail and arrow arum growing in the pond!

Create a Pond

Create a Pond

A sign has been strategically placed so that you can learn how to construct a pond of your own to attract frogs. From the Frog Pond, leave the green blazed trail and pass Garibaldi Hall.

Garibaldi Hall

Garibaldi Hall

Garibaldi Hall was part of the original environmental center and is still used by the Master Gardeners of Essex County.

Patriots Path

Patriots Path

Head toward Eagle Rock Avenue to Marker # 5 found at the start of the White Blazed Patriots Path.

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

The flora identified by this marker is found at your feet. Garlic Mustard is its name, and, at least here in the eastern United States, establishment of itself as an invasive species is its game.  White Tail Deer do not eat Garlic Mustard and the plant has no natural predators in the US. Garlic Mustard produces a chemical which suppress mycorrhizal fungi required by most plants to grow successfully. As a result, Garlic Mustard, once established, forms a monoculture in which native plants cannot become established. Heading further on the Patriot Path I encountered these three fellows in addition to a River Birch (Marker #6):

White Tail Deer

White Tail Deer

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Eastern Chipmunk

Eastern Chipmunk

After passing marker six it’s time to leave the Patriot trail by heading left to a wooden boardwalk.

Boardwalk

Boardwalk

The boardwalk  is raised above the Passaic River floodplain.

Wood Duck Box

Wood Duck Box

A wooden box will appear straight ahead near the Passaic River (Marker #7). This box has been placed for nesting Wood Ducks (a species that nests in tree cavities but will also utilize man-made structures).

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy

Be careful of Poison Ivy (Marker #8) as you continue your journey on the boardwalk! Poison ivy contains a clear liquid known as urushiol which causing a burning itching rash in many people.  Poison Ivy can be found as a hairy vine, a shrub reaching over three feet tall or as a trailing vine on the ground. It helps to remember the following jingles to remind you of the dangers of this vine:

“Hairy rope, don’t be a dope” & “Leaves of three, leave them be”

Leaving Poison Ivy behind, the Passaic River (Marker #9) appears to the right as we leave the boardwalk.

Passaic River Canoe and Kayak Access

Passaic River Canoe and Kayak Access

The river is located southwest behind the Environmental Center Building.  This is a great spot to launch a canoe or kayak to go explore the river.

Passaic River

Passaic River

Some quick Passaic River facts: Spanning 80 miles, the Passaic River is the second largest river in NJ and flows through Morris, Somerset, Union, Essex, Passaic, Bergen and Hudson counties. The confluence of the Rockaway River with the Passaic River is located nearby.  Fish including bass, herring & shad find a home in the Passaic River.

Pollinator Garden

Pollinator Garden

We now find ourselves back on the Lenape trail and passing a Pollinator Garden (Marker #10). Native plants are being grown here to attract bees which are our next point of interest (Marker #11).

Busy Bees at Work

Busy Bees at Work

The Essex County Beekeepers keep a selection of Honeybees here. Bee careful not to disturb it!

Marker 12 Lenape Life

Marker 12 Lenape Life

Wow! What’s this? Why it’s Marker #12 aka Lenape Life. Here you will find behind a gate a Wigwam and other items characteristic of Lenape Life. The Lenape were the original people who found a home in this area prior to European settlement.

Wigwam

Wigwam

Wigwams were created from saplings which were bent to create a dome frame. The frame was then covered with a mixture of animal skins & mats of reeds and rushes. In addition to the Wigwam, the Lenape learning center features a fire pit, meat drying rack, food cache, Lenape Gardens, fishing & tanning rack.

Red Oak

Red Oak

Looping back towards the Environmental Center a Northern Red Oak (Marker #13) appears. The Northern Red Oak is NJ’s state tree and is readily identified by its “ski-slope” bark. Northern Red Oak emits a foul odor when cut down.

Soon after Marker #13 appears Marker #14 (Forest Composition) which describes Musclewood, American Beech & Spicebush.

American Beech

American Beech

Smooth gray bark is characteristic of the American Beech. It is this feature that attracts individuals to carve their initials. This practice is detrimental to American Beech as the carvings create opportunities for disease and could very well kill the tree. In winter, American Beech leaves remain until the spring when new leaves bud out. American Beech is usually found in forest in the final stage of succession.

Spicebush

Spicebush

Spicebush is one of the first native shrubs to bloom in spring. Spicebush earns its name from the spicy scent which emits from a broken twig.  Spicebush is usually found in deciduous wooded wetlands such as those encountered at the ECEC.

Musclewood

Musclewood

Musclewood (aka Ironwood or American Hornbeam) is a small understory tree usually found in deciduous wooded wetlands. The form of the tree resembles a muscular arm. Straight ahead is the Environmental Center but we’re not quite finished with our tour yet. We still have a whole trail yet to explore!

Marker 15 Ferns

Marker 15 Ferns

Let’s turn right on the Lenape to Marker # 15 which discusses three common ferns found in the ECEC forest: Christmas fern, Hay scented Fern & Sensitive Fern.  Christmas fern is evergreen and is thought to be given the name due to its leaves having the appearance of a stocking that you would hang on your chimney. Hay scented fern is named such due to its scent resembling, well, hay. Sensitive Fern is an appropriate name indeed as this fern is one of the first to wilt come the first frosts of fall.

Bird Lane Trail

Bird Lane Trail

We’ve now come to the beginning of the blue blazed Bird Lane Trail.

Bird Lane Trail Trailhead

Bird Lane Trail Trailhead

Let’s take a right to go explore it. The first marker on the Bird Lane Trail is #16 the Fox Grape Vine. Birds such as Northern Cardinal enjoy the grapes this vine produces.

Passaic River Floodplain

Continuing on we start our loop and see Marker #17 which describes the floodplain forest found at the ECEC.  The forest here often will flood (especially in early spring when melting snow contributes to increase water flow in the Passaic River). Species here such as Red Maple flourish in the conditions provided by frequent flooding.

18 Boulder

As we start to turn back there is a large rock (Marker #18) visible in the woods. This rock is known as a glacial erratic and was carried to this spot when the last glacier (Wisconsin Glacier) came through the area around 10,000 years ago. This rock was likely carried from the nearby Watchung Mountains.

Old Equipment

Old Equipment

Continuing back towards the Lenape Trail we pass Marker #19 which describes the past land use of the ECEC. Old farming equipment such as this piece found near this marker tells us that this land was once used as farmland. Looking around you can clearly see the forest has reclaimed the land. Well, we’ve now reached our last marker (#20) which describes the Mayapple plant. The Mayapple plant blooms a single flower in early spring and first emerges before the forest has fully leafed out in springtime.

Bird Lane What will you find?

Bird Lane What will you find?

Well, we’ve now reached the end of the Bird Lane Trail!

Bird Lane Trail End

Bird Lane Trail End

And with that, our tour has concluded. I hope it has inspired you to go visit the ECEC to see if for yourself! Click here for directions!

Great Ecology Books:

1. 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!

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!

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

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

Click here for more information!

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

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