Category Archives: Montclair

Montclair’s Alonzo Bonsal Wildlife Preserve!

Alonzo F. Bonsal Wildlife Preserve

Welcome to the 20.68 acre Alonzo F. Bonsal Wildlife Preserve! The preserve is located and owned by the Township of Montclair, New Jersey and was purchased with NJ DEP Green Acres funds. The City of Clifton is located to the north, and residential development surrounds the preserve to the south, east and west. There are 9.12 acres of adjacent lands located to the north of the preserve which are controlled by the North Jersey District Water Commission for its Wanaque Reservoir Balancing Tank which provide additional habitat for wildlife.  A citizens group lobbied to save the woodland from development in the 1970’s. The Bonsal Preserve was named after a local resident whose family’s contribution augmented Green Acres funding of the site.

Alonzo F. Bonsal Wildlife Preserve

The preserve consists of remnant wetlands and uplands surrounding the Third River, a major tributary of the lower Passaic River watershed.  The Third River headwaters are located in Rifle Camp Park in Woodland Park.

Third River

The headwaters were impounded in 1899 to form the Great Notch Reservoir which greatly reduced the river’s flow. The Third River’s current name was derived from the fact that it lies north of two other Passaic River tributaries (1st & 2nd Rivers).

Years ago, the river was known as Pearl River due to the discovery of the Queen Pearl aka Paterson Pearl . Freshwater pearls are found in a river’s mussel population. The Paterson Pearl, a 93 grain pink pearl, was one of the first freshwater pearl to be discovered in the United States. Other pearls were found in the Third River but none matched the Paterson Pearl.

Today, the mussels are long gone and the name Pearl River has been replaced by Third River as designated by cartographers.

The preserve has been left in its natural state with the exception of an old sewer line built in the early 1900’s. The sewer is owned by the City of Clifton. In 2008, around 10 trees in the preserve and a 12 foot wide woods road was constructed near Daniels Road, a dead end street in Clifton, to access a ruptured section of the pipe. Plans are being made to remove and reroute the sewer as of January 2014.


Bridge over Third River

The main entrance to the Bonsal Preserve is located in a right of way off of Riverview Drive in Montclair. After crossing the bridge over the Third River, you can continue north to Daniels Drive in Clifton or head east or west to explore the wetlands near the Third River. The trails are not blazed but due to the size of the preserve, you can’t get lost physically without soon discovering a spot you previously traveled.

Bonsal Preserve Trail

Small preserves in urban settings really provide a great opportunity to take your time and enjoy nature right in your own backyard.


The richest concentration of wildlife found in the Third River watershed is found in the Bonsal Preserve. Baltimore Orioles, Red-Eyed Vireos, Red-Winged Blackbirds, White-Tailed Deer and Raccoon have all been spotted among others. I spotted the guys in the pictures below the day I visited:

Mourning Cloak Butterfly

White Throated Sparrow

Song Sparrow


Because a good percentage of the Bonsal Preserve consists of forested floodplains, obligate wetland plants such as Skunk Cabbage may be found in abundance.

Skunk Cabbage

Other species include the below among others:

American Beech

Black Cherry

 Check out Plant Communities of New Jersey to learn more about the high diversity of plant life found in the Garden State!

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 preserve, known locally as Montclair’s paradise, is a great place to take a walk, birdwatch and just kick back and enjoy. Click here for directions!

For more information on this fantastic preserve be sure to contact Friends of the Bonsal Preserve at the email address

Great Ecology/Birding Books!

1. Pocket Guide to Eastern Streams – This book is perfect for nature-lovers, hikers, anglers, naturalists, and wildlife professionals
* Includes information on restoring and preserving threatened or damaged stream ecosystems!

Click Here for more information!

2. Stream Ecology: Structure and function of running waters – Great working reference for stream ecology and related fields!

Click Here for more information!

3. Birds of Eastern North America – This wonderful book’s format allows for quick and easy reference using detailed artworks, maps and text!

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!

Check out the latest bird sightings here!


Welcome to Essex County Mills Reservation!

Welcome to the Mills Reservation

Welcome to Essex County’s Mills Reservation County Park! Mills reservation, located primarily in Cedar Grove, NJ became a part of the Essex County Park system in 1954 due to a donation from the Davella Mills foundation which had previously owned the land.

Mills Reservation County Park

The reservation consists of deciduous woodland and wetlands with the only development consisting of a small parking lot located off of Normal Avenue and the development of an excellent trail system.  Parking is also available on Old Quarry Road near the southern entrance to the reserve. Mills Reservation has Normal Avenue to the north, Montclair’s Mountain Side Park to the east, Reservoir Drive & the Cedar Grove Reservoir to the west and Old Quarry Road to the south.

Originally an estimated 119 acres, Mills Reservation’s total acreage was brought to 157 acres through a land swap in Newark between the years 1962 and 1967.


Volcanic Basalt

Mills Reservation is located on the 1st Watchung Mountain. The word “Watchung” is of Native American origin and means “high hill”. The rock which forms the Watchungs is known as basalt which formed when molten lava extruded out of the earth’s surface and cooled rapidly.

Mysterious Normal Avenue Purple Box Information

Emerald Ash Borer Detector

Visitors who park in the Normal Avenue parking lot may notice a strange purple box hanging from a White Ash Tree.  This purple box has been placed to detect the presence of the Emerald Ash Borer, a non-native destructive pest from Asia which threatens all ash trees. The mature emerald ash borer does not pose a threat. It is the larva of these borers which eat away at the heartwood of ash trees. The color purple attracts the emerald ash borer. Once the insect lands on the box they become trapped on the sticky surface.


Mills Reservation Trail Map

Mills Reservation features 7 trails totaling 6.1 miles (with several trails overlapping in sections).  The main trail is known as the 1.5 mile Mills Loop Trail which consists of a large gravel road.

Mills Reservation Loop

This is the most popular trail in Mills Reservation and you are almost guaranteed to come across people walking their dogs no matter what the weather.

Dog near Mills Reservation Loop

The other six trails (including a portion of the estimated 34 mile Essex County Lenape Trail) found throughout Mills Reservation also offer the chance to explore deep into this wooded forest island.

Reservoir Trail Blaze

  • Reservoir Trail  (Red Blazes, 1 Mile) heads west from the Normal Avenue Parking Lot and follows the western border of Mills Reservation near Reservoir Drive. Seasonal peaks of the City of Newark owned Cedar Grove Reservoir may be seen to the west of the trail. The Reservoir trail ends where the southern section of the Eastview Trail begins.

    Eastview Trail

  • Eastview Trail  (Blue Blazes, 1.1 Miles) Southern portion of this trail begins near the Old Quarry Road entrance to Mills Reservation and, as the name implies, heads east to Quarry Point before turning north on the eastern portion of the reserve. Quarry Points contains volcanic basalt outcrops in addition to a very old cement platform where anti-aircraft guns were installed during World War II.

    Quarry Point Ruins

    Quarry Points offers great views of NYC and is considered one of the highlights of Mills Reservation. NJ Audubon Society hosts their Spring Hawk count at Quarry Point due to the great views.

    Manhattan View from Quarry Point

    The Eastview Trail’s northern terminus is the Normal Avenue parking lot.

    Woodland Trail Trailhead

  • Woodland Trail  (Purple Blaze .8 of a mile) The northern portion of this trail is accessible off of the red blazed Reservoir trail near the Normal Avenue parking lot.  This trail traverses down the heart of Mills Reservation heading in a mostly southwest direction before turning southeast to end near Quarry Point near the Eastview and Lenape Trail.

    Welcome to the Lenape Trail

  • Lenape Trail– is accessible from the Normal Avenue parking lot via the .1 of a mile Lenape Link Trail (Yellow on White Blazes) which heads west from the Normal Avenue parking lot to connect with the Lenape Trail which enters Mills Reservation from the northwest.

    Lenape Trail Connector to Lenape Trail

    The Lenape Trail then heads southwest crossing through the Reservoir Trail, Mills Loop Trail and the Woodland Trail before turning south to cross the Woodland Trail and Mills Loop Trail again. Once the Lenape Trail crosses the Woodland and Mills Loop Trail, it heads east to briefly meet with the Eastview Trail where it then turns east to Quarry Point. From Quarry Point the Lenape Trail heads north paralleling the Eastview Trail before turning east into Montclair’s Mountainside Park on its way to Newark.

  • Mills Gate Trail  (Orange Blaze .1 of a mile) is a side loop of the Mills Reservation Loop and can be accessed from the eastern border of Mills Reservation. The trail goes through the original and once primary entrance of Mills Reservation.

    Original Entry into Mills Reservation


    Mills Reservation contains an interesting array of native flora including:

    Gray Birch

    American Beech

    Chestnut Oak

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!

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!

  • Directions: (As taken from NYNJCT Botany)Take the Garden State Parkway south to exit 151 (Watchung Avenue in Montclair).  Turn west from the exit ramp onto Watchung Avenue.  Drive about two miles until the road ends at Upper Mountain Avenue.  Turn north and go 1.7 miles to the traffic light at Normal Avenue.  Turn west and drive 0.3 miles to the entrance on the left.

 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!