Advertisements
Archive | Muskrats RSS for this section

Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge Wood Duck Nature Trail!


Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge Wood Duck Nature Trail

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

Kiosk at Entrance to Wood Duck Nature 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

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

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

The trail is flat and makes for very easy walking.

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

Beaver Interpretive Signage

In addition to the interpretive nature signs, there are plenty of benches and even a wildlife viewing blind.

Wildlife Viewing Blind

The trail features footbridges over Wallkill River tributaries such as 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 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

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

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.

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

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

Animals and birds leave tracks and other signs that they have been in the area.

Wallkill River 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-Tail Hawk and observed White Breasted Nuthatches and a 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

Gray Birch

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.

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!

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

Advertisements

Exploring Secaucus 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

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

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

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

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, 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

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.

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

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.

Little Blue Heron on Ancient White Cedar Stump

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.

Flora

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

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.

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

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!

%d bloggers like this: