Category Archives: New York City

Westchester County’s Cranberry Lake Preserve!


Welcome to Cranberry Lake Preserve!

Welcome to Cranberry Lake Preserve!

Welcome to Westchester County’s Cranberry Lake Preserve! Cranberry Lake Preserve (CLP), purchased by Westchester County in 1967, contains 190 acres of deciduous woodland, wetlands, an old quarry, several bodies of water and old ruins.

Cranberry Lake Preserve BioDiversity Reserve Area

In the early 1900’s the land that was to become CLP was an active quarry utilized for the construction of the nearby Kensico Dam which holds NYC drinking water.

Kensico Dam

Kensico Dam

Trails

Trail Map

The trail map above was taken from the Westchester County Parks webpage.

Cranberry Lake Preserve Trail

Cranberry Lake Preserve Trail

Trails are open dawn to dusk.  Trail maps are available at a kiosk outside or you can click here for a digital version. CLP features four blazed loop trails. All trails begin and end with blazes featuring the Westchester County Parks logo.  Periodic numbers appear on blazes occasionally which correspond to your current location on the trail map. These numbers are found on wooden posts. (Please note the numbers do not appear on the online version of the trail map)

All trails are accessible by either orange or white blaze connector trails.

To Nature Lodge

To Nature Lodge

Many sections of CLP trails display signs which lead back to the Nature Lodge.

Red Trail

Red Blaze

Red Blaze

At 2.4 miles the red trail is the longest trail featured in CLP. The red trail follows CLP boundaries with the exception of the quarry.

Blue Trail

Blue Blaze

Blue Blaze

The Blue Trail loops around both Cranberry Lake and South Pond for a total distance of 1 mile.

Cranberry Lake

Cranberry Lake

Cranberry Lake is a natural body of water formed around 18,000 years ago by glacier activity. The lake is fed by an underground spring.

Ground Pine

Ground Pine

Ground Pine can be found growing along the Blue Trail.

Yellow Trail

Yellow Trail Trailhead

Yellow Trail Trailhead

The Yellow trail traverses rocky upland and a section of Cranberry Lake.

Purple (History) Trail

History Trail Map 1

History Trail Map 2

The above History Trail Map and Descriptions was taken from the Westchester County Parks webpage.

Purple Trail Trailhead

Purple Trail Trailhead

The Purple Blazed History trail is a self guided trail which explores most of the preserve including the quarry.

Exploring CLP

American Beech

While CLP’s trails are open dusk to dawn, the nature lodge and its parking area are closed most days by 5PM. It is strongly recommended that you park in the designated parking area near Old Orchard Street if you plan on hiking past 5PM.

Notice This Gate is Locked at 500PM (2)

It is from the Old Orchard Street parking entrance that the below description starts out from on the way to explore CLP. Let’s go!

Eastern Chipmunk Cranberry Lake Preserve

Eastern Chipmunk Cranberry Lake Preserve

From the parking area, walk up the road to the nature lodge.

Cranberry Lake Preserve Nature Lodge

Cranberry Lake Preserve Nature Lodge

Just to the west of the nature lodge is an interesting wetland with a dock.

Wetlands Near Nature Lodge

Wetlands Near Nature Lodge

It was here that I saw a Northern Water Snake.

Snake

Head inside the nature lodge to check out the exhibits and pick up a trail map.

Inside Cranberry Lake Nature Lodge

Inside Cranberry Lake Nature Lodge

From the nature lodge, head south to take the yellow trail down to an Orange connecting trail.

Orange Trail (Lake) Trailhead

Here there is a sign advertising Cranberry Lake. The orange blazed connector trail leads to a jointly blazed yellow/blue trail with Cranberry Lake straight ahead.

Yellow Blue

Yellow Blue Blazed Trail near Cranberry Lake

Follow the Yellow/Blue blazed trail south with Cranberry Lake to your left.

Bent Bridge

Bent Bridge

Continuing south, take the Orange Blazed Connector trail which will appear to your left near a wooden boardwalk known as Bent Bridge.

View of Fen from Bent Bridge

Bent Bridge provides a good opportunity to check out the fen located to the south of Cranberry Lake. In the summer, white water lilies appear on the water.

Stone Chamber

Stone Chamber

Leaving Bent Bridge, the Orange blazed connector trail leads to a man-made “cave” known as the Stone Chamber.

Looking outside from inside Stone Chamber

Looking outside from inside Stone Chamber

The ruins surrounding the stone chamber were the property of a farmer named Thomas Cunningham. The Stone Chamber is a very neat little man-made “cave” of sorts that is fun to explore.

Ruins outside Stone Chamber

Ruins outside Stone Chamber

From here, the orange blaze connector trail leads past more stone ruins to the Purple Trail (aka History Trail). The path here follows an old railroad which separates the fen from South Pond.

South Pond

South Pond

You are sure to hear splashes in the warmer months of frogs jumping in the water as you walk by.

Frog

Green Frog Cranberry Lake Preserve

Head east on the Purple Trail to a bench strategically placed in front of a beautiful cascade.

Cascade

Cascade

It’s a good spot to rest and relax in a peaceful setting.

To Quarry

To Quarry

From the cascade, continue east on the Purple Trail following signs for the quarry.

Abandoned Tennis Court

Abandoned Tennis Court

An abandoned tennis court will appear to your right. Nature is slowly reclaiming the tennis court.  The tennis court was part of the Birchwood Swim club which used the nearby Quarry Pond for Swimming. Birchwood Swim Club was discontinued in 1997.

Tulip Poplar & Milkweed Abandoned Tennis Court

Tulip Poplar & Milkweed Abandoned Tennis Court

Just east of the abandoned tennis court is Quarry Pond.

Quarry Pond

Quarry Pond

Fish Quarry Pond

Fish Quarry Pond

Once past the quarry pond the purple trail heads past old railroad car wheels which were used to haul granite during the quarry operation.

Railroad Wheels

Railroad Wheels

The Purple Trail continues heading north climbing over the rocky quarry.

Quarry Trail

Quarry Trail

The height here is an estimated 450 feet above sea level.

Derrick

Derrick

Derrick anchors which once held heavy quarry machinery are still fastened in the rocks along the trail.

Purple Trail 4 Old Automobile

Old Automobile on Purple Trail

From here, the trail starts to descend the quarry and heads west passing an old abandoned car.

Continuing north the Purple Trail comes across the remains of a stone cutting shed.

Stone Cutting Shed Ruins

Stone Cutting Shed Ruins

After exploring this area, follow the Purple Trail south until it meets with the red trail. From here, take the red trail southwest with Cranberry Lake to your right. Continuing south, retrace your steps until you pass the cascade with the bench at an intersection with the Purple Trail that you previously took into the Quarry territory. Continuing south, the red trail passes South Pond to the West.

South Pond 2

South Pond

South Pond is man-made and was created during quarry activities.

Bird Tower on South Pond

Bird Tower on South Pond

A Bird Observation tower appears to your left. This tower provides great views of South Pond.

Remains of Stone Crusher

Remains of Stone Crusher

The red trail passes near the remains of a stone crusher foundation. The stone crusher was capable of crushing up to 1000 cubic yards of gravel per day when the quarry was active.

Water Supply Land No Trespassing

Signs for NYC Watershed appear to east of the trail.

Hush Pond

Hush Pond

From here, the red trail turns west and temporarily leaves CLP & enters White Plains watershed land and passes Hush Pond to the south.

Stone Wall by Red Trail

Stone Wall by Red Trail

From Hush Pond, the red trail passes a couple of connector trails and turns north following an old stone wall delineating NYC watershed property from CLP. According to David Steinberg who wrote a description of Cranberry Lake Preserve in his book “Hiking the Road to Ruins” the lower, crude, sharper-tipped walls are of colonial origin and the larger, cut-stone flat-topped walls are NY DEP watershed boundaries dating from the 1960s.

Indian Pipe

Indian Pipe

It was here that I found Indian Pipe growing when I visited in June of 2012. Continue following the red trail north with the wall to your left until you reach your car.

Black Cap Chickadee

Black-Capped Chickadee Cranberry Lake Preserve

Directions

Cranberry Lake Preserve contains diverse habitats within its 190 acres. It is worth checking out yourself!

  • 1609 Old Orchard Street, North White Plains, NY
  • Park hours: Park open dawn to dusk. Nature Lodge and front gate are open Wednesday-Sunday. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Phone: (914) 428-1005

Click here for Directions!

Check out the latest bird sightings here!

Check out David Steinberg’s description of this hike in the book “Hiking the Road to Ruins

Click here for more information!

Hiking/Ecology Books!

1. The Nature of New York – An Environmental History of the Empire State – This work offers a sweeping environmental history of New York State

Click here for more information!

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

Click here for more information!

Manhattan’s Hallett Nature Sanctuary!


Hallett Nature Sanctuary

Welcome to Manhattan’s Hallett Nature Sanctuary! The Hallett Nature Sanctuary is located in the southeastern section of world famous Central Park near Central Park South and 5th Avenue.  The sanctuary is an estimated 4 acre rocky upland woodland slope that forms the northern boundary of the artificially created 59th street pond.

59th Street Pond

59th Street Pond

A fence surrounds the forest to the north and west. The western side features a man-made waterfall which falls over Manhattan schist.

Waterfall at Hallett Nature Sanctuary

Waterfall at Hallett Nature Sanctuary

The Hallett Nature Sanctuary is the smallest of Central Park’s three woodlands.  Formerly known as the Promontory, it was renamed the Hallett Nature Sanctuary in 1986 after George Hervey Hallett, Jr. Hallett was a well known NYC civic leader and nature lover.  The land which became the Hallett Nature Sanctuary was declared a bird sanctuary and formally closed to the general public in 1934.

The preserve served as a living experiment to see how 4 acres of woodland would ecologically function  in the United State’s most populated city.  The results of the experiment were less than encouraging.  All four layers of the forest (the canopy, sub-canopy, shrub and herbaceous layers) were found to be under onslaught from invasive plants including:

Wisteria has been shown to strangle and leave deep indentations on plants it grasps as shown in the picture listed below.

Effects of Invasive Wisteria on shrub

Effects of Invasive Wisteria on shrub after removal

Trail

Hallett Nature Sanctuary Trail Map

Hallett Nature Sanctuary Trail Map taken from the Central Park Conservancy Website

Trail

On occasion, the Central Park Conservancy holds tours of the 59th Street pond and the Hallett Nature Sanctuary. The preserve is also open for your own exploration depending on weather conditions.

A short log lined woodchip trail encircles the sanctuary.   The woodchip trail helps water to absorb more easier into the ground preventing erosion on the steep sections of the sanctuary.  In the growing season (spring & summer) as you walk the trail and listen to the tour guide it is hard to believe that you are feet away from Central Park South.

Hallett Nature Sanctuary Forest

Hallett Nature Sanctuary Forest

The highlight of the tour is discovering the source of the waterfall located on the western border that empties into the pond. Visitors walking by may think the waterfall is generated by a natural spring. The real source is man-made; the waterfall can be turned on and off.

Flora

Flora in the Hallett Nature Sanctuary includes the below among others:

The Central Park Conservancy is adding to the list of native plants by planting in the herbaceous , shrub and canopy layers of the forest.

Fauna

Many species of birds find a home in Hallett Nature Sanctuary including:

Eastern Towee

Eastern Towhee

Black-Crowned Night Heron

Black-Crowned Night Heron

Green-Winged Teal

Green-Winged Teal

Notable mammals include:

There have been at least two visits by Coyotes in the past five years. Click here for a video of a coyote crossing ice on the pond in 2010. Other species include:

Raccoon

Raccoon

Box Turtle

Box Turtle

Turtle laying eggs near pond by Hallett sanctuary

Turtle laying eggs near pond by Hallett sanctuary

 

Turtle laying eggs near pond by Hallett sanctuaryIt is worth taking a Central Park Conservancy led tour of this cool preserve in the middle of NYC. Click here for tour contact 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!

Check out the latest flora and fauna sightings here!

Great Books on Central Park:

  1. Central Park, An American Masterpiece: A Comprehensive History of the Nation’s First Urban Park
  2. Seeing Central Park: The Official Guide to the World’s Greatest Urban Park

Central Park Manhattan


Central Park is the most amazing feat of landscaping I’ve ever seen.

Gapstow Bridge

Gapstow Bridge over the Pond

It is the largest green spot in all of Manhattan but it is not the only green spot. There is also Riverside Park, Inwood Hill Park and Bryant Park to name a few. But as with any park you never know what or who will be lurking in the trees and bushes. Keep your wits about you and prepare yourself for encounters.

Sparrow

Got Food?

Squirrel

Psst! Hey Buddy! Got some acorns here, I’ll sell them to you real cheap!

So keep your eyes peeled.  You never know what you will find in your travels.

Duck

What? No bread?! I’m outta here

Central Park Manhattan Reflections


You would think that going to the same place at least 5 times a week would get boring. Not the case with Manhattan’s Central Park!

Flowers

Crocus in Bloom

 

And spring is really cool-especially seeing plants regardless if native or not (in this case) come into bloom.  Even the pretty pigeons (that’s an oxymoron if I ever saw one) come out to play.

Pretty Pigeon Oxymoron

Rock Dove

 

Look at this pigeon strutting his stuff.

Central Park 3.18 (32)

Downy Woodpecker

Turtles

Turtle by the Pond

Central Park is always fun. Nice to have an island of green in a sea of gray.

3/15/10 Central Park NYC Post


Central Park was a mud bath today. Everything was muddy-even the squirrels!

Muddy Squirrel

Look at his blurry mud filled face!

Deciding Squirrel

To be or not to be that is the question

The squirrel above seems to be deciding if he wants a mud bath or not.

 

Parts of Central Park were once a swamp but I don’t know-it might still be.

I did manage to see a mourning dove who sought refuge in a tree:

Mourning Dove

Mud may not always be fun, but it made today’s walk interesting.