Welcome to the Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve!
The 2013 Pequannock River Coalition (PRC) Winter Hike took participants on an exploratory hike through the Pequannock River Watershed. Led by PRC Executive Ross Kushner, the 4 mile hike promised education & exercise.
Started in 1995, the Pequannock River Coalition provided a crucial voice in protecting the watershed of the Pequannock River, one of the cleanest rivers in New Jersey and a tributary of the Passaic River.
Ah, there you are! Welcome! Ready for the 4 mile hike? There’s plenty of snow on the ground to help us look for animal tracks.
Let’s begin by meeting Ross Kushner, the Executive Director of the Pequannock River Coalition. He’s going to lead the hike today!
Right now we are at a small gravel lot off Green Pond Road near Route 23 in the Newfoundland section of West Milford.
We will be exploring the area just north of Copperas Mountain in nearby Rockaway Township. Ross has just taken attendance and now we are heading southwest on Green Pond Road and will be heading into the woods of the vast Pequannock watershed!
What happened here? These trees appear to have collapsed like dominoes. The fallen trees were part of plantations planted in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and were to be maintained (i.e. trimmed) every 10-15 years. With the onset of WWII the plantations were all but forgotten. Fast forward to 2012, we now have a tangle of trees growing close to one another. Hurricane Sandy came and knocked the trees down. Ross explained that in general other than habitat for Northern Goshawks and Red Squirrels, plantations are a monoculture and do not provide the diversity most wildlife require.
Look at all these White-Tailed Deer prints around this fallen tree!
Hardwood trees that fell during the hurricane have become popular with White-Tailed Deer who enjoy nibbling on sections of tree normally inaccessible.
Leaving the fallen tree and coming to a small field, Ross has just found a curious looking egg pouch attached to a plant in a frozen field. This is a Praying Mantis egg case.
You can purchase Praying Mantis egg cases and use them as a natural “pesticide” for pests such as Japanese Beetles.
Heading back to Green Pond Road, Ross points out a stand of deciduous conifers near the side of the road and has identified them as American Larch. American Larch needles turn orange in the fall and fall off in winter.
Heading back on Green Pond Road, we’re now walking over a Pequannock River Tributary near Deerhaven Lane. The Pequannock River Tributary draining the marsh in the foreground was straightened to drain the marsh. Phragmites, a common plant which thrives in disturbed wetlands, is abundant.
Around 10,000 years ago the Wisconsin Glacier piled boulders on the north side and sheared off the southern side of mountains in the NJ Highlands. As the glacier retreated at the end of the ice age, they tended to melt in place. The sheered cliffs visible on Green Pond Mountain were testimony to that theory.
We’re now continuing our journey down Green Pond Road. It’s been about a quarter of a mile but we are now again entering the Pequannock River Watershed forest.
What are these ruins we are looking at? Ross is now explaining that when the City of Newark acquired the land in the early 1900’s people were living throughout the watershed property and had been for over a hundred years. Their property was taken by imminent domain to protect the water supply. Back in the 1890s and early 1900s Newark’s population was dying as their water supply was derived from the Passaic River in Newark. This section of the Passaic River was and is severely impaired.
Walking a bit further in the snow Ross has suddenly stopped. “Look at the space between these deer prints!” he says. “This guy was flying, but not from us-these are old prints”. There must be 20 feet present between the gaps of the prints!!
What is Ross looking at? It’s another American Larch tree with a good portion of its bark missing. Ross states “The bark has been taken off over the decades by Black Bears biting and rubbing their backs on the tree. The higher the bite, the bigger the bear. Sort of a territorial thing-every bear that comes by can determine what other bears have been in the area”.
Ross walks a bit further into the woods and suddenly stops.
We just happen to be by Deerhaven Lake where a number of White Pines are standing. These pines grew naturally. Though we don’t spot any today, there have been reports of Great Blue Heron nests in these pines. Ross turns around and starts heading back to Green Pond Road.
We are back on Green Pond Road on our way to a section of the white blazed 19.4 Mile Four Birds Trail. This trail, maintained by members of the NYNJ Trail Conference, is named Four Birds to represent the ecological diversity that can be encountered on the trail. Wild Turkeys, Red-Tail Hawks, Great Blue Herons & Ospreys represent the “Four Birds” in the name.
Near the beginning of the trail we see tiny footprints heading to a log. They belong to an Opossum.
It looks like we are now leaving the Four Birds Trail and are walking by a rather large American Beech with marks that look like eyes keeping watch over the forest. American Beech is considered a climax species in succession and is an indicator that the forest present here has not been disturbed in a long time.
Ross Pointed out black bear claw marks and noted that they are perfectly spaced.
Looking northwest towards Deerhaven Lake we see a large active beaver lodge with several others in the distance. Ross stated that the primary predator of beavers is the gray wolf which has been extirpated from New Jersey. Time to stop for lunch!
I find the leaf of the Northern Red Oak (NJ’s state tree) on my seat.
After eating our lunch Ross spots a White Oak tree covered with Black Bear claw marks. White Oak acorns are sweeter than other oaks such as Black or Red Oak. Black Bears love White Oak acorns so much that they will go up into the tree to retrieve them before they fall.
While checking out the claw marks we spot an out of season Firefly on the White Oak. Apparently it was tricked by the abundant sunshine.
River Otter droppings containing fish scales were spotted near an outlet of a Pequannock River tributary leaving Deerhaven Lake. River Otters are usually active near the outlet of a beaver pond and the droppings are indicators of River Otter territorial tendencies.
We even see the slides they made on the ice!
Ross is taking us on a shortcut back to our cars near the Pequannock River.
Well, we’ve reached our cars and the tour has concluded. I hope this virtual hike has inspired you to explore your local forest.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
An estimated 7 miles of blazed trails are waiting to be explored at the TNC & LBP.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The trail then heads east and south to rejoin the Main Trail in a loop fashion.
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.
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.
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.
The Bischoff trail then terminates when it meets the white trail.
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.
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.
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).
Once past the blue spur trail, the purple trail continues southwest crossing over Lambier Brook before terminating into the 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.
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.
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.
An interesting trail that is accessible from the Allison Trail is the 0.6 of a mile orange blazed Haring Rock Trail.
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.
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.
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.
The short trail traverses near East Clinton Avenue in the southern boundary of the preserve.
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.
Continuing north, the trail crosses over Lost Brook where a dam is visible.
The trail joins with the Allison Trail briefly after it crosses Green Brook near more wetlands.
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).
The trail continues heading north crossing over two additional tributary streams before terminating at the Main Trail near Route 9W.
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!
Welcome to the Poplar Road Wildlife Sanctuary! The preserve has Poplar Road to the north, Lake Tappan to the east, Cherry Brook flowing to the west and the confluence of Cherry Brook and the Hackensack River to the south.
The sanctuary consists of 18 acres of White Pine plantation, upland, wetlands and a meadow with beautiful views of the Lake Tappan Reservoir.
The 1,255 acre Lake Tappan Reservoir (formed by impounding the Hackensack River via the Lake Tappan dam in 1966) is owned and operated by Suez Water.
The 18 wooded acres were part of a 44 acre tract of woods known as the River Vale Woods. The 44 acres were once part of Suez Water’s watershed buffer but were later sold to developers who planned to turn the 44 wooded acres into high density dwellings. On December 23, 2002, after six years of wrangling, 18 of the 44 acres were bought by the township of River Vale using grants and loans from the Municipal Open Space Trust Fund, NJ Green Acres and the Bergen County Open Space, Recreation, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund. In 2010, 11 wooded acres off of Stanley Place near the sanctuary were preserved and will be part of the 18 acres of the Preserve bringing the total acreage to 29. An additional 5 acres (which contain a section of Cherry Brook) were purchased by the Township earlier in 2010. The remaining 10 acres, which are located across the street from the Poplar Road Nature Sanctuary were clear cut for a townhouse development in the summer of 2010.
After parking, proceed through the gate of the Poplar Road Nature Sanctuary towards the kiosk which is stored with informational brochures during the warmer months provided by Bergen SWAN.
From the kiosk, head west through a White Pine plantation which is in the final stages of succession. As time progresses and more of the White Pines succumb to storms and other natural conditions, hardwood forest trees such as Sugar Maple will take the White Pine tree place.
Follow the trail south to the Cherry Brook floodplain. Information signage regarding Sugar Maple and Tulip Tree may be found on the right of the trail near a chain link fence which separates the sanctuary from Suez Water watershed land. Turn left after skirting a brief wetland area and head east towards Lake Tappan. This section of the trail divides the White Pine plantation from the established hardwood forest.
Straight ahead is a meadow and views of Lake Tappan.
The meadow is a managed grassland that is periodically mowed to prevent it from becoming a forest via succession. Leaving the meadow, head north via a Suez Water service road and then take a left heading west back through the White Pine plantation to the kiosk to complete the hike.
Flora that may be found in the sanctuary include:
- Red Maple
- Sugar Maple
- White Pine
- American Beech
- Smooth Sumac
- Virginia Creeper
- Hay-Scented Fern
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 observed at the sanctuary and in the nearby watershed include
- Red Fox
- Spring Peeper
- Eastern Gray Squirrel
- Eastern Chipmunk
- Wild Turkey
- White-Tailed Deer
- Great Horned Owl
From Exit 5 off the Palisades Interstate Parkway head south on Route 303; turn left (west) onto Oak Tree Road; follow it around to make a left turn (west) onto Washington Street/Old Tappan Road; turn right onto Washington Avenue north (heading northeast); follow it around to a curved turn left onto Poplar Road. The parking area is a short ways down on the left (south side) of the road.
Great 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. 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!
Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!