Welcome! Today we are going to hike two of the four Pompton Aquatic Parks trails. We will use the below trail map (provided by thePompton Lakes Open Space Committee) to guide us.
We will have views of the adjacent Pompton River and a hike through a preserved floodplain forest. Ready? Let’s go!
Blue-Blazed Pompton Aquatic Trail
Starting from Woodlawn Avenue in Pompton Lakes we will head straight going west at the intersection near the trailhead of the .59 of a mile Pompton Aquatic Park Trail. The entire trail is through fresh water wetlands. Its good we picked the month of August to walk through when it is nice and dry! In fact, if we didn’t look at the vegetation growing we might not even know we were walking through wetlands. Common wetland vegetation growing along the trail as we walk include:
All of the above flora are native except for Purple Loosestrife and Japanese Knotweed which are considered invasive plants, that is, they displace and prevent native plants from growing because there are no natural predators native to the US to stop the spread of these plants.
Intersection of the Blue Blazed Pompton Aquatic Trail with the Yellow Blazed Rivercrest Trail
From here we will follow the 1 mile yellow blazed Rivercrest Trail which is the longest trail found in Pompton Aquatic Park. We will head north on this out and back trail (meaning we will retrace our steps). Out and back trails are a good way to verify if you missed something as you walked.
And there is the Pompton River! The Pompton River formed just north of Aquatic Park through the confluence of the Pequannock, Wanaque and Ramapo Rivers. The river above the park is technically still called the Pequannock River. The Pompton River is classified FW2-NT (fresh water non-trout production or maintenance) by the NJ DEP. The Pompton River is a major tributary to the Passaic River.
Painted Turtles in the Pompton River
As we walk along we spot some painted turtles bobbing in the Pompton River. Don’t they have the life! Not a care in the world!
Invasive Mile-a-Minute Plant
We see jumbles of arrow shaped leaves everywhere. It’s a Mile-a-Minute Plant another invasive. It is native to Asia.
We’ve been spotted! A white-tailed deer family is watching us closely. Let’s keep going!
Well, we have made it to the end of the Rivercrest Trail at Joe’s Grill Field (which is part of the Pompton Lakes park system.). Time to head back the way we came to get to our cars. Glad you could make it! It is my hope that this ‘virtual tour’ of Pompton Aquatic Park inspires you to visit and check it out for yourself!
Feel free to comment with any memories, wildlife sightings or any other comments about Pompton Aquatic Park! Thank you and have fun exploring!
The trailhead discussed in this post is located off of Woodlawn Avenue in Pompton Lakes NJ.
Check out some great books below to learn more about NJ’s plants and wetlands!
Despite its close proximity to the Ramapo Mountains which are comprised of Highlands “basement” rocks, Campgaw Mountain comes from a different geological background. With a ridge expanding two miles Campgaw Mountain is comprised of basalt and is part of the Watchung Mountains. Elevations range from 300 feet to a maximum elevation of 751 feet atop Campgaw Mountain.
Campgaw Mountain contains several ecological communities including upland xeric (dry) deciduous forest, mesic (moist) deciduous forest and deciduous forest wetlands. Meadow habitat can be found along the power lines within the boundaries of the park.
The below are a sample of a list of birds that have been spotted within Campgaw Mountain:
Welcome! Today we are going to see eastern views near a ski lift, and explore an interesting pond! Ready? Let’s go!
Let’s start our journey by heading west on the joint .5 of a mile Yellow Blazed Indian Trail and Blue Blazed .90 of a mile Rocky Ridge trail.
Rocky Ridge Powerline Cut
Almost immediately the blue blazed rocky ridge trail splits off from the yellow blazed Indian Trail. Let’s take it! We’ll meet up again with the Indian Trail later. On the Rocky Ridge Trail we pass under power lines between two old buildings.
Old Cedar Trail 1
As we walk we go through an intersection with the 2.10 mile Red Blazed Old Cedar Trail.
The Rocky Ridge footpath has now changed to a gravel road which we are climbing. Looking to the sides of the trail we see lots of Japanese Barberry, which has become an established invasive plant in the understory of the forest of Campgaw Mountain.
Old Cedar Trail
As we near the top of our climb the Rocky Ridge Trail has left the gravel road and is now a rocky footpath traveling along the ridge of Campgaw Mountain (hence the trail’s name!) We pass through another intersection with the 2.10 mile Old Cedar trail.
Basalt Rocky Ridge
Turning north on the Rocky Ridge Trail we find the landscape has become even more rocky but pleasant and more open like the environment found among the ridges of nearby High Mountain Park Preserve with basalt appearing now and then.
Dutchman Breeches Rocky Ridge Trail
As we walk on the basalt of Campgaw Mountain, we spot some Dutchman Breeches along with some Hepatica flowers growing to the side of the trail. Dutchman Breeches are named as such because the flowers resembles old-fashioned breeches. Hepatica flowers are named as such because the leaves are said to resemble liver. Both are ephemeral flowers found only in the early spring before the leaves on the trees come back. As we admire the flowers we hear a Red-Tailed Hawk screech overhead.
Shagbark Hickory and Eastern Red Cedar
Looking at some of the trees as we walk we pass by Shagbark Hickory and Eastern Red Cedar. We have now arrived in an open woodland. We spot Wineberry, a common invasive plant from Asia sprouting from the forest floor. As we walk we pass several structures for Frisbee golf (aka disc golf) which is set up throughout the park.
Rocky Ridge Trail End
Arriving near the ski lefts the .50 of a mile yellow blazed Indian Trail we left when we first started reappears.
Eastern View 5 with Ski Lifts
Take a look at the view! Here we can see a clear eastern view of surrounding Bergen County.
Leaving the the Rocky Ridge Trail, we now head east on the yellow blazed Indian Trail and pass the green blazed beeches trail to our left and right.
Skunk Cabbage Wetlands
Looking to our left we spot a good amount of Skunk Cabbage as we go down the Indian Trail. Ahead of us is a swamp. Many people think that any wetland they may see is a swamp but this is not the case. A swamp contains woody vegetation whereas marshes do not.
From the Indian Trail we turn left on the orange blazed Hemlock Trail. The Hemlock Trail follows along the shore of Fyke Pond which was created from the impoundment of Fyke Brook.
As we walk along we pass several smooth bark grey trees. These are American Beech, a slow growing native deciduous tree of the eastern forest.
American Beech Hemlock Trail
Continuing on we pass to our left two massive boulders made of basalt.
Basalt Boulders Hemlock Trail
As we pass the boulders a sudden cry pierces the ear: a Blue Jay has noticed our presence and is sounding the alarm that we are in its forest.
As we walk we pass by many dead and dying trees from which this trail was named after: The Eastern Hemlock. Most of the hemlocks found in Campgaw Mountain County Reserve are dead or dying due to the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid. Native to East Asia, the adelgid feeds by sucking sap from Hemlock trees. This exotic pest was accidently introduced to North America circa 1924 and is currently established in eleven states ranging from Georgia to Massachusetts. It is estimated that 50% of the geographical range of the Eastern Hemlock has been affected by the adelgid. Biological control (i.e. using adelgid predators to control infestations) has been the major emphasis of control since 1997.
Take a look! Some turtles have spotted us from a rock in Fyke Lake. Nice!
Turtle Fyke Lake
Near the end of the Hemlock Trail we scare away a male and female Wood Duck.
Hemlock Trail End
From here it’s a short walk back on the Indian Trail to the parking lot where our car is. I hope you enjoyed this virtual hike of Campgaw County Reservation and that it inspires you to visit it for yourself!
Campgaw Mountain is located at 200 Campgaw Road, Mahwah, NJ 07430
Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions!
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!
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
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
Heading west on the combined orange blazed Shuber and the Silver trail a bridge appears ahead crossing the Ramapo River.
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
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.
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.
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
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)
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.
The Macmillan Brook is a tributary of the Ramapo River.
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
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.
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 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
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
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
Turning right and heading southeast on the Ridge Trail the .8 Blue on White Havemeyer Trail appears to our left.
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
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:
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
Heading south on the Ridge Trail a sign for a Scenic Overlook appears. Let’s take it!
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
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!
After a steep descent we come to the base where we have terrific views of the waterfall.
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
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
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!
The history of the Scherman-Hoffman Sanctuary began in 1965 when the New Jersey Audubon Society (NJAS) received a land donation of 125 acres from a Mr. & Mrs. Harry Scherman. 10 years later Frederick Hoffman of Hoffman Beverage Company donated adjacent acres of land. Upon his death in 1981, the final parcels of the preserve were bequeathed from Mr.Hoffman’s estate.
Today, the Scherman-Hoffman Preserve comprises 276 beautiful acres of meadows, floodplain forest and uplands.
Located in the southeastern corner of the NJ Highlands, the Scherman-Hoffman wildlife sanctuary is south of the terminal moraine of the last glacier (Wisconsin Glacier) which stopped just north of here around 10,000 years ago. As a result, soil was not scraped away by melting ice and is deeper than the soil found further north in the NJ Highlands. Rocks found here are deemed to have originated in precambrian times.
Hoffman Center for Conservation and Environmental Education
As it is currently a cold winter day, our virtual hike will take place in early fall when all is still green. Sound good? Let’s go! After parking, let’s head inside the NJ Audubon Center and pick up a trail map. Before we begin our hike, let’s head upstairs to the Hawk observation deck to take in the views.
View from Hawk Viewing Platform
Leaving the nature center we find ourselves heading south towards Hardscrabble Road. Turning west, we have reached the Habitat Health Interpretive Trail. While the Habitat Health Interpretive Trail does not have any blazes, the trail is only an estimated 0.3 miles. We won’t need to worry about getting lost!
Heading north on the Habitat Health Interpretive Trail a deer proof fence appears in front of us. The deer fence was first constructed in 1999 on one acre and a half to help promote forest health. In 2005, the deer fence was expanded to 15 acres and native plants were planted throughout the enclosure. The deer fence was constructed due to the presence of an over population of White-Tail Deer. White-Tailed Deer have decimated the forest to such an extent that the forest is no longer self-sustaining.
Outside the deer fence, invasive plants like Japanese Barberry (which deer do not eat) have formed monocultures preventing native plants from becoming established. The Deer Fence helps promote a healthy forest comprising of native plants which helps create a full understory. But most importantly, the deer fence enables the forest to regenerate successfully.
As we walk on the Habitat Health Interpretive Trail, let’s keep our eyes peeled to the ground for interpretive signage. All interpretive signs are placed near the plants they represent such as we see here with Whitegrass which is found in shady mesic (moist) forest communities.
True Solomon’s Seal
Here we see True Solomon’s Seal. The name Solomon’s Seal is said to be derived from scars on the leaf stalk which resemble the ancient Hebrew seal of King Solomon.
Other native plants present on the Habitat Health Interpretive Trail as we walk north include:
(Click the links below to learn more about each plant!)
American Beech (the most common tree found in Sherman-Hoffman Sanctuary)
As we walk in a northeast direction we cross through the Red Blazed Dogwood Trail spur which leads south back to the Hoffman nature center we were in earlier.
Field Loop Trail Vernal Pond
Turning south we’ve come to the end of the Habitat Health Interpretive Trail and the beginning of the Green Blazed Field Loop Trail. We’ve also just left the forest and entered a field. Heading east on the Field Loop Trail, we see a sign advertising a vernal pond heading south. Let’s check it out!
Turning back to the Field Loop Trail, our feet are thanking us as we walk on a mowed path through a meadow of Goldenrod and native grasses.
Welcome Please Close Gate
Arriving at the eastern exit of the deer fence enclosure, we find ourselves back at an intersection with the red blazed 1.3 mile dogwood trail.
Heading south on the Field Loop Trail we find we are not alone as the meadow is alive with grasshoppers and butterflies among others.
Continuing south on the Field Loop Trail, we leave the meadow and enter a young forest where a sign appears for the yellow blazed 0.3 mile River Trail heading to our left. Let’s take it!
The River Trail takes us near the Passaic River, the second longest river in New Jersey. This section of the Passaic River, near its headwaters, is clean and cool enough to support trout. Wood Turtles, a threatened species in New Jersey, can also be found in this section of the river. Threatened species are vulnerable because of factors such as small population size and loss of habitat.
Massive Tulip Poplar
As we head north on the yellow blazed River trail we see a massive Tulip Poplar to our left.
River Trail End
Turning west and away from the Passaic River, the River Trail ends at the red blazed Dogwood Trail.
Dogwood Trail River Trail
Heading west on the Red Blazed Trail we pass a spur of the Dogwood Trail which heads back to the Hoffman center.
Our trail is taking us into typical NJ Highlands habitat, marked by climbs, precambrian rocks and upland oak-hickory forest.
As we walk south, we see trees here and there with big gaping holes.
Pileated Woodpecker Holes
These holes were created by a Pileated Woodpecker looking for its favorite food: Carpenter Ants. Pileated Woodpeckers are eastern North America’s largest Woodpecker.
Dogwood Trail Black Birch
As we walk, the Dogwood Trail is blazed by both Red Blazes and the NJ Audubon logo. Wait! What’s that sound?
As the Dogwood trail heads southeast and then northeast we catch glimpses of Hardscrabble Road through the trees.
Scherman Parking Lot Dogwood Trail
We’ve now arrived at the lower parking lot of the Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary.
Leaving the Dogwood Trail and heading up the main road we find ourselves back at the Hoffman Center. I hope you enjoyed this virtual hike and that it inspires you to check out the Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary for yourself! Thank you for tagging along!
Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary is located at:
11 Hardscrabble Road Bernardsville, NJ 07924.
Feel free to Comment with Questions, Memories or Suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!
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.
Pequannock Watershed Forest
Started in 1995, the Pequannock River Coalition provides 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.
PRC 2013 Winter Hike
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.
Ross Kushner of the Pequannock River Coalition
Let’s begin by meeting Ross Kushner, the Executive Director of the Pequannock River Coalition. He’s going to lead the hike today!
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.
Hardwood trees that fell during the hurricane have become popular with White-Tail Deer who enjoy nibbling on sections of tree normally inaccessible.
Ross Kushner Praying Mantis Egg Case
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.
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.
Phragmites Marsh at Base of Green Pond Mountain
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.
Green Pond Mountain
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.
Walking along Green Pond Road
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.
Running Deer Tracks
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!!
Bear Tree (American Larch)
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.
Near the beginning of the trail we see tiny footprints heading to a log. They belong to an Opossum.
American Beech Eye of the Forest
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 Kushner American Beech Black Bear Claw Mark
Ross Pointed out black bear claw marks and noted that they are perfectly spaced.
Beaver Lodge Deerhaven Lake
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!
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.
Otter Sliding Marks
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.
What’s this? A stonefly! Soneflies are a sure indicator of the good water quality found in the C1 Trout Production 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.
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.
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
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)
Once inside, there are various exhibits regarding topics such as renewable energy.
After taking in the information, pick up a trail map, it’s time to explore the trails!
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
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.
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 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.
Behind this marker a tall deer proof fence will appear.
Habitat Restoration Area Please Stay on Trail
The fence was constructed to keep hungry white-tailed deer out so native vegetation may grow.
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
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.
Head toward Eagle Rock Avenue to Marker # 5 found at the start of the White Blazed Patriots Path.
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
Eastern Gray Squirrel
After passing marker six it’s time to leave the Patriot trail by heading left to a wooden boardwalk.
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).
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
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.
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.
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
The Essex County Beekeepers keep a selection of Honeybees here. Bee careful not to disturb it!
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.
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.
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.
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 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 (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
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
We’ve now come to the beginning of the blue blazed Bird Lane Trail.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Well, we’ve now reached the end of the Bird Lane Trail!
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!
Welcome to the Passaic River Coalition’s Butler Forest Preserve & Butler Raceway! Both preserves are contiguous and have a combined acreage of 14.9 acres of which four are deciduous wooded wetlands. Located in Butler, NJ, The Butler Forest Preserve and Butler Raceway were purchased to prevent the development of townhouses and provide protection of the Pequannock River.
Butler Forest Preserve & Butler Raceway
The Passaic River Coalition was established in 1969 and provides stewardship for the preservation and protection of over 1,000 miles of waterways associated with the Passaic River. The Pequannock River, a tributary of the Passaic River is labeled C1 indicating the water consists of some of the highest quality in the state of New Jersey.
American Beech Butler Forest Preserve
This was how the Butler Forest Preserve and Butler Raceway appeared when I explored it near the end of September 2012, nearly a month before Hurricane Sandy arrived. I find Jericho Road to be the best entrance to the Butler Forest Preserve & Butler Raceway.
Pequannock River Tributary
Entering the forest here I noticed a stream to my left (an unnamed Pequannock River Tributary) and plenty of American Beech. American Beech is part of the Beech-Sugar Maple climax forest community and are a sure indicator that this forest has not been disturbed for a very long time.
I carefully followed the woods down a somewhat steep slope while a steady roar increased. Thinking it was urban noise coming from nearby Route 23 and housing developments I was somewhat surprised to see the source was far more natural: The Pequannock River rushing by.
I noticed the river just as my eye caught old ruins. These ruins were part of the Butler Raceway which once provided water from the Pequannock River to power machinery to what was once the country’s largest rubber factory. The historic function of the raceway was to provide water from the Pequannock River to power machinery at the Butler Rubber Factory. The rubber factory was destroyed by fire in 1957.
Waterfall on Pequannock River
Near the ruins is a beautiful man-made waterfall on the Pequannock River.
Carefully scrambling over the ruins I made it to the Raceway just in time for a Great Blue Heron to fly by (unfortunately too fast for me to get its picture).
After admiring the Heron I came across an abandoned motorcycle.
Continuing east Yellow Birch appeared in good numbers. Yellow Birch favors north facing slopes.
Pre-Cambrian Rocks along Butler Raceway
Rock Outcrops of Precambrian origin appear occasionally to the right of the path. The Butler Raceway ends near Gifford Street. To get back to Jericho Avenue, simply turn around on the Raceway and proceed west until you come back to the cement ruins. Proceed south going up the hill until you reach Jericho Road.
The Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center (GSOEC) consists of a 44 acre portion of the Great Swamp managed since 1963 by the Morris County Parks Department. The GSOEC hosts guided nature walks, school, scout and public educational programs.
Herp Study in Progress
The GSOEC hosts periodic studies of the flora and fauna to determine the overall health of the Great Swamp.
The origin of the Great Swamp begins with the melting and subsequent retreat of the Wisconsin Glacier around 25,000 years ago. Debris from the glacier blocked the passage of an ancient river creating an enormous lake known as Lake Passaic. Lake Passaic is thought to have been 30 miles long and 10 miles wide. Over time, an outlet was formed near Little Falls NJ draining the lake via the Passaic River. This drainage is still occurring today. Today the Great Swamp forms a remnant component of the once great Lake Passaic.
In the late 1950’s the area now known as the Great Swamp was identified by the NYNJ Port Authority as an ideal location for a new jetport. The Great Swamp Conservation Foundation mobilized volunteers to protect the Great Swamp. The result was the establishment of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The Great Swamp Conservation Foundation later became the North Jersey Conservation Foundation and then finally known as New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
GSOEC features four short loop trails. Two of the four trails (Orange & Red) are interpretive and follow 16 markers listed in a self guided trail booklet available at the education center. Click here for a trail map!
The total length of the trails is 1.4 miles.
Ready to take a virtual tour of the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center? Let’s Go!
Stop by the kiosk near the parking lot to pick up a trail map. From the kiosk, head to the education center to view the exhibits on the flora and fauna of the Great Swamp.
Outdoor Education Nature Center with Kiosk
Mammals of The Great Swamp
Endangered in New Jersey
After checking out the exhibits inside, it’s time to start our hike.
Orange Trail Trailhead
Let’s begin our virtual hike by taking the Orange Blazed trail located to the south of the education center. The Orange Trail at .61 Miles is the longest trail present in the GSOEC. It contains Markers 1-10 from the self guided trail.
The first marker, regarding the Red Maple tree, appears shortly after the beginning of the orange trail. Red Maple is the most common tree in the Great Swamp as well as the eastern deciduous forest.
Red Maple Leaves
Red Maple’s flowers are red in the spring and the leaves turn a brilliant red in the fall. Though the Sugar Maple may come to mind when it comes to maple syrup, Red Maple can be tapped for syrup as well. Red Maple should be tapped before budding occurs as the buds change the chemical makeup of the syrup.
Continuing on the orange trail, marker #2 comes into view on the right where a large depression may be found.
The large depression is known as a vernal pond. Vernal ponds do not support fish and may be dry or filled with water. Due to the lack of predators (i.e. fish) the vernal pond provides a safe haven for amphibians such as Wood Frogs, Spring Peepers and Blue-Spotted Salamanders among other species to breed and lay eggs. Continuing past the vernal pond, two fenced areas appear shortly after on the left.
Marker 3 with Deer Enclosure in background
Marker # 3 explains that these sections of the GSOEC were fenced in 2009 to study how plant communities recover from the damage caused by an overpopulation of white tail deer.
Marker 4 EcoTone
Marker #4 describes an Ecotone. An Ecotone is anywhere two habitats meet and create an edge. The Ecotone present here was created by the Power line right of way. The positive aspects of this man-made Ecotone is the creation of suitable nesting habitat for the local turtle population in addition to providing a valuable hunting ground for birds of prey. On the flipside, the disturbed ground caused by the creation of the power lines have provided ideal habitat for invasive plants as Autumn Olive, Multiflora Rose, Garlic Mustard, Wineberry & Japanese Barberry.
Marker 5 The Pond
Continuing in a southwest direction, the dirt path changes to a boardwalk as the trail traverses the wetland area.
Orange Trail Boardwalk
A short boardwalk appears to the right of the main boardwalk which leads to the Pond which is marker #5.
Ponds are usually less than 18 feet deep. Eventually as plant matter and other organic material decays, the pond will begin to become a marsh, progress to a forested wetland and finally upland habitat after many years.
Continuing on the trail leads to Marker #6 which describes Poison Ivy which is seen here growing as a hairy vine. Poison ivy contains a clear liquid known as urushiol which causing a burning itching rash in many people. In addition to a hairy vine Poison Ivy can be found as a shrub reaching over three feet tall or as a trailing vine on the ground.
Several rhymes exist warning of the dangers of Poison Ivy:
At this point of the hike you may notice abundant Mountain Laurel. Marker # 7 appears here.
Marker 7 The Browse Line
Its purpose is to briefly touch upon “the browse line”. The over abundant white- tail deer have stripped all leaves of vegetation from six feet down. If the current trend continues, there may not be a forest here in the future.
From this area, the trail head of the .23 of a mile Blue trail loop appears.
Blue Trail Trailhead
Let’s take a brief break from the interpretive trail to explore this short trail.
Blue Blaze Swamp Chestnut Oak
The Blue Trail Loop goes through an upland area consisting of mostly Mountain Laurel and Swamp Chestnut Oak.
Dried Vernal Pond Blue Trail
The trail encircles a small vernal pond (the vernal pond, seen here at the end of September 2012 was dry).
Blue Trail trailend
Completing the Blue Trail Loop, head back to the Orange Trail and to Marker # 8 which describes the function of a rotting log in the forest.
Standing dead trees or snags play an important role in the eastern deciduous forest. Woodpeckers including Pileated, Downy and Red-Bellied among others excavate holes in the dead trees searching for tasty insects. These excavated holes in turn create habitat for birds including Black-Capped Chickadee. Fungus will usually invade the dead wood further softening it. Eventually, the tree will fall to the forest floor where it will continue to decay creating a rich organic soil which will support future species of trees.
Marker 9 Phragmites Marsh
Proceed east to Marker # 9 The Phragmites Marsh. Phragmites (aka Giant Reed) is a giant species of grass which can grow from 10-20 feet. Phragmites thrives in disturbed areas. Phragmites found in the Great Swamp are native to the eastern deciduous forest. Phragmites are considered invasive because of its aggressive growth and tendency to overwhelm all other vegetation.
Outdoor Study Area
From here the trail leaves the boardwalk and heads south to marker # 10 which passes an outdoor study area and leads to a Wigwam replica.
The Lenape Native Americans (the original people) created Wigwams as shelter from saplings, tree bark and Cattail Mats among others. This replica would have been big enough for two people. Marker #10 is the last marker for the orange trail.
Orange Trail Trailend
After heading back from the Wigwam, turn right on the Orange Trail and follow the trail a brief distance to its terminus.
Prayer of the Woods
The “Prayer of the Woods” sign is found right before the start of the Red Trail. After reading the Prayer and taking in its message, turn right to start hiking the .39 mile Red Trail to continue the interpretive trail.
Red Trail Trailhead
The first marker on the Red Trail is #11 which identifies trees found in the Eastern Deciduous Forest.
Marker 11 Deciduous Forest
Trees found in the Eastern Deciduous Forest include the below among others:
From here turn left at the sign leading to the education center to go to Marker # 13.
Marker 13 Stream
The Red Trail approaches Marker #13 as it crosses a stream.
Red Trail Stream Crossing
Sediments and rocks on the stream bottom provides habitat for a variety of Crayfish and Macro-invertebrates. Marco-invertebrates lack backbones and can be seen without the aid of a microscope. Certain macro-invertebrates such as Caddisflies are pollutant intolerant. Presence of pollutant intolerant macro-invertebrates are one way to indicate the health of a stream. Macro- invertebrates eat many different things depending on the species-there are predators, scavengers, and herbivores among them. In turn, macro-invertebrates are a source of food for various turtles, fish and frogs.
Marker #14 The Wet Meadow
Continuing on the red trail leads to Marker #14 which discusses“The Wet Meadow”. The Wet Meadow is a man-made habitat created by a power-line cut and is home to field mice, star-nosed moles and various hawks & owls among others.
Marker #15 American Beech
Marker #15 leads to an American Beech Tree. The smooth gray bark of the American Beech Tree usually invites individuals to carve their names and other messages into the trunks. Carving in a tree trunk is similar to a cut on your finger. However, unlike your injured finger, a tree cannot put a band-aid on its wound. The carved bark is an open door for disease.
Beechdrops, seen here in this picture, lack both leaves and chlorophyll and is a parasitic plant of the American Beech Tree.
#16 The Swamp
Marker #16 The Swamp
The final marker on the red trail briefly discusses the importance of the Great Swamp. The land comprising the Great Swamp is a mix of meadows, upland woods, marsh and brush covered swamps. Only 40% of the Great Swamp is wet either part of the year or all year long whereas 60% of the Great Swamp consists of upland forest & meadows.
Red Trail End
You are now at the end of the Red Trail.
Green Trail Blaze
At the end of the red trail head north to catch the beginning of the short .20 of a mile Green Trail near the parking area. The Green trail traverses in a short loop in an upland portion of the GSOEC.
Mushrooms Green Trail
Check out these mushrooms found growing in September 2012!
Asian Long Horn Beetle Detector
In the parking area near the end of the Green Trail you may notice a black box hanging from a tree. The Black boxes are used to detect for the presence of the Asian Long-Horn Beetle, an invasive species from Asia.
After the Green Trail is complete, it’s time to visit the Observation Blind located off the parking lot which views the Pond looking west.
Turtles on the Pond from Wildlife Blind
This concludes our virtual hike! I hope you enjoyed it and it inspired you to take a trip to see the GSOEC for yourself!
Walking on Little Falls Main Street, few people would suspect that a preserved woodland and forested floodplain is located behind the stores.
Passaic River Basalt
The Morris Canal Preserve is located right above the Passaic River. The river rushes by on fractured basalt . The preserve features a gentle paved path which traverses the edge between the developed landscape of Little Falls and the remnant forested floodplain of the Passaic River.
Gazebo Morris Canal Preserve
The paved path leads from a beautiful gazebo and heads in a southwest direction to its terminus near an outflow from the Passaic Valley Water Company.
You might be tempted to think that Little Falls was named after these views, but the real falls were eliminated late in the 18th century to relieve upstream flooding of the Passaic River.
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!
From Route 80 westbound, get off at the Union Avenue exit and bear left to follow Union Avenue for about one mile into Little Falls. Turn left at the light onto Main Street and then go about five blocks looking for Maple Street and Schumacher Chevrolet on the left. Turn left down Maple and continue as for the bus directions.
Alternative route by car: From Rt. 46 westbound, get off at the Great Notch/Cedar Grove exit. Bear left and follow overpass over Route 46 on to Notch Road. At the end of Notch Road turn right at the light onto Long Hill Road. Proceed on Long Hill Road for about one mile where it becomes Main Street. At Schumacher Chevrolet, turn right onto Maple Street and then follow the directions as for the bus. Look for the brick sign for the preserve on the left.
By public transportation: Take NJ TRANSIT 191/195 bus that leaves the Port Authority Bus Terminal, NY (check schedule prior to the trip) and get off on Main Street in downtown Little Falls at the corner of Maple Street Turn right on Maple and walk one block to entrance to the preserve parking lot on the left.
New Jersey’s Passaic River rises in a pristine wetland and ends in a federal Superfund site. In An American River, author and New Jersey native Mary Bruno kayaks its length in an effort to discover what happened to her hometown river.
The Morris Canal was an important component in the American Industrial Revolution. For nearly 100 years it crossed the hills of northern New Jersey, accomplishing that feat with 23 lift locks and 23 inclined planes.
Sometimes just finding a forest where you would not expect one is it’s own reward. Such is the case with Diamond Brook Park in Glen Rock, NJ.
Diamond Brook Park consists of an estimated 15 acres of remnant deciduous wooded wetlands. The park has Diamond Brook to its west, NJ Transit tracks to its east, Route 208 to its south and dense residential development to its north.
The park features three trails which are maintained by Eagle Scouts. The red trail is .4 of a mile, the yellow is .13 of a mile and the blue trail is .21 of a mile. The yellow trail experiences seasonal flooding depending on the time of year you visit. The blue trail leads to an old railroad freight train turntable (used to rotate freight cars) which was once the largest turntable east of the Mississippi River. The freight turntable was used by the Erie Railroad Company until a fire occurred in 1912. The land was not used again for 40 years except for displaced residents who inhabited the forest during the Great Depression. The land was sold to the town of Glen Rock in 1954 and was formally dedicated in 1959.
One of the neat things I found in this suburban forest was Ground Pine-something I had not previously seen outside the deep forest.
Dense beds of Skunk Cabbage appear near Diamond Brook every spring. Black Bears, which love skunk cabbage, would have a feast. Speaking of bears, fauna that has been spotted in Diamond Brook Park include:
Diamond Brook, a tribuary of the Passaic River, flows on the western border of the park. The brook is spring fed with its headwaters located north of Glen Rock in Ridgewood. The brook follows a winding two mile course before its confluence with the Passaic River. Diamond Brook was once called Bass Brook due to the good fishing that was once found there. In the 1870’s, the Marinus Lumber Mill built a water wheel on the brook. When the mill was later torned down, the water wheel was buried beneath a street and is still there today.
Diamond Brook Park is located at the end of Doremus Avenue and West Main Street in Glen Rock. The park is part of Glen Rock’s Greenway.
Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!