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!
From the parking area off of Skyline Drive in Oakland, let’s head past the kiosk and head to the yellow blazed Hoeferlin Trail. The 6.0 mile Hoeferlin Trail, formerly called the Suffern-Midvale Trail, is named after Bill Hoeferlin, who was a well known north Jersey trail builder and map maker. Ready? Let’s go!
As we begin our hike a small pond appears to our right which forms the start of a Ramapo River tributary we will be following (and crossing) as we head south on the Hoeferlin trail.
Witch Hazel in Bloom
Just past the pond we spot Witch Hazel in bloom off the trail. Witch Hazel is one of the last native plants to flower in the fall and is unusual because it’s conspicuous yellow flowers stay in bloom even after the leaves have fallen off.
Ramapo River Tributary
As we walk the only noise we hear besides the crunch of newly fallen leaves under our feet is the sound of the Ramapo River tributary flowing nearby.
Continuing south we find Sassafras in fall colors. Sassafras has three types of leaves: Solid, Three Prong and Mitten Shaped. Click here to view pictures and descriptions of this unique tree! All parts of Sassafras are fragrant.
Continuing south we cross over the Ramapo River tributary and find some Mile-a-Minute weed growing at our feet. Native to eastern Asia, Mile-a-Minute is an established invasive species in New Jersey and is capable of forming a monoculture excluding native plants.
Hoeferlin-McEvoy Combined Trail Blazes
Continuing south the Hoeferlin trail briefly becomes combined with the blue blazed MacEvoy trail coming from the east.
The MacEvoy trail is named for Clifford E. MacEvoy who was a wealthy contractor of large public works. MacEvoy helped conceive and construct the nearby Wanaque Reservoir. In the 1920’s, MacEvoy bought property in the Ramapo Mountains to form the Bergen County Hunting and Fishing Club. MacEvoy’s estate was sold and purchased by the State of NJ using Green Acres and federal funds in 1976 and became what is now known as Ramapo Mountain State Forest.
Heading northwest on the dual blazed Hoeferlin/MacEvoy trail we see Ramapo Lake before us. Here the Hoeferlin trail leaves to the south and we continue on the Blue Blaze MacEvoy trail which becomes a paved road. The 120 acre Ramapo Lake is the centerpiece of Ramapo Mountain State Forest. Fish such as Largemouth Bass, Yellow Perch and Pickerel among other species are found in the lake. Ramapo Lake was originally a 25 acre pond known as Roten Pond. (“Roten” is Dutch for Muskrat). English translation corrupted “Roten” to “Rotten” Lake. The pond was later dammed to form the present Ramapo Lake.
Cannonball Trail Blaze
After passing a private residence and the Cannonball Trail to our right we come to the 1.0 mile White Blazed Castle Point Trailhead.
Castle Point Trail
Leaving the MacEvoy trail we turn right to head north on Castle Point.
Castle Point Trail Climb
Almost immediately Castle Point proves to be an uphill challenge.
Distant Wanaque Reservoir
Stopping we can see glimpses of the Wanaque Reservoir to the west. The Wanaque Reservoir was constructed in 1928 and is the second largest reservoir in NJ. Water is received from the Pompton, Ramapo and Wanaque Rivers. After enjoying the view, let’s continue our climb on Castle Point.
Castle Point Climb over Old Wall
As we walk, a wall appears with the white blaze of the castle point trail. Let’s carefully climb the wall over the rocks.
Wow! What’s this? A medieval castle in the middle of the woods? The ruins we see before us were known as Van Slyke Castle. The ruins stand 350 feet above Ramapo Lake on Fox Mountain.
Ramapo Lake View
The Castle (aka Foxcroft) was a stone mansion built by a William and Alice Porter in 1909 as their summer home. William died in 1911 and Alice died in 1940. The mansion sat empty for years until vandals broke in and torched the mansion in 1959 giving the appearance we see today.
Nature reclaims castle
Castle Point Blaze on ruins
Leaving the castle behind, we head north on the Castle Point Trail.
Ruined Swimming Pool
A short distance from the ruins of the castle we come to the ruins of the castle’s swimming pool.
Leaving the pool behind we arrive at the Ramapo Water Tower which provided water to the Van Slyke Castle. The water tower is still in great shape.
Ramapo Lake View
Stopping to catch our breath we look behind us to see the distant Ramapo Lake.
Looking east we see the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan in the distance just visible to the right of High Mountain.
Ramapo Lake View
Heading northeast on the Castle Point Trail we turn around one last time to say goodbye to Ramapo Lake which appears even further in the distance.
Castle Point Trail End
We’ve now arrived at the end of the Castle Point Trail. Ahead of us is a paved road leading to private residences nearby. Let’s turn right heading south on the paved road skirting the Cannonball Trail.
Red White Trail Head
A Red and White Trailhead (Skyline Connector Trail) appears to our left. This is our route back to our cars!
Red White Trail
The Red White Trail is a brief pleasant trail…
Red White Trail-End
…which ends too soon at the parking lot where we began. I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of Ramapo Mountain State Forest and that it inspires you to check it out for yourself!
Take Interstate Route 287 to Exit 57 (Skyline Drive) and proceed north on Skyline Drive for about one mile to the upper parking area for Ramapo Mountain State Forest on the left side of the road, just beyond milepost 1.4, opposite the entrance to Camp Tamarack.