Welcome to Buttermilk Falls Park! Located in West Nyack, New York, the park features a scenic waterfall and two western views where on a clear day you can see up to 16,000 acres. The 75 acre Buttermilk Falls Park was purchased by Rockland County with additional acquisitions in 1981.
Buttermilk Falls Park is location in a portion of the Palisades ridge north of the Sparkill Gap. The Palisades are located along the western shoreline of the Hudson River in southeastern New York and in north eastern New Jersey. Rocks found in the Palisades are known as diabase and were formed during the Triassic period around 200 million years ago.
Buttermilk Falls consists of a mixed-oak forest community including the following species among others:
Welcome! Today, using the above trail map (taken from the Rockland County New York Website), we are going to explore some of the 75 acres that make up Buttermilk Falls Park! Along the way, we’ll see some cascades and check out some cool western views. The total hike is an estimated 1.2 miles. Ready? Let’s go!
Blue Trail Trailhead
From the parking lot we are going to head northeast on 0.9 of a mile blue blazed trail.
Entrance to the Blue Trail
Entering the park on the blue trail, the path starts flat but we find it is deceiving as we start to climb.
But before we start any kind of climbing let’s take a quick scan of some of the flora that’s sprouting near the entrance. What’s this plant that sort of looks like little bamboo shoots sprouting up everywhere alongside the trail? It’s Japanese Knotweed, a obnoxious invasive plant which, once established, is generally there for good. Japanese Knotweed forms monocultures, excludes native plants and does not provide any benefit to wildlife.
Blue Trail Steps
Leaving the Japanese Knotweed for now the Blue Trail is taking us up some wooden steps.
Taking another look at the flora coming up, what’s this 3 leaved spiked covered plant popping up all over the place? It’s Wineberry. Wineberry is native to Asia and is an established invasive plant in the United States.
Blue Trail Climb 2
Continuing on we start hearing the sound of water, a good sign as we must be approaching Buttermilk Falls!
Taking a look around the forest floor we spot the leaves of Trout Lily, a native woodland plant which blooms in early spring. And here you thought all we would be looking at is invasive plants! The “trout” in it’s name is said to come from its mottled leaves which are said to resemble wild trout.
Heading southeast on the blue trail we come to an open area on the trail with Eastern Red Cedar and occasional trap rock.
Continuing southeast on the blue trail we pass the .21 of a mile Orange Trail trail head.
Blue Trail Second Viewpoint 2
Shortly after we pass the orange trail trail head we arrive at the second westerly viewpoint. What a beautiful day! From an ecological perspective we are currently in a traprock glade/rock outcrop surrounded by dry grass and forb-dominated species.
Leaving the second and last viewpoint we continue on the blue trail and pass a small but interesting plant known as Dutchman Breeches. Dutchman Breeches are a native to the eastern US. The flowers (which have since wilted) are said to look like old fashioned breeches hence its name.
Blue Trail Rock Seat
Tired? Want to take a seat? There is a seat carved out of the diabase to our left. Neat!
After a series of switchbacks we have come to the end of the Blue trail at the intersection with the white trail. Turning right on the white trail we walk in a north west direction.
What’s that up ahead? Someone long ago dumped an old car off of the White Trail.
Rock Wall White Trail
Looking to our left we pass by an old rock wall which is a sure sign the land we are walking on was at one time farmland.
Boardwalk White Trail
Looking ahead we spot a boardwalk further down the White Trail.
Swamp White Trail
As we walk on it we come to a Red-Maple Swamp to our left. Red Maple (Acer Rubrum) are one of the most common maples found in the northeast and is a common tree in wetlands.
White Trail end
Just past the swamp we have reached the end of the White Trail at the parking lot where we started our hike. And that concludes our hike! I hope you enjoyed it and that it inspires you to visit Buttermilk Falls County Park for yourself!
Welcome to Brinton Brook Sanctuary! Brinton Brook Sanctuary, located in Croton-on -Hudson, is managed by the Saw Mill River Audubon and is its largest sanctuary at 156 acres. The preserve originated as a donation of 112 acres to the National Audubon Society from Laura and Willard Brinton. In 1975, after Laura Brinton’s death, an additional 17 acres were added to the preserve. Saw Mill River Audubon gained full ownership of the preserve in 1991 from the National Audubon Society.
Brinton Brook Sanctuary provides necessary habitat for wildlife and includes over three miles of hiking trails.
Brinton Brook Trail Map
Welcome to Brinton Brook Sanctuary! Using this trail map we will be traversing through forest, meadow, wetlands and the shoreline of the 5 acre Brinton Pond.
We find the trailhead of the 1.2 mile yellow blazed Pond Loop Trail (the longest trail found in Brinton Brook Sanctuary) both to our right and right in front of us. Let’s head straight on the Pond Loop Trail and see where it takes us. The Pond Loop Trail is marked with twenty interpretive signs and traverses through woods, a meadow and around Brinton Pond before it heads southwest back to the parking lot.
#1 Welcome to Brinton Brook Sanctuary
Here we come to the first of twenty interpretive signs (please note we will see and note some but not all of the interpretive signs) which welcome us to Brinton Brook and reminds us we are in a sanctuary where all life is protected.
#2 Tulip Tree
Just up the trail we spot the second interpretive sign which refers to the Tulip Trees, the tallest trees found in the eastern US. Common names are Tulip Poplar or Yellow Poplar. Tulip Trees belong to the Magnolia family and are named as such due to its tulip shaped leaves and flower which blooms around late May and early June each year. Due to the height of the trees we generally only spot the flowers once they have fallen. Since we are in early fall we missed the flowers this year. But there is always next spring!
#3 Black Locust
The third sign we come across has to with Black Locust trees which are found all around us in this section. A member of the Pea Family, Black Locust trees are native to the southeast of the United States and are considered to be an invasive plant elsewhere due to its ability to monopolize where it has established. In May, Black Locust produces extremely sweet smelling cluster of flowers. Mature Black Locust tree trucks are deeply furrowed and its roots help fix nitrogen levels in the soil.
Kiosk with Signage
As we walk the trail has widened and we find a kiosk straight ahead which includes a trail map. Let’s head to the left to continue our hike on the Pond Loop Trail.
Shortly after the kiosk we come to interpretive signage #4 discussing an Ecotone. An Ecotone is an transition found between two different habitats (in this case forest and meadow). Sassafras Trees are plentiful in this area.
#5 Area of Change
We have now officially left the forest and are standing in a managed meadow. This meadow must be constantly managed otherwise over time, due to ecological succession, this meadow would convert to forest.
#6 Two Kinds of Forests
Leaving the meadow behind we reenter the forest and come to interpretive signage # 6: Two Kinds of Forests which discusses Red Maple (the most common Maple tree found in Northeast America) & Northern Red Oak which is found primarily to our left on the hillside.
As we arrive at Brinton Brook we see a massive old growth Red Maple.
Old Growth Red Maple
Nearby is interpretive signage #7: Pond View which discusses common wildlife found in and around Brinton Pond such as Wood Ducks.
#7 Pond View
We have now arrived at Brinton Pond. The pond, created by the impoundment of Brinton Brook (a tributary of the Hudson River) is man made and was created as an “ice pond”. During the winter chunks of ice were carved from the pond and stored (this was in an age before the modern refrigerator) for use. As we can see by the growth of plants in and around the pond, the pond is slowly becoming marshland.
Brinton Pond slowly transforming to Marshland
What’s that we see on a rock? It’s a female Wood Duck and its ducklings!
Female Wood Duck and ducklings
Heading east we come to the next interpretive signage “The Edge of the Pond”.
#8 Edge of the Pond
The sign discusses wildlife we may see near the pond and pictures a dragonfly and a Wood Frog. As we walk we don’t see any frogs but we hear plenty of Green Frogs (which sounds a bit like a banjo) and Bullfrogs (which makes a bellowing call) announcing their presence from the pond.
Continuing east the trail crosses over an earthen dam of the pond.
Just past the wetland heading north is the trailhead of the blue blazed .5 of a mile Turkey Trail which climbs to the highest elevation in the sanctuary (390 feet). Let’s stretch our legs and take this trail.
Turkey Trail (no understory)
As we climb through the forest notice that there is little to no understory. The culprit is an overabundance of White-Tailed Deer. With no natural predators to control the herd, the deer population in the eastern United States has exploded in recent decades. All these hungry deer feed on saplings and native shrubs displacing them and give many non-native shrubs (such as Japanese Barberry which deer do not eat) a competitive advantage.
White-Tailed Deer Running
What’s that blur to our right? A White-Tailed Deer which must have heard us discussing it is running away with its tail up high.
Turkey Trail Con-Ed Powerlines
As we head east there is an abrupt end to the hardwood forest as we come to to a meadow near Con Edison power lines. We are now at the highest elevation in Brinton Brook at 360 feet.
As we continue on the Turkey Trail heading south the entrance to the green Blazed .4 mile Coyote trail appears to our left. Let’s go ahead and take it!
Highlands Trail (Croton Arboretum)
Heading southwest on the Coyote trail we pass the white blazed Highlands Trail (which has arrived here from the Croton Arboretum) which now jointly follows Coyote trail.
We have now arrived at an intersection with the Red Blazed .7 of a mile Hemlock Springs Trail which is named after the stately Eastern Hemlock tree.
Unfortunately many of the Hemlocks found in Brinton Brook Sanctuary are dead or dying due to the Woolly Adelgid, a non-native pest from 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.
As we continue to head east, the Highlands Trail exits to the nearby Hudson National Golf Club. Now the Hemlock Springs Trail heads south west and we come to the first of two Brinton Brook crossings.
There is something that looks like a small piece of gray rope on the ground…wait a minute! It’s a ring-necked snake! These snakes are normally nocturnal so we are lucky to spot one!
Ring Necked Snake
Leaving the ring-necked snake we pass first entrance Yellow Blazed .5 of a mile Laurel Rock Trail. Just as we pass we hear a beautiful songbird melody. And we’ve spotted the culprit! It’s a Wood Thrush! Wood Thrushes are common in mesic (moist) forests.
As we continue on we pass the 2nd entrance to Laurel Rock Trail and cross Brinton Brook.
As we cross over Brinton Brook there is a sudden splash! The culprit is a Green Frog. See him hiding? Green Frogs are common residents of streams, ponds and wetlands. We have now arrived back on the Pond Loop Trail which we left some time ago when we went to go explore the Turkey Trail.
While we missed some of the interpretive signs we will catch the remainder of the 20 signs now starting with sign#17 which discusses Shagbark Hickory the tree seen in the picture above. Shagbark Hickory is one of the most common Hickory trees found in the eastern forest. It is readily identifiable due to its peeling “shaggy” bark. Shagbark Hickory nuts are feasted upon by Eastern Gray Squirrels and Black Bears among others.
#18 A Sun Trap
Continuing on our way we come to sign #18 which discussed the opening seen straight ahead as “a sun trap” which is a natural clearing in the forest where migratory birds may be spotted in the spring and fall.
#19 Feathery Ferns
Two more signs to go! Here we see sign # 19 “Feathery Ferns” which describes common ferns found in the Brinton Brook Sanctuary such as the Christmas Fern. The Christmas Fern is evergreen and is said to be named “Christmas Fern” due to its fronds resembling Christmas stockings.
#20 Trail end or beginning!
We have now reached our last sign on the Pond Loop Trail #20 “Trail End or Beginning!”. For us it is the end of the trail and we are back at the parking lot! Whew! What a great hike! It is my hope that this virtual hike inspires you to check out Brinton Brook Sanctuary for yourself!