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Exploring the Pequannock River Watershed!


Pequannock River Coalition Preserving the Future

Pequannock River Coalition Preserving the Future

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

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.

Virtual Hike

PRC 2013 Winter Hike

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 Executive Director of the Pequannock River Coalition

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!

Beginning Our Hike!

Beginning Our Hike!

Right now we are at a small gravel lot off Green Pond Road near Route 23 in the Newfoundland section of West Milford.

Welcome to Rockaway Township

Welcome to Rockaway Township

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!

Blow Downs

Blow Downs

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.

White-Tail Deer Track

White-Tail Deer Track

Look at all these white-tail deer prints around this fallen tree!

Hardwood Tree Blowdown

Hardwood Tree Blowdown

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

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

Praying Mantis Egg Case

You can purchase Praying Mantis egg cases and use them as a natural “pesticide” for pests such as Japanese Beetles.

American Tamarack

American Larch

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 Swamp at Base of Green Pond Mountain

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

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

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.

Old Homestead

Old Homestead

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

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 Tamarack)

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.

Mink Tracks

Mink Tracks

Mink tracks! Minks, a member of the Weasel family can usually be spotted by water.

White Pines

White Pines

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.

Four Birds Trail

Four Birds Trail

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.

Opossum Tracks

Opossum Tracks

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

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 Bear Claw Mark

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 Pond

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!

Northern Red Oak Leaf

Northern Red Oak Leaf

I find the leaf of the Northern Red Oak (NJ’s state tree) on my seat.

White Oak with Black Bear Claw Marks

White Oak with Black Bear Claw Marks

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.

Firefly

Firefly

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.

Otter Scat

Otter Scat

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

Otter Sliding Marks

We even see the slides they made on the ice!

Pequannock River

Pequannock River

Ross is taking us on a shortcut back to our cars near the Pequannock River.

Stonefly

Stonefly

What’s this? A stonefly! Soneflies are a sure indicator of the good water quality found in the C1 Trout Production Pequannock River.

Pequannock River Watershed Forest

Well, we’ve reached our cars and the tour has concluded. I hope this virtual hike has inspired you to go on a hike, or better yet, become a member of the Pequannock River Coalition!

Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!

HELP SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT THE PEQUANNOCK RIVER COALITION ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER AND OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA BY CLICKING A BUTTON BELOW!!

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Wayne’s High Mountain Park Preserve!


High Mountain Park

Welcome to High Mountain Park Preserve! The preserve, aka High Mountain Park, is located in Wayne, NJ, and North Haldeon, NJ and consists of over 1,100 wooded acres.

High Mountain Park Preserve

High Mountain Park is owned and jointly managed by the Township of Wayne, the State of NJ and the New Jersey Natural Land Trust and the Nature Conservancy.

History of Site

High Mountain Park

High Mountain Park was a tree farm owned by Urban Farms, Inc., a subsidiary of McBride Enterprises of Franklin Lakes, NJ before its establishment as a preserve.  On May 19, 1993 the Wayne Council majority in an 8-1 vote accepted a deal to purchase High Mountain from Urban Farms, Inc.

Green Acres

The State of NJ committed $2.6 million in a Green Acres Grant and agreed to a 2% loan of $4 million. $901,943 was provided in other grand funds. The Nature Conservancy obtained a $500,000 state grant to assist in the purchase of High Mountain.

Funding Provided by Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders

Geology

Basalt

Situated on the Second Watchung Mountain range, High Mountain Park is the largest forested area east of the NJ Highlands. The 2nd Watchung Mountain range was formed by basalt lava flows extruding over deep sedimentary rock.

Ecological communities featured in High Mountain Park include:

Rocky Headwater Stream:

Rocky Headwater Stream

Rocky headwater stream habitat includes a small to moderate sized rocky stream that lacks persistent emergent vegetation. In other words, few large rooted plants are found but mosses and algae are usually present. The stream flows over bedrock near its origin and contains riffle and pool sections.

Red Maple Swamp:

Red Maple Swamp (Fall)

Red Maple Swamps (as the name suggests) are dominated by Red Maple, a tree that is moderately flood-tolerant.  Skunk Cabbage, False Hellebore, Cinnamon Fern and Spice Bush (along with many other species) are found in Red Maple Swamp habitat.

False Hellebore

In addition to Red Maple Swamps, Shrub swamps are also found in High Mountain Park. This community consists of temporarily to permanently flooded wetlands usually populated with Skunk Cabbage, Buttonbush, Spicebush among others.

Talus Slope Community:

Talus Slope

Talus Slope communities consist of sparse vegetation occurring on exposures of shale bedrock, ledges and talus. Little soil exists on the talus.

 Trap rock Glade/Outcrop Community:

Trap Rock Glade- Outcrop Community (Winter)

The trap rock glade/outcrop community is globally rare and was the principal reason the Nature Conservancy was interested in protecting High Mountain. Trap rock Glade/Outcrop communities, a globally impaired community type, consists primarily of grasses and forbs with occasional Red Cedar.

Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly Pear Cactus may also be present. Hickory-Ash-Red Cedar woodland is also dominated in the trap rock glade/outcrop community. Rare Rock Outcrop Plants include Torreys Mountain Mint and Dewey’s Sedge among other rare plants.

Hickory/Ash/Red Cedar Woodland:

Red Cedar

This community contains the trap rock outcrop community and consists of Pignut Hickory, Eastern Red Cedar, White Ash and Chestnut Oak with the understory consisting primarily of grasses and forbs. This community along with the trap rock glade/outcrop community harbor a total of 14 rare and endangered plants.

Mixed Oak Forest:

White Oak

The mixed oak hardwood forest found in High Mountain Park is dominated by White, Red & Black Oak and includes trees such as Shagbark Hickory, White Ash, Yellow birch, Tulip Poplar and Black Birch.

Tulip Poplar Leaves and Flower

Shagbark Hickory

Black Birch Coppice

Frequent disturbance is required for the oak-hickory forest to maintain itself.  Without disturbance, shade tolerant species such as Sugar Maple and American Beech regenerate replacing oaks over time.  Maple-Beech dominated woodland do not provide sufficient quality mast (i.e. acorns, hickory nuts) required for wildlife.

American Beech

The composition of the present Oak-Hickory forest found in High Mountain Park will likely change as the sapling layer is mostly populated by Sugar & Red Maple with only a few Oak saplings present. This change may be due to fire suppression.

Hemlock-Hardwood Forest:

Wooly Adelgid on Hemlock Needles

Most of the hemlocks found in High Mountain Park Preserve 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.

Streams:

Preakness Brook

High Mountain Park is a part of the Passaic River watershed. All streams that originate or flow through High Mountain Park drain to the Passaic River. Streams include tributaries to the Point View Reservoir found in the western section of the preserve and tributaries of the Molly Ann Brook (the last stream to drain into the Passaic River before the Great Falls in Paterson) found in the eastern portion of the preserve. The headwaters of Preakness (Signac) Brook are located in High Mountain Park and are classified in this location as C1 Trout Production. Numerous tributaries to the Preakness Brook are found primarily in the heart of the preserve.

Trails

There are five blazed trails ranging from 0.2 miles to 4.9 miles waiting to be explored at High Mountain Park.  All trails are maintained by volunteers of the NYNJ Trail Conference who have maintained the trails since the 1940’s. Click here for a trail map provided by the Township of Wayne.

Red Trail Trailhead College Road Parking Lot

The trailhead of the 1.7 mile Red Trail is accessible from the small parking lot off of College Road.

Red Trail

From the kiosk in the parking area, the Red Trail heads east on a gravel trail in an open field adjacent to College Road and enters the woods heading in a north to northwest direction.

Massive Boulder on Red Trail

After entering the forest, a large boulder is visible to the west near a sign advertising High Mountain.

To High MTN

From here, the Red Trail passes a stream & wetlands.

Wetlands near Red Trail

At half a mile, the southern trailhead of the Yellow Trail is accessible on the east. Past the trailhead of the Yellow Trail, the Red Trail passes the southern trailhead of the White Trail Trailhead to the west .6 of a mile. Once past the trailhead of the White Trail, the Red Trail crosses a stream and wetlands before continuing in a northwest direction.

Waterfall off of Red Trail

Another stream with a waterfall eventually appears to the east of the Red Trail. The Red Trail crosses the stream proceeding a short distance to its northern terminus at Reservoir Drive in Franklin Lakes.

Reservoir Drive Red Trail End

White Trail Trailhead

The southern trailhead of the 1.6 mile White Trail is accessible from the Red Trail about .6 of a mile from the Red Trail’s trailhead at College Road.

From its trailhead, the White Trail heads west through the wetlands of a Preakness Brook tributary stream. Continuing west the White Trail reaches another Preakness brook tributary and its wetlands.

North Jersey Country Club

From here, the White Trail turns north passing the North Jersey Country Club. Continuing north past the North Jersey Country Club, the White Trail passes a reservoir used for the ponds found in the country club.

North Jersey Country Club Reservoir

From here the White Trail continues north and goes through talus slopes while paralleling and eventually crossing another Preakness Brook tributary. The White Trail ends at the Yellow Trail near Beech Mountain.

White Trail End

Yellow Trail Trailhead from Red Trail

At 4.9 miles, the Yellow Trail is the longest trail present in High Mountain Park.  The southern trailhead of the Yellow Trail is accessible from the Red Trail about ½ a mile from the trailhead of the Red Trail on College Road.

From the Red Trail, the Yellow Trail turns east and crosses a stream and wetlands heading in a northwest and then northeast direction. Soon the Yellow Trail passes the summit of Mount Cecchino to the east.  From here the trail begins a steady climb to the summit of High Mountain. At 885 feet, High Mountain is the third tallest peak in the US within 20 miles of the Atlantic Ocean.

High Mountain Grassy Summit Yellow Trail

The grassy summit is about 1 mile from the Yellow Trail trailhead and provides fantastic views of the Manhattan skyline, Garrett Mountain (1st Watchung) and the distant Ramapo Mountains.

Summit of High Mountain View of NYC with Black Cherry Tree in Bloom Yellow Trail

From the summit of High Mountain the Yellow Trail heads west going downhill and crosses a  stream.

After crossing the stream, the Yellow Trail comes to an intersection with the Red Trail.

Once past the intersection with the Red Trail, the Yellow Trail heads northwest to a paved circle on Reservoir Drive in Franklin Lakes and briefly travels along Reservoir Drive before reentering the forest near Winding Hollow Drive in Franklin Lakes.

Reservoir Drive Franklin Lakes NJ

Heading south, the Yellow Trail passes the northern trailhead of the White Trail and then heads south and climbs Beech Mountain. At 875 feet, Beech Mountain is the second highest peak in High Mountain Park.

Swamp Beech Mountain Yellow Trail

The Yellow Trail then traverses past a large forested wetland to the west and crosses a Preakness Brook tributary.  Turning west, the Yellow Trail reaches a beautiful view found on a basalt outcrop of Pointview Reservoir and the distant NJ Highlands.

View of Point View Reservoir with Distant NJ Highlands from Yellow Trail Beech Mountain

The Yellow Trail continues northwest past another Preakness Brook Tributary and heads south and west past the parking lot for JVC Corporation.

Back of JVC Building on Yellow Trail

From here, the Yellow Trail heads northwest and passes the northern terminus of the Horizontal White Blaze connector trail. The Yellow Trail then turns north and traverses through the Franklin Clove.

Yellow Trail Franklin Clove

The Franklin Clove was formed by glacial action in the last ice age.  Continuing north, the Yellow Trail passes by the very short Orange Blazed Buttermilk Falls trail and then ends at Indian Drive in Franklin Lakes.

Buttermilk Falls Orange Trail Blaze

The 0.2 Mile Orange Blazed Buttermilk Falls trail begins from the Yellow Trail shortly after the Yellow Trail passes through the Franklin Clove.  It ends at Scioto Drive in Franklin Lakes. The primary feature of this trail is Buttermilk Falls which spills over fractured basalt.

Buttermilk Falls

Pancake Trail Trailhead

The 2.8 mile Blue Trail (aka the Pancake Hollow Trail) trailhead is located off of Chickapee Drive in Wayne.

Blue Trail Blaze

The Blue Trail initially heads east and turns north at the intersection of the horizontally white blazed connector trail. Heading north, the trail passes the Franklin Clove and the headwaters for Preakness Brook to the east.  The Blue Trail then turns northwest passing between housing developments to the north and south where a lean-to is present.

Lean-To off of Blue Trail

Once past the housing developments, the trail traverses the “pancake hollow” section of High Mountain Park.

Stream along Blue Trail

The Blue Trail continues west crossing over a brook and wetlands. As the blue trail approaches Berdan Avenue at the farthest western portion of High Mountain Park, the trail turns NW and then NE and then continues in a SE direction leaving the Pancake Hollow section returning the hiker in a loop fashion back to the portion of the Blue Trail previously traveled with housing developments to the north and south. From here, the hiker follows the blue trail back to the trailhead at Chickopee Drive.

Blue Trail End

Horizontal White Blaze Trailhead

The 0.2 mile Horizontal White Blaze Connector trail’s western trailhead is accessible from the Blue Trail near the Blue Trail trailhead at Chickapee Drive in Wayne.  The Horizontal White Blaze Connector Trail initially heads southeast from the Blue Trail before turning north to connect with the Yellow Trail near the Franklin Clove where it ends.

Fauna:

Fauna I’ve spotted during my hikes at High Mountain Park include:

American Goldfinch

White-Tailed Deer

White Breasted Nuthatch

American Robin

Black Rat Snake

Eastern Chipmunk

Blue Jay

Red-Tailed Hawk

Cottontail Rabbit

Directions to College Road Parking Lot: (as taken from the NYNJ Trail Conference Website)

Take Route 208 west to the second Goffle Road exit (towards Hawthorne/Paterson) and turn right at the end of the ramp. At the next light, just beyond the intersection with Goffle Hill Road, turn right onto North Watchung Drive. At a “stop” sign at the top of the hill, turn sharply right onto Rea Avenue, which becomes North Haledon Avenue and then Linda Vista Avenue. At a T-intersection with Terrace Avenue, turn right, then bear left to continue on Linda Vista Avenue, which leads into William Paterson University (Entry 6). At the next “stop” sign, turn right and continue for 0.4 mile to a small parking area on the right, with a sign “High Mountain Park.”

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!

Great Hiking/Ecology Books:

1. 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: New York City: Including northern New Jersey, southwestern Connecticut, and western Long Island – Packed with valuable tips and humorous observations, the guide prepares both novices and veterans for the outdoors. From secluded woods and sun-struck seashores, to lowland swamps and rock-strewn mountain tops, this practical guidebook contains all the information needed to have many great hikes in and around New York City.

Click here for more information!

2. Take a Hike New York City: 80 Hikes within Two Hours of Manhattan – In Moon Take a Hike New York City, award-winning writer Skip Card shows you the best hikes in and around The Big Apple—all within two hours of the city.

Click here for more information!

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

Click here for more information!

4. 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!

5. Wild New Jersey: Nature Adventures in the Garden State:

Wild New Jersey invites readers along Wheeler’s whirlwind year-long tour of the most ecologically diverse state for its size in America.

Click here for more information!

Feel free to comment with any questions, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Emerson Woods Preserve Tour!


Emerson Woods Preserve

On December 4, 2011, Watershed Advocacy group Bergen SWAN (Save the Watershed Action Network) teamed with naturalist Nancy Slowik to host the first ever Emerson Woods nature walk.  Once targeted for intense development, the woods are now preserved and help protect the Oradell Reservoir from non-point source pollution.

Emerson Woods and Oradell Reservoir

Bergen SWAN played a major role in preserving Emerson Woods.  Bergen SWAN has fought for almost 24 years to help preserve the remaining forests surrounding upper Bergen County’s reservoirs.  The most recent settlement occurred in 2009 with United Water. United Water manages the Oradell, Lake Tappan and Woodcliff Lake Reservoirs in Bergen County.  After 5 years of negotiations with Bergen SWAN & the Hackensack Riverkeeper, United Water agreed to granting conservation easements on 3,100 watershed acres to the NJDEP in addition to setting aside $1 million to assist in acquiring and preserving additional land along the Hackensack River and its tributaries.  United Water has since become a close ally of Bergen SWAN by helping to sponsor events such as the 2010 “Planting in the Park” in Pascack Brook County Park and allowing Bergen SWAN to host the December 4th nature walk on United Water watershed land-land which is normally not open to the general public.

Nature Tour

Emerson Woods Nature Tour

The tour, led by naturalist Nancy Slowik, started in the United Water recreation parking lot near Lakeview Terrace in Emerson, NJ.  Once the group was organized, Bergen SWAN opened up the gate to the Oradell Reservoir providing a rare opportunity to walk along the shore of the reservoir.  Nancy directed the tour to the waterfowl present on the open water of the reservoir. Double-crested Cormorant were seen in addition to Hooded Mergansers.

Double Crested Cormorant

Heading away from the shore, the tour passed a stand of American Sycamore with their white peeling bark.

American Sycamore

Early settlers used to make buttons out of American Sycamore seedpods.  The “button” is found inside the seedpod. This practice created another name for the American Sycamore: the Buttonwood Tree. Nancy pointed out Poison Ivy growing on a dead Eastern Hemlock tree. Members of the tour were advised to never touch the hairy vine of Poison Ivy as you can still get a painful itchy rash even in winter.

Poison Ivy Rope on Dead Hemlock Tree

Palmolive dish washing liquid was recommended as an inexpensive cure for poison ivy. The tour then led participants up a gas line right of way for about ¼ a mile.

Along the way, White-Tail Deer were seen browsing in the woods west of the right of way.

White Tail Deer

As the group proceeded on, Nancy pointed out large rectangular holes found on a dead tree.

Pileated Woodpecker Holes

These holes were created by a Pileated Woodpecker, North America’s largest woodpecker.  Most likely the bird was hunting carpenter ants, one it’s favorite sources of food. While the group admired the holes, a Black-Capped Chickadee, Northern Flicker and Red-Bellied Woodpecker were heard calling.

Up ahead on the gas trail was a stand of Northern Red Oak (NJ’s state tree!) with its characteristic “ski slope” bark. Nancy informed the tour that when a Northern Red Oak gets cut it admits a foul odor.

Northern Red Oak

Shortly before turning west onto the Heck Ditch trail, the group happened upon a White Pine plantation.

White Pine Plantation

White pines make excellent habitat for Great Horned Owls and other birds of prey which frequent Emerson Woods.

Possible Hawk or Owl nest in White Pine

Cones of White Pine are sticky with the seeds found inside. Native Americans used to chew on White Pine needles to obtain Vitamin C.

As the group passed the Heck Ditch Nancy pointed out that the oily looking water surface of the ditch was caused by bacteria decomposing leaves.

Heck Ditch

Ground Pine

Ground Pine was found growing in large colonies on the other side of the Heck ditch trail. Ground Pine takes years to become established.

Scouring Rush near Cotton Wood Tree

After walking for about 15-20 minutes on the Heck Ditch trail, the tour headed south on the Equisetum trail which leads back to the United Water Recreating parking lot. Along the way, Nancy pointed out large growths of equisetum growing near massive Cottonwood trees. This collection of Equisetum is thought to consist of the largest stand in New Jersey.  Equisetum are members of an ancient order of plants and appeared well before the appearance of the first flowering plants.  Equisetum was known to early settlers as “Scouring Rush”-a name given for its ability to clean and scrub pots and pans.

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!

Giant Cottonwood

The group headed back to the parking lot as twilight descended. As we walked, we happened upon an abandoned Red-Eyed Vireo nest.  The red-eye vireo spends the winter living in South America.

The group proceeded to the parking area and the tour concluded.

Emerson Woods Preserve

A special thanks to Bergen SWAN and Nancy Slowik for offering the opportunity to explore Emerson Woods in great detail. For more information on Bergen SWAN click here.

The Emerson Woods Preserve are accessible from off of Main Street in Emerson or Lakeview Drive. Ample parking is available on Summer Street. Be sure to check out Bergen SWAN if you wish to participate in nature walks, community clean-ups and educational events in Emerson Woods.

West Milford’s Apshawa Preserve!


Apshawa Preserve A Passaic County Park

Welcome to the Apshawa Preserve! The 576 acre Apshawa Preserve is located in West Milford in the heart of the NJ Highlands region.

Apshawa Preserve

Apshawa Preserve

The preserve is a cooperative project of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF) and the county of Passaic. Passaic County has owned 501 acres of the preserve after purchasing the land from the Borough of Butler with Green Acres funding in 1971. Public Access to the property was limited until NJCF purchased the adjacent Faustini property in 2002 bringing the total acreage to 576. The property was previously going to be developed and would have fragmented a crucial highlands forest and degraded water quality in nearby High Crest Lake. The Faustini property includes an estimated .93 of an acre pond and rock outcrops.

Apshawa Preserve

The forty acre Butler Reservoir is the centerpiece of the Apshawa Preserve and was formed from the impoundment of the Apshawa Brook which flows from the northwest. Once used for the Borough of Butler’s water supply, the reservoir is now only used during emergency drought situations.

Butler Reservoir in fall

From Butler Reservoir, Apshawa Brook continues south through an old mixing pond and cascades until its confluence with the Pequannock River near Route 23.

Apshawa Brook

Samples of macro invertebrates taken from the Apshawa Brook show healthy populations of Mayflies, Stoneflies and Caddis flies. These species are all pollutant intolerant species.  Macro indicates that the organism can be seen without the aid of a microscope whereas invertebrate indicates that the organism has no backbone. The presence of these pollutant intolerant species indicates the Apshawa Brook’s water quality is very high.  The NJ DEP has classified the stream as Trout Production and labeled the brook with “C1” status which is one of the highest water classifications in NJ.

Apshawa Deer Fence

Passaic County Freeholders Forest Restoration Fence

In December of 2010, The New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF) completed construction of a 16,800 feet (3.2 Mile), 8 feet high wire mesh deer fence on three hundred acres of the Apshawa Preserve. The NJCF states that the Apshawa Preserve is at a “deer tipping point” and that the forest is partially degraded. 18 White-Tailed Deer were observed in the fenced 300 acres during a NJCF sponsored deer drive on December 10, 2010. NJCF states that 18 deer on 300 acres equals to about 40 deer per square mile. A deciduous forest becomes degraded when deer density is greater than 20 deer per square mile.

White-Tailed Deer

White-Tailed Deer

The purpose of the fence is to keep white-tail deer from over-browsing native herbaceous plants & young tree saplings. The fence will be in place for 10 to 15 years. Assessments of native plant populations found both in and out of the fenced areas will be taken on occasion to determine the effectiveness of the fence. According to the NJCF, so much native vegetation has been consumed by the white-tail deer that non-native plants such as Mugwort, Garlic Mustard, Oriental Bittersweet, Japanese Barberry and Japanese Stiltgrass have taken hold in many areas of the forest where native species once flourished. These nonnative plants crowd out beneficial native plants by forming a monoculture which offers few benefits to native wildlife. Seeds of these plants were carried via foot traffic and illegal ATV use.

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

The Pequannock River Coalition (PRC) has called the forest restoration project “the fence that makes no sense” and has stated that the design of the fence impedes travel of other animals such as the state endangered Bobcat and Wood Turtle. PRC published a field review of the Apshawa Preserve and fence on November 22, 2010. The report stated that while deer sign was present in the preserve, the PRC did not encounter any deer during a three mile assessment.  Greenbrier, which becomes scarce in areas where excessive deer browse is excessive, was found abundant in thickets in many areas. The report goes on to state that many young saplings were present indicating that the forest is regenerating. The biggest threat to new growth appears to be the dense canopy of dense shade and not excessive deer browse. The report concluded that several smaller enclosures would be more feasible to manage.

Apshawa Deer Fence Gate

Apshawa Deer Fence Gate

However, NJCF stated that managing many small enclosures is too expensive and that the design of the fence can be modified. The fence was placed tight to the ground in many places which prompted the NJ DEP to state that amphibians and snakes may have difficulties getting through to critical food supplies or breeding grounds with the current design of the fence. To accommodate, sections of the fence have been raised 7 inches high and 12 inches wide every 15-20 feet depending on the terrain. NJCF has stated that the purpose of the fence is to minimize deer presence but acknowledges that it is impossible to keep deer completely out. The PRC stated that studies have proved that hungry deer have been shown to squeeze in areas 7 inches high and 12 inches wide.

Deer Fence Animal Crossing Apshawa Preserve

Deer Fence Animal Crossing Apshawa Preserve

Other methods to ease animal crossing include old snags (dead trees) placed over the top of the fence (seen in the picture above) to help animals such as Bobcats to cross over to the other side.

Black Bears have made a habit of breaking through sections of fence to get to the other side. The NJCF studied areas of high Black Bear traffic in the preserve and placed strategic “Bear Ladders” to aid in their crossing.

Bear Climb

Bear Climb

Under NJ law, almost all land modifications where there are stream corridors are governed by N.J.A.C. 7:13 aka the flood hazard control act. Fences are only exempted from this act if they are located outside of a floodway and if the fence is not designed in a way that will catch debris in a flood.

Stream Crossing Chains

Stream Crossing Chains

The NJCF responded by placing heavy chains at the bottom of the fence to prevent debris from catching and permitting the flow of water. It is hoped that if White-Tail Deer feel the heavy chains on their heads they will turn around.

Trails

Apshawa Hike 5.29.11 and 6.21.11

There are almost 7 miles of blazed trails to be explored in the Apshawa Preserve.  These trails were created with the assistance of volunteers and funding was provided through the National Recreation Trails Program.  All trails are accessible from the white trail whose trailhead may be found in the Apshawa Preserve parking lot. Be sure to stay on the marked trails as there are unmarked trails throughout the preserve. There are signs posted letting you know if you are going to stray from the marked trail.

Leaving Trail System

While it is possible to hike (if you start early in the day) the entire preserve in one trip, I find it best to explore the Apshawa Preserve over two separate trips. The best introduction to the Apshawa Preserve is to hike the northern section of the Apshawa Preserve to the scenic Butler Reservoir.  Start by taking part of the 2 mile white trail from the parking lot.

White Trail trailhead

The white trail heads northwest and goes through a swamp and traverses to a ridge top providing excellent views of the Butler Reservoir.

One of the views from White Trail

After stopping here for a look at the surrounding highlands, follow the white trail down to shore of Butler Reservoir and look to the left for the start of the 1.25 mile red trail.

Red Trail Trailhead

The red trail traverses along the western shore of Butler Reservoir and crosses over tributaries of the Apshawa Brook located to the northwest of Butler Reservoir. Once the trail passes over the tributaries, the trail heads east to once again meet with the white trail which traverses the northern section of the Butler Reservoir.  Continuing to head east, the white trail meets the .5 of a mile yellow trail which encircles an 8 acre pond.

Yellow Trail with Pond

However, I found most of the yellow trail was under water due to Beaver activity when I visited in May 2011. I spoke to a NJCF representative regarding the condition of the yellow trail and was told that a possible reroute may be possible for the future.

Yellow Trail Closed due to Beaver

Yellow Trail Closed due to Beaver

As of June 2013 the Yellow Trail is closed due to Beaver Activity. Continuing on our virtual tour: Heading west away from the flooded area, the yellow trail connects to the white trail and goes southwest and then east to the parking lot.

The second hike explores the southern portion of the preserve via the 3 mile green trail.

Green Trail

The green trail is the longest trail created in the Apshawa Preserve. From the white trail, the green trail heads south and passes a historic mixing pond and interesting ruins from the time when this property was watershed land for the Borough of Butler.

Dam at Historic Mixing Pond on Green Trail

Ruins on Green Trail

The trail continues northwest and does a switchback climb. There are scenic views here of adjacent protected Newark watershed land which looks great in any season but looks absolutely spectacular in the fall.

View on Green Trail

From here, the green trail continues north until it reaches Butler Reservoir and the red trail. Follow the red trail east and north until you connect back to the white trail. Take the white trail east and southwest back to the parking area.

Flora:

The Apshawa Preserve consists primarily of a oak-sugar maple forest. Before the Chestnut blight, American Chestnut was likely abundant. Saplings of American Chestnut still occur.

American Chestnut

Today there are new threats facing the eastern forest. The Emerald Ash Borer threatens all Ash trees. Purple boxes have been hung in the preserve and throughout New Jersey to detect for the presence of this destructive pest from Asia. The mature emerald ash borer does not pose a threat. It is the larva of these borers which eat away at the heartwood. The color purple attracts the emerald ash borer. Once the insect lands on the box they become trapped on the sticky surface. So far as of the summer of 2011, the emerald ash has not been identified in NJ.

Emerald Ash Borer Detection Survey Tool

Other flora found include:

Mayapple

Clubmoss under Mountain Laurel Shrub

False Hellebore

Jack in the Pulpit

Sensitive Fern

Sessile Bellwort

Pale Corydalis

Pale Corydalis

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 includes the below among others:

Fowler’s Toad

Garter Snake

Fox Tracks

Click here for directions and a description of the Apshawa Preserve by the NJ Conservation Foundation.

Great Hiking/Ecology Books:

1. 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: New York City: Including northern New Jersey, southwestern Connecticut, and western Long Island – Packed with valuable tips and humorous observations, the guide prepares both novices and veterans for the outdoors. From secluded woods and sun-struck seashores, to lowland swamps and rock-strewn mountain tops, this practical guidebook contains all the information needed to have many great hikes in and around New York City.

Click here for more information!

2. Take a Hike New York City: 80 Hikes within Two Hours of Manhattan – In Moon Take a Hike New York City, award-winning writer Skip Card shows you the best hikes in and around The Big Apple—all within two hours of the city.

Click here for more information!

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

Click here for more information!

4. 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!

5. Wild New Jersey: Nature Adventures in the Garden State:

Wild New Jersey invites readers along Wheeler’s whirlwind year-long tour of the most ecologically diverse state for its size in America.

Click here for more information!

Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Englewood’s Flat Rock Brook Nature Center!


Welcome to Flat Rock Brook

Welcome to Flat Rock Brook

Englewood’s Flat Rock Nature Preserve consists of 150 acres of second growth woodland, wetlands, meadows, gardens and ponds and nature building managed by Flat Rock Nature Association, a non-profit organization which hosts educational programs.

Englewood Flat Rock Nature Preserve

Englewood Flat Rock Nature Preserve

75 acres of the preserve are city owned Green Acres lands and 75 acres consist of the former Allison Woods Park which officially became part of Flat Rock Nature Preserve in 1988.

William O. Allison Memoriam

The preserve is surrounded on the north, south and west by dense residential housing. Englewood Cliffs is to the east of the preserve. Flat Rock Nature Preserve is a remnant section of a once massive hardwood forest on the western palisades.  This forest remained intact until about 1859 when large scale logging occurred to provide railroad ties for the northern railroad which had extended into Englewood.  Overtime, the forest grew back on land that was to become the Flat Rock Nature Preserve.

Flat Rock Brook Forest

A Walk in the Woods

In the fall of 2012 a new permanent exhibit in the nature center known as “A Walk in the Woods” was completed. The exhibit showcases the four primary habitats found at Flat Rock:

Meadow

Meadow

Forest

Forest

Pond, Stream & Wetlands

Pond, Stream & Wetlands

Each exhibit has interactive puzzles, information fact cards & flip-books on the flora and fauna found in each habitat. Speaking of fauna, this  Turtle has a home in “A Walk in the Woods”

Turtle

Northern Red Oak Eastern Screech Owl

Northern Red Oak Eastern Screech Owl

The exhibit’s centerpiece is a life size 15 foot replica of a Northern Red Oak  (NJ’s state tree) with various wildlife including an Eastern Screech Owl.

Birds of Flat Rock Nature Preserve

Birds of Flat Rock Nature Preserve

Near the window where bird feeders have been placed are descriptions of common birds found at Flat Rock including their vocalizations!

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

I saw this American Goldfinch when I last visited.

Watershed Exhibit

Watershed Exhibit

The display also has exhibits on non-point source pollution and how it affects the Hackensack River watershed.

History of the Land

Over the years, several development proposals threatened the forest.  In 1900, a few acres of the future nature preserve experienced quarrying which occurred until 1925. Today, the staging area of the quarry is the present day parking area of the nature center. A handicap accessible .1 of a mile boardwalk, constructed in 1989, goes near cliffs that were exposed during the quarry operations.

Quarry Boardwalk

Quarry Boardwalk Trail

Around 1907, a huge cemetery was proposed for the woods of Flat Rock but was declined by the city due to the land being unsuited for this purpose.  In 1927 Paterno Construction Company bought land in the future preserve in order to construct residential development. Roads were constructed throughout Flat Rock’s forest. Construction of the houses was soon to follow but the great depression occurred effectively canceling the development.  The roads became the foundation of the present trails found in the nature preserve.  Over the next few decades new development threats came and went but the woods remained.

In 1968, the citizens of Englewood voted to approve a city bond issue to acquire and preserve the remaining open land in Englewood.  In 1973, the organization that would become Flat Rock Nature Preserve was formed to manage the preserved open space.

Flat Rock Brook

Flat Rock Brook

Flat Rock flows into the preserve from the north.  The brook is a tributary of the Overpeck Creek (Flat Rock’s confluence with the Overpeck Creek is just south of the border between Englewood and Leonia) which is a tributary of the Hackensack River.  Flat Rock Brook is classified as FW2-NT (Fresh water, non-trout). The water quality has been designated as poor as indicated by the variety and number of sampled invertebrates. The water quality was tested by the Flat Rock Brook Nature Association which formed a stream study team to evaluate the health of Flat Rock. Recently, the Flat Rock Brook Nature Association received a grant of $9, 625 to help restore Flat Rock Brook by encouraging native plant species and removing invasive exotic plants. The grant was received from the Watershed Institute.

Killifish in Flat Rock Brook

Flat Rock Ponds

A prominent feature of Flat Rock Brook Nature Preserve is its Quarry Pond.

Turtles in Quarry Pond

Quarry Pond is located to the south of the preserve near the nature center’s building. Quarry Pond has not been dredged since the 1970s. Sediment from nearby trails have been filling in the pond causing decreasing oxygen levels. Duckweed, an aquatic plant, has taken over the pond.  In the fall of 2010, city officials voted to use funds from an unused 2007 bond ordinance to dredge the pond. In the summer of 2012 dredging of Quarry Pond commenced and was completed in the fall of 2012.

If Quarry pond wasn’t dredged, it would have disappeared and become a marshland which was the fate of Flat Rock’s MacFadden’s Pond. MacFadden’s Pond is now known as MacFadden’s wetland due to sedimentation filling in much of the pond. MacFadden’s wetland was formed by the damming of Flat Rock Brook as it enters the preserve from the north and is found in the northern area of the preserve.

MacFadden’s Wetland

The city of Englewood approved a dredging project for the pond in 2007 but when the cost to dredge the pond was found to be more than a million dollars, the dredging plan was canceled.

Trails

Flat Rock Brook Trail Map

Flat Rock Brook Trail Map

In addition to the quarry boardwalk, the preserve features over three miles of trails.

Red Trail

The red trail is the longest at 1.2 miles and traverses the heart of the preserve and helps to connect Macfadden’s wetland with the nature center.  The white trail, at .6 encircles the nature center and goes through gardens and around Quarry Pond.  The .6 orange trail traverses in the western section of the preserve near Flat Rock.

Orange Trail

The yellow trail goes over a mystery bridge (called a mystery because the bridge appeared mysteriously one weekend) near Macfadden’s wetland and back to the red trail. Click here for a trail map.

Mystery Bridge

Flora and Fauna

The preserve features flora such as:

Milkweed

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 found in Englewood’s Flat Rock Brook Nature Center includes:

Eastern Chipmunk

The preserve is open for hiking seven days a week from dawn to dusk. Click here for directions.

 Check out below for more information regarding Northern NJ’s Forest Community and environment!

1. Eastern Deciduous Forest, Second Edition: Ecology and Wildlife Conservation – This book is a useful tool for anyone who wants to 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 with any questions, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

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