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.
The 2013 Pequannock River Coalition (PRC) Winter Hike took participants on an exploratory hike through the Pequannock River Watershed. Led by PRC Executive Ross Kushner, the 4 mile hike promised education & exercise.
Started in 1995, the Pequannock River Coalition provided a crucial voice in protecting the watershed of the Pequannock River, one of the cleanest rivers in New Jersey and a tributary of the Passaic River.
Ah, there you are! Welcome! Ready for the 4 mile hike? There’s plenty of snow on the ground to help us look for animal tracks.
Let’s begin by meeting Ross Kushner, the Executive Director of the Pequannock River Coalition. He’s going to lead the hike today!
Right now we are at a small gravel lot off Green Pond Road near Route 23 in the Newfoundland section of West Milford.
We will be exploring the area just north of Copperas Mountain in nearby Rockaway Township. Ross has just taken attendance and now we are heading southwest on Green Pond Road and will be heading into the woods of the vast Pequannock watershed!
What happened here? These trees appear to have collapsed like dominoes. The fallen trees were part of plantations planted in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and were to be maintained (i.e. trimmed) every 10-15 years. With the onset of WWII the plantations were all but forgotten. Fast forward to 2012, we now have a tangle of trees growing close to one another. Hurricane Sandy came and knocked the trees down. Ross explained that in general other than habitat for Northern Goshawks and Red Squirrels, plantations are a monoculture and do not provide the diversity most wildlife require.
Look at all these White-Tailed Deer prints around this fallen tree!
Hardwood trees that fell during the hurricane have become popular with White-Tailed Deer who enjoy nibbling on sections of tree normally inaccessible.
Leaving the fallen tree and coming to a small field, Ross has just found a curious looking egg pouch attached to a plant in a frozen field. This is a Praying Mantis egg case.
You can purchase Praying Mantis egg cases and use them as a natural “pesticide” for pests such as Japanese Beetles.
Heading back to Green Pond Road, Ross points out a stand of deciduous conifers near the side of the road and has identified them as American Larch. American Larch needles turn orange in the fall and fall off in winter.
Heading back on Green Pond Road, we’re now walking over a Pequannock River Tributary near Deerhaven Lane. The Pequannock River Tributary draining the marsh in the foreground was straightened to drain the marsh. Phragmites, a common plant which thrives in disturbed wetlands, is abundant.
Around 10,000 years ago the Wisconsin Glacier piled boulders on the north side and sheared off the southern side of mountains in the NJ Highlands. As the glacier retreated at the end of the ice age, they tended to melt in place. The sheered cliffs visible on Green Pond Mountain were testimony to that theory.
We’re now continuing our journey down Green Pond Road. It’s been about a quarter of a mile but we are now again entering the Pequannock River Watershed forest.
What are these ruins we are looking at? Ross is now explaining that when the City of Newark acquired the land in the early 1900’s people were living throughout the watershed property and had been for over a hundred years. Their property was taken by imminent domain to protect the water supply. Back in the 1890s and early 1900s Newark’s population was dying as their water supply was derived from the Passaic River in Newark. This section of the Passaic River was and is severely impaired.
Walking a bit further in the snow Ross has suddenly stopped. “Look at the space between these deer prints!” he says. “This guy was flying, but not from us-these are old prints”. There must be 20 feet present between the gaps of the prints!!
What is Ross looking at? It’s another American Larch tree with a good portion of its bark missing. Ross states “The bark has been taken off over the decades by Black Bears biting and rubbing their backs on the tree. The higher the bite, the bigger the bear. Sort of a territorial thing-every bear that comes by can determine what other bears have been in the area”.
Ross walks a bit further into the woods and suddenly stops.
We just happen to be by Deerhaven Lake where a number of White Pines are standing. These pines grew naturally. Though we don’t spot any today, there have been reports of Great Blue Heron nests in these pines. Ross turns around and starts heading back to Green Pond Road.
We are back on Green Pond Road on our way to a section of the white blazed 19.4 Mile Four Birds Trail. This trail, maintained by members of the NYNJ Trail Conference, is named Four Birds to represent the ecological diversity that can be encountered on the trail. Wild Turkeys, Red-Tail Hawks, Great Blue Herons & Ospreys represent the “Four Birds” in the name.
Near the beginning of the trail we see tiny footprints heading to a log. They belong to an Opossum.
It looks like we are now leaving the Four Birds Trail and are walking by a rather large American Beech with marks that look like eyes keeping watch over the forest. American Beech is considered a climax species in succession and is an indicator that the forest present here has not been disturbed in a long time.
Ross Pointed out black bear claw marks and noted that they are perfectly spaced.
Looking northwest towards Deerhaven Lake we see a large active beaver lodge with several others in the distance. Ross stated that the primary predator of beavers is the gray wolf which has been extirpated from New Jersey. Time to stop for lunch!
I find the leaf of the Northern Red Oak (NJ’s state tree) on my seat.
After eating our lunch Ross spots a White Oak tree covered with Black Bear claw marks. White Oak acorns are sweeter than other oaks such as Black or Red Oak. Black Bears love White Oak acorns so much that they will go up into the tree to retrieve them before they fall.
While checking out the claw marks we spot an out of season Firefly on the White Oak. Apparently it was tricked by the abundant sunshine.
River Otter droppings containing fish scales were spotted near an outlet of a Pequannock River tributary leaving Deerhaven Lake. River Otters are usually active near the outlet of a beaver pond and the droppings are indicators of River Otter territorial tendencies.
We even see the slides they made on the ice!
Ross is taking us on a shortcut back to our cars near the Pequannock River.
Well, we’ve reached our cars and the tour has concluded. I hope this virtual hike has inspired you to explore your local forest.
Welcome to Passaic County’s Friendship Park!
The 244 acre park, located in Bloomingdale, NJ consists of deciduous wooded uplands and wetlands.
The 0.9 Orange Blazed Trail (aka Friendship loop) we are going to follow was blazed courtesy of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. Ok, ready to start?
From the parking area head east to the Orange Blazed Trailhead near a wetland.
Turn left heading north on the trail. Immediately you will notice a large outcrop of rocks of precambrian origin. The rocks are known as “basement rocks” and were originally covered by soil and other rocks. Through the years due to natural activities such as past glacier action the rocks became exposed. Most of the rocks are thought to be comprised of ancient granite-gneiss.
Pudding stone rocks, seen above, are common in the NJ Highlands and consist of well-rounded quartz and red sandstone cobbles in a fine-grained red ironstone matrix.
After a few minutes, you will pass over a seasonal stream. Wait! Where’s the water? That’s a good question and I am glad you asked it. This stream is part of the wetlands that exist in Friendship park and only flows when the water table located below the surface gets too high such as in heavy downpours in spring.
Continuing on we come to the northern boundary of Friendship park which is seen here as a fence separating the park from an old abandoned golf course. Let’s stop and look around for a second. It seems we are not alone. There’s an American Robin & Eastern Gray Squirrel keeping watch over the forest.
Wait! What’s this? It’s an American Chestnut Sprout!
The American Chestnut tree was an important member of the eastern forest found in the United States. A wide variety of wildlife fed on its chestnuts. American Chestnuts began to die off in 1904 due to imported Chestnut Blight from Asia. The blight, imported to the US via Asian chestnut trees, is a fungus dispersed by spores in the air, raindrops and animals. American Chestnut now survives only in the understory as shoots sprouting from old roots (which are not affected by the blight). The American Chestnut sprouts reach about twenty feet before the blight strikes. The roots then shoots up new sprouts and the process repeats itself. The American Chestnut Foundation is currently working to restore the once great American Chestnut back to its native range. Check out the book American Chestnut : The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree for more information. Click here!
Heading east now there is a slight climb where we see a large coppice Black Oak. The orange blazed trail now continues on top of a large rock ledge.
The trail now starts to descend as we turn right and head south. Be careful to follow the orange blazes here as there are other trails that are not blazed which meander through the forest. According to our trail map, it looks like we left the trail! Let’s head back and find the last blaze.
Whew! Back on the trail! Let’s stop and listen to the sounds of the forest: Sounds like we are hearing a White Breasted Nuthatch & a Blue Jay. Let’s continue on our hike! Now we have arrived at the bottom of the descent.
Turning right and heading north we are only a short distance from the trail’s end. But before we continue pause and check out those old growth White Oak Trees!
We have now come to the end of the orange trail and our exploration of Friendship Park.
Trail Update: There are now three connector trails within the orange loop, blazed red, yellow and blue. (Thanks John!)
Interested in checking out Friendship Park yourself? Check out below!
Directions (as taken from the NY NJ Trail Conference Website)
From I-287 north or south take Exit 53 (Bloomingdale) and turn left onto Hamburg Turnpike. Upon entering Bloomingdale, the name of the road changes to Main Street. In 1.3 miles (from Route 287), you will reach a fork in the road. Bear right (following the sign to West Milford), and in another 0.1 mile, turn right (uphill) onto Glenwild Avenue. Proceed for another 0.3 mile to the intersection of Woodward Avenue (on the left). Opposite this intersection, you will notice a dirt parking area bordered by stones on the right. Turn right and park here.
Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!
Check out some great books below to learn more about NJ’s plants and wetlands!
Welcome to Kincaid Woods!
The woods, officially opened to the public circa 2009, were once farmland owned by a local family by the name of Kincaid. Evidence of old farm stone walls can still be found in the woods. The hike is located in the Stony Brook Mountains which are named for the nearby Stony Brook, a tributary of the Rockaway River.
From the kiosk in the parking area, follow the trail as it meanders through a meadow.
(Please keep in mind I took this hike in September 2012 about a month before Hurricane Sandy arrived. The following describes the hike as I encountered it at the time)
The yellow blazes of the Kincaid Trail will appear on wooden posts.
Enter the woods heading east on the Kincaid Trail.
Pass over a stream (a Stony Brook tributary) and through wetlands on a raised wooden bridge.
From here, be on the lookout for the Black-Dot Trail trail head which will appear on the right.
Head southwest on the black dot trail which passes over an old Kincaid Farm stone wall. From here, the Black Dot trail will begin to loop to the northeast.
Come to the end of the Black dot-trail after crossing another old stone wall.
From here turn left back on the Kincaid Trial heading northwest (turning right on the Kincaid trial leads to Pyramid Mountain).
From here a coppice Red Maple with the yellow blaze of the Kincaid trail becomes visible.
Soon a remnant of the Rockaway Valley Mine (aka DeCamp Mine) will come into view. Minerals mined included pyrite & magnetite. Minerals was shipped to the Musconetcong Ironworks in Stanhope NJ via the nearby Morris Canal. Tailings from the old mine may be found scattered about.
From the mine area, continue following the Kincaid trail west back through the wetlands, over the boardwalk and into the meadow where the hike began.
Directions (as taken from the NYNJ Trail Conference Web Site)
Take I-287 South to Exit 47 (Montville/Lincoln Park) and turn left at the bottom of the ramp onto Main Road (Route 202). Continue to follow Route 202 as it turns first sharply left, then sharply right. In 0.6 mile, just before reaching a fire station, turn right onto Taylortown Road and continue for 3.1 miles to a “stop” sign at Powerville Road (after 1.8 miles, Taylortown Road becomes Rockaway Valley Road). Turn right onto Powerville Road (the road is open only for local traffic because a bridge is out ahead, but the parking area for the hike is before the bridge, so you should go around the barricade) and continue for 1.2 miles to Kincaid Road (Powerville Road bears left at this intersection). Turn right onto Kincaid Road and immediately turn right into a gravel parking area.
Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!