Tag Archives: Atlantic White Cedar

Hiking Wawayanda State Park’s Cedar Swamp Natural Area!


Wawayanda State Park

Wawayanda State Park

Welcome to Wawayanda State Park! Located in the NJ Highlands, Wawayanda State Park was one of the first major acquisitions by the New Jersey Green Acres program. Wawayanda State Park was purchased in 1963 from the New Jersey Zinc Company which had proposed development for the property. The name “Wawayanda” is of Lenape origin and is said to mean water on the mountain. Many prefer to call it “way way yonder” since the park is located in a remote area of northwestern Passaic and southeastern Sussex counties.

Wawayanda State Park

Wawayanda State Park

Wawayanda State Park is home to a multitude of wildlife including state threatened Red-Shouldered Hawk, Barred Owl and Bobcat. The park is also a strong hold for Black Bears in NJ.

Trails

Trail

Today we are going to explore a portion of the 2,167 acre Wawayanda Swamp Natural Area-home to a globally rare inland Atlantic White Cedar Swamp and the largest natural area present in the park.

Atlantic White Cedar

Atlantic White Cedar

Wawayanda’s Atlantic White Cedar Swamp formed around 15,000 years ago and sections of the swamp have remained unchanged since the last ice age.

Wawayanda Lake

Wawayanda Lake

Using the below trail map (taken from the NJ DEP Parks webpage), let’s start our journey by heading to the trail-head of the 1.6 mile yellow blazed Double Pond Trail near the camping areas of Wawayanda State Park.

Wawayanda State Park

Double Pond Trail is named after the original name of nearby Wawayanda Lake which was once two bodies of water separated by a thin strip of land.

Wawayanda Furnace

Wawayanda Furnace

On our way to the Double Pond Trail we pass the ruins of the Wawayanda Furnace, a 37 foot tall charcoal blast furnace where pig iron, a crude form of iron, was produced for railroad car wheels. The charcoal blast-furnace is a remnant of a once-thriving village and was last used in 1857.

Double Pond Trail Trailhead

Double Pond Trail Trailhead

Leaving the furnace behind, let’s head east to the start of the Double Pond Trail.

Entering the forest we find Indian Cucumber growing alongside American Beech. Indian Cucumber is an indicator of rich moist woods. The plant can grow up to 30 inches high.

Indian Cucumber

Indian Cucumber

As we walk there are several rock outcrops comprised of ancient granite whose age is likely around 1 billion years old.

Mayapple with Rock Outcrop

Mayapple with Rock Outcrop

Here we see Mayapple sprouting near the base of one outcrop. As we continue closer to the Cedar Swamp we find an interesting small tree known as Striped Maple with bark striped green and white.

Striped Maple

Striped Maple

Striped Maple is a common understory tree of cool mesic forests.

Striped Maple Leaves

Striped Maple Leaves

After walking about .4 of a mile on the Double Pond Trail we have reached a bridge crossing a creek.

Double Pond Trail Bridge

Double Pond Trail Bridge

Swamp

 

After checking out the views, let’s take the trail back into the forest passing the trailhead for the Red Dot Trail to our right.

Red Dot Trail Trailhead

Red Dot Trail Trailhead

Double Pond Trail

Double Pond Trail

Continuing on the Double Pond Trail dense Rhododendrons are appearing to the side and branching overhead forming a tunnel in places mixed with Eastern Hemlocks making this part of the park appear to be a jungle.

Cedar Swamp Trail Trailhead

Cedar Swamp Trail Trailhead

After traveling about .9 of a mile on the Double Pond Trail we find ourselves at the Trail-head of the 1.5 mile Blue Blazed Cedar Swamp Trail appearing to the right. This trail will take us right into the center of the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp! Today we will hike only about half a mile of the Cedar Swamp trail since there has been much rain causing the water levels in the swamp to rise and flood most of the trail.

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Boardwalk

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Boardwalk

After walking a short distance through more Rhododendron tunnels we find planks of wood have been placed over permanent flooded sections of the trail.

Frog Tannin Stained Water

Frog Tannin Stained Water

We have arrived in the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp. The water is shallow and tannin stained and filled with frogs.

Atlantic White Cedar

Atlantic White Cedar

Atlantic White Cedar occurs on hydric soils in low nutrient water usually on or near the coastal plain. This is what makes finding this pocket of thriving Atlantic White Cedar located so far away from the coastal plain so special.

Other common tree species found in Atlantic White Cedar Swamps include:

Abandoned Car

Abandoned Car

About .05 of a mile into the trail we find the remains of an old car that has been here for many years. Nature is reclaiming the car for its own. As we proceed slightly further we find the boardwalks have ended and the trails are flooded due to the recent heavy rains.

FrogFrog

 

 

Turning around on the Cedar Swamp Trail we head back to the boardwalks and see numerous frogs in the tannin stained water of the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp.

Heading back to the Double Pond Trail we hear a low grunt of a Black Bear nearby alerting us of his presence.

Possible Bear Print

Possible Bear Print

Judging by the above wet paw print on this rock we just missed him!

Wood Ducks and Mallard

Wood Ducks and Mallar

Heading back on the Wooden Bridge catch we glimpses of Wood Ducks and a solitary Mallard out on the water.

Yellow Birch

Yellow Birch

As we leave the swamp and head into mesic (moist) woods, we pass a Yellow Birch tree with its roots exposed. This tree likely began life growing on an old log that has since long ago decayed and returned to the earth.

Red Eft

Red Eft

As we walk we see a bright orange movement on the ground. It’s a Red Eft! Red Efts are juvenile terrestrial Eastern Newts. When fully mature the newt will spend the rest of its life (12-15 years) in the waters of the swamp.

We’ve now made it back to the old iron furnace! I hope you enjoyed this virtual hike of Wawayanda’s Cedar Swamp and that it inspires you to visit it for yourself!

Wawayanda's Jugle (Cedar Swamp Trail)

Directions: (As taken from NJ DEP Website)

Directions:
Take Route 23 north to Union Valley Road. Follow Union Valley Road about 6 miles to stop sign. From Stop sign, go to second traffic light. Turn left, travel to fork in road (about 2 miles) go left about 1/2 mile to Warwick Turnpike. Turn left. The park entrance is four miles on the left.

Check out the latest Wawayanda State Park bird sightings here!

Great Ecology/Hiking Books!

1. 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!

2. Don’t miss The Highlands: Critical Resources, Treasured Landscapes! The Highlands exemplifies why protection of New Jersey’s Highlands is so important for the future of the state. It is an essential read on the multiple resources of the region.

Click here for more information!

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

Click here for more information!

4.60 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!

5. 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!

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

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Exploring Secaucus Mill Creek Marsh!


Mill Creek Marsh

Welcome to Mill Creek Marsh!

Welcome to the Secaucus Mill Creek Marsh!  Mill Creek, a tributary of the Hackensack River meanders through the marsh. The estimated 209+ acre marsh was purchased from Hartz Mountain Industries in 1996 by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission for preservation purposes.  The marsh was previously slated for a 2,750 unit housing development.

Mill Creek Marsh

Mill Creek Marsh

Though the marsh had not experienced direct industrial activities, habitat for wildlife was limited. The marsh had layers of fill and consisted of a monoculture of Common Reed which limited tidal inundation. The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission began enhancement of the marsh in 1998. The purpose of the enhancement was to create an intertidal brackish marsh, upland habitat, mudflats and shallow sub-tidal areas. Islands were created from fill in the marsh and were planted with salt tolerant flora such as Spartina (aka Salt Marsh Cordgrass).  Spartina tolerates salt water by excreting excess salt. Two impoundments of Mill Creek  (North/South) were created in addition to re-establishing tidal flow.

Stand of Gray Birch next to Mill Creek Marsh Trail

Stand of Gray Birch next to Mill Creek Marsh Trail

The term “enhancement “is used rather than “restoration” because there is no evidence to support that an intertidal marsh ecosystem with both mud flats and raised islands ever existed naturally in the meadowlands.

Mill Creek Marsh NYC Background

Mill Creek Marsh NYC Background

During the enhancement activities, removal of fill exposed old stumps of Atlantic White Cedar which had been buried for many years. It’s estimated that 1/3 of the Hackensack Meadowlands were once covered in Atlantic White Cedar. The decline of these majestic trees in the meadowlands began in the mid 18th century when the durable Atlantic White Cedar wood was used to make roads and houses. Later, swaths of the cedar forest were burned to eliminate hiding places for pirates. The last of the cedars died out with the completion of the Oradell dam on the Hackensack River which severely slowed the influx of freshwater pouring into the swamp and allowed an influx of saltwater into the marshes.

Atlantic White Cedar Stumps in Mill Creek Marsh

Atlantic White Cedar Stumps in Mill Creek Marsh

Over a short period of time former freshwater marsh became a brackish estuary.  These stumps are all that is left of the once extensive Atlantic White Cedar forest in the meadowlands.

Mallards, Yellowlegs, Snowy Egret

Mallards, Yellowlegs, Snowy Egret

While the eco-system is certainly healthier than it was prior to the enhancement, water quality still has a long way to go. The creation of  water channels has allowed for oxygen exchange and greater tidal flushing which has improved water quality. However, coliform bacteria is still present in Mill Creek at elevated levels most likely due to the proximity of a municipal sewage treatment plant near the marsh.  Samples of macro invertebrates taken from Mill Creek primarily consists of pollutant tolerant species which is an indicator that water quality is not as healthy as it could become in the future.

Trail

Mill Creek Marsh Trail Map (Trail in Green)

Mill Creek Marsh Trail Map (Trail in Green)

Mill Creek Marsh Trail

Mill Creek Marsh Trail

A 1.5 mile handicapped-accessible trail was created during the NJMC enhancement activities at Mill Creek Marsh. The trail traverses both the south and north impoundments and ventures near Least Tern Island (one of the artificially created islands) and consists of a gravel footpath and footbridges. The trail offers a multitude of opportunities to view wildlife. Educational signs have been placed throughout the trail providing information to visitors of Mill Creek Marsh.

Tidal Bays The lungs of the Hackensack

Example of Educational Signage found along Mill Creek Marsh Trail

The trail can be walked in a looped fashion around the southern impoundment (for a shorter walk) or in a loop around the northern impoundment (for the full 1.5 miles).

Fauna

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

Over 280 bird species have been documented in the NJ Meadowlands. Birds such as Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Black-Crowned Night Heron, American Bittern (a state endangered species), Terns, Tree Swallows and Double-crested Cormorants have all been spotted in Mill Creek Marsh among others. Of special note, a Eurasian Green-winged teal has been seen in Mill Creek Marsh both this year and last.  Black Skimmers make an appearance in the summer.

Snowy Egret on Ancient White Cedar Stump

Snowy Egret on Ancient White Cedar Stump

Yellowlegs

Yellowlegs

Fiddler Crabs and different species of fish populate Mill Creek in addition to turtles such as Diamondback Terrapin. Diamondback Terrapin are the only turtles adapted to life in brackish waters.  Muskrats also make their home here.

Fauna & Flora

 

Flora

Hibiscus

Hibiscus

In addition to Common Reed, (which is still present in many locations), Gray Birch, Saltwater Cordgrass, rushes, sedges and other flora flourish in Mill Creek Marsh.

Sunflowers

Sunflowers

Mill Creek Marsh

Mill Creek Marsh

Today the Mill Creek Marsh is an oasis of nature in a sea of overdevelopment. There is no place else that I can think of where you can view ancient stumps of Atlantic White Cedar with the NYC skyline as a backdrop.

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!

Be sure to click here to check out additional great photos of Mill Creek Marsh! (Thanks Hope)

Driving Directions (as stated in the  NYNJ Trail Conference Mill Creek Trail Description)

Take the New Jersey Turnpike to Exit 16W and follow signs for Route 3 East. Cross the bridge over the Hackensack River and follow signs for “Secaucus/New Jersey Turnpike South/Exit Only.” Continue past the Turnpike exit and take the next exit (just beyond the underpass) for “Harmon Meadow Blvd./The Plaza/Mill Creek Mall.” Follow Harmon Meadow Boulevard to the third traffic light (Sam’s Club is on the left) and turn left onto Mill Creek Drive. Cross over the New Jersey Turnpike and continue straight ahead (do not bear left) at a sign for “Mill Creek Mall.” Park on the right, at a sign for “Mill Creek Trail.”

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Check out the latest bird sightings at Mill Creek Marsh Here!

Great Books on the Meadowlands

1. The Nature of the Meadowlands – The Nature of the Meadowlands illuminates the region’s natural and unnatural history, from its darkest days of a half-century ago to its amazing environmental revival.

Click here for more information!

2. The Meadowlands: Wilderness Adventures on the Edge of a City – Author Robert Sullivan proves himself to be this fragile yet amazingly resilient region’s perfect expolorer, historian, archaeologist, and comic bard.

Click here for more information!

3. Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story – Slowly but surely, with help from activist groups, government organizations, and ordinary people, the resilient creatures of the Meadowlands are making a comeback, and the wetlands are recovering.

Click here for more information!

4. Fields of Sun and Grass: An Artist’s Journal of the New Jersey Meadowlands – The book has three central parts, respectively called “Yesterday,” “Today,” and “Tomorrow.” Each covers a different time period in the ecological life of the Meadowlands.

Click here for more information!

Walking DeKorte Park!


NJ Meadolands Commission Richard W. Dekorte Park

NJ Meadowlands Commission Richard W. Dekorte Park

DeKorte Park is an amazing environmental story. The 110 acre park is a former landfill that has been given a second chance and features trails, butterfly garden, observatory and an environmental education center.

meadowlands

Marsh View Pavilion

Kiosk

 

Near the Environmental Education center is the Jill Ann Ziemkiewicz Memorial Butterfly Garden. The garden is named after the youngest crew member of TWA Flight 800 which crashed off of Long Island in July of 1996. The centerpiece of the gardens is a bird bath hand carved to look like a sunflower.

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Sunflower Bird Bath

After I visited the butterfly garden, I took a stroll to the Lyndhurst Nature Reserve.

Transco Trail

Trail Head for Transco Trail and Lyndhurst Nature Reserve

The Lyndhurst Nature Reserve is a 3 1/2 acre island that is made entirely out of old garbage that was illegally dumped between 1969-1971.  The island is now a nature preserve covered with native grassland meadows and young woodlands. The island is surrounded by mudflats.

Black Eye Susans

Black Eye Susans

Atlantic White Cedar

Ancient Atlantic White Cedar

The mudflats surrounding the reserve at one time contained an extensive Atlantic White Cedar Swamp. Due to factors such as the construction of the Oradell dam to create the Oradell Reservoir in 1921 the water became too brackish for Atlantic White Cedar to survive. Today there are only ancient stumps remaining of the once extensive forest.

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Transco Trail

After leaving the Lyndhurst Nature Reserve, I took the eastern portion of the Transco trail which is roughly 3/4 of a mile in length.  The trail is built on a dike constructed in 1950 which contains a buried natural gas pipeline. Some flora along the trail includes Thistle, Milkweed and Pokeweed. Check out below for some pictures of the fauna found nearby.

Great Egret

Great Egret

Mallards and Canadian Geese

Forster Terns

Forster Terns

Crab

 

 

I also walked the Kingsland Overlook which offers view of the surrounding Kingsland Impoundment. The overlook was once a productive salt marsh which was turned into a dump. The former dump was turned into a park for wildlife starting in 1989. The landfill was capped with 400,000 recycled plastic soda bottles and covered with top soil. Thousands of plugs and 20 foot trees were planted. A dike was built to prevent leachate from going into the impoundment. The area is now maturing and many animals make the park their home.

DeKorte Park offers hope for all blighted areas. It is living proof that brownfields really can become greenfields with enough effort. The trail map (taken from NJSEA) is listed below:

DeKorte Park Trail Map

For more information and the official website click here. You can also check out the Meadowlands blog.

Don’t miss Jim Wright of the Meadowlands Commission’s new book “The Nature of the Meadowlands“!

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Check out the latest bird sightings here!