Tag Archives: Fresh Water Wetlands

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, Little Blue Heron

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

Little Blue Heron 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.

Below is a list of partial plant life found in Mill Creek Marsh.

Mill Creek Marsh Flora

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!

Hiking West Milford’s Kanouse Mountain!


Kanouse Mountain

Kanouse Mountain

The 2011 Pequannock River Coalition Fall (2019 Update: Pequannock River Coalition is now defunct) Hike took place in West Milford’s Kanouse Mountain located in the Newark Watershed lands.

Attendees of 2011 PRC Fall Hike near trail entrance off Route 23

Attendees of 2011 PRC Fall Hike near trail entrance off Route 23

The 1,100 foot Kanouse Mountain is located off of Route 23 North near Echo Lake Road in the Newfoundland section of West Milford. Dense woodlands surround the mountain to the north, Echo Lake is to the north east, Kanouse Brook is to the west, the Echo Lake Channel is to the east and Route 23 is to the south and southeast.

Kanouse Brook Tributary

Kanouse Brook Tributary

Kanouse Brook has a naturally regenerating trout population and drains into the Pequannock River.

Attendees of the hike parked off of Old Route 23 near the NJ Transit Park & Ride and walked to the entrance of the trail off of Route 23 North near the entering Newfoundland sign.

Entering Newfoundland

Entering Newfoundland

The hike took place on unmarked wood roads starting in a northeast direction to the summit of Kanouse Mountain where a large star, American flag and outstanding views were present.

Star on top Kanouse Mountain

Star on top Kanouse Mountain

US Flag on top of Kanouse Mountain

US Flag on top of Kanouse Mountain

View of Charlottesburg Reservoir from top of Kanouse Mountain

View of Charlottesburg Reservoir from top of Kanouse Mountain

Views of Route 23

Views of Route 23

View of Copperas Mountain (Foreground) & Green Pond Mountain (Background)

View of Copperas Mountain (Foreground) & Green Pond Mountain (Background)

Charlottesburg Reservoir was formed from the impoundment of the Pequannock River which is given C1 water classification. The C1 classification is used to indicate that the river is relatively unspoiled in comparison to other rivers in NJ.

See the link for how water is classified in NJ –> NJDEP Water Classifications RE 2012-8-8.

As with all Pequannock River Coalition Hikes, Ross Kusher (the executive director of PRC) discussed different points of interest along the hike including ecology and geology. This interesting information makes a hike much more than a physical journey. The information provided by Ross’s expertise boosts the strength of your mind as you learn new aspects of your surroundings.

Fall Colors

Fall Colors

The geology of Kanouse Mountain and the surrounding highlands is estimated to be between 400-435 million years old and thought to be from the Silurian Period of the Paleozoic Era. Past glacier activity courtesy of the Wisconsin Glacier is evident by gentle slopes on the north side of the mountain and a sudden drop on the south side.  As the Wisconsin glacier moved through the area 10,000 years ago it pushed rocks and carved out hillsides creating this phenomenon present throughout the highlands region.

Small trace amounts of copper have been found alongside the much more abundant iron in the highlands region. It is said that nearby Copperas Mountain was named so because of the copper that was once taken from it.

Coyote Footprint

Coyote Footprint

Occasionally the group came across muddy areas when the trail crossed through wetlands. These muddy spots are prime spots to look for animal prints. Ross pointed out this Eastern Coyote print found in the picture above.

Wood Frog

Wood Frog

The group found this Wood Frog near the trail. Though hard to tell from this photo, wood frogs generally look like they have a robber’s mask on due to the dark patch which extends backward from their eye. These frogs are often found in moist wooded areas.

American Chestnut Leaf

American Chestnut Leaf

American Chestnut saplings were found periodically in the forest. Once a dominant tree in the forest canopy, the Chestnut blight has reduced the tree to the shrub layer. Once the American Chestnut reaches about twenty feet or so the blight strikes and kills it. The tree may die, but the root structure is still alive and sends up new sprouts. The American Chestnut Foundation is working to defeat the blight and restore its former footprint.

Other flora found includes these among others:

Northern Red Oak

Northern Red Oak

Shagbark Hickory

Shagbark Hickory

Christmas Fern

Christmas Fern

Chestnut Oak

Chestnut Oak

Ground Pine

Ground Pine

Ross explained that Black Bears love the fruits of Shadbush. He once tasted the berries and compared them to wet cardboard. White Oak Ross said was cherished by wildlife for its sweet acorns.

The hike was an estimated six miles and went in a loop fashion so that attendees came out the same way the came in.  What a great fall hike!

Remember, to hike in the Newark Watershed land a permit is required.

For more information on  obtaining a Newark watershed permit click here.

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

Ridgewood’s Twinney Park!


Twinney Park

Twinney Park

Welcome to Ridgewood’s Twinney Park! The park is owned by the Village of Ridgewood and is maintained by the Ridgewood Wildscape Association.

Twinney Pond

Ridgewood’s Twinney Pond

Twinney Park, located off of Red Birch Court, has Valleau Cemetery to the southeast, Franklin Turnpike to the North and dense residential development to the south and west. Ridgewater Water, which supplies water to an estimated 65,000 residents in Ridgewood, Glen Rock, Midland Park and Wyckoff has Twinney Well located to the east of the park.

Ridgewood Water Dept Twinney Well

Ridgewood Water Dept Twinney Well

Twinney Park’s three acres consist of remnant deciduous woodlands and freshwater wetlands. The focal point of the park is Twinney Pond. Twinney Pond, at almost an acre, is a figure eight shaped freshwater body of water created from glaciers.

Twinney Pond

Twinney Pond

Trail

Twinney Pond Trail Map

Twinney Pond Trail Map

A rough trail encircles the pond. Occasionally the path is laden with woodchips. The trail goes through upland and freshwater wetland habitat.

Mallards and Ducklings on Twinney Pond

Mallards and Ducklings on Twinney Pond

Twinney Pond is home to Mallards, Wood Ducks and other waterfowl.  American Bullfrogs and Green Frogs can be heard seasonally.  The surrounding remnant woodland is home to countless Eastern Chipmunks and Eastern Gray Squirrels as well as other mammals.

Flora

The pond and woodlands features  a nice diversity of flora including:

False Solomon's Seal

False Solomon’s Seal

The park is open from dusk to dawn. It is absolutely amazing to find a natural pond teeming with wildlife in such a built up area. Click here for directions.

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

Signs of Spring


Signs of spring slowly in February when Skunk Cabbage flowers start to appear.

Skunk Cabbage Flowers

Skunk Cabbage Flowers

I think it is important to show how nature is renewing itself after winter. Enjoy the spring photography tour!

Dutchman Breeches in Franklin Lakes Lorrimer Sanctuary

Dutchman Breeches in Franklin Lakes Lorrimer Sanctuary

Dwarf Ginseng in Ridgewood's Grove Park

Dwarf Ginseng in Ridgewood’s Grove Park

False Hellebore Sprouting in Ridgewood's Grove Park

False Hellebore Sprouting in Ridgewood’s Grove Park

Vernal Pond in Pequannock's Cherry Street Park

Vernal Pond in Pequannock’s Cherry Street Park

Trout Lilies carpeting floor of Hackensack's Borg's Woods

Trout Lilies carpeting floor of Hackensack’s Borg’s Woods

Spicebush blooming in Hackensack's Borg's Woods with understory of Skunk Cabbage

Spicebush blooming in Hackensack’s Borg’s Woods with understory of Skunk Cabbage

Pink Lady Slipper

Pink Lady Slipper at Silas Condict County Park Kinnelon, NJ

 

Check out Plants of New Jersey to discover more!

River Vale’s Poplar Road Wildlife Sanctuary!


Welcome to Poplar Road Wildlife Sanctuary

Welcome to Poplar Road Wildlife Sanctuary

Welcome to the Poplar Road Wildlife Sanctuary! The preserve has Poplar Road to the north, Lake Tappan  to the east, Cherry Brook flowing to the west and the confluence of Cherry Brook and the Hackensack River  to the south.

Poplar Road Nature Sanctuary Wetlands

Poplar Road Nature Sanctuary with Lake Tappan Dam and confluence of Cherry Brook with Hackensack River

The sanctuary consists of 18 acres of White Pine plantation, upland, wetlands and a meadow with beautiful views of the Lake Tappan Reservoir.

Lake Tappan

Lake Tappan

The 1,255 acre Lake Tappan Reservoir (formed by impounding the Hackensack River via the Lake Tappan dam in 1966) is owned and operated by Suez Water.

Poplar Road Nature Preserve

The 18 wooded acres were part of a 44 acre tract of woods known as the River Vale Woods. The 44 acres were once part of Suez Water’s watershed buffer but were later  sold to developers who planned to turn the 44 wooded acres into high density dwellings. On December 23, 2002, after six years of wrangling, 18 of the 44 acres were bought by the township of River Vale using grants and loans from the Municipal Open Space Trust Fund, NJ Green Acres and the Bergen County Open Space, Recreation, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.  In 2010, 11 wooded acres off of Stanley Place near the sanctuary were preserved and will be part of the 18 acres of the Preserve bringing the total acreage to 29.  An additional 5 acres (which contain a section of Cherry Brook)  were purchased by the Township earlier in 2010. The remaining 10 acres, which are located across the street from the Poplar Road Nature Sanctuary were clear cut for a townhouse development in the summer of 2010.

Trails

Poplar Road Sanctuary Trailmap

Poplar Road Sanctuary Trail Map

After parking, proceed through the gate of the Poplar Road Nature Sanctuary towards the kiosk which is stored with informational brochures during the warmer months provided by Bergen SWAN.

Kiosk in White Pine Plantation

Kiosk in White Pine Plantation

From the kiosk, head west through a White Pine plantation which is in the final stages of succession.  As time progresses and more of the White Pines succumb to storms and other natural conditions, hardwood forest trees such as Sugar Maple will take the White Pine tree place.

White Pine Plantation

White Pine Plantation

Follow the trail south to the Cherry Brook floodplain. Information signage regarding Sugar Maple and Tulip Tree may be found on the right of the trail near a chain link fence which separates the sanctuary from Suez Water watershed land.  Turn left after skirting a brief wetland area and head east towards Lake Tappan. This section of the trail divides the White Pine plantation from the established hardwood forest.

Poplar Road Nature Sanctuary Trail

Poplar Road Nature Sanctuary Trail

Straight ahead is a meadow and views of Lake Tappan.

The Meadow with Lake Tappan

Poplar Road Nature Sanctuary Meadow

The meadow is a managed grassland that is periodically mowed to prevent it from becoming a forest via succession.  Leaving the meadow, head north via a Suez Water service road and then take a left heading west back through the White Pine plantation to the kiosk to complete the hike.

Flora that may be found in the sanctuary include:

Jewelweed

Jewelweed

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 observed at the sanctuary and in the nearby watershed include

Directions:

From Exit 5 off the Palisades Interstate Parkway head south on Route 303; turn left (west) onto Oak Tree Road; follow it around to make a left turn (west) onto Washington Street/Old Tappan Road; turn right onto Washington Avenue north (heading northeast); follow it around to a curved turn left onto Poplar Road.  The parking area is a short ways down on the left (south side) of the road.

Great Ecology Books:

1. 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!

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

Check out the latest bird sightings here!