Tag Archives: Invasive Plants

Exploring the Wanaque River Watershed!


Pequannock River Coalition Preserving the Future

Pequannock River Coalition Preserving the Future

Welcome to the Pequannock River Coalition’s 2013 Spring Hike! 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) since 1995. 2019 Update: Pequannock River Coalition has dissolved.

Ross Kushner Executive Director Pequannock River Coalition

Ross Kushner Executive Director Pequannock River Coalition

Meet Ross Kushner, the Executive Director of the Pequannock River Coalition. He’s going to lead the hike today!

Today we are going to explore four miles of the watershed of the C1 classified Wanaque River, a tributary to the Pequannock River.

PRC Spring Hike 4.14.13

PRC Spring Hike 4.14.13

Right now we are at the parking lot on Beech Road in Ringwood, NJ just east of Monksville Reservoir.

Monksville Reservoir

Monksville Reservoir

Ross begins by explaining that the Monksville Reservoir was created in 1987 by impounding the  2.8 mile Wanaque River and the .4 mile Beech Brook (a Wanaque River tributary). The land comprising Monksville Reservoir was formerly a river valley. Dead Trees (snags) still poke through the water where dry land once existed.

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Looking out at the reservoir a large white bird has caught Ross’s attention. The bird is a Mute Swan, he explains. Mute Swans originated from Europe and are not native to the US. The Mute Swan, according to legend, is silent all its life until right before it dies where the bird sings an achingly beautiful melody known as a “Swan Song“. The real story is Mute Swans are not mute but actually make a deep grunting territorial sound.  Click here to hear a Mute Swan for yourself!

Gray Birch

Gray Birch

Standing near the reservoir Ross points to a stand of Gray Birch Trees across the water. Gray Birch is a pioneer species that is one of the first trees to grow following a disturbance and can be found growing on poor soils. Ross says we’ll see two additional species of Birch on the hike. Let’s begin!

As we walk  a Tree Swallow is seen flying erratically over the water. Tree Swallows prefer inland wetland ecosystems and are among the first in the American Swallow family to migrate back after winter. You can hear a Tree Swallow Sing by clicking here!

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

A second after seeing the Tree Swallow a Red-Winged Blackbird makes its presence known. Red-Winged Blackbirds are usually found in wetlands such as those found in the intact woodlands surrounding Monksville Reservoir. Click here to hear a Red-Winged Blackbird!

Beaver Lodge

Beaver Lodge

Near the northern edge of the reservoir Ross points out an active Beaver Lodge to us.  A beaver lodge is the home of the American Beaver and is created from sticks, mud and rocks. A small opening at the top of the lodge provides air.

Pileated Woodpecker Holes

Pileated Woodpecker Holes

As we walk closer to the woods we stop in front of an old Eastern Hemlock tree which has been punctured with large rectangular holes. The holes were created by a Pileated Woodpecker looking for one of their favorite foods: Carpenter Ants. Pileated Woodpeckers are North America’s largest living woodpecker and provided the model for the famous cartoon Woody Woodpecker. Their habitat is large mature forest such as the woods which surround Monksville Reservoir. Click here to hear a Pileated Woodpecker!

Tranqulity Ridge Passaic County Park System

Tranqulity Ridge Passaic County Park System

At the end of Beech Road, we find ourselves at the entrance to Tranquility Ridge County Park  (part of the Passaic County Park System).

Preserve in Natural State sign with Monks Connector Trail

The 2,100 acre Tranquility Ridge County Park is an extension of New York’s Sterling Forest found just north of where we are now.

End of Monks Connector

End of Monks Connector

Entering the park we are now near the end of the green-blazed Monk’s Connector trail which connects to nearby Monk’s Mountain (part of Long Pond Ironworks State Park) with Tranquility Ridge County Park.

Yellow Birch

Yellow Birch

Barely inside Tranquility Ridge County Park, Ross has spotted our second birch: Yellow Birch. Yellow Birch prefers to grow near streams & wetlands. The tree’s characteristic peeling bark is visible to all. The hairy looking vine growing on the Yellow Birch is Poison Ivy.

Yellow Birch Wolf Tree

Yellow Birch Wolf Tree

Ross spots a massive tree in the distance branching out in all directions and surrounded by young trees. Ross explains that trees can only grow sideways or to the top but can’t do both.  This “lone wolf” tree will eventually be crowded out by the young trees competing for sunlight.

On Hasenclever Iron Trail

On Hasenclever Iron Trail

We are now turning left on the Hasenclever Iron Trail. The creation of the six mile Hasenclever Iron Trail was first conceived in 2001 by the Friends of Long Pond Ironworks.  The Hasenclever Iron Trail follows an old Woods Road which dates from the 1760’s. The road connected Long Pond Ironworks with ironworks located in Ringwood.  The Friends of Long Pond Ironworks installed nine interpretive signs  along the trail in 2007. The installation was funded with a grant from the NJ Recreation Trails Program. We’ll be passing by historical signs #’s 4 through 1 today.

Beech Brook Tributary

Beech Brook Tributary

After we cross a tributary to Beech Brook Ross tells us that Beech Brook contains a naturally occurring population of Brook Trout. We have now entered the 6,911 acre Long Pond Iron Works State Park.

Beech Farm Information

Beech Farm Information

We have just passed an unmarked trail to our right and historical marker #4. Marker #4 tells us that the unmarked trail leads to Beech farm which has long been abandoned.

Wild Turkey Sign

Wild Turkey Sign

As we walk Ross points out dirt patches in the leaf litter on the ground. This was caused by Wild Turkeys looking for food.

Turkey Feather

Turkey Feather

A turkey feather has just been found in the litter. Given all this Turkey sign Ross takes out a device which makes a female turkey sound that hunters use to attract the male turkeys (toms). Ross used the device but the Turkeys have moved on for now and we do not see any.

Ross Kushner with Turkey Call

Ross Kushner with Turkey Call

Ross strongly recommended not to play the device during Wild Turkey hunting season. Want to hear what a Wild Turkey sounds like? Click here to hear!

Ross Kushner Squirrel Markings

Ross Kushner Squirrel Markings

Ross has stopped at another Eastern Hemlock and says this tree has been designated a “marking tree” by an Eastern Gray Squirrel. Squirrels rub the glands found under their chin on trees as a sign of territory to other squirrels in the other area.

Edward Hewitt Interpretive Signage

Edward Hewitt Interpretive Signage

We are now at historical marker #3 which describes Edward Hewitt, who was a member of the last family to own most of Ringwood State Park before it became state land. The Hewitt family also owned hunting and fishing camps which were built in the area we are now standing.

Ross Kushner discussing invasive Plants

Ross Kushner discussing invasive Plants

This hike is taking place in early spring and the only plants we see blooming are invasive species like Japanese Barberry and Winged Euonymus (aka Burning Bush) both of which thrive in disturbed areas. Ross explains that invasive species are non-native species which lack natural predation to control their spread. As a result invasive plants crowd out native plants by forming a monoculture.

Limestone Interpretive Signage

Limestone Interpretive Signage

We’ve now at historical marker #2 which describes the role of limestone in iron making. Limestone was crushed and added to iron furnaces with iron ore where it acted as a fluxing agent to separate impurities from iron.

Ross Kushner Black Birch

Ross Kushner Black Birch

Ross has just found our third and final species of Birch: Black Birch. Black Birch twigs and bark have a strong scent of wintergreen when scraped. Ross is scraping away some the bark of a Black Birch to take a whiff. Wintergreen oil was derived from Black Birch for commercial purposes in the past.

Shagbark Hickory Grape Vine

Shagbark Hickory Grape Vine

Ross has stopped in front of an old Shagbark Hickory with an old Grape Vine wrapped around it.  Only mature Shagbark Hickories (such as the one we are looking at here) have actual “shagbark”. Young trees have smooth bark. The grape vine wrapped around the Shagbark Hickory is probably as old as the tree itself. Grape Vines prefers to grow where sunshine is plentiful and prefers forest edge habitat.

Rock Outcroppings

Rock Outcroppings

The rock outcroppings we are passing to our right are part of Big Beech Mountain.

After a brief climb on the Hasenclever trail we pass near wetlands to our right.

Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage

The green leaves of Skunk Cabbage are starting to poke through. Skunk Cabbage is one of the first native flowering plants and generates heat to poke through ice and snow. It generally blooms in February. Skunk Cabbage earns its name due to a foul odor emitted by torn leaves.

Hasenclever Iron Trail #1 Interpretive Signage

Hasenclever Iron Trail #1 Interpretive Signage

We’ve just reached historical marker #1 on the Hasenclever Iron Trail. This is the last marker we will see today. This marker describes Long Pond Village, a long ago industrial village that supported the nearby Long Pond Ironworks.

Wanaque River

Wanaque River

We are now approaching the Wanaque River. The word “Wanaque” is Native American for “place of the Sassafras Tree”. A good portion of the length of the Wanaque River is impounded to form the Monksville and Wanaque Reservoirs.  Ross tells us that a bridge used to cross the Wanaque River to the old Long Pond Ironworks but was washed away when Hurricane Irene struck in 2011. The NYNJ Trail Conference rebuilt the bridge in 2013.

Sterling Ridge Trail Blaze

Sterling Ridge Trail Blaze

We have now left the Hasenclever Iron trail and are turning north on the joint Sterling Ridge/Highlands Trail. The Blue-on-white 8.6 mile Sterling Ridge Trail leads to Sterling Forest State Park in New York if we kept going straight. Don’t worry! Ross has no plans to take us out of New Jersey today.

Highlands Trail Blaze

Highlands Trail Blaze

We are also sharing the same path with a section of the estimate 45 mile long interstate Highlands Trail.  The Highlands Trail is a project by the NYNJ Trail Conference which highlights the unique characteristics of the Highlands region. The Highlands Trail is still a work in progress.

Tributary

Tributary

We are now following a tributary of the Wanaque River.

Eastern Hemlocks

Eastern Hemlocks

We have stopped just as we enter a cool ravine. Eastern Hemlocks favor this habitat. Indeed, Eastern Hemlocks are all around us!

Ross Kushner Iron Slag

Ross Kushner Iron Slag

What is Ross holding in his hand? It’s an old piece of iron slag left over from the iron making operations that took place here over a hundred years ago.

Wanaque River Lunch

Wanaque River

We are heading briefly off the marked trail and walking towards the Wanaque River. The segment of the Wanaque River seen here is draining Greenwood Lake. What a great spot for lunch! After resting we continue to walk leaving the Wanaque River and following a tributary stream.

Tributary Stream Crossing

Tributary Stream Crossing

Crossing the tributary on rocks we pass the Yellow Blazed Jennings Hollow Trailhead to our left and are now stopped at the base of a Tulip Tree.

Tulip Poplar

Tulip Poplar

Tulip Trees grow straight and narrow with fissured bark. The tree’s leaves actually look like Tulip Flowers! It flowers in Mid-May to early June.

Woods Road

Woods Road

We are now walking northeast on an unblazed woods road. This is the same woods road we passed to our right when we first started out on the Hasenclever Iron Trail.

Patterson Mine

Patterson Mine

As we walk, we pass a deep impression in the ground to our left. The impression is a remnant of the Patterson Mine.  The Patterson Mine last saw operation at the end of the 1800’s. Ore from the Patterson Mine was sold to the local market or supplied ironworks found in the area.

Abandoned Motorcyle

Abandoned Motorcycle

Check out the abandoned motorcycle to our right! It’s pretty old but it is still standing.

Vernal Pond

Vernal Pond

Off to the left of the woods road is a vernal pond.  Vernal ponds are temporary pools of water that are free of fish and provide valuable areas for amphibians such as Wood Frogs to lay eggs. Wood Frogs are found further north than any other species of frog. Ross explains that the theory is this: water found in cells will expand to the point of explosion when frozen. Wood frogs have found a way to move water molecules outside their cells when they get frozen to prevent this from happening.

Red Velvet Mite

Red Velvet Mite

We’ve just turned right on another unmarked trail following Beech Brook to our right. Ross suddenly stops. He’s found a Red Velvet Mite!  Red Velvet Mites live in the soil and eat fungi and bacteria. Red Velvet Mites are harmless to humans and are part of the arachnid family (the same family spiders belong to).

Well, we’ve arrived back at the gate and back at our cars! What a great hike!

Monksville Reservoir Near the Parking Lot

Monksville Reservoir Near the Parking Lot

Want to check out this hike for yourself? Here are the directions to the parking lot where the hike begins!

Take exit 57 on Rt. 287 to Skyline Drive. Follow Skyline 5 miles north to Greenwood Lake Turnpike. Make a right there onto Greenwood Lake Turnpike and follow it about 4 miles to a right on Beech Road. Look for a gravel parking area at the reservoir on the left.

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!

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!

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 Long Pond Ironworks State Park Here!

Check out the latest bird sightings at Tranquility Ridge Park Here!

Welcome to the Essex County Environmental Center!


Welcome to the Essex County Environmental Center (ECEC)!

Essex County Environmental Center

Essex County Environmental Center

ECEC is part of the Essex County Park System and features about 1 mile of hiking trails, a canoe launch on the Passaic River, frog pond & a Wigwam  among other points of interests. ECEC hosts many fine environmental education programs. Click here for more information on ECEC programs! Originally established in 1972 and closed due to funding issues in 1995, ECEC re-opened in 2005 with a new environmentally friendly building.

Rutgers Cooperative Extension

 

Partners of the ECEC include the the Sierra Club, NJ Audubon Society, Essex County Environmental Commission, Essex County Beekeepers Society & the Essex County Recreation & Open Space Trust Fund Advisory Board.

Essex County Environmental Center

Essex County Environmental Center

ECEC is located in the 1,360 acre West Essex Park which primarily consists of deciduous wooded wetlands. West Essex Park was created in 1955 when the Essex County Park Commission first acquired a portion of the land. Additional land was purchased from more than 70 additional landowners through the years.

ECEC Virtual Tour

ECEC Front Desk

ECEC Front Desk

From the parking area, head to the Environmental Center to pick up a trail map and check out the indoor exhibits. (PS this tour took place in September 2012-about 1 month prior to Hurricane Sandy and thus describes the center as I found it at that time)

Renewable Energy

Renewable Energy

Once inside, there are various exhibits regarding topics such as renewable energy.

Wind Energy

Wind Energy

After taking in the information, pick up a trail map, it’s time to explore the trails!

Start of Interpretive Trail

Start of Interpretive Trail

Head outside the center and turn right on the Lenape Trail.

Welcome to the Lenape Trail

Welcome to the Lenape Trail

Throughout the exploration numbered wooded posts will be encountered. These posts correspond to the trail map pictured below (taken from the Essex County Environment Center Website)  which we will review as we proceed.

Essex County Environmental Center Trail Map

Essex County Environmental Center Trail Map

Sweetgum Leaf

Sweetgum Leaf

The first marker is in regards to the Sweetgum Tree which is found here near its northern natural limit. Sweetgum has star shaped leaves & spiny seedpods.

Marker 2 Gray Birch

 

Just past marker 1 turn right on a short green blazed trail and come to marker # 2 which has the remains of a Gray Birch. Gray Birch, one of the first trees to grow after a disturbance, is a short lived species. Only the logs (located around the marker) remain of this particular Gray Birch.

Marker 3 Mother Log

Marker 3 Mother Log

Marker 3 appears just after Marker 2 and discusses the old log lying next to the post. The old log is known as a mother log because it is “nursing” the soil by slowly decomposing nutrients therefore creating a richer soil for future vegetation.

Deer Fence

Deer Fence

Behind this marker a tall deer proof fence will appear.

Habitat Restoration Area Please Stay on Trail

Habitat Restoration Area Please Stay on Trail

The fence was constructed to keep hungry white-tailed deer out so native vegetation may grow.

Frog Pond

Frog Pond

Continuing to Marker #4, a cool little body of water known as the Frog Pond appears.  While we might not see any frogs today, we know they are present. Check out the native vegetation such as cattail and arrow arum growing in the pond!

Create a Pond

Create a Pond

A sign has been strategically placed so that you can learn how to construct a pond of your own to attract frogs. From the Frog Pond, leave the green blazed trail and pass Garibaldi Hall.

Garibaldi Hall

Garibaldi Hall

Garibaldi Hall was part of the original environmental center and is still used by the Master Gardeners of Essex County.

Patriots Path

Patriots Path

Head toward Eagle Rock Avenue to Marker # 5 found at the start of the White Blazed Patriots Path.

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

The flora identified by this marker is found at your feet. Garlic Mustard is its name, and, at least here in the eastern United States, establishment of itself as an invasive species is its game.  White Tail Deer do not eat Garlic Mustard and the plant has no natural predators in the US. Garlic Mustard produces a chemical which suppress mycorrhizal fungi required by most plants to grow successfully. As a result, Garlic Mustard, once established, forms a monoculture in which native plants cannot become established. Heading further on the Patriot Path I encountered these three fellows in addition to a River Birch (Marker #6):

White Tail Deer

White-Tailed Deer

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Eastern Chipmunk

Eastern Chipmunk

After passing marker six it’s time to leave the Patriot trail by heading left to a wooden boardwalk.

Boardwalk

Boardwalk

The boardwalk  is raised above the Passaic River floodplain.

Wood Duck Box

Wood Duck Box

A wooden box will appear straight ahead near the Passaic River (Marker #7). This box has been placed for nesting Wood Ducks (a species that nests in tree cavities but will also utilize man-made structures).

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy

Be careful of Poison Ivy (Marker #8) as you continue your journey on the boardwalk! Poison ivy contains a clear liquid known as urushiol which causing a burning itching rash in many people.  Poison Ivy can be found as a hairy vine, a shrub reaching over three feet tall or as a trailing vine on the ground. It helps to remember the following jingles to remind you of the dangers of this vine:

“Hairy rope, don’t be a dope” & “Leaves of three, leave them be”

Leaving Poison Ivy behind, the Passaic River (Marker #9) appears to the right as we leave the boardwalk.

Passaic River Canoe and Kayak Access

Passaic River Canoe and Kayak Access

The river is located southwest behind the Environmental Center Building.  This is a great spot to launch a canoe or kayak to go explore the river.

Passaic River

Passaic River

Some quick Passaic River facts: Spanning 80 miles, the Passaic River is the second largest river in NJ and flows through Morris, Somerset, Union, Essex, Passaic, Bergen and Hudson counties. The confluence of the Rockaway River with the Passaic River is located nearby.  Fish including bass, herring & shad find a home in the Passaic River.

Pollinator Garden

Pollinator Garden

We now find ourselves back on the Lenape trail and passing a Pollinator Garden (Marker #10). Native plants are being grown here to attract bees which are our next point of interest (Marker #11).

Busy Bees at Work

Busy Bees at Work

The Essex County Beekeepers keep a selection of Honeybees here. Bee careful not to disturb it!

Marker 12 Lenape Life

Marker 12 Lenape Life

Wow! What’s this? Why it’s Marker #12 aka Lenape Life. Here you will find behind a gate a Wigwam and other items characteristic of Lenape Life. The Lenape were the original people who found a home in this area prior to European settlement.

Wigwam

Wigwam

Wigwams were created from saplings which were bent to create a dome frame. The frame was then covered with a mixture of animal skins & mats of reeds and rushes. In addition to the Wigwam, the Lenape learning center features a fire pit, meat drying rack, food cache, Lenape Gardens, fishing & tanning rack.

Red Oak

Red Oak

Looping back towards the Environmental Center a Northern Red Oak (Marker #13) appears. The Northern Red Oak is NJ’s state tree and is readily identified by its “ski-slope” bark. Northern Red Oak emits a foul odor when cut down.

Soon after Marker #13 appears Marker #14 (Forest Composition) which describes Musclewood, American Beech & Spicebush.

American Beech

American Beech

Smooth gray bark is characteristic of the American Beech. It is this feature that attracts individuals to carve their initials. This practice is detrimental to American Beech as the carvings create opportunities for disease and could very well kill the tree. In winter, American Beech leaves remain until the spring when new leaves bud out. American Beech is usually found in forest in the final stage of succession.

Spicebush

Spicebush

Spicebush is one of the first native shrubs to bloom in spring. Spicebush earns its name from the spicy scent which emits from a broken twig.  Spicebush is usually found in deciduous wooded wetlands such as those encountered at the ECEC.

Musclewood

Musclewood

Musclewood (aka Ironwood or American Hornbeam) is a small understory tree usually found in deciduous wooded wetlands. The form of the tree resembles a muscular arm. Straight ahead is the Environmental Center but we’re not quite finished with our tour yet. We still have a whole trail yet to explore!

Marker 15 Ferns

Marker 15 Ferns

Let’s turn right on the Lenape to Marker # 15 which discusses three common ferns found in the ECEC forest: Christmas fern, Hay scented Fern & Sensitive Fern.  Christmas fern is evergreen and is thought to be given the name due to its leaves having the appearance of a stocking that you would hang on your chimney. Hay scented fern is named such due to its scent resembling, well, hay. Sensitive Fern is an appropriate name indeed as this fern is one of the first to wilt come the first frosts of fall.

Bird Lane Trail

Bird Lane Trail

We’ve now come to the beginning of the blue blazed Bird Lane Trail.

Bird Lane Trail Trailhead

Bird Lane Trail Trailhead

Let’s take a right to go explore it. The first marker on the Bird Lane Trail is #16 the Fox Grape Vine. Birds such as Northern Cardinal enjoy the grapes this vine produces.

Passaic River Floodplain

 

Continuing on we start our loop and see Marker #17 which describes the floodplain forest found at the ECEC.  The forest here often will flood (especially in early spring when melting snow contributes to increase water flow in the Passaic River). Species here such as Red Maple flourish in the conditions provided by frequent flooding.

18 Boulder

 

As we start to turn back there is a large rock (Marker #18) visible in the woods. This rock is known as a glacial erratic and was carried to this spot when the last glacier (Wisconsin Glacier) came through the area around 10,000 years ago. This rock was likely carried from the nearby Watchung Mountains.

Old Equipment

Old Equipment

Continuing back towards the Lenape Trail we pass Marker #19 which describes the past land use of the ECEC. Old farming equipment such as this piece found near this marker tells us that this land was once used as farmland. Looking around you can clearly see the forest has reclaimed the land. Well, we’ve now reached our last marker (#20) which describes the Mayapple plant. The Mayapple plant blooms a single flower in early spring and first emerges before the forest has fully leafed out in springtime.

Bird Lane What will you find (2)

Well, we’ve now reached the end of the Bird Lane Trail!

Bird Lane Trail End

Bird Lane Trail End

And with that, our tour has concluded. I hope it has inspired you to go visit the ECEC to see if for yourself!

Click here for directions!

Check Out the Latest Bird Sightings Here!

Great Ecology Books:

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!

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

Morris County’s Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center!


Morris County Park Commission Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center

Morris County Park Commission Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center

Welcome to Morris County’s Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center!

Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center

Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center

The Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center (GSOEC) consists of a 44 acre portion of the Great Swamp managed since 1963 by the Morris County Parks Department. The GSOEC hosts guided nature walks, school, scout and public educational programs.

Herp Study in Progress

Herp Study in Progress

The GSOEC hosts periodic studies of the flora and fauna to determine the overall health of the Great Swamp.

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

The estimated 7,768 acre Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge  (GSNWR) abuts the GSOEC to the west. The GSNWR is one of 553 refuges administered by the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Lands comprising a National Wildlife Refuge are managed for the protection of wildlife and its habitat.

History of the Great Swamp

The origin of the Great Swamp begins with the melting and subsequent retreat of the Wisconsin Glacier around 25,000 years ago.  Debris from the glacier blocked the passage of an ancient river creating an enormous lake known as Lake Passaic. Lake Passaic is thought to have been 30 miles long and 10 miles wide.  Over time, an outlet was formed near Little Falls NJ draining the lake via the Passaic River. This drainage is still occurring today. Today the Great Swamp forms a remnant component of the once great Lake Passaic.

GSOEC Forest

GSOEC Forest

In the late 1950’s the area now known as the Great Swamp was identified by the NYNJ Port Authority as an ideal location for a new jetport.  The Great Swamp Conservation Foundation mobilized volunteers to protect the Great Swamp. The result was the establishment of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The Great Swamp Conservation Foundation later became the North Jersey Conservation Foundation and then finally known as  New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

Trails:

Trail

 

GSOEC features five short loop trails. Two of the four trails (Orange & Red) are interpretive and follow 16 markers listed in a self guided trail booklet available at the education center.

Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center Trail Map

The trail map above was taken from the Morris County Parks webpage.

The total length of the trails is 1.4 miles.

Virtual Tour:

Ready to take a virtual tour of the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center? Let’s Go!

Kiosk

 

Stop by the kiosk near the parking lot to pick up a trail map. From the kiosk, head to the education center to view the exhibits on the flora and fauna of the Great Swamp.

Outdoor Education Nature Center with Kiosk

Outdoor Education Nature Center with Kiosk

Mammals of The Great Swamp

Mammals of The Great Swamp

Endangered in New Jersey

Endangered in New Jersey

After checking out the exhibits inside, it’s time to start our hike.

Orange Trail Trailhead

Orange Trail Trailhead

Let’s begin our virtual hike by taking the Orange Blazed trail located to the south of the education center. The Orange Trail at .61 Miles is the longest trail present in the GSOEC. It contains Markers 1-10 from the self guided trail.

Marker 1 Red Maple

Marker 1

The first marker, regarding the Red Maple tree, appears shortly after the beginning of the orange trail. Red Maple is the most common tree in the Great Swamp as well as the eastern deciduous forest.

Red Maple Leaves

Red Maple Leaves

Red Maple’s flowers are red in the spring and the leaves turn a brilliant red in the fall. Though the Sugar Maple may come to mind when it comes to maple syrup, Red Maple can be tapped for syrup as well. Red Maple should be tapped before budding occurs as the buds change the chemical makeup of the syrup.

Marker 2 Large Depression

Marker 2

Continuing on the orange trail, marker #2 comes into view on the right where a large depression may be found.

Large Depression

Large Depression

The large depression is known as a vernal pond. Vernal ponds do not support fish and may be dry or filled with water. Due to the lack of predators (i.e. fish) the vernal pond provides a safe haven for amphibians such as Wood Frogs, Spring Peepers and Blue-Spotted Salamanders among other species to breed and lay eggs.  Continuing past the vernal pond, two fenced areas appear shortly after on the left.

Marker 3 with Deer Enclosure in background

Marker 3 with Deer Enclosure in background

Marker # 3 explains that these sections of the GSOEC were fenced in 2009 to study how plant communities recover from the damage caused by an overpopulation of white tail deer.

Marker 4 EcoTone

Marker 4 EcoTone

Marker #4 describes an Ecotone. An Ecotone is anywhere two habitats meet and create an edge. The Ecotone present here was created by the Power line right of way. The positive aspects of this man-made Ecotone is  the creation of suitable nesting habitat for the local turtle population in addition to providing a valuable hunting ground for birds of prey. On the flipside, the disturbed ground caused by the creation of the power lines have provided ideal habitat for invasive plants  as Autumn Olive, Multiflora Rose, Garlic Mustard, Wineberry & Japanese Barberry.

Marker 5 The Pond

Marker 5 The Pond

Continuing in a southwest direction, the dirt path changes to a boardwalk as the trail traverses the wetland area.

Orange Trail Boardwalk

Orange Trail Boardwalk

A short boardwalk appears to the right of the main boardwalk which leads to the Pond which is marker #5.

The Pond

The Pond

Ponds are usually less than 18 feet deep. Eventually as plant matter and other organic material decays, the pond will begin to become a marsh, progress to a forested wetland and finally upland habitat after many years.

Turtles on the Pond

Turtles on the Pond

The Pond at GSOEC is manmade and provides habitat for Eastern Painted Turtles, Snapping Turtles, Wood Ducks, Mallards, Belted Kingfisher and River Otters among others. Flora of the Pond includes Yellow Flowered Spatterdock & Duckweed.

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy

Continuing on the trail leads to Marker #6 which describes Poison Ivy which is seen here growing as a hairy vine.  Poison ivy contains a clear liquid known as urushiol which causing a burning itching rash in many people.   In addition to a hairy vine Poison Ivy can be found as a shrub reaching over three feet tall or as a trailing vine on the ground.

Several rhymes exist warning of the dangers of Poison Ivy:

“Leaves of three, let them be”

“Hairy rope, don’t be a dope”

“Hairy vine, no friend of mine”

Common plants often misidentified as Poison Ivy include Virginia Creeper and Box Elder Maple among other species.

Despite the negative publicity this native plant receives, Poison Ivy has tremendous value for wildlife.  Native birds such as Eastern Bluebird, Gray Catbird, Dark Eyed Junco and Northern Flicker eat Poison Ivy’s white berries. Mammals such as White-Tail Deer and Eastern Cottontail consume Poison Ivy’s leaves.

Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel

At this point of the hike you may notice abundant Mountain Laurel. Marker # 7 appears here.

Marker 7 The Browse Line

Marker 7 The Browse Line

Its purpose is to briefly touch upon “the browse line”. The over abundant white- tail deer have stripped all leaves of vegetation from six feet down. If the current trend continues, there may not be a forest here in the future.

From this area, the trail head of the .23 of a mile Blue trail loop appears.

Blue Trail Trailhead

Blue Trail Trailhead

Let’s take a brief break from the interpretive trail to explore this short trail.

Blue Blaze Swamp Chestnut Oak

Blue Blaze Swamp Chestnut Oak

The Blue Trail Loop goes through an upland area consisting of mostly Mountain Laurel and Swamp Chestnut Oak.

Dried Vernal Pond Blue Trail

Dried Vernal Pond Blue Trail

The trail encircles a small vernal pond (the vernal pond, seen here is dry during our virtual tour).

Blue Trail trailend

Blue Trail end

Completing the Blue Trail Loop, head back to the Orange Trail and to Marker # 8 which describes the function of a rotting log in the forest.

Rotting Log

Rotting Log

Standing dead trees or snags play an important role in the eastern deciduous forest. Woodpeckers including Pileated, Downy and Red-Bellied among others excavate holes in the dead trees searching for tasty insects. These excavated holes in turn create habitat for birds including Black-Capped Chickadee. Fungus will usually invade the dead wood further softening it. Eventually, the tree will fall to the forest floor where it will continue to decay creating a rich organic soil which will support future species of trees.

Marker 9 Phragmites Marsh

Marker 9 Phragmites Marsh

Proceed  east  to Marker # 9 The Phragmites Marsh. Phragmites (aka Giant Reed) is a giant species of grass which can grow from 10-20 feet.  Phragmites thrives in disturbed areas. Phragmites found in the Great Swamp are native to the eastern deciduous forest. Phragmites are considered invasive because of its aggressive growth and tendency to overwhelm all other vegetation.

Marker 10 Wigwam Replica

Marker 10

Outdoor Study Area

Outdoor Study Area

From here the trail leaves the boardwalk and heads south to marker # 10 which passes an outdoor study area and leads to a Wigwam replica.

Wigwam

Wigwam

The Lenape Native Americans (the original people) created Wigwams as shelter from saplings, tree bark and Cattail Mats among others. This replica would have been big enough for two people. Marker #10 is the last marker for the orange trail.

Orange Trail Trailend

Orange Trail end

After heading back from the Wigwam, turn right on the Orange Trail and follow the trail a brief distance to its terminus.

Prayer of the Woods

Prayer of the Woods

The “Prayer of the Woods” sign is found right before the start of the Red Trail. After reading the Prayer and taking in its message, turn right to start hiking the .39 mile Red Trail to continue the interpretive trail.

Red Trail Trailhead

Red Trail Trailhead

The first marker on the Red Trail is #11 which identifies trees found in the Eastern Deciduous Forest.

Marker 11 Deciduous Forest

Marker 11 Deciduous Forest

Trees found in the Eastern Deciduous Forest include the below among others:

Musclewood

Musclewood

Black Oak Self Guiding Trail

Black Oak

Pin Oak

Pin Oak

Tupelo

Tupelo

Sassafras

Sassafras

The term “deciduous” indicates that the trees comprising this type of forest lose their leaves each fall and grow new leaves in the spring.

Marker 12 Transmission Lines and Marsh

Marker 12 Transmission Lines and Marsh

Continuing on the red trail leads Marker #12 “Transmission Lines and Marsh”.

Red Trail Power Cut

Red Trail Power Cut

Here, vegetation is periodically removed or trimmed back so as to not interfere with the power lines. This wet marsh provides habitat to Wood Ducks, Mallards, Muskrats and Red-Wing Blackbirds among others.

Red Trail to Education Center

Red Trail to Education Center

From here turn left at the sign leading to the education center to go to Marker # 13.

Marker 13 Stream

The Red Trail approaches Marker #13 as it crosses a stream.

Red Trail Stream Crossing

Red Trail Stream Crossing

Sediments and rocks on the stream bottom provides habitat for a variety of Crayfish and Macro-invertebrates. Marco-invertebrates lack backbones and can be seen without the aid of a microscope.  Certain macro-invertebrates such as Caddisflies are pollutant intolerant. Presence of pollutant intolerant macro-invertebrates are one way to indicate the health of a stream. Macro- invertebrates eat many different things depending on the species-there are predators, scavengers, and herbivores among them. In turn, macro-invertebrates are a source of food for various turtles, fish and frogs.

#14 The Wet Meadow

Marker #14 The Wet Meadow

Continuing on the red trail leads to Marker #14 which discusses“The Wet Meadow”. The Wet Meadow is a man-made habitat created by a power-line cut and is home to field mice, star-nosed moles and various hawks & owls among others.

Marker #15 American Beech

Marker #15 American Beech

Marker #15 leads to an American Beech Tree. The smooth gray bark of the American Beech Tree usually invites individuals to carve their names and other messages into the trunks. Carving in a tree trunk is similar to a cut on your finger. However, unlike your injured finger, a tree cannot put a band-aid on its wound. The carved bark is an open door for disease.

Beech Drops

Beech Drops

Beechdrops, seen here in this picture, lack both leaves and chlorophyll and is a parasitic plant of the American Beech Tree.

#16 The Swamp

Marker  #16 The Swamp

Marker #16 The Swamp

The final marker on the red trail briefly discusses the importance of the Great Swamp. The land comprising the Great Swamp is a mix of meadows, upland woods, marsh and brush covered swamps. Only 40% of the Great Swamp is wet either part of the year or all year long whereas 60% of the Great Swamp  consists of upland forest & meadows.

Red Trail End

Red Trail End

We are now at the end of the Red Trail.

Green Trail Blaze

Green Trail Blaze

At the end of the red trail head north to catch the beginning of the short .20 of a mile Green Trail near the parking area. The Green trail traverses in a short loop in an upland portion of the GSOEC.

Mushrooms Green Trail

Gilled Mushrooms Green Trail

Check out these Gilled Mushrooms growing next to the tree stump! 

Wildlife Blind

Wildlife Blind

After the Green Trail is complete, it’s time to visit the Observation Blind located off the parking lot which views the Pond looking west.

Turtles on the Pond from Wildlife Blind

Turtles on the Pond from Wildlife Blind

This concludes our virtual hike! I hope you enjoyed it and it inspired you to take a trip to see the GSOEC for yourself!

Cinnamon Fern

The GSOEC is located at 247 Southern BLVD Chatham, NJ.

 

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 Morris County’s Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center Here!

 

Little Ferry’s Losen Slote Creek Park!


Losen Slote Creek Park

Losen Slote Creek Park

Welcome to the 28 acre Losen Slote Creek Park! The Park is located in Little Ferry, NJ and contains 26 acres of woodland and meadows. 2 acres are dedicated to recreation.

Losen Slote Creek Park Boundaries

The park, named for the creek which flows through it, was created in 1990 by an agreement with the Borough of Little Ferry and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA). The NJSEA has a 99 year lease agreement with Little Ferry for public access. Losen Slote Creek Park has the Little Ferry Department of Public Works to the north, the Bergen County Utilities Authority Nature Preserve to the east, Losen Slote on its western border and the Richard P Kane Natural Area to the south.

Losen Slote Creek Park

Losen Slote Creek Park

Habitat found in the preserve includes forested freshwater wetlands, meadows and a portion of the Losen Slote Creek, a major tributary of the lower Hackensack River watershed. The name “Losen Slote” is of Dutch origin and translates to “curvy creek”. As such, the name of the park translates to “Curvy Creek Creek Park”. 🙂

Losen Slote

Losen Slote

Losen Slote is not influenced by tidal waters because of a tide gate that is present near Losen Slote’s confluence with the Hackensack River. The tide gate was installed by the Bergen County Mosquito Authority around 1921. Losen Slote has been labeled by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection as “FW2-NT/SE2”. This classification indicates that these waters do not contain trout (NT=No Trout) and are a mixture of fresh and salt water.

May 6, 2012 NJSEA & Bergen County Audubon Society Tour

Birders in Losen Slote Creek Park

Birders in Losen Slote Creek Park

The NJ Sports and Exposition Authority  (NJSEA) & the Bergen County Audubon Society led a 1.5 mile 2 hour tour of Losen Slote Creek Park on May 6, 2012 to look for migrating birds and other wildlife.

The trail map of Losen Slote along with the color blazed trail map is shown below:

Losen Slote Creek Park Trail Map

Losen Slote Creek Park Trail Map

Losen Slote Creek Park Trail Map

Jim Wright of the Meadowlands Commission

Jim Wright

Jim Wright formerly of the previously named NJSEA  informed the group of the different habitats found in the park before the tour began.

I was happy to attend because it provided a chance to explore & undertake a deeper understanding of the flora & fauna that can be found in Bergen County’s sole remaining lowland forest.

Wet Meadow Habitat

Losen Slote Creek Park Wet Meadow Habitat

After the group assembled in the parking lot, we stopped near the entrance to the forest by a wet meadow where Solitary Sandpipers and Greater Yellowlegs were poking around. Most attendees commented that they had never seen so many Solitary Sandpipers gathered in one spot before.

Losen Slote Creek Park Trail

Losen Slote Creek Park Trail

After entering the forest, the group almost immediately spotted a Baltimore Oriole and at least 2 Scarlet Tanagers high in the trees (and too high for me to get a picture). I did get a picture of a Gray Catbird who was singing a territory song.

Gray Catbird

Soon after I took the picture of the catbird, a splash was heard in a nearby ditch as a Muskrat made a quick getaway which I caught on camera as a blur.

Blurry Muskrat

Blurry Muskrat

As we traveled further into the woods, a good amount of native flora was present:

Don Torino of the Bergen County Audubon Society with Canada Mayapple in Bloom

Don Torino of the Bergen County Audubon Society with Canada Mayapple in Bloom

Arrowwood

Arrowwood

Black Cherry In Bloom

Black Cherry In Bloom

Sweet Pepperbush

Sweet Pepperbush

Canada Mayflower In Bloom

Canada Mayflower In Bloom

Cinnamon Fern

Cinnamon Fern

Gray Birch became the dominant species as the group came into the meadows portion of the preserve.

Gray Birch

Gray Birch

Reaching the creek turtles were spotted basking on a rock and a surprised Great Blue Heron flew away before I could get its picture.

Turtles on a rock in the Losen Slote

Turtles on a rock in the Losen Slote

As we got into the meadows there were plenty of butterflies (especially the Red Admiral) flying around.

Losen Slote Creek Park Field Habitat

Losen Slote Creek Park Field Habitat

A Brown Thrasher was waiting for the group in the meadows and put on quite a show.

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Heading in, Raccoon tracks were found in the mud on parts of the trail.

Raccoon Track

The group did notice some Mile-A-Minute, an invasive plant which had sections eaten by insects which  were released in the park to control Mile-A-Minute from taking over.

Mile-a-Minute Insect Holes

Mile-a-Minute Insect Holes

Reaching near the end of the trail, the group turned back to the forest and to the parking lot where the tour concluded.

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!

Losen Slote

Losen Slote

Many thanks to the NJMC & Bergen County Audubon Society for hosting an excellent walk! Check out the Meadowlands Blog or the Bergen County Audubon Society’s webpage for information regarding future events!

Click here for directions to Losen Slote Creek Park!

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

Click Here to Check out the Latest Bird Sightings at Losen Slote Creek Park! (Courtesy of eBird)

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!

Manhattan’s Hallett Nature Sanctuary!


Hallett Nature Sanctuary

Welcome to Manhattan’s Hallett Nature Sanctuary! The Hallett Nature Sanctuary is located in the southeastern section of world famous Central Park near Central Park South and 5th Avenue.  The sanctuary is an estimated 4 acre rocky upland woodland slope that forms the northern boundary of the artificially created 59th street pond.

59th Street Pond

59th Street Pond

A fence surrounds the forest to the north and west. The western side features a man-made waterfall which falls over Manhattan schist.

Waterfall at Hallett Nature Sanctuary

Waterfall at Hallett Nature Sanctuary

The Hallett Nature Sanctuary is the smallest of Central Park’s three woodlands.  Formerly known as the Promontory, it was renamed the Hallett Nature Sanctuary in 1986 after George Hervey Hallett, Jr. Hallett was a well known NYC civic leader and nature lover.  The land which became the Hallett Nature Sanctuary was declared a bird sanctuary and formally closed to the general public in 1934.

The preserve served as a living experiment to see how 4 acres of woodland would ecologically function  in the United State’s most populated city.  The results of the experiment were less than encouraging.  All four layers of the forest (the canopy, sub-canopy, shrub and herbaceous layers) were found to be under onslaught from invasive plants including:

Wisteria has been shown to strangle and leave deep indentations on plants it grasps as shown in the picture listed below.

Effects of Invasive Wisteria on shrub

Effects of Invasive Wisteria on shrub after removal

Trail

Hallett Nature Sanctuary Trail Map

Hallett Nature Sanctuary Trail Map taken from the Central Park Conservancy Website

Trail

On occasion, the Central Park Conservancy holds tours of the 59th Street pond and the Hallett Nature Sanctuary. The preserve is also open for your own exploration depending on weather conditions.

A short log lined woodchip trail encircles the sanctuary.   The woodchip trail helps water to absorb more easier into the ground preventing erosion on the steep sections of the sanctuary.  In the growing season (spring & summer) as you walk the trail and listen to the tour guide it is hard to believe that you are feet away from Central Park South.

Hallett Nature Sanctuary Forest

Hallett Nature Sanctuary Forest

The highlight of the tour is discovering the source of the waterfall located on the western border that empties into the pond. Visitors walking by may think the waterfall is generated by a natural spring. The real source is man-made; the waterfall can be turned on and off.

Flora

Flora in the Hallett Nature Sanctuary includes the below among others:

The Central Park Conservancy is adding to the list of native plants by planting in the herbaceous , shrub and canopy layers of the forest.

Fauna

Many species of birds find a home in Hallett Nature Sanctuary including:

Eastern Towee

Eastern Towhee

Black-Crowned Night Heron

Black-Crowned Night Heron

Green-Winged Teal

Green-Winged Teal

Notable mammals include:

There have been at least two visits by Coyotes in the past five years. Click here for a video of a coyote crossing ice on the pond in 2010. Other species include:

Raccoon

Raccoon

Box Turtle

Box Turtle

Turtle laying eggs near pond by Hallett sanctuary

Turtle laying eggs near pond by Hallett sanctuary

 

Turtle laying eggs near pond by Hallett sanctuaryIt is worth taking a Central Park Conservancy led tour of this cool preserve in the middle of NYC. Click here for tour contact 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!

Check out the latest flora and fauna sightings here!

Great Books on Central Park:

  1. Central Park, An American Masterpiece: A Comprehensive History of the Nation’s First Urban Park
  2. Seeing Central Park: The Official Guide to the World’s Greatest Urban Park