Tag Archives: Native Plantings

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!

Englewood’s Flat Rock Brook Nature Center!


Welcome to Flat Rock Brook

Welcome to Flat Rock Brook

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

Englewood Flat Rock Nature Preserve

Englewood Flat Rock Nature Preserve

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

William O. Allison Memoriam

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

Flat Rock Brook Forest

A Walk in the Woods

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

Meadow

Meadow

Forest

Forest

Pond, Stream & Wetlands

Pond, Stream & Wetlands

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

Turtle

Northern Red Oak Eastern Screech Owl

Northern Red Oak Eastern Screech Owl

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

Birds of Flat Rock Nature Preserve

Birds of Flat Rock Nature Preserve

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

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

I saw this American Goldfinch when I last visited.

Watershed Exhibit

Watershed Exhibit

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

History of the Land

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

Quarry Boardwalk

Quarry Boardwalk Trail

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

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

Flat Rock Brook

Flat Rock Brook

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

Killifish in Flat Rock Brook

Flat Rock Ponds

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

Turtles in Quarry Pond

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

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

MacFadden’s Wetland

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

Trails

Flat Rock Brook Trail Map

Flat Rock Brook Trail Map

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

Red Trail

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

Orange Trail

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

Mystery Bridge

Flora and Fauna

The preserve features flora such as:

Milkweed

Check out Plant Communities of New Jersey.

NJ’s geology, topography and soil, climate, plant-plant and plant-animal relationships, and the human impact on the environment are all discussed in great detail. Twelve plant habitats are described and the authors were good enough to put in examples of where to visit!

Click here for more information!

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

Eastern Chipmunk

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

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

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

Click here for more information!

2. Protecting New Jersey’s Environment: From Cancer Alley to the New Garden State – With people as its focus, Protecting New Jersey’s Environment explores the science underpinning environmental issues and the public policy infighting that goes undocumented behind the scenes and beneath the controversies.

Click here for more information!

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