Welcome to Pyramid Mountain County Park! Pyramid Mountain is part of the Morris County Park System and contains more than 1,500 acres of preserved open space. The land comprising the Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area was set aside as Morris County parkland in 1989 after a long struggle to help preserve these ecologically and geologically diverse acres.
Welcome to Buttermilk Falls Park! Located in West Nyack, New York, the park features a scenic waterfall and two western views where on a clear day you can see up to 16,000 acres. The 75 acre Buttermilk Falls Park was purchased by Rockland County with additional acquisitions in 1981.
Welcome to the Lenoir Preserve! Located in Yonkers, New York, the estimated 40 acre preserve features upland woodlands, a large lawn, nature center, butterfly garden, an old mansion and old ruins scattered throughout.
The preserve opened in 1978 and is part of the Westchester County Park System. The property was acquired in two purchases in the 1970’s.
Welcome to the Lenoir Preserve! Before we start our hike let’s head over to the nature center to check out the displays and pick up a trail map.
Heading out, we pass a picture of a map of the preserve including the route we will be taking today.
Ready to begin?
Heading west from the nature center we find the trail-head of the estimated .70 of a mile White Trail under a stand of dense evergreen trees.
Heading southeast into the forest we pass by the trunk of a massive Tulip Tree. Found throughout the forest of the Lenoir Preserve, the Tulip Tree is native to the Eastern United States and is one of the tallest trees found on the eastern seaboard.
Continuing southeast on the white trail a large apartment building appears straight ahead through the trees. This will be the last reminder of the modern urban environment as we trek through the woods.
Continuing our walk we find an old man-made pond. The pond still fills with water from an old pipe buried underground.
A little further on a yellow trail has joined the White Trail from the west.
Let’s head west briefly on the yellow trail for a moment to see where it goes.
The Yellow Trail leads right to the Croton Aqueduct trail which is a New York State Park. This trail goes over a huge old masonry water tunnel which once provided water to thirsty New Yorkers until 1965. The trail was created in 1968.
Leaving the Croton Aqueduct and heading east we temporarily pass the White Trail. Old stairs appear to the east leading to terraces. Let’s go take a look.
An ancient Archway appears near the end of the yellow trail. I don’t know about you, but I feel a pair of eyes watching us.
It’s a Song Sparrow! Song Sparrows favor brushy areas such as where we spotted this one or should I say it spotted us.
Let’s head back down the Yellow trail to continue our journey on the white trail in Lenoir’s forest.
As we walk more ruins appear as the sun filters through the leafless trees.
This may have been part of a fireplace of the destroyed “Ardenwold” Mansion which once existed in the site. The Ardenwold Mansion was destroyed by fire in the 1970’s.
Nearing the southern border of the Lenoir Preserve the White Trail turns east.
We’ve been spotted and the alarm has been sounded! A Northern Mockingbird is keeping careful watch over the woodlands of the Lenoir Preserve.
Leaving the woodlands an old ruined wall with an ancient looking gazebo gazes mournfully at us. We have reached the southern border of the Lenoir Preserve. The ruined wall and gazebo are part of the Alder Manor which was built around 1912 by William Boyce Thompson. The manor is private property operated by the Tara Circle, an Irish Cultural Center.
Peaking through an old iron gate we see an expansive old garden.
Leaving the White Trail and heading north to the Great Lawn we spot some commotion in the open sky above. American Crows are chasing an unidentified Hawk.
Now heading north through the great lawn, the expansive Lenoir Mansion appears to our right. The mansion was built between in the mid-to late 1800’s for presidential candidate Samuel J. Tilden from granite quarried on site.The mansion is named after Lenoir, North Carolina by a later owner by the name of C.C. Dula who added additional wings to the mansion.
As we walk pass the Lenoir Mansion heading north a mournful sound fills our ears. It’s source is this Mourning Dove keeping watch over us as we walk.
An old stone gazebo appears just north of the mansion as we walk. What’s that sound?
White-Tailed Deer! They spotted us long before we spotted them.
Just west of the gazebo is a massive butterfly garden which was created in 1995 by volunteers of the Hudson River Audubon Society. The garden is named after a Beverly Smith who came up with the idea to plant the garden. The garden has showcased a rare Rufous Hummingbird in the past. The Rufous Hummingbird normally occurs in the far west of North America and winters in Mexico.
Heading back towards the nature center a curious looking spotted bird is seen on the ground. It’s a Northern Flicker! Northern Flickers, such as this one, spend a lot of time searching for food in the form of ants and other insects on the ground.
We’ve reached the back of the nature center where bird feeders tempt hungry birds and a rain garden is present during the growing season. With that we’ve concluded our walk of the preserve. Thank you for joining me today. It is my hope that this virtual tour inspires you to visit the Lenoir Preserve to check it out for yourself!
Click below to see a list of plants found at the Lenoir Preserve!
Feel free to Comment with Questions, Memories or Suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!
1. The Nature of New York – An Environmental History of the Empire State – This work offers a sweeping environmental history of New York State
Click here for more information!
2. 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!
3.60 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!
4. 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!
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.
The GSOEC hosts periodic studies of the flora and fauna to determine the overall health of the Great Swamp.
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.
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.
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.
The total length of the trails is 1.4 miles.
Ready to take a virtual tour of the Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center? Let’s Go!
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.
After checking out the exhibits inside, it’s time to start our hike.
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.
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’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.
Continuing on the orange trail, marker #2 comes into view on the right where a large depression may be found.
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 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 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.
Continuing in a southwest direction, the dirt path changes to a boardwalk as the trail traverses the wetland area.
A short boardwalk appears to the right of the main boardwalk which leads to the Pond which is marker #5.
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.
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.
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”
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.
At this point of the hike you may notice abundant Mountain Laurel. Marker # 7 appears here.
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.
Let’s take a brief break from the interpretive trail to explore this short trail.
The Blue Trail Loop goes through an upland area consisting of mostly Mountain Laurel and Swamp Chestnut Oak.
The trail encircles a small vernal pond (the vernal pond, seen here is dry during our virtual tour).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After heading back from the Wigwam, turn right on the Orange Trail and follow the trail a brief distance to its terminus.
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.
The first marker on the Red Trail is #11 which identifies trees found in the Eastern Deciduous Forest.
Trees found in the Eastern Deciduous Forest include the below among others:
The term “deciduous” indicates that the trees comprising this type of forest lose their leaves each fall and grow new leaves in the spring.
Continuing on the red trail leads Marker #12 “Transmission Lines and Marsh”.
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.
From here turn left at the sign leading to the education center to go to Marker # 13.
The Red Trail approaches Marker #13 as it crosses a stream.
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.
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 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.
Beechdrops, seen here in this picture, lack both leaves and chlorophyll and is a parasitic plant of the American Beech Tree.
#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.
We are now at the end of the Red Trail.
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.
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.
This concludes our virtual hike! I hope you enjoyed it and it inspired you to take a trip to see the GSOEC for yourself!
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!