Silas Condict Park was dedicated at 200 acres in 1964. In 2005, additional purchases of adjacent land brought the total acreage to 1,581. The centerpiece of the park is Canty’s Lake which is formed from an impoundment of a Stone House Brook tributary (which itself is a tributary of the C1 classifiedPequannock River, one of the cleanest rivers in New Jersey)
Silas Condict Park White Trail Virtual Tour
Today we are going to explore the Bear Mountain area in the southern section of Silas Condict Park via the estimated 3 mile White Blazed Trail (aka “the Bear Trail”) following the below trail map (taken from the NYNJ Trail Conference).
Ready? We’ll begin our hike by following Canty’s Lake which will be to our left as we walk north from the parking area. Before we go any further let’s see what’s hanging around Canty’s Lake.
We got company! Ring-Necked Ducks! You would think this duck would be called the Ring-Billed Duck due to a white band around its beak but the duck actually has a chestnut colored ring around its neck which is only visible at close range.
While we are chatting about Ring-Necked Ducks a bird just flew by with white tail feathers. It’s a Dark-Eyed Junco! Dark-Eyed Junco belongs to the Sparrow family and prefers forest and shrub lands. The Dark-Eyed Junco stays in New Jersey for the winter and migrates further north during the growing season.
White Trail Trailhead (Near Canty Lake)
Leaving the shore of Canty’s Lake we walk a bit north and find ourselves in front of the White Trail trail-head. We are going to be following the white trail in a loop fashion. Nice! Loop trails are always my favorite.
Silas Condict County Park Forest
Let’s enter the forest and leave civilization behind for a bit.
Mountain Laurel greets us as soon as we enter. The deciduous forest of winter is primarily colorless other than evergreen shrubs such as Mountain Laurel and the American Beech tree. American Beech (particularly young American Beech) hold onto their leaves until spring when new leaves emerge. As we walk we hear the paper like leaves blowing in the wind.
We are proceeding in a southwest direction and climbing in a zig-zag fashion on the White Trail. American Crows are sounding the alarm that we are in their forest. White-Breasted Nuthatches and Tufted Titmouse are having their own conversations as we start to climb on the trail.
East Facing View
We’ve come to the first viewpoint! Here, we are looking east. Though it’s covered with snow, we can take a seat if we want to rest after our brief climb to this view. After taking in the views we descent passing interesting rock formations.
Numerous fresh blow-downs are present throughout the forest which most likely fell during Hurricane Sandy.
Newly Created Vernal Pond Habitat
We may feel sad seeing big trees toppled over but the good news is the hollowed out area where the root structure was now becomes prime vernal pond habitat. Vernal ponds are temporary pools of water that are free of fish and provide valuable areas for amphibians such as Wood Frog to lay eggs.
As we walk Mountain Laurel becomes abundant with adjacent Chestnut Oak.
Chestnut Oak Mountain Laurel
Proceeding through the Mountain Laurel, we have entered a Chestnut Oak forest punctured here and there with Pitch Pine, a tree normally associated with the NJ Pine Barrens.
Pitch Pine grows here on thin, dry and generally infertile soil. These Pitch Pines found on this mountain are exposed to frequent ice storms in winter and strong winds year round.
Chestnut Oak is usually found on dry slopes at high elevations such as where we are right now. Shrubs such as lowbush blueberry and black huckleberry are common in Chestnut Oak forests. However, given we are in late winter, the only shrub we are encountering today is the abundant evergreen Mountain Laurel.
We’ve now started our second climb up a snow covered path.
Our efforts are rewarded with a wonderful western view of the NJ Highlands!
Pitch Pine Western View
The western view is continuous as we continue south and pass an interesting balanced boulder with the White Trail Blaze painted on it.
Balanced Rock with White Trail Blaze
We now start to descend as the trail turns east. It’s a bit tricky going down the snowy trail so be sure to watch your step!
White Trail Blaze leading to Rock Tunnel
As we continue to follow the White Trail we find it is leading us to a rock tunnel.
Let’s squeeze through to the other side!
Looking back at Rock Tunnel
Whew! We made it out! But now we have to watch our footing. We have a snow covered boulder field to walk through!
As we carefully meander through the boulder field we find ourselves following the White Trail on a slippery rock outcrop.
Whoops! We slipped!
Thankfully we’re ok.
Let’s brush ourselves off and keep moving-that Turkey Vulture flying over us seems to have ideas about us.
Trout Brook Stream Crossing
We’ve now arrived at Trout Brook and its surrounding wetlands. Trout Brook drains Canty’s Lake and is a tributary to Stone House Brook. Let’s carefully cross the stream by jumping on rocks.
Bridge over Trout Brook
As we continue on the White Trail we have yet another crossing of Trout Brook-but this time there’s a brand new wooden bridge present which makes for easy walking.
As we leave the bridge we see a massive rock outcrop before us and see the White Trail Blaze lead straight up the outcrop! Let’s watch our step and climb.
At the top we find we have left the footpath and are now following a gravel road (steep in places).
Albino White-Tailed Deer
As we walk we are suddenly surprised by a blur of white! An Albino White-Tailed Deer! The deer is so white it matches the snow around. Amazing!
Bear Mountain Silas Condict County Park
Leaving the deer and the gravel road we are back on a foot path where we see views of Bear Mountain, which we just finished climbing.
Canty’s Lake View from the White Trail
Continuing on a little further we now find a bench with a wonderful view of Canty’s Lake. We are almost at the end!
We did it! We are now at the end of the White Trail back at the parking lot near where we started!
I hope you enjoyed this virtual hike and that it inspired you to check out the hike in person!
Silas Condict Park is located at 100 Kinnelon Road, Kinnelon, NJ.
Check out some great books below to learn more about NJ’s plants and wetlands!
The 2013 Pequannock River Coalition (PRC) Winter Hike took participants on an exploratory hike through the Pequannock River Watershed. Led by PRC Executive Ross Kushner, the 4 mile hike promised education & exercise.
Pequannock Watershed Forest
Started in 1995, the Pequannock River Coalition provided 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.
PRC 2013 Winter Hike
Ah, there you are! Welcome! Ready for the 4 mile hike? There’s plenty of snow on the ground to help us look for animal tracks.
Ross Kushner Executive Director of the Pequannock River Coalition
Let’s begin by meeting Ross Kushner, the Executive Director of the Pequannock River Coalition. He’s going to lead the hike today!
We will be exploring the area just north of Copperas Mountain in nearby Rockaway Township. Ross has just taken attendance and now we are heading southwest on Green Pond Road and will be heading into the woods of the vast Pequannock watershed!
What happened here? These trees appear to have collapsed like dominoes. The fallen trees were part of plantations planted in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and were to be maintained (i.e. trimmed) every 10-15 years. With the onset of WWII the plantations were all but forgotten. Fast forward to 2012, we now have a tangle of trees growing close to one another. Hurricane Sandy came and knocked the trees down. Ross explained that in general other than habitat for Northern Goshawks and Red Squirrels, plantations are a monoculture and do not provide the diversity most wildlife require.
Hardwood trees that fell during the hurricane have become popular with White-Tailed Deer who enjoy nibbling on sections of tree normally inaccessible.
Ross Kushner Praying Mantis Egg Case
Leaving the fallen tree and coming to a small field, Ross has just found a curious looking egg pouch attached to a plant in a frozen field. This is a Praying Mantis egg case.
Praying Mantis Egg Case
You can purchase Praying Mantis egg cases and use them as a natural “pesticide” for pests such as Japanese Beetles.
Heading back to Green Pond Road, Ross points out a stand of deciduous conifers near the side of the road and has identified them as American Larch. American Larch needles turn orange in the fall and fall off in winter.
Phragmites Swamp at Base of Green Pond Mountain
Heading back on Green Pond Road, we’re now walking over a Pequannock River Tributary near Deerhaven Lane. The Pequannock River Tributary draining the marsh in the foreground was straightened to drain the marsh. Phragmites, a common plant which thrives in disturbed wetlands, is abundant.
Green Pond Mountain
Around 10,000 years ago the Wisconsin Glacier piled boulders on the north side and sheared off the southern side of mountains in the NJ Highlands. As the glacier retreated at the end of the ice age, they tended to melt in place. The sheered cliffs visible on Green Pond Mountain were testimony to that theory.
Walking along Green Pond Road
We’re now continuing our journey down Green Pond Road. It’s been about a quarter of a mile but we are now again entering the Pequannock River Watershed forest.
What are these ruins we are looking at? Ross is now explaining that when the City of Newark acquired the land in the early 1900’s people were living throughout the watershed property and had been for over a hundred years. Their property was taken by imminent domain to protect the water supply. Back in the 1890s and early 1900s Newark’s population was dying as their water supply was derived from the Passaic River in Newark. This section of the Passaic River was and is severely impaired.
Running Deer Tracks
Walking a bit further in the snow Ross has suddenly stopped. “Look at the space between these deer prints!” he says. “This guy was flying, but not from us-these are old prints”. There must be 20 feet present between the gaps of the prints!!
Bear Tree (American Larch)
What is Ross looking at? It’s another American Larch tree with a good portion of its bark missing. Ross states “The bark has been taken off over the decades by Black Bears biting and rubbing their backs on the tree. The higher the bite, the bigger the bear. Sort of a territorial thing-every bear that comes by can determine what other bears have been in the area”.
Ross walks a bit further into the woods and suddenly stops.
We just happen to be by Deerhaven Lake where a number of White Pines are standing. These pines grew naturally. Though we don’t spot any today, there have been reports of Great Blue Heron nests in these pines. Ross turns around and starts heading back to Green Pond Road.
Near the beginning of the trail we see tiny footprints heading to a log. They belong to an Opossum.
American Beech Eye of the Forest
It looks like we are now leaving the Four Birds Trail and are walking by a rather large American Beech with marks that look like eyes keeping watch over the forest. American Beech is considered a climax species in succession and is an indicator that the forest present here has not been disturbed in a long time.
Ross Kushner American Beech Bear Claw Mark
Ross Pointed out black bear claw marks and noted that they are perfectly spaced.
Beaver Lodge Deerhaven Lake
Looking northwest towards Deerhaven Lake we see a large active beaver lodge with several others in the distance. Ross stated that the primary predator of beavers is the gray wolf which has been extirpated from New Jersey. Time to stop for lunch!
After eating our lunch Ross spots a White Oak tree covered with Black Bear claw marks. White Oak acorns are sweeter than other oaks such as Black or Red Oak. Black Bears love White Oak acorns so much that they will go up into the tree to retrieve them before they fall.
While checking out the claw marks we spot an out of season Firefly on the White Oak. Apparently it was tricked by the abundant sunshine.
River Otter droppings containing fish scales were spotted near an outlet of a Pequannock River tributary leaving Deerhaven Lake. River Otters are usually active near the outlet of a beaver pond and the droppings are indicators of River Otter territorial tendencies.
Otter Sliding Marks
We even see the slides they made on the ice!
Ross is taking us on a shortcut back to our cars near the Pequannock River.
What’s this? A stonefly! Soneflies are a sure indicator of the good water quality found in the C1 Trout Production Pequannock River.
Well, we’ve reached our cars and the tour has concluded. I hope this virtual hike has inspired you to explore your local forest.
Welcome to the Passaic River Coalition’s Butler Forest Preserve & Butler Raceway! Both preserves are contiguous and have a combined acreage of 14.9 acres of which four are deciduous wooded wetlands. Located in Butler, NJ, The Butler Forest Preserve and Butler Raceway were purchased to prevent the development of townhouses and provide protection of the Pequannock River.
Butler Forest Preserve & Butler Raceway
The Passaic River Coalition was established in 1969 and provides stewardship for the preservation and protection of over 1,000 miles of waterways associated with the Passaic River. The Pequannock River, a tributary of the Passaic River is labeled C1 indicating the water consists of some of the highest quality in the state of New Jersey.
American Beech Butler Forest Preserve
This was how the Butler Forest Preserve and Butler Raceway appeared when I explored it near the end of September 2012, nearly a month before Hurricane Sandy arrived. I find Jericho Road to be the best entrance to the Butler Forest Preserve & Butler Raceway.
Pequannock River Tributary
Entering the forest here I noticed a stream to my left (an unnamed Pequannock River Tributary) and plenty of American Beech. American Beech is part of the Beech-Sugar Maple climax forest community and are a sure indicator that this forest has not been disturbed for a very long time.
I carefully followed the woods down a somewhat steep slope while a steady roar increased. Thinking it was urban noise coming from nearby Route 23 and housing developments I was somewhat surprised to see the source was far more natural: The Pequannock River rushing by.
I noticed the river just as my eye caught old ruins. These ruins were part of the Butler Raceway which once provided water from the Pequannock River to power machinery to what was once the country’s largest rubber factory. The historic function of the raceway was to provide water from the Pequannock River to power machinery at the Butler Rubber Factory. The rubber factory was destroyed by fire in 1957.
Waterfall on Pequannock River
Near the ruins is a beautiful man-made waterfall on the Pequannock River.
Carefully scrambling over the ruins I made it to the Raceway just in time for a Great Blue Heron to fly by (unfortunately too fast for me to get its picture).
After admiring the Heron I came across an abandoned motorcycle.
Continuing east Yellow Birch appeared in good numbers. Yellow Birch favors north facing slopes.
Pre-Cambrian Rocks along Butler Raceway
Rock Outcrops of Precambrian origin appear occasionally to the right of the path. The Butler Raceway ends near Gifford Street. To get back to Jericho Avenue, simply turn around on the Raceway and proceed west until you come back to the cement ruins. Proceed south going up the hill until you reach Jericho Road.