Tag Archives: Westchester County

Hiking Brinton Brook Sanctuary!

Saw Mill River Audubon Brinton Brook Sanctuary

Saw Mill River Audubon Brinton Brook Sanctuary

Welcome to Brinton Brook Sanctuary! Brinton Brook Sanctuary, located in Croton-on -Hudson, is managed by the Saw Mill River Audubon and is its largest sanctuary at 156 acres.  The preserve originated as a donation of 112 acres to the National Audubon Society from Laura and Willard Brinton. In 1975, after Laura Brinton’s death, an additional 17 acres were added to the preserve. Saw Mill River Audubon gained full ownership of the preserve in 1991 from the National Audubon Society.

Brinton Brook Sanctuary provides necessary habitat for wildlife and includes over three miles of hiking trails.

Virtual Tour

Brinton Brook Trail Map

Brinton Brook Trail Map

Welcome to Brinton Brook Sanctuary! Using this trail map we will be traversing through forest, meadow, wetlands and the shoreline of the 5 acre Brinton Pond.

We find the trailhead of the 1.2 mile yellow blazed Pond Loop Trail (the longest trail found in Brinton Brook Sanctuary) both to our right and right in front of us. Let’s head straight on the Pond Loop Trail and see where it takes us. The Pond Loop Trail is marked with twenty interpretive signs and traverses through woods, a meadow and around Brinton Pond before it heads southwest back to the parking lot.

#1 Welcome to Brinton Brook Sanctuary

#1 Welcome to Brinton Brook Sanctuary

Here we come to the first of twenty interpretive signs (please note we will see and note some but not all of the interpretive signs) which welcome us to Brinton Brook and reminds us we are in a sanctuary where all life is protected.

#2 Tulip Tree

#2 Tulip Tree

Just up the trail we spot the second interpretive sign which refers to the Tulip Trees, the tallest trees found in the eastern US. Common names are Tulip Poplar or Yellow Poplar. Tulip Trees belong to the Magnolia family and are named as such due to its tulip shaped leaves and flower which blooms around late May and early June each year. Due to the height of the trees we generally only spot the flowers once they have fallen. Since we are in early fall we missed the flowers this year. But there is always next spring!

#3 Black Locust

#3 Black Locust

The third sign we come across has to with Black Locust trees which are found all around us in this section. A member of the Pea Family, Black Locust trees are native to the southeast of the United States and are considered to be an invasive plant elsewhere due to its ability to monopolize where it has established. In May, Black Locust produces extremely sweet smelling cluster of flowers. Mature Black Locust tree trucks are deeply furrowed and its roots help fix nitrogen levels in the soil.

Kiosk with Signage

Kiosk with Signage

As we walk the trail has widened and we find a kiosk straight ahead which includes a trail map. Let’s head to the left to continue our hike on the Pond Loop Trail.

#4 Ecotone

#4 Ecotone

Shortly after the kiosk we come to interpretive signage #4 discussing an Ecotone. An Ecotone is an transition found between two different habitats (in this case forest and meadow). Sassafras Trees are plentiful in this area.

#5 Area of Change

#5 Area of Change

We have now officially left the forest and are standing in a managed meadow. This meadow must be constantly managed otherwise over time, due to ecological succession, this meadow would convert to forest.

#6 Two Kinds of Forests

#6 Two Kinds of Forests

Leaving the meadow behind we reenter the forest and come to interpretive signage # 6: Two Kinds of Forests which discusses Red Maple (the most common Maple tree found in Northeast America) & Northern Red Oak which is found primarily to our left on the hillside.

As we arrive at Brinton Brook we see a massive old growth Red Maple.

Old Growth Red Maple

Old Growth Red Maple

Nearby is interpretive signage #7: Pond View which discusses common wildlife found in and around Brinton Pond such as Wood Ducks.

#7 Pond View

#7 Pond View

We have now arrived at Brinton Pond. The pond, created by the impoundment of Brinton Brook (a tributary of the Hudson River) is man made and was created as an “ice pond”. During the winter chunks of ice were carved from the pond and stored (this was in an age before the modern refrigerator) for use. As we can see by the growth of plants in and around the pond, the pond is slowly becoming marshland.

Brinton Pond slowly transforming to Marshland

Brinton Pond slowly transforming to Marshland

What’s that we see on a rock? It’s a female Wood Duck and its ducklings!

Female Wood Duck and ducklings

Female Wood Duck and ducklings

Heading east we come to the next interpretive signage “The Edge of the Pond”.

#8 Edge of the Pond

#8 Edge of the Pond

The sign discusses wildlife we may see near the pond and pictures a dragonfly and a Wood Frog. As we walk we don’t see any frogs but we hear plenty of Green Frogs (which sounds a bit like a banjo) and Bullfrogs (which makes a bellowing call) announcing their presence from the pond.

Pond Dam

Pond Dam

Continuing east the trail crosses over an earthen dam of the pond.

Skunk Cabbage and Sensitive Fern

Skunk Cabbage and Sensitive Fern

And here is the next interpretive sign which discusses the wetland plants found to the left of the pond. Common wetland plants found here include Skunk Cabbage, Sensitive Fern as well as Spicebush (the most common wetland shrub found in Westchester County).

Turkey Trail Trailhead

Turkey Trail Trailhead

Just past the wetland heading north is the trailhead of the blue blazed .5 of a mile Turkey Trail which climbs to the highest elevation in the sanctuary (390 feet). Let’s stretch our legs and take this trail.

TurkeyTrail (no understory)

TurkeyTrail (no understory)

As we climb through the forest notice that there is little to no understory. The culprit is an overabundance of White-Tailed Deer. With no natural predators to control the herd, the deer population in the eastern United States has exploded in recent decades. All these hungry deer feed on saplings and native shrubs displacing them and give many non-native shrubs (such as Japanese Barberry which deer do not eat) a competitive advantage.

White-Tailed Deer Running

White-Tailed Deer Running

What’s that blur to our right? A White-Tailed Deer which must have heard us discussing it is running away with its tail up high.

Turkey Trail Con-Ed Powerlines

Turkey Trail Con-Ed Powerlines

As we head east there is an abrupt end to the hardwood forest as we come to to a meadow near Con Edison power lines. We are now at the highest elevation in Brinton Brook at 360 feet.

Coyote Trail

Coyote Trail

As we continue on the Turkey Trail heading south the entrance to the green Blazed .4 mile Coyote trail appears to our left. Let’s go ahead and take it!

Highlands Trail (Croton Arboretum)

Highlands Trail (Croton Arboretum)

Heading southwest on the Coyote trail we pass the white blazed Highlands Trail (which has arrived here from the Croton Arboretum) which now jointly follows Coyote trail.

We have now arrived at an intersection with the Red Blazed .7 of a mile Hemlock Springs Trail which is named after the stately Eastern Hemlock tree.

Unfortunately many of the Hemlocks found in Brinton Brook Sanctuary are dead or dying due to the Woolly Adelgid, a non-native pest from Asia. The Adelgid feeds by sucking sap from Hemlock trees.  This exotic pest was accidently introduced to North America circa 1924 and is currently established in eleven states ranging from Georgia to Massachusetts. It is estimated that 50% of the geographical range of the Eastern Hemlock has been affected by the adelgid. Biological control (i.e. using adelgid predators to control infestations) has been the major emphasis of control since 1997.

As we continue to head east, the Highlands Trail exits to the nearby Hudson National Golf Club. Now the Hemlock Springs Trail heads south west and we come to the first of two Brinton Brook crossings.

There is something that looks like a small piece of gray rope on the ground…wait a minute! It’s a ring-necked snake! These snakes are normally nocturnal so we are lucky to spot one!

Ring Necked Snake

Ring Necked Snake

Leaving the ring-necked snake we pass first entrance Yellow Blazed .5 of a mile Laurel Rock Trail. Just as we pass we hear a beautiful songbird melody. And we’ve spotted the culprit! It’s a Wood Thrush! Wood Thrushes are common in mesic (moist) forests.

Wood Thrush

Wood Thrush

As we continue on we pass the 2nd entrance to Laurel Rock Trail and cross Brinton Brook.

Green Frog

Green Frog

As we cross over Brinton Brook there is a sudden splash! The culprit is a Green Frog. See him hiding? Green Frogs are common residents of streams, ponds and wetlands. We have now arrived back on the Pond Loop Trail which we left some time ago when we went to go explore the Turkey Trail.

Shagbark Hickory

Shagbark Hickory

While we missed some of the interpretive signs we will catch the remainder of the 20 signs now starting with sign#17 which discusses Shagbark Hickory the tree seen in the picture above. Shagbark Hickory is one of the most common Hickory trees found in the eastern forest. It is readily identifiable due to its peeling “shaggy” bark. Shagbark Hickory nuts are feasted upon by Eastern Gray Squirrels and Black Bears among others.

Sun Trap

Sun Trap

Continuing on our way we come to sign #18 which discussed the opening seen straight ahead as “a sun trap” which is a natural clearing in the forest where migratory birds may be spotted in the spring and fall.

#19 Feathery Ferns

#19 Feathery Ferns

Two more signs to go! Here we see sign # 19 “Feathery Ferns” which describes common ferns found in the Brinton Brook Sanctuary such as the Christmas Fern. The Christmas Fern is evergreen and is said to be named “Christmas Fern” due to its fronds resembling Christmas stockings.

#20 Trail end or beginning!

#20 Trail end or beginning!

We have now reached our last sign on the Pond Loop Trail #20 “Trail End or Beginning!”. For us it is the end of the trail and we are back at the parking lot! Whew! What a great hike! It is my hope that this virtual hike inspires you to check out Brinton Brook Sanctuary for yourself!

Click here for directions!

Check out the latest bird sightings here!

Feel free to Comment with Questions, Memories or Suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Hiking/Ecology Books!

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!


Westchester County’s Cranberry Lake Preserve!

Welcome to Cranberry Lake Preserve!

Welcome to Westchester County’s Cranberry Lake Preserve! Cranberry Lake Preserve (CLP), purchased by Westchester County in 1967, contains 190 acres of deciduous woodland, wetlands, an old quarry, several bodies of water and old ruins.

In the early 1900’s the land that was to become CLP was an active quarry utilized for the construction of the nearby Kensico Dam which holds NYC drinking water.

Kensico Dam


Cranberry Lake Preserve Trail

Trails are open dawn to dusk.  Trail maps are available at a kiosk outside or you can click here for a digital version.

  • CLP features four blazed loop trails. All trails begin and end with blazes featuring the Westchester County Parks logo.  Periodic numbers appear on blazes occasionally which correspond to your current location on the trail map. These numbers are found on wooden posts. (Please note the numbers do not appear on the online version of the trail map)

All trails are accessible by either orange or white blaze connector trails.

To Nature Lodge

Many sections of CLP trails display signs which lead back to the Nature Lodge. Click here for a trail map!

Red Trail

Red Blaze

At 2.4 miles the red trail is the longest trail featured in CLP. The red trail follows CLP boundaries with the exception of the quarry.

Blue Trail

Blue Blaze

The Blue Trail loops around both Cranberry Lake and South Pond for a total distance of 1 mile.

Cranberry Lake

Cranberry Lake is a natural body of water formed around 18,000 years ago by glacier activity. The lake is fed by an underground spring.

Ground Pine

Ground Pine can be found growing along the Blue Trail.

Yellow Trail

Yellow Trail Trailhead

The Yellow trail traverses rocky upland and a section of Cranberry Lake.

Purple (History) Trail

Purple Trail Trailhead

The Purple Blazed History trail is a self guided trail which explores most of the preserve including the quarry. The self guided trailmap can be found by clicking here.

Exploring CLP

While CLP’s trails are open dusk to dawn, the nature lodge and its parking area are closed most days by 5PM. It is strongly recommended that you park in the designated parking area near Old Orchard Street if you plan on hiking past 5PM.

It is from the Old Orchard Street parking entrance that the below description starts out from on the way to explore CLP. Let’s go!

Eastern Chipmunk Cranberry Lake Preserve

From the parking area, walk up the road to the nature lodge.

Cranberry Lake Preserve Nature Lodge

Just to the west of the nature lodge is an interesting wetland with a dock.

Wetlands Near Nature Lodge

It was here that I saw this snake.

Head inside the nature lodge to check out the exhibits and pick up a trail map.

Inside Cranberry Lake Nature Lodge

From the nature lodge, head south to take the yellow trail down to an Orange connecting trail.

Here there is a sign advertising Cranberry Lake. The orange blazed connector trail leads to a jointly blazed yellow/blue trail with Cranberry Lake straight ahead.

Yellow Blue Blazed Trail near Cranberry Lake

Follow the Yellow/Blue blazed trail south with Cranberry Lake to your left.

Bent Bridge

Continuing south, take the Orange Blazed Connector trail which will appear to your left near a wooden boardwalk known as Bent Bridge.

View of fen from Bent Bridge

Bent Bridge provides a good opportunity to check out the fen located to the south of Cranberry Lake. In the summer, white water lilies appear on the water.

Stone Chamber

Leaving Bent Bridge, the Orange blazed connector trail leads to a man-made “cave” known as the Stone Chamber.

Looking outside from inside Stone Chamber

The ruins surrounding the stone chamber were the property of a farmer named Thomas Cunningham. The Stone Chamber is a very neat little man-made “cave” of sorts that is fun to explore.

Ruins outside Stone Chamber

From here, the orange blaze connector trail leads past more stone ruins to the Purple Trail (aka History Trail). The path here follows an old railroad which separates the fen from South Pond.

South Pond

You are sure to hear splashes in the warmer months of frogs jumping in the water as you walk by.

Head east on the Purple Trail to a bench strategically placed in front of a beautiful cascade.


It’s a good spot to rest and relax in a peaceful setting.

To Quarry

From the cascade, continue east on the Purple Trail following signs for the quarry.

Abandoned Tennis Court

An abandoned tennis court will appear to your right.

Quarry Pond

The tennis court was part of the Birchwood Swim club which used the Quarry Pond for Swimming.

Tulip Poplar & Milkweed Abandoned Tennis Court

Nature is slowly reclaiming the tennis court. Birchwood Swim Club was discontinued in 1997.

Fish Quarry Pond

Once past the quarry pond the purple trail heads past old railroad car wheels which were used to haul granite during the quarry operation.

Railroad Wheels

The Purple Trail continues heading north climbing over the rocky quarry.

Quarry Trail

The height here is an estimated 450 feet above sea level.


Derrick anchors which once held heavy quarry machinery are still fastened in the rocks along the trail.

Old Automobile on Purple Trail

From here, the trail starts to descend the quarry and heads west passing an old abandoned car.

Continuing north the Purple Trail comes across the remains of a stone cutting shed.

Stone Cutting Shed Ruins

After exploring this area, follow the Purple Trail south until it meets with the red trail. From here, take the red trail southwest with Cranberry Lake to your right. Continuing south, retrace your steps until you pass the cascade with the bench at an intersection with the Purple Trail that you previously took into the Quarry territory. Continuing south, the red trail passes South Pond to the West.

South Pond

South Pond is man-made and was created during quarry activities.

Bird Tower on South Pond

A Bird Observation tower appears to your left. This tower provides great views of South Pond.

Remains of Stone Crusher

The red trail passes near the remains of a stone crusher foundation. The stone crusher was capable of crushing up to 1000 cubic yards of gravel per day when the quarry was active.

Signs for NYC Watershed appear to east of the trail.

Hush Pond

From here, the red trail turns west and temporarily leaves CLP & enters White Plains watershed land and passes Hush Pond to the south.

Stone Wall by Red Trail

From Hush Pond, the red trail passes a couple of connector trails and turns north following an old stone wall delineating NYC watershed property from CLP. According to David Steinberg who wrote a description of Cranberry Lake Preserve in his book “Hiking the Road to Ruins” the lower, crude, sharper-tipped walls are of colonial origin and the larger, cut-stone flat-topped walls are NY DEP watershed boundaries dating from the 1960s.

Indian Pipe

It was here that I found Indian Pipe growing when I visited in June of 2012. Continue following the red trail north with the wall to your left until you reach your car.

Black Capped Chickadee at Cranberry Lake Preserve


Cranberry Lake Preserve contains diverse habitats within its 190 acres. It is worth checking out yourself!

  • 1609 Old Orchard Street, North White Plains, NY
  • Park hours: Park open dawn to dusk. Nature Lodge and front gate are open Wednesday-Sunday. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Phone: (914) 428-1005

Click here for Directions!

Check out the latest bird sightings here!

Check out David Steinberg’s description of this hike in the book “Hiking the Road to Ruins

Click here for more information!

Hiking/Ecology Books!

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!

Scarsdale’s Greenburgh Nature Center!

Welcome to the Greenburgh Nature Center!

Welcome to the Greenburgh Nature Center! The Greenburgh Nature Center (GNC) is a 33 acre nature preserve located in Scarsdale, NY.

Greenburgh Nature Center

GNC features 27 acres of woodland, a pond, nature trails, gardens, outdoor and indoor animal exhibits and a greenhouse.

Manor House

The manor, constructed in 1918, contains nature & animal exhibits. The property was previously owned by the Hall family and was purchased for $725,000 using funding from the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and a bond issue from the Town of Greenburgh in 1973 to prevent development of single family housing which was proposed for the property.

Land and Water Conservation Fund

Inside the manor, for a fee, (free for GNC Members), visitors can tour various educational exhibits on the environment and visit the indoor animal exhibits.

Taking Nature’s Course

Nearly 140 reptiles and mammals are present in the indoor animal exhibit from all over the world displayed in ecologically realistic settings. Native animals include the Eastern Screech Owl and American Bullfrogs among others.

Live Animal Museum

Special nature themes of interest are also displayed from time to time.  As of June 2012 there is an exhibit featuring information on the wonders of dirt.

Beautiful Dirt!

There is also information on the nearby Bronx River where a tributary from the GNC flows into. An aquarium populated with fish found in the Bronx River is also displayed.

Do You Know These Bronx River Facts?

The preserve features several outdoor exhibits such as a barnyard habitat and an Aviary among other attractions.

Goat and Turkeys in Barnyard Exhibit

Birds of Prey Aviary

The Green Roof Exhibit was created in 2008 through generous sponsorship funds from Con Edison and provides an example on new views towards sustainability. Vegetation keeps buildings cooler and helps absorb storm water runoff.

Click here for a complete map of outdoor exhibits.

The Great Lawn

The nearly 2 acre great lawn  was created around 1918 when the estate was first built.

The lawn features Beehives and an organic garden.


Organic Garden


The Greenburgh Nature Center’s Manor House was built from stones quarried from the surrounding property in 1918.

Portion of Wall from GNC Manor

The rocks found in the GNC consist of Fordham Gneiss. Rocks of Fordham Gneiss have been altered by high heat and extreme pressure around 1.1 billion years.  The alteration caused the sedimentary rock to recrystallize forming black-and-white banded, metamorphic rock.

Blurry Eastern Chipmunk on Fordham Gneiss

The Orchard area of the preserve features sandstone in addition to the predominant Fordham Gneiss and is the only part of the center property that features this geologic deviation.


The preserve features four trails. The trails were originally developed by the previous owners of the land for quarrying and logging purposes.  A trail map is available online here.

Forest Trail

The Forest Trail is the main trail which begins and ends at the Manor house in a loop fashion for about a third of a mile in length.

Forest Trail Path

The main focal point of the Forest Trail is Woodfrog Pond.

Forest Trail Pond

The Woodfrog Pond area is the main source of water for GNC fauna and features freshwater wetlands at its northern and southern borders. Woodfrog Pond originated as a vernal pond which was created from past glacial activity. In 1980,  GNC dredged the pond and constructed a small dam to retain water. The water which forms the pond originates from an underground spring and from rainfall. An outflow from the pond drains to the Bronx River which in turn drains into the East River.

Woodfrog Pond

Woodfrog Pond is unsuitable for fish due to its warm shallow water. Amphibians such as Spring Peepers, Green Frogs, Bullfrogs and a variety of salamanders breed and lay their eggs in the pond (and yes, Wood Frogs make an appearance here too in March to lay eggs).

Turtles on log in Woodfrog Pond

Woodfrog Pond was restored in the fall of 2008. The pond and surrounding area had become degraded due to erosion and high usage. The restoration helped to increase the biodiversity of the pond itself as well as the surrounding wetlands. The Greenburgh Nature Center received a grant from the NYC environmental fund for $9,700 to partially dredge and fortify the pond as well as replant the surrounding area with native trees and shrubs.

North Forty Trail

The north forty trail meanders around the northern section of the preserve and eventually connects with the Forest Trail. The North Forty Trail passes near wetlands and traverses pass the  Scarsdale Country Club in an easterly direction to connect with the Forest Trail near Woodfrog Pond. The North Forty Trail is also accessible from the Oak and Orchard Trail from the west.

Scarsdale Country Club

Sylvia Stein Nature Trail

The Sylvia Stein Nature Trail is a short trail which traverses through the center of the woodlands heading in a north – south direction. The Sylvia Stein Nature Trail is accessible from c the Forest Trail. Ms. Stein was active with mycological groups and led field trips for both mycological groups and the Torrey Botanical Society.

Oak and Orchard Trail

The Oak and Orchard Trail leads from the North Forty Trail and heads southwest past the great lawn to the 3 acre orchard which is also a Box Turtle nesting site.

Box Turtle Nesting and Hatching Site

Flora found at the Greenburgh Nature Center includes:

Fauna includes the below along with many others:

American Robin

Eastern Cottontail

Eastern Chipmunk

Gray Catbird

The preserve is small at just 33 acres but it contains many diverse habitats and is worth a visit. Click here for more information.

The Greenburgh Nature Center is located at 99 Dromore Road, off Central Park Avenue, Scarsdale, New York.  There is free parking available.

Feel free to e-mail NJUrbanForest at NJUrbanForest@gmail.com with any comments, memories or suggestion! Thank you and have fun exploring!