Tag Archives: Wetlands

Exploring Pompton Aquatic Park! (Passaic County Parks)


Pompton Aquatic Park Passaic County Park System

Welcome! Today’s virtual hike will take us on a journey through a preserved floodplain forest of the Pompton River, a major tributary of the Passaic River.

Our hike will be in Pompton Aquatic Park (part of the Passaic County Park System). The park runs through sections of Wayne, Pompton Lakes and Pequannock. The park is about an estimated 78 acres (with 28 acres located in Wayne and Pompton Lakes and 46 acres located in Pequannock).

The park is divided in half by the Pompton River while the Ramapo River hugs the eastern shoreline. Pompton Aquatic Park provides much needed habitat to a multitude of wildlife including Great Blue Heron, Wood Turtle, White-Tailed Deer, Muskrat and other wildlife.

The land that became Pompton Aquatic Park was part of the Morris Canal. After the Morris Canal was discontinued the land was given to the Passaic County Park Commission where it sat unused as parkland for decades. Passaic County was awarded a Recreational Trails Grant in 2011 to construct trails. Trails were constructed with stone along with walkways over seasonal wetlands. The trails were blazed by the Pompton Lakes Open Space Committee.

Virtual Tour

Welcome to Pompton Aquatic Park

Welcome! Today we are going to hike two of the four Pompton Aquatic Parks trails. We will use the below trail map (provided by the Pompton Lakes Open Space Committee) to guide us.

Pompton Aquatic Park Trails

 

We will have views of the adjacent Pompton River and a hike through a preserved floodplain forest. Ready? Let’s go!

Pompton Aquatic Park Trailhead

Blue-Blazed Pompton Aquatic Trail

Starting from Woodlawn Avenue in Pompton Lakes we will head straight going west at the intersection near the trailhead of the .59 of a mile Pompton Aquatic Park Trail. The entire trail is through fresh water wetlands. Its good we picked the month of August to walk through when it is nice and dry! In fact, if we didn’t look at the vegetation growing we might not even know we were walking through wetlands. Common wetland vegetation growing along the trail as we walk include:

All of the above flora are native except for Purple Loosestrife and Japanese Knotweed which are considered invasive plants, that is, they displace and prevent native plants from growing because there are no natural predators native to the US to stop the spread of these plants.

Intersection of Pompton Aquatic (Blue) and Willow Ave Trail (Yellow)

Intersection of the Blue Blazed Pompton Aquatic Trail with the Yellow Blazed Rivercrest Trail

From here we will follow the 1 mile yellow blazed Rivercrest Trail which is the longest trail found in Pompton Aquatic Park. We will head north on this out and back trail (meaning we will retrace our steps). Out and back trails are a good way to verify if you missed something as you walked.

Pompton River

Pompton River

And there is the Pompton River! The Pompton River formed just north of Aquatic Park through the confluence of the Pequannock, Wanaque and Ramapo Rivers. The river above the park is technically still called the Pequannock River.  The Pompton River is classified FW2-NT (fresh water non-trout production or maintenance) by the NJ DEP. The Pompton River is a major tributary to the Passaic River.

Turtles

Painted Turtles in the Pompton River

As we walk along we spot some painted turtles bobbing in the Pompton River. Don’t they have the life! Not a care in the world!

Mile-A-Minute Vine

Invasive Mile-a-Minute Plant

We see jumbles of arrow shaped leaves everywhere. It’s a Mile-a-Minute Plant another invasive. It is native to Asia.

White-Tailed Deer

White-Tailed Deer

We’ve been spotted! A white-tailed deer family is watching us closely. Let’s keep going!

Eastern Comma Butterfly

Eastern Comma Butterfly

August is a good month for butterflies! Here’s an Eastern Comma Butterfly taking a rest.

End (or beginning) of Will Ave Trail

Rivercrest Trail End (or Beginning?)

Well, we have made it to the end of the Rivercrest Trail at Joe’s Grill Field (which is part of the Pompton Lakes park system.). Time to head back the way we came to get to our cars. Glad you could make it! It is my hope that this ‘virtual tour’ of Pompton Aquatic Park inspires you to visit and check it out for yourself!

Feel free to comment with any memories, wildlife sightings or any other comments about Pompton Aquatic Park! Thank you and have fun exploring!

The trailhead discussed in this post is located off of Woodlawn Avenue in Pompton Lakes NJ.

Check out some great books below to learn more about NJ’s plants and wetlands!

  1. Wetlands
  2. Plant Communities of New Jersey

 

 

 

Hiking Turkey Mountain!


Pyramid Mountain County Park

Pyramid Mountain County Park

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.

Turkey Mountain

Turkey Mountain

Pyramid Mountain contains a wide variety of natural habitats which support the following flora & fauna (among many other species found within Pyramid Mountain):

Fauna found in Pyramid Mountain County Park includes the below among others:

Virtual Hike

Welcome! Today’s virtual hike will take place in the fall. You are in for a treat today! We’re going to see some views, explore some stone ruins, see a scenic waterfall and head down 100 steps! Ready to begin?

From the parking area we head southeast on a section of the 3.7 mile yellow trail to the 0.7 mile red-dot trail.

Wildlife Blind

Wildlife Blind

Ahead of us is a wildlife blind in front of a large marsh. You might say this is a swamp but that would be incorrect. A swamp contains woody vegetation whereas in front of is an open marsh. What’s that noise to our left? A White-Tailed Deer is running away with its white tail held up high. What’s that noise we are hearing? It sounds like Spring Peepers! Spring Peepers in the fall? Yep, it happens! Spring Peepers sometimes sound out in the fall during the period that day lengths and temperatures resemble those that occur in the spring.

Yellow Trail

Yellow Trail

Ready to continue? Let’s retrace our steps on the red dot trail back to the yellow trail.

Marsh

Marsh

Once back on yellow trail we pass a large wetland to our north as we head southeast. From here we come to an intersection with the 1.5 mile blue blazed Butler-Montville Trail. Let’s take it!

Butler-Montville Trail Bridge over Lake Valhalla Tributary

Butler-Montville Trail Bridge over Lake Valhalla Tributary

Heading northeast on blue blazed Butler-Montville trail we cross over a Lake Valhalla tributary and pass a large wetland on our left.

Waterfall Trail Trailhead

Waterfall Trail Trailhead

From here we will take a right on the 1.5 mile green blazed Waterfall trail.

Lake Valhalla View

Lake Valhalla View

Wow! What a view! We have come to the Lake Valhalla overlook. Lake Valhalla is a private lake surrounded by homes.

Cabin Ruins

Cabin Ruins

After resting and taking in the views we continue on the green trail and come to stone ruins. The stone ruins were a cabin which was never completed due to the construction of the nearby power lines. Someone must be waiting for Santa to come down the chimney because we find a mini Christmas stocking hanging up.

Cabin Ruins Fireplace

Cabin Ruins Fireplace

Burning Bush

Burning Bush

Near the ruins of the cabin a strikingly beautiful red bush appears. This is “Winged Burning Bush” an invasive plant. Invasive plants have no known predators to keep them in check and can take over a natural area preventing native plants (which native insects and birds depend on) from establishing.

Red Trail Powerlines

 

We have now arrived at an intersection with the 0.9 mile Red trail and pass under some massive powerlines.

NYC View

NYC View

From here we have a great view of NYC off in the distance.

Let’s continue east on the green blazed Waterfall trail so we can see what this trail is named after! Let’s go!

As we walk east on the green blazed Waterfall trail the 3.7 mile Yellow trail joins the Waterfall trail from the south. From here we will take the joint Waterfall/Yellow trail heading north to the North Valhalla Brook waterfall.

10.29 (58)

 

As we approach the North Valhalla Brook waterfall the 3.7 Yellow trail branches off heading northeast.

North Valhalla Brook Waterfall

North Valhalla Brook Waterfall

Nice! The recent rains in the past few days have turned the North Valhalla brook waterfalls into a raging rush of water!

North Valhalla Brook

North Valhalla Brook

After enjoying the scenic waterfall we turn left on the green blazed Waterfall trail heading northwest and start to climb with North Valhalla Brook to our right. North Valhalla Brook is a tributary to the Rockaway River which in itself is a tributary of the Passaic River. North Valhalla Brook (aka Crooked Brook) is labeled by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection as FW2-NT (C2). What this means is that North Valhalla Brook is non-trout (NT) and is a freshwater stream.

As we walk through the Highlands Forest, let’s discuss a bit about the forest found all around us. Historically, this forest was termed an “Oak-Chestnut” forest until the demise of the American Chestnut over 100 years ago. Today, despite Hickories being a more minor part of the forest, this forest is a “Oak-Hickory” forest. The most common Oak trees found in the New Jersey Highlands include:

Waterfall-Trail-trailend

Waterfall-Trail-trailend

We have now arrived at the end of the green-blazed Waterfall trail at an intersection of the yellow trail.

We are going to turn left at the 3.7 mile yellow heading south.

As we walk we hear and see some interesting residents of the beautiful NJ Highlands forest including:

We have now come to the end of the yellow trail. We are 890 feet above sea level, just two feet shy of the top of Turkey Mountain!  We are an intersection with the red trail. We are going to head to a section of Turkey Mountain known as the “100 steps”. Here we take a right on the red trail to continue our journey.

That was a quick walk!

Blue Trail

Blue Trail

We are now at the intersection of the blue blazed 1.5 mile Butler-Montville trail and the beginning of the 100 steps. We are going to take a right on the Butler-Montville Trail heading west.

Powerlines

Powerlines

Above us and all around are massive powerlines. The good news is powerlines create permanent shrub habitat which is useful for many species of birds.

100 Steps

100 Steps

After carefully going down the rocks we arrive back at Boonton Avenue and to our car.

Thanks for walking with me on our virtual exploration of Turkey Mountain!

I hope that it inspired you to check out Turkey Mountain for yourself!

Click Here for Directions!

Check out the latest bird sightings here!

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

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!

More Information On Turkey Mountain Can Be Found Below:

1. NYNJ Trail Conference

2. NJHiking.com

3. Morris County Parks

4. NYNJCT Botany

GREAT Hiking/Ecology Books!

1.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!

2. 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!

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!

Hiking Campgaw Mountain!


Campgaw Mountain Reservation

Campgaw Mountain Reservation

Welcome to Campgaw Mountain Reservation!

Campgaw County Reservation Map

Campgaw County Reservation Map

Covering about 1,300 acres, Campgaw Mountain is part of the Bergen County Park System. The park is located in both Mahwah and Franklin Lakes New Jersey.

Geology

Basalt Hemlock Trail

 

Despite its close proximity to the Ramapo Mountains which are comprised of Highlands “basement” rocks, Campgaw Mountain comes from a different geological background.  With a ridge expanding two miles Campgaw Mountain is comprised of basalt and is part of the Watchung Mountains. Elevations range from 300 feet to a maximum elevation of 751 feet atop Campgaw Mountain.

Ecology

Campgaw Mountain Reservation Ecology

 

Campgaw Mountain contains several ecological communities including upland xeric (dry) deciduous forest, mesic (moist) deciduous forest and deciduous forest wetlands. Meadow habitat can be found along the power lines within the boundaries of the park.

The below are a sample of a list of birds that have been spotted within Campgaw Mountain:

Virtual Tour

Campgaw Mountain Trail Lengths

Campgaw Mountain Trail Lengths

Welcome! Today we are going to see eastern views near a ski lift, and explore an interesting pond! Ready? Let’s go!

Trail-Head

 

Let’s start our journey by heading west on the joint .5 of a mile Yellow Blazed Indian Trail and Blue Blazed .90 of a mile Rocky Ridge trail.

Rocky Ridge Powerline Cut

Rocky Ridge Powerline Cut

 

Almost immediately the blue blazed rocky ridge trail splits off from the yellow blazed Indian Trail. Let’s take it! We’ll meet up again with the Indian Trail later. On the Rocky Ridge Trail we pass under power lines between two old buildings.

Old Cedar Trail 1

Old Cedar Trail 1

As we walk we go through an intersection with the 2.10 mile Red Blazed Old Cedar Trail.

Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage

Continuing on the blue blazed Rocky Ridge Trail we pass over Fyke Brook (a tributary of the nearby Ramapo River which in itself is a tribute to the Passaic River) and wetlands filled with blooming Skunk Cabbage to our left.

Blue and Green

 

Soon we pass the green blazed .30 of a mile Beeches trail to our right.

Old Machinery Blue Trail 2

Old Machinery Blue Trail 2

Continuing on and Looking to our right we pass the ruins of some sort of machinery. As we walk, we see some Mourning Doves, and hear both a Northern Flicker and a Blue Jay.

Japanese Barberry Rocky Ridge Trail

Japanese Barberry Rocky Ridge Trail

The Rocky Ridge footpath has now changed to a gravel road which we are climbing. Looking to the sides of the trail we see lots of Japanese Barberry, which has become an established invasive plant in the understory of the forest of Campgaw Mountain.

Old Cedar Trail

Old Cedar Trail

As we near the top of our climb the Rocky Ridge Trail has left the gravel road and is now a rocky footpath traveling along the ridge of Campgaw Mountain (hence the trail’s name!) We pass through another intersection with the 2.10 mile Old Cedar trail.

Basalt Rocky Ridge

Basalt Rocky Ridge

Turning north on the Rocky Ridge Trail we find the landscape has become even more rocky but pleasant and more open like the environment found among the ridges of nearby High Mountain Park Preserve with basalt appearing now and then.

Dutchman Breeches Rocky Ridge Trail

Dutchman Breeches Rocky Ridge Trail

As we walk on the basalt of Campgaw Mountain, we spot some Dutchman Breeches along with some Hepatica flowers growing to the side of the trail. Dutchman Breeches are named as such because the flowers resembles old-fashioned breeches. Hepatica flowers are named as such because the leaves are said to resemble liver. Both are ephemeral flowers found only in the early spring before the leaves on the trees come back. As we admire the flowers we hear a Red-Tailed Hawk screech overhead.

Shagbark Hickory and Eastern Red Cedar Blue Trail

Shagbark Hickory and Eastern Red Cedar

Looking at some of the trees as we walk we pass by Shagbark Hickory and Eastern Red Cedar. We have now arrived in an open woodland. We spot Wineberry, a common invasive plant from Asia sprouting from the forest floor. As we walk we pass several structures for Frisbee golf (aka disc golf) which is set up throughout the park.

Rocky Ridge Trail End

Rocky Ridge Trail End

Arriving near the ski lefts the .50 of a mile yellow blazed Indian Trail we left when we first started reappears.

Eastern View 5 with Ski Lifts

Eastern View 5 with Ski Lifts

Take a look at the view! Here we can see a clear eastern view of surrounding Bergen County.

Indian Trail

Indian Trail

Leaving the the Rocky Ridge Trail, we now head east on the yellow blazed Indian Trail and pass the green blazed beeches trail to our left and right.

Skunk Cabbage Wetlands

Skunk Cabbage Wetlands

Looking to our left we spot a good amount of Skunk Cabbage as we go down the Indian Trail. Ahead of us is a swamp. Many people think that any wetland they may see is a swamp but this is not the case. A swamp contains woody vegetation whereas marshes do not.

Hemlock Trail

Hemlock Trail

From the Indian Trail we turn left on the orange blazed Hemlock Trail. The Hemlock Trail follows along the shore of Fyke Pond which was created from the impoundment of Fyke Brook.

Fyke Lake

Fyke Lake

As we walk along we pass several smooth bark grey trees. These are American Beech, a slow growing native deciduous tree of the eastern forest.

American Beech Hemlock Trail

American Beech Hemlock Trail

Continuing on we pass to our left two massive boulders made of basalt.

Basalt Boulders Hemlock Trail

Basalt Boulders Hemlock Trail

As we pass the boulders a sudden cry pierces the ear: a Blue Jay has noticed our presence and is sounding the alarm that we are in its forest.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

As we walk we pass by many dead and dying trees from which this trail was named after: The Eastern Hemlock. Most of the hemlocks found in Campgaw Mountain County Reserve are dead or dying due to the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid.  Native to East 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.

Dying Hemlock

Dying Hemlock

Take a look! Some turtles have spotted us from a rock in Fyke Lake. Nice!

Turtle Fyke Lake

Turtle Fyke Lake

Near the end of the Hemlock Trail we scare away a male and female Wood Duck.

Hemlock Trail End

Hemlock Trail End

From here it’s a short walk back on the Indian Trail to the parking lot where our car is. I hope you enjoyed this virtual hike of Campgaw County Reservation and that it inspires you to visit it for yourself!

Campgaw Mountain is located at 200 Campgaw Road, Mahwah, NJ 07430

Feel free to comment below with any bird sightings, interesting plants, memories or suggestions!

Click here for the latest bird sightings in Campgaw Mountain (Courtesy of eBird!)

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!

Hiking/Ecology Books!

1.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!

2. 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!

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!

 

Hiking Disney’s Wilderness Preserve!


The Nature Conservancy's The Disney Wildnerness Preserve

The Nature Conservancy’s The Disney Wildnerness Preserve

Welcome to the Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve!

Disney Wilderness Preserve

Disney Wilderness Preserve

The core of The Disney Wilderness Preserve is comprised of what was once an 8,500-acre cattle ranch situated at the head of the Everglades watershed. In the early 1990s, the ranch was slated for extensive development which would have destroyed wetlands found on the site. Walt Disney World in conjunction with the Nature Conservancy purchased the property to offset further development of the Walt Disney World Resort. The purchase is considered to be one of the earliest and largest off-site wetland mitigation projects in the United States.

The Disney Wilderness Preserve

The Disney Wilderness Preserve

An additional 3,000 acres were added in 1995 by the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority to help mitigate ongoing expansion at the airport bringing the Disney Wilderness Preserve to its current size. Today the Disney Wilderness preserve consists of 12,000 acres including an estimated 4,000 acres of enhanced wetlands

Healthy Central Florida Ecosystem

Healthy Central Florida Ecosystem

The Disney Wilderness Preserve provides habitat for an estimated 300 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians including:

The Wilderness Trail Virtual Tour

Disney Wilderness Preserve Trail Map

 

Click Here for the DWP Trail Map

Welcome! Let’s take a virtual tour somewhere where it is always green: Central Florida’s Disney Wilderness Preserve! Let’s go!

Disney Wilderness Preserve Nature Center

Disney Wilderness Preserve Nature Center

Before we start our walk, let’s head inside the visitor center to check out the displays and sign in (we’ll need to sign out too).

Wilderness Trail Entrance

Wilderness Trail Entrance

Heading northeast, we see a sign for the Wilderness Trail entrance. Let’s not fool ourselves, the paved sidewalk will end soon.

Nature Conservancy Trail Blaze

Nature Conservancy Trail Blaze

The blazes we will be following have the Nature Conservancy logo.

Disney Wildnerness Preserve Pond

Disney Wilderness Preserve Pond

 

Walking northeast from the visitor center a scenic pond appears to our right. Let’s pause a moment to see if there is anything poking around.

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

Take a look! There’s a Wood Stork!  Found throughout Florida, the Wood Stork’s preferred habitat includes grasslands and wetlands. The Wood Stork rookery found in the Disney Wilderness Preserve is thought to be the most studied in the world.

Cypress Dome

Cypress Dome

Straight ahead of us is a unique stand of trees known as a Cypress Dome. A Cypress Dome are dominated by Pond Cypress and Tupelo trees among other species.  Pond Cypress trees are often tallest in the center of the Cypress Dome which gives the appearance of a dome when viewed from a distance hence its name. Heading southeast for the next .27 of a mile the Cypress Dome will appear to our right. After walking .27, the trail splits heading straight and to the right. If we turn right, the trail will take us back to the nature center. I don’t think we are ready to quit just yet, we just got started! Let’s continue straight.

Lake Russell This Way

Lake Russell This Way

Continuing straight another estimated .10 of a mile we see a sign directing us  to the Lake Russell Trail. Let’s take it!

Spanish Moss

Spanish Moss

As we walk towards the swamp forest surrounding Lake Russell, something dangling above our heads catches our eyes. It’s Spanish Moss, which is not really a moss at all but rather a flowering plant!

But wait, there’s something else dangling above our heads….

Massive Spider

Golden Silk Spider

A massive Golden Silk Spider! Let’s keep moving!

The estimated .14 of a mile trail takes us through a dense Cypress Wetland Forest which surrounds the lake on all sides (a rare sight in densely developed Central Florida!)

Cypress Wetland Forest Surrounding Lake Russell

Cypress Wetland Forest Surrounding Lake Russell

The Cypress has a lifespan of hundreds of years and is found throughout the wetlands of the Disney Wilderness Preserve.

Lake Russell

Lake Russell

What a view! Beautiful Lake Russell is fed by Reedy Creek which is part of the northernmost Headwaters of the Everglades.

Savannah

Savannah

Heading back out through the swamp forest we find ourselves in the open savannah of the Longleaf Pine Ecosystem. Once estimated covering around 90 million acres in the southeastern United States, the Longleaf Pine ecosystem is now reduced to around an estimated two million acres, most of which is found on private land. The Longleaf Pine thrives on poor sandy soils.

Snag

Snag

The Longleaf Pine ecosystem is associated with natural fires which occur naturally every two to four years. Naturally occurring fires reduce the amount of litter on the ground which provides breathing room for Longleaf Pine seeds to germinate. Due to the surrounding development, controlled fires are conducted at the Disney Wilderness Preserve as this burned snag demonstrates. The endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, whose primary habitat is found in the Longleaf Pine Ecosystem, was successfully reintroduced in 2007 in the Disney Wilderness Preserve.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

As we walk we know the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker is present but we do not see any today. But look up! A Palm Warbler is watching us from its perch.

Saw Palmetto

Saw Palmetto

Saw Palmetto, found all around us, is a common understory plant of the Disney Wilderness Preserve. This tough plant is one of the first to send up new leaves within a week or two after a forest fire.

Shrub Oak

Shrub Oak

Occasionally as we walk a tall shrub appears. This shrub is Scrub Oak. Without frequent fire, Scrub Oak would form dense thickets preventing the establishment of Longleaf Pine.

Trail through Longleaf Pine Savannah

Trail through Longleaf Pine Savannah

Whew! It’s getting hot. Let’s keep our mind off the heat for a moment and think about a bird found in the Disney Wilderness Preserve which is present but we do not spot during our walk. The bird in reference is the  Florida Scrub-Jay, classified as threatened under the endangered species act and is the only bird endemic to Florida.

Pond2

 

Like a mirage in the distant, the pond we passed when we first started out is ahead and the trail has come to an end. I hope you enjoyed our virtual tour of the Disney Wilderness Preserve and that it inspires you to visit it for yourself!

Address & Contact Information

The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve
2700 Scrub Jay Trail
Kissimmee, FL 34759
Phone: (407) 935-0002
Ferns
For more Information on the Disney Wilderness Preserve Check out the Attached!
Ecology Books!
Highlighting the efforts of nine extraordinary leaders, Nature’s Keepers examines the organization’s culture and management, strategy and decisions, and courageous and ingenious individuals who have dedicated their lives to conservation. Click Here for more information!
Introduces readers to the trees and plants, insects, mammals, reptiles, and other species that live in Florida’s unique wetlands ecosystem, including the Virginia iris, American white waterlily, cypress, treefrogs, warblers, and the Florida black bear. Click Here for more information!
Feel free to Comment with Questions, Memories or Suggestions! Thank you and have fun exploring!

Hiking Sterling Lake!


Sterling Forest State Park

Sterling Forest State Park

Welcome to Sterling Forest State Park! Established in 1998 and located in Tuxedo and Warwick NY, the park is one of the newest additions to the New York State Parks in the past 50 years. Most of the woodland is located in NY State but a portion of it extends into NJ and is known as Tranquility Ridge County Park.

Sterling Forest

Sterling Forest

The almost 22,000 acre park features diverse ecological communities including:

Welcome to the Sterling Forest Bird Conservation Area

Welcome to the Sterling Forest Bird Conservation Area

These diverse habitats have earned Sterling Forest State Park the designation of Bird Conservation Area by the NY DEP.

Birds found in Sterling Forest State Park include the below among many others:

Virtual Hike

Foot Trail Maintained by Volunteers NY-NJ Trail Conference

Foot Trail Maintained by Volunteers NY-NJ Trail Conference

Today we are going to hike the estimated 4.2 Blue Blazed Sterling Lake trail  (maintained by volunteers from the NYNJ Trail Conference) which starts at the Sterling Forest State Park visitor center.  The visitor center is named for the late Frank R. Lautenberg who helped preserve the forest for future generations. The Sterling Lake Lake trail loops around Sterling Lake, a natural lake formed during the last ice age.

U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg Visitor Center

U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg Visitor Center

Let’s head inside and grab a trail map.

Sterling Forest State Park Model

Sterling Forest State Park Model

Inside there are dioramas on the Sterling Forest mining industry history, fauna exhibits and a huge model of Sterling Forest itself.

Trail

 

From the visitor center let’s head east into a brief section of forest  on a footpath.

Old Forge Road Crossing 1

Old Forge Road Crossing

After rambling through this portion of the trail we follow the Sterling Lake Loop trail east crossing Old Forge Road near private residences.

McKeages Meadow Connector

McKeages Meadow Connector

After crossing Old Forge Road the orange triangle blazed McKeages Meadow Connector trail appears to our right.

Truck Trailers Sterling Lake Loop

Truck Trailers Sterling Lake Loop

Continuing straight ahead on the Sterling Lake Trail, the trail turns from a footpath to a woods road as we pass old trailers to our left near private property.

Old Railroad Causeway

Old Railroad Causeway

Wetland

Wetland

From here we follow the Sterling Loop trail as it crosses a wetland via an old mining railroad embankment.

Second Old Forge Road Crossing

Second Old Forge Road Crossing

Long Meadow Road appears ahead but the trail turns north just missing the busy road. Crossing Old Forge Road for the second time we find ourselves heading north climbing.

Dead Hemlock

Dead Hemlock

We have reached an Eastern Hemlock dominated forest but unfortunately many of the Hemlocks 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.

Pine Meadow Trail Connector Trailhead

Pine Meadow Trail Connector Trailhead

As we head northwest, the 0.3 Mile Orange Blazed Pine Meadow Connector Trail appears to our right.

Sterling Lake Loop Grassy Trail

Sterling Lake Loop Grassy Trail

Our feet are in for a treat as the trail becomes a soft grassy road as we continue heading north on the Sterling Lake Loop.

First view of Sterling Lake

First view of Sterling Lake

Our first glimpses of Sterling Lake appears to our left as the trail turns northwest.

Sweetfern

Sweetfern

Whew! Let’s take a quick breather and take time to look at some of the vegetation growing near the trail. Here’s some Sweetfern native to the Eastern US. Its name is misleading as Sweetfern is not a fern at all but a deciduous shrub. The “sweet” in Sweetfern is correct as the leaves give off a sweet odor when crushed. Sweetfern typically grows in dry upland habitat.

Hog Peanut

Hog Peanut

Hey! Is this Poison Ivy? It’s got the whole “leaves of three leave ’em be” look. Nope, it’s a vine known as Hog Peanut. Hog Peanut is a member of the Bean Family (unlike Poison Ivy which is a member of the Cashew Family) and helps out plants growing nearby by correcting Nitrogen levels in the soil. Hog Peanut is common in both dry and mesic (moist) forest types.

American Chestnut

American Chestnut

Here’s American Chestnut. The American Chestnut tree was an important member of the eastern forest found in the United States. A wide variety of wildlife fed on its chestnuts. Mature American Chestnuts began to die off in 1904 due to imported Chestnut Blight from Asia. The blight,  imported to the US via Asian chestnut trees, is a fungus dispersed by spores in the air, raindrops and animals. American Chestnut now survives only in the understory as shoots sprouting from old roots (which are not affected by the blight). The American Chestnut sprouts reach about twenty feet before the blight strikes. The roots then shoots up new sprouts and the process repeats itself. The American Chestnut Foundation  is currently working to restore the once great American Chestnut back to its native range. Check out the book American Chestnut : The Life, Death, and Rebirth of a Perfect Tree for more information. Click here!

Powerline Cut

Powerline Cut

Milkweed in Bloom

Milkweed in Bloom

Continuing north we reach a Powerline cut in the forest. Powerline cuts create permanent Shrubland which provides habitat for flora such as Milkweed, an important wildlife plant (especially for Monarch Butterflies) which does not grow in the dense shade of the forest floor.

6.01 (46)

 

Heading south a portion of the Yellow Blazed 6.2 mile Sterling Valley Trail joins the Sterling Lake Loop trail from the north.

Tiny Toad

 

Looking down as we walk on the jointly blazed Sterling Lake Loop & Sterling Valley Loop we spot movement. Tiny toads!

Little Toads

Little Toads

Let’s carefully and slowly proceed west on the jointly blazed Sterling Lake/Sterling Valley trail watching where we step.

Sterling Lake

Sterling Lake

We have now arrived at the northern tip of Sterling Lake.

 

Approaching a small sandy beach we spot a turtle digging in the sand.

Turtle heading back to Sterling Lake

Turtle heading back to Sterling Lake

But, as soon as we spot this turtle it takes off with surprising speed to Sterling Lake…..

Turtle back in Sterling Lake

 

…where it quickly disappears under the water.

Pond

Pond

Leaving the sandy beach and the now vanished turtle behind we cross an earthen causeway separating the pond above from Sterling Lake.

Beaver Lodge

Beaver Lodge

Taking a closer look at the pond reveals an active beaver lodge.

5-Line Skink

5-Line Skink

Continuing west past a former boat launch a movement on a rock catches our eye. A 5-Lined Skink! Native to the Eastern US, the 5-Link Skink is one of the most common lizards found in the Eastern Forest.

Blueberries

Blueberries

Heading south on the jointly blazed Sterling Lake Loop and Sterling Valley Loop we spot some blueberries growing along the side of the trail.  The blueberries provide a refreshing treat as we continue our hike.

Sterling Valley Trail Exits

Sterling Valley Trail Exits

As we continue south Sterling Lake now appears to our left and the Yellow Blazed Sterling Valley Trail exits.

Sterling Lake View

 

Continuing south on the Sterling Lake Loop trail we see beautiful views of Sterling Lake.

Sterling Forest Fire Tower Connector Trail

Sterling Forest Fire Tower Connector Trail

As we walk we find the woods road the trail has been following has ended and the trail now follows a paved road (West Sterling Lake Road) passing the Fire Connector trail to our left.

Lakeville Ironworks Trail

Lakeville Ironworks Trail

Ruins

Ruins

As we walk on the pavement we pass ruins of Lakeville Ironworks and the trailhead of the 3/4 of a mile mile Lakeville Ironworks trail. These buildings are remnants of former mining operations.

More Ruins

 

Located in the Highlands geologic region, the hills of Sterling Forest were mined for iron ore known as magnetite beginning in 1730 and ending in the 1920’s when the last of the mines shut down.

Help Save New York's Ash Trees

Help Save New York’s Ash Trees

As we walk we notice signs tied to nearby White Ash trees. The signs are in relation to the Emerald Ash Borer, a destructive pest from Asia which threatens all ash trees. The mature emerald ash borer does not pose a threat. It is the larva of these borers which eat away at the heartwood of ash trees.

Sterling Lake Outlet with Sterling Furnace in distance

Sterling Lake Outlet with Sterling Furnace in distance

Heading east on a footpath back in the forest we are now crossing the outlet of Sterling Lake near its dam. The Sterling Lake dam was originally built in the mid 1700’s to provide water power to the the Sterling Furnace. The dam raised the water level of Sterling Lake by 8 feet. A mine (now completely filled with water) was located directly below Sterling Lake.

Sterling Furnace

Sterling Furnace

Sterling Furnace was used until 1804 to create Pig Iron. Later, raw iron ore was shipped by trail to PA to be smelted using large coal deposits. The furnace was rebuilt by the City Investing Corporation in the 1950’s.

Remains of Lakeville Church

Remains of Lakeville Church

Near the visitor center we pass the  foundation of Lakeville’s Church. Well, we are now back at the visitor center and have completed our virtual hike of Sterling Lake! I hope you enjoyed your journey and that you check out this hike in person!

Click here for directions!

Woods Road

 

Check out the latest bird sightings here!

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. 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!

4.60 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!

5. 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!

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