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.
We will have views of the adjacent Pompton River and a hike through a preserved floodplain forest. Ready? Let’s go!
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
We’ve been spotted! A white-tailed deer family is watching us closely. Let’s keep going!
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!
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.
Pyramid Mountain contains a wide variety of natural habitats which support the following flora & fauna (among many other species found within Pyramid Mountain):
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.
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.
Ready to continue? Let’s retrace our steps on the red dot trail back to the yellow trail.
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
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
From here we will take a right on the 1.5 mile green blazed Waterfall trail.
Lake Valhalla View
Wow! What a view! We have come to the Lake Valhalla overlook. Lake Valhalla is a private lake surrounded by homes.
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
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.
We have now arrived at an intersection with the 0.9 mile Red trail and pass under some massive powerlines.
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.
As we approach the North Valhalla Brook waterfall the 3.7 Yellow trail branches off heading northeast.
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
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.
You can learn more about water classification in NJ by clicking here –> factsheet1
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:
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Nearby is interpretive signage #7: Pond View which discusses common wildlife found in and around Brinton Pond such as Wood Ducks.
#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
What’s that we see on a rock? It’s a female Wood Duck and its 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
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.
Continuing east the trail crosses over an earthen dam of the pond.
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.
Turkey Trail (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
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
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.
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)
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
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.
As we continue on we pass the 2nd entrance to Laurel Rock Trail and cross Brinton Brook.
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.
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.
#18 A 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
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!
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!
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.
Heading out, we pass a picture of a map of the preserve including the route we will be taking today.
Lenoir Preserve Trail Map
Ready to begin?
White Trail Trailhead
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.
Building near White Trail
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.
Old Manmade Pond
Continuing our walk we find an old man-made pond. The pond still fills with water from an old pipe buried underground.
As we walk a twisty looking plant known as Wineberry is found all around us. Wineberry is native to Asia and an established invasive plant in the United States.
A little further on a yellow trail has joined the White Trail from the west.
Stone Steps Wooden Bridge
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.
Stairs Yellow Trail
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.
Archway Yellow Trail
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.
Yellow Trail Beginning
Let’s head back down the Yellow trail to continue our journey on the white trail in Lenoir’s forest.
White Trail Rock Path
As we walk more ruins appear as the sun filters through the leafless trees.
White Trail Ruins
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.
White Blaze on Black Birch
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.
Alder Mansion Garden
Peaking through an old iron gate we see an expansive old garden.
Crows Chasing Hawk
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?
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.
Bird Feeders Rain Garden
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!