Monday, May 3, 2010
Less than 5 miles north of the George Washington Bridge, off U.S. Route 9W, it an oasis of solitude and natural beauty, minutes away from one of the noisiest, most densely populated areas in the world.
In the wildest, most secluded acres, trees rise 100 to 130 feet and are often over 200 years old.
Hikers feel hundreds of miles and years away from the cities in such primeval forests. Greenbrook members who enjoy hiking the 6.5 miles of trails in the sanctuary are encouraged to post their observations of flora and fauna on a bulletin board in the parking lot. These listings often alert fellow members to some of the more interesting sights on this portion of the Palisades.
Spring is a great time to visit. In March, the pond, bog, and swamps fill with the egg masses of wood frogs and spotted salamanders. Afterwards, the voices of the spring peeper, pickerel frog, and bull frog fill the spring evenings with mating songs. The dominant reptiles are eastern garter and northern water snakes, and painted and snapping turtles. Rarely, copperhead snakes, five-lined skinks, milk and black snakes, and musk turtles are seen.
In early spring, before the trees produce their leaves, the sanctuary experiences a parade of colorful wildflowers springing up from the forest floor, and the fiddleheads of twenty species of native ferns uncoiling from the dead leaves.
By late summer and fall, an amazing variety of mushrooms, shelf fungi, and slime molds can be seen.
The sanctuary is largely an oak forest, especially along the cliff edge where red oaks, hickory, and black birch dominate. In cooler, moister, more fertile coves, sugar maple, beech, dogwood, and tulip trees are common. Swampy, poorly drained areas are covered with red maple, sweet gum, elm, tupelo, hornbeam, pin oak, ash, and willow. Common shrubs are maple-leaf viburnum, witch hazel, laurel, blueberry, wild azalea, poison ivy, grape, and, in wet areas, spicebush.
A five-acre pond with small adjoining bog increase the great diversity of this sanctuary. The 250-foot Greenbrook Falls is one of three major streams which drain the area and tumble down the ancient diabase cliffs into the Hudson River.
Views of these waterfalls, the Palisades and Highlands to the north, and the densely populated cities across the Hudson, are possible from several promontories which look down 350 feet into the river.
Looking more for fauna than flora? Over 250 species of birds have been identified in the sanctuary. During the migratory seasons it is not unusual to observe eighty species in one day, including twenty varieties of colorful warblers and, in the fall, thousands of hawks (and an occasional eagle) soaring along the cliffs. Among the more exciting nesting birds are great horned owl, broad-winged hawk, pileated woodpecker, ruffed grouse, wood duck, scarlet tanager, rose-breasted grosbeak, worm-eating warbler, and indigo bunting.
Common mammals include the nocturnal raccoon, red fox, striped skunk, gray squirrels, chipmunk, muskrat, cotton-tail rabbit, and the secretive white-footed mouse, short-tailed shrew, and common mole. Deer, opossums, weasels, flying squirrels, and red bats are also occasionally seen.
Special programs are offered.
Directions to Greenbrook Sanctuary
Hiking information and videos http://njhiking.ning.com/video/greenbrook-sanctuary