Monday, January 24, 2011

Going Local - Garret Mountain and Mills Reservation

I live in the very urban Essex County and work in the only slightly less urban Passaic County. But I pass natural areas every day on my short drive to work and they are places I visit frequently.

Garret Mountain Reservation is Passaic county's major recreational area. It offers visitors grass fields, several miles of walking/running trails, basketball courts, and picnic areas.

Barbour's Pond is state stocked with fish for anglers. This manmade pond is on the Slippery Rock Brook and was created in 1888. Its normal surface area is 11 acres.

There is an Equestrian Center with horseback riding lessons.

This woodland oasis is a good place to see migrating song birds, including 35 species of Warblers, numerous Vireos, Orioles, Sparrows and Thrushes. Birdwatchers from the Tri-state areas flock to this hotspot for great views of 150+ species per year along the easily accessible trails.

Lambert Castle
Lambert Castle, located on the eastern slope of the mountain, just off Route 19, is a 19th century castle which has been recently renovated and now hosts the Passaic County Museum (open to the public).

The "Castle" was built in 1893 by a wealthy silk manufacturer. (Paterson was known as "Silk City".) Many workers believed Catholina Lambert built it high up on the mountain to watch over his mills below.The Morris Canal once ran at the site of Lambert Castle.

This area is especially rich in labor and industrial history.  You can spend several days with visits to Lambert Castle as well as the nearby Paterson Museum-Thomas Rodgers Building [manufactured steam engines] at 2 Market Street, and the Great Falls and related raceway system which was a source of water power (start at the Visitors' Center at 65 McBride Avenue Extension). The American Labor Museum/Botto House was the 1913 silk strike headquarters and is at 83 Norwood Street in Haledon.

Trail Information 

Mills Reservation is a county park located on the First Watchung Mountain, consisting of a 157.15-acre (0.6360 km2) protected wooded area located in Cedar Grove and Montclair, New Jersey, United States. The reservation is maintained by the Essex County Park Commission.

In 1954 the Park Commission received a gift of 118.9 acres from the Davella Mills Foundation. The stipulation for the original gift was that the land be preserved in its natural state. Therefore, the only development undertaken on this land was a small parking area and a system of walking trails that gives the public access to the interior—a minimal design by the Olmsteds in their last association with Essex County. There are no buildings in Mills Reservation.

The reservation has several walking/jogging trails, including four major trails and numerous smaller trails. One of the four main trails leads to a cliff that overlooks the New York City skyline. See

Activities in Mills Reservation include walking, jogging, hiking, and birding. Bike riding is prohibited by the county - but I have passed a number of cyclists and there is ample evidence of bikes on the trails.

During World War Two, an anti-aircraft gun emplacement was made in Mills Reservation at the southern lookout point (called Quarry Point) on the cliffs overlooking New York City. All that remains of this today is a circular cement platform.

The area has attracted bird watchers who observe migratory birds, such as warblers in the spring and hawks in the fall. The Montclair Hawk Lookout is atop a 500-foot basalt ledge on a ridge across from Quarry Point on the First Watchung Mountain in Montclair, New Jersey. It is a well constructed, stone-filled platform that is the site of the Montclair Hawk Lookout, a sanctuary of the New Jersey Audubon Society.

This is the first ridge west of the lower Hudson River Valley, and runs from northeast to southwest. The view from the platform is south and east with a view of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the entire New York City skyline including the Statue of Liberty, all the way northeast to the Palisades. To the north and west, peaks from the Ramapo Mountains can be discerned, and the beginning of the Second Watchung Mountain.

Quarry Point in Mills Reservation is where the Spring Hawk Count is conducted, as the visibility to the south is better from there.

The Montclair Hawk Watch has been conducted there since 1957. It is the second oldest continuous hawk watch in the nation.

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