Ringwood State Park: Jungle Habitat

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Jungle Habitat was a short-lived Warner Brothers theme park in West Milford, NJ. It featured a drive through safari ride with exotic wild animals. When the park closed abruptly in 1976, urban legend had it that the animals were released into the woods.

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Twelve years after Jungle Habitat closed, the State of NJ purchased the land from Warner Brothers for $1.45 million, with the site being managed by Ringwood State Park. In 2007, a volunteer group called JORBA, began working with the state to create mountain biking trails on the 800 acre property.

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In 2017, The State rejected a bid to turn the site into a for-profit mountain bike park and planned to incorporate it into Norvin Green State Forest, which is also managed by Ringwood State Park. Name change ideas were requested from the community since Jungle Habitat is still copyrighted by WB.

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I toured Jungle Habitat recently with about 30 others with Take a Hike NJ. Nature has reclaimed the parking lots, animal enclosures and tram tracks for the most part, giving the place a Jurassic Park vibe.

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There is a well-marked red-blazed trail just outside the parking lot, but to see the ruins, you must venture in further to unmarked territory. I was glad to be with a large group of people as it would be easy to get lost.

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While exploring we encountered several mountain bikers and a couple of people walking their dogs.  But alas, we did not see the wolf packs or stray baboons of urban legend.

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Location: 109 Airport Rd, West Milford, NJ 07480

Designation: State Park

Date designated or established: 1988

Date of my visit: August 25, 2019

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Walkill River National Wildlife Refuge: Liberty Loop Trail

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

Years ago, I lived in a more rural section of New Jersey, right on the border of Orange County, New York. Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge was established in the years that I lived there to protect the water quality and manage the waterfowl dependent on the wetlands in the valley. There are several nature trails available for hiking.

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While most of the refuge is in New Jersey, the trail head closest to my house was in New York. The 2.5-mile Liberty Loop Trail was created on a sod farm that was allowed to revert to its natural state and is co-aligned with the Appalachian Trail for one mile.

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The trail begins on a short boardwalk section and loops around the wetlands. It is a nice flat trail and especially scenic when the leaves start turning…perfect for a short nature walk with little kids.

Location: Oil City Rd, Pine Island, NY

Designation: National Wildlife Refuge

Date designated or established: 1990

Date of my visit: 10/16/2004

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The Celery Farm Preserve Revisited

 

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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I recently had the chance to visit the Celery Farm, this time in summer. It was a steamy day and there was a volunteer spraying garlic in the brush to keep the deer at bay. Unfortunately mosquitoes are undeterred by garlic, though the volunteer assured me that the dragonflies were eating the mosquitoes at this time of year.

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The Celery Farm is a 107-acre wetland preserve in Allendale, New Jersey. The park was once a celery farm and was part of the John Fell estate, dating back to the Revolutionary War era. You can see my post about the John Fell House, which is across the street from the preserve, by clicking here.

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In the 1950s, a non-profit organization called Fyke formed with the mission of saving some of Bergen County’s last undeveloped tracts of land. Today, this group maintains the trails and viewing platforms in the Celery Farm.

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The preserve is an important habitat for birds…over 240 species have been seen here and it is a breeding site for over 50 bird species. This visit I saw a lot of deer…they found plenty to munch on that hadn’t been sprayed with garlic.

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The main trail is an easy level loop around a large lake. In the summer, the reeds were so high in most places that the lake wasn’t visible.

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Location: Franklin Turnpike, Allendale, NJ 07401

Designation: Preserve and Bird Sanctuary

Date designated or established: 1952

Date of my visit: August 3, 2019

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Reflections on an Empty Sky: Liberty State Park

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! This is a special post in remembrance of the victims of the 9-11 terror attacks.

Empty Sky is New Jersey’s State Memorial to its victims of the September 11th attacks. It is in Liberty State Park on the waterfront, directly across from the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. If you stand in the center of the western end, the empty sky framed by the walls of the memorial are where the Twin Towers once stood.

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The walls are meant to symbolize the towers laying on their sides and are inscribed with the names of New Jersey’s 746 victims. At the entrance to the walls stands a sculpture made from one of the twin towers steel beams.

I took these photos on a bright morning in May of 2016 while waiting with a photography group for the ferry to Ellis Island. Though nearly 15 years had passed since the attacks, gazing at the empty sky through the steel walls was still a hushed and solemn moment for all of us.

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May the departed rest in peace and may their children go on to make the world a better place.

Location: 1 Audrey Zapp Dr, Jersey City, NJ 07305

Designation: State Memorial

Date designation declared: 9/10/2011

Date of my visit: 5/15/2016

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Princeton Historic District: Princeton University – NRHP

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Welcome back to National Parks with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Princeton University is one of the nine Colonial universities founded before the American Revolution. It dates back to 1746, when it was The College of New Jersey in Elizabeth and then moved to Newark. In 1756, it moved to its current site in Princeton, New Jersey into the original Nassau Hall building.

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The college was renamed Princeton University in 1896 has consistently been ranked the USA’s top university over the past two decades. Many influential people have graduated from the institution including two US presidents and twelve US Supreme Court justices. It is currently around $66,000 a year to attend Princeton, if you can get in.

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After the completion of Nassau Hall (a national landmark on its own), the campus continued to expand around it. Today, the Princeton campus sits on 500 acres with many gorgeous Collegiate Gothic style buildings and some more modern architecture on the south side.

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A friend from out of town wanted to photograph the architecture, so we drove down to the campus only to find it was move-in day for the students and abuzz with activity. The good thing about this is that there were plenty of people to offer directions and we were able to ride the campus bus from the parking lot to the historic section.

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Location: 125 Faculty Rd., Princeton, NJ

Designation: National Register of Historic Places

Date designated or established: June 27, 1975

Date of my visit: 9/3/2016

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The Princeton University Chapel opened in 1928, replacing an older one that had burned down.

Island Beach State Park

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Island Beach State Park in New Jersey is a ten-mile long barrier island between Barnegat Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The State purchased the land from entrepreneur Henry Phipps Jr to preserve the natural environment as a park.

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The State also maintains the Phipps mansion as a summer residence for the governor. This became infamous when Governor Christie was photographed vacationing there in the summer of 2017 amidst a state government shutdown (beach-chair Christie memes were very popular that year.)

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Island Beach is one of few undeveloped patches of Jersey Shore. In the summer, visitors can enjoy the pristine beaches without all the commercialism of the surrounding boardwalk communities.

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In the off-season, its a nice place for short hikes, fishing and dune buggying. The bayside has a network of water trails for kayaking.

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Island Beach is also a diverse wildlife habitat. Foxes are often seen playing here and occasionally snowy owls are photographed in the dunes. There had been recent sightings of two owls in the park when we visited, but we weren’t lucky enough to see one that day.

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The Interpretive Center is about 7 miles from the entry gate. We parked there first…the restrooms were open, but the nature center was not. We picked up the Johnny Allen’s Cove Trail behind the building.

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First we took the fork to the right, through the maritime forest with its holly trees and on out to the dunes and the beach beyond. Even though it was mid-morning, the sky still had the pinkish glow of sunrise.

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Then we backtracked and took the trail out to the bay side. We had to cross the park road to do this, but it was pretty quiet in the park.  We walked through the salt marsh, past some vacant osprey platforms to the bay.

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We drove down to the last parking lot at the southernmost tip of the island. This is where people with dune buggies can off road on the beach.  Just over the dunes, we could see Barnegat Light on neighboring Long Beach Island.

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Location: Central Ave, Seaside Park, NJ 08752

Designation: State Park

Date designated or established: 1953

Date of my visit: January 6, 2019

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View of Island Beach State Park from Barnegat Lighthouse

Ramapo County Reservation: Falls

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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We frequently visit Ramapo County Reservation. It’s a great green space in the midst of densely populated suburbia, has plenty of well-maintained trails and it’s dog friendly. Scroll down for the link to my previous post about this park.

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We were late getting there to celebrate the arrival of spring this year because Lily had been sick in April and required surgery.  Finally, by Memorial Day Weekend, everyone was healthy enough to get out to the park.

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We crossed the bridge past the turtle bog and headed straight to the section of the Yellow Vista Loop Trail that heads towards the park’s waterfall.

In May, there was still a decent amount of water flowing. By late summer, it slows to a trickle.

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After resting at the falls, we headed back to the car, satisfied with a short hike for this day. Little did we know that this would be Monkey’s last hike. She fell ill and died only three weeks after these photos were taken.

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Ramapo Reservation Posts:

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Location: 608 Ramapo Valley Rd, Mahwah, NJ 07430

Designation: County Park

Date designated or established: 1972

Date of my visit: 5/25/2019

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