Liberty State Park: Black Tom

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Liberty State Park is on the Jersey City waterfront in full view of the NYC skyline, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. The park was opened in 1976 for the nation’s bicentennial. The green oasis in urban surroundings is considered ‘The People’s Park.’

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I’ve visited this park many times and blogged about the Empty Sky Memorial and the Central Railroad of NJ Terminal which are both on park grounds. On a recent visit to the park with a community group, our tour guide brought us to a section I hadn’t been to before: Black Tom.

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Black Tom was originally an island between Jersey City and Liberty Island which became a peninsula when the railroad added landfill. Black Tom became a major munitions depot for the US in the early 1900s.  By early 1915, the US had not yet entered WWI, but was only selling weapons to the Allied powers.

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Imperial Germany sent spies to the US to infiltrate and destroy the ammunition stockpile at Black Tom. On July 30th, German agents caused an explosion in the the depot that was equivalent to an earthquake of 5.5 on the Richter Scale. Windows shattered in midtown Manhattan, the roof of the Ellis Island Immigration Center collapsed (prompting the evacuation of immigrants to lower Manhattan) and the Statue of Liberty’s torch-bearing arm suffered structural damage (the torch has been closed to visitors since then!)

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Though only a handful of people died in the attack, the property damage equated to $460 million in modern times. The attack also was one of the factors that led to the US entering the war. After WWI, the US sued Germany to be compensated for the loss, but WWII got in the way of the debt being paid.

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Today, there is little evidence of the catastrophic explosion that took place here. There’s a picnic area, some jetties, a circle of flags and a sculpture of a WWII soldier carrying a concentration camp victim.

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Location: 402 Morris Pesin Dr, Jersey City, NJ 07305

Designation: State Park

Date designation declared: 1976

Date of my visit: 9/23/2019

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Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse: NRHP

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The Lighthouse Challenge of NJ celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2019. I visited about half of the participating sites, focusing on the ones I didn’t see in 2018.

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I arrived at the first stop on my list, the Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse, right at dawn. I climbed the stairs to the top to watch the sun rise over Philadelphia.

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Tinicum is in Paulsboro, NJ and is one of a pair of lights marking a section of the Delaware River. It is still an active navigational aid. By aligning the front and rear range lights and aiming for the center, ship avoid Little Tinicum Island as the travel up the Delaware.

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The light was first activated on December 31, 1880 and had keeper’s quarters. The Coast Guard automated the signal in 1933. The Keeper’s homes were demolished in the 1950s, leaving just the steel frame towers.

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2019 Lighthouse Challenge Posts:

  • Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse
  • Finn’s Point Lighthouse
  • Supawna Meadows NWR
  • East Point Lighthouse
  • Maurice River
  • Cape May Lighthouse
  • Cape May Point State Park
  • Tatham Lifesaving Station
  • Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary
  • Lifesaving Station 30

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Location: 70 Second Street, Paulsboro, NJ 08066, USA

Designation: National Register of Historic Places

Date designated or established: September 15, 2005

Date of my visit: October 19, 2019

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Ramapo Mountain State Forest: Van Slyke Castle

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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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Ramapo Mountain State Forest protects 4,269 acres in the mountainous region of Northern New Jersey. It is in both Passaic and Bergen Counties and is a separate park from the adjacent Ramapo County Reservation.

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There is a well-marked network of trails here. I met up with a local hiking group in the upper lot on Skyline Drive. In my previous visit to this park, I’d begun at the lower lot.

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After hiking down to Ramapo Lake, we walked around the lake on the Blue trail and ascended the White/Castle Trail to the ruins of Van Slyke Castle.

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Once up top, we had great views of the NYC skyline, Ramapo Lake and another body of water.

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Van Slyke Castle was built in the early 1900s by two of Ruth Cole’s three husbands. Her second husband, William Porter began the mansion on Fox Mountain and called it Foxcroft. Porter died before it was completed and Ruth continued the construction, re-naming it after her third husband Warren Van Slyke.

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After Van Slyke died in 1925, Ruth lived there until 1940. The mansion was left to her family who sold it. It was then abandoned during a bitter divorce. It burned down in 1959, leaving behind the stone walls.

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We explored the castle ruins before looping around, past a water tower, to return to Skyline Drive.

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Ramapo State Forest Posts:

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Location: Skyline Drive, Wanaque, NJ 07465

Designation: NJ State Forest

Date designated or established: 1976

Date of my visit: 9/1/2019

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Rockleigh Woods Sanctuary

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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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Rockleigh Woods Sanctuary was once a Boy Scout Camp on the border of New Jersey and New York near the Palisades. Rockleigh Borough purchased the land in 1975 and the NY-NJ Trail conference maintains five blazed trails in the Sanctuary’s 84 wooded acres.

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I met up with Take A Hike NJ at the sanctuary on a nice September day and brought along my dogs. This is a dog friendly park. We encountered many other dogs on the trail (and one horse), though my girls seemed to be the only ones on leash.

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We followed the yellow and white blazes, hiking about 3.5 miles and gained 500 feet in elevation. There were several stream crossings with strategically placed stepping stones. We passed some ruins along the way and saw some bright orange mushrooms.

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The Borough of Rockleigh is a Historic District. The land was given to New York by New Jersey in the 1600s and reverted back to New Jersey in 1769 in a border dispute resolution between the two states.

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Location: 26 Rockleigh Rd, Rockleigh, NJ 07647

Designation: Borough Park

Date designated or established: 1975

Date of my visit: 9/28/2019

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Victorian Christmas at Ringwood Manor

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Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T! Merry Christmas to my followers who celebrate and best wishes to all for a Happy New Year.

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Last year, my daughter and I visited Ringwood Manor for the Victorian Christmas Event. The Manor was built in 1807 and then purchased by the Cooper-Hewitt family in 1853.

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The 51 room mansion was donated to the state by Erskine Hewitt, the last heir of the family’s iron fortune.

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In December, the Women’s Club of West Milford decorates the first floor of the mansion and hosts an open house to raise funds for the park. There are also concerts on a few nights…tickets to the concert must be purchased in advance.

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Ringwood State Park posts:

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Location: 1304 Sloatsburg Rd, Ringwood, NJ 07456

Designation: National Historic Landmark District, State Park

Date designated or established: November 13, 1966

Date of my visit: 12/8/2018

 

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This one of the original 10 rooms of the mansion built in 1807 and decorated in the Washingtonian style favored at the time.

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Sarah Hewitt was an avid collector of fine things, including marquetry as seen in the table, chairs and cabinets in this room.

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Ramapo County Reservation: MacMillan Reservoir

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We adopted a new puppy earlier this summer. The rescue group advised us to socialize her with as many dogs and people as possible. So when I noticed Take A Hike! NJ had scheduled a dog friendly hike at Ramapo Reservation, I decided to take Trudy and Lily.

The group followed the yellow trail to the waterfall and then continued up to MacMillan Reservoir. Some of the Labradors and golden retrievers in the group enjoyed splashing around in the water.

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We’d taken this route a few weeks earlier with Trudy, Lily and a friend’s dog. The MacMillan Reservoir was originally created to supply the nearby Crocker Mansion, built in 1907. Now, people fish there or let their dogs frolic in the water.

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: 8/9/2019

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Ramapo Mountain State Forest: Ramapo Lake

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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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Ramapo Mountain State Forest protects 4,269 acres in the mountainous region of Northern New Jersey. It is in both Passaic and Bergen Counties and is a separate park from the adjacent Ramapo County Reservation.

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There is a well-marked network of trails here. I met up with a local hiking group in the upper lot on Skyline Drive. In my previous visit to this park, I’d begun at the lower lot.

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We followed the yellow Hoeferlin Trail which was a rocky descent from Skyline Drive to Ramapo Lake. Ramapo Lake is a man-made lake. It is 120 acres now and began as a 25-acre pond.

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In the late 1800s, it was known as Rotten Poel. Jacob Rogers, a locomotive engineer, bought this land in the late 1800s. He dammed the pond’s tributary, creating the larger lake.

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We continued around the lake on the blue MacEvoy Trail. We passed a house with a garden meant to restore native vegetation. Lily pads were blooming on the lake.

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Continuing around the lake we continued onto the white trail and our ascent to the Van Slyke Castle.

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Ramapo State Forest Posts:

 

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Location: Skyline Drive, Wanaque, NJ 07465

Designation: NJ State Forest

Date designated or established: 1976

Date of my visit: 9/1/2019

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