Middle Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! Today is National Public Lands Day and this year’s theme is Resilience and Restoration. It is a fee-free day for most parks, so get out and find your park.

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The Middle Delaware is a National Park Service unit contained within another NPS unit, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The Wild & Scenic Rivers System was established 50 years ago and protects nearly 13 thousand miles of US rivers. These protected areas are managed by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish & Wildlife Service, and the US Forest Service.

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I began my exploration of the Middle Delaware at the Kittatinny Point Visitors Center, right off Route 80 in Columbia, NJ. There, I was able get some pins, look at a map and speak to a ranger about places to go in the park. There is a beach behind the visitors center with a great view of the Delaware Water Gap.

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A water gap is formed when water carves a path through a mountain range. In Earth’s ancient history, the North American and African continents collided, creating the Kittatinny Ridge. Streams flowing on one side of the ridge scoured a channel over the course of millions of years and became the Delaware River.

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I traveled upriver on Old Mine Road, a narrow road with scary potholes and numerous pull-outs for trailheads and river access. I stopped first at a small pull-out and walked a little way on a level trail that parallels the river. There are some big old trees here.

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Next I stopped at Turtle Beach, but didn’t get out because the lot was deserted except for one run down vehicle and I couldn’t see to the river or the road from there. Maybe next time. A little further north, I found Poxono.

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Poxono has a boat launch and used to be a Boy Scout camp. There were a few vehicles here, but most of the people were out fishing on the river. I got right down to the water’s edge and had some terrific, unobstructed views of the river.

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Location: 85 Mercer Rd, Highlands, NJ 07732

Designation: 40 miles of the Delaware river, Delaware Water Gap, PA to Milford, PA

Date designation declared: 11/10/1978

Date of my visit: 6/3/2018

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View downstream of Poxono
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Poxono, an island in the middle of the Delaware River.

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NRHP: Old Stone House

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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.

For the past 8 years, the Northwest Bergen History Coalition  in Bergen County, NJ has been holding a themed History Day. On History Day, several historic sites in the area are open, running tours and stamping passports. This year, the theme was ‘How Immigration & The Railroad Shaped Our Towns’ with 10 sites participating.

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The Old Stone House  in Ramsey dates back to the early 1700s. It is actually the Westervelt–Ackerson House, but the highway directional sign as well as the NHRP sign out front refer to it as the Old Stone House. It is a Dutch Colonial farmhouse built from rustic materials including straw and hogs hair.

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The Westervelts purchased the land from the Lenape Nation for 50 ounces of silver. After the family moved from the farmhouse, it became a stagecoach stop and then a tavern. It is rumored that Aaron Burr stopped at the tavern for the night before he continued on to the Hermitage to marry Theodosia Prevost.

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Today, the Old Stone House is awkwardly situated inside a clover leaf exchange off Route 17. Originally, the State of NJ had purchased the property with the intent to demolish it to build an overpass. But local community groups intervened, saved the home from destruction and now manage it as a museum.

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I managed to tour five of the participating sites that day. To see my posts on the other NW Bergen County historic sites, click on the following links:

  1. The Old Stone House (Ramsey)
  2. The Schoolhouse Museum (Ridgewood) – Coming Soon
  3. The Hermitage (Ho-ho-kus) – Coming Soon
  4. The Zabriskie House (Wyckoff) – Coming Soon
  5. The John Fell House (Allendale) – Coming Soon

Location: 2538 Island Road, Ramsey, NJ 07446

Designation: National Register of Historic Places

Date designation declared: 7/20/1977

Date of my visit: 4/28/2018

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The docent showing me around the house said this large cabinet probably came with the family when they immigrated from Holland and so could date back to the 1600s.

 

Liberty State Park: Empty Sky

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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.

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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. The memorial was completed and dedicated on the eve of the tenth anniversary of 9-11.

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I have visited this place many times since April of 2014, and taken better quality photos than these. But the first one from that day, of my daughter alone in the memorial reaching out to touch the names, best conveys to me the sadness that I feel when I stand here.

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: 4/26/2014

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Morristown National Historical Park: Ford Mansion

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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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The Ford Mansion in Morristown National Historical Park was built by Jacob Ford, Jr. in 1774. The home is considered a mansion because of its grand hall, formal parlor and palladian windows. These were meant to showcase the Fords’  wealth which was earned in the family’s iron forge business.

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Ford served in the militia, but died of pneumonia in 1777. His wife, Theodosia, took ownership of the house and kept the family businesses running…unusual for a woman in those days. She rented the house to Continental Army soldiers and weathered a smallpox outbreak as a result.

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George Washington arrived  in 1779 and paid to rent the Ford Mansion. He, his wife, aides and servants moved in while his army camped nearby in Jockey Hollow.

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Theodosia and her children lived in two downstairs rooms of the house while Washington was in residence.

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The location was ideal for Washington and his troops as it was midway between Manhattan (capital for the British Army) and Philadelphia (the American capital.)

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The Ford businesses also provided critical resources for Washington’s army. Washington used the Ford Mansion as his headquarters until June of 1780.

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You must take a ranger-guided tour in order to see the inside of the house.

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Tickets for the tour are first come, first served and can be purchased at the Washington’s Headquarters museum, Wednesdays through Sundays in the Spring and Summer.

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I took the tour with a friend in the beginning of the season and it was actually pretty full.

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Location: 30 Washington Place, Morristown, NJ 07960

Designation: National Historical Park

Date designation declared: 3/2/1933

Date of my visit: April 2016

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Gateway National Recreation Area: Sandy Hook

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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.

Sandy Hook in New Jersey is one of Gateway National Recreation Area’s three geographical units. The other two are in Staten Island and Queens, with the three parks framing the ‘gateway’ to New York Harbor.

I grew up on Staten Island and Sandy Hook was the closest beach to us for summer Jersey Shore trips. We’d load up the station wagon with family, friends and beach paraphernalia and head ‘down the shore’ several times during the hot summer months each year. Without a commercial boardwalk, it was the quietest beach within our day-trip radius, but we still left bright and early to avoid the traffic.

As kids, we thought of it as a welcome escape from the heat and a chance to body surf in waves less gross than on the Staten Island beaches. We didn’t realize that the peninsula had more to offer than the beach just after the entry gate or a life outside of July and August.

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Spermaceti Cove Life-Saving station was built in 1894 as a base from which to rescue shipwreck survivors

I started visiting Sandy Hook again in recent years when a group of friends hosted a photo meet there on a mild March day. We spent the entire day walking the northern end of the peninsula, beginning at Fort Hancock.

Fort Hancock was built in 1896 and served as a primary defense of New York City up through the cold war. In 1954, operations were converted to a Nike missile base. The fort was decommissioned in 1974. There is still an active Coast Guard station just north of the fort.

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What remains of the fort are the ruins of the batteries and the distinctive row of yellow houses (Officer’s Row.) When I visited with the photo group in 2014, little more than a year had passed since Hurricane Sandy had devastated these buildings and the charter school located in the complex. The school was rebuilt shortly afterwards and I’m guessing the homes have now been stabilized as well because the NPS is bidding out 60 year leases for them (according to their website.)

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Sandy Hook is also home to the Sandy Hook Lighthouse. Sandy Hook claims to be the oldest lighthouse in the USA, and indeed, every time I post a photo of it on social media, a few fervent admirers will sing its virtues as THE oldest light still in use.

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However, I have been to Boston Light and heard exactly the same thing from the lighthouse-obsessed couple that live on that isolated island and keep the light running when not conducting tours.

People who love lighthouses are very passionate about them and their claims to fame.

So which IS the oldest working lighthouse? It looks like Sandy Hook might actually be the winner by a technicality. Sandy Hook was built in 1764. The ORIGINAL Boston light was built in 1716 but was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1783. Thank you, Wikipedia!

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Leaves of three, let it be!

That same year, I chaperoned a class trip to Sandy Hook for my daughter’s middle school. There were rangers and environmentalists on hand moving the kids through stations to learn about various aspects of the local ecosystem.

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We learned about the horseshoe crab, a living fossil that has been on this earth for 450 million years. Their blue blood is invaluable to the medical industry and there is no synthetic substitute for it. Over-harvesting has led to a marked decline in the population in recent years and the species is threatened.

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We were too late to save this one

After learning about the horseshoe crabs, the kids went out on to the beach and rescued the ones that had been beached by turning them over near the shore line and watching them swim away with the next wave.

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This one happily swam away with the next wave

A year or two after the field trip, by the miracle of Instagram, I discovered that there were seals to be seen in Sandy Hook during the cold winter months! I checked the NPS website and found that I could sign up for a free ranger-guided viewing of the seals. We met our ranger at the lighthouse and caravanned to an undisclosed location. The NPS is having trouble with people traumatizing wildlife for the sake of photos, or doing plain stupid things like taking selfies with grizzlies for social media, so the rangers asked us not to post location specifics. Remember folks, it is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act to come within 100 yards of the seals, so if you are lucky enough to see one on the beach, keep your distance.

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When we got to the viewing spot, the rangers set up some telescopes so we could see the seals more clearly. Even with my longest lens, the photos were still pretty far off, so we were in no danger of harassing a marine mammal that day. It was still pretty exciting to see them!

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Another great thing about Sandy Hook in the off-season is that dogs are allowed. There are lots of great paths winding through the fort area towards the beach at the very tip of the peninsula. On a clear day, you can see lower Manhattan from this beach.

And in the summer, I hear it’s a nude beach…no dogs or cameras allowed. 🙂

Location: 85 Mercer Rd, Highlands, NJ 07732

Designation: National Recreation Area

Date designation declared: 10/27/1972

Date of my visit: March 2016

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NRHP: Branch Brook Park

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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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Branch Brook Park is a county park in Essex County, New Jersey and protects the largest and most diverse collection of blossoming cherry trees in the world. It began in 1896 as the first county park open to the public in the US. In 1927 with a donation from the Bamberger (department store magnate) family, the cherry trees were planted. The expanded park was popular during the Great Depression. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.

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The groves grew to around 2000 trees, but by 2005, the original trees were dying out.  Through public support and the Branch Brook Alliance, the park was saved and restored. Today there are close to 5000 trees blossoming in the Spring.

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Having seen beautiful photos of this place on social media for the past few years, I decided to head over there on the first sunny April weekend. I was a little apprehensive about going there alone and at the crack of dawn. The park is within the city limits of Newark and there are some rough neighborhoods there.

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So I decided to begin at the Cherry Blossom Welcome Center which is on the outskirts of town. The welcome center has some displays inside and tours are offered from here seasonally (there is also a self-guided mobile phone tour which I did dial in to a few times.) When I arrived, there were a few other people wandering around with cameras, so it seemed safe enough. I took a few pictures here and then drove to the other end of the park via the park road.

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Branch Brook Lake is at the Southern end of the park with the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart on its East side.  The blooms were just starting here. We’ve had a very cold Spring. In fact, it was only 34 degrees while I was snapping these photos.

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On the west side are the Prudential Lions. These are replicas of the original limestone sculptures, crafted by Karl Ritter at the turn of the 20th century. The originals were restored by the former CEO of Prudential (whose wife was president of the Branch Brook Alliance) and moved to the Essex municipal building for their protection.

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There is also an interesting sculpture, awarded to a Newark choral group for winning a competition in 1909.

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Location: Lake Street & Park Avenue, Newark, NJ 07104

Designation: County Park, National Register of Historic Places

Date designation declared: 1/12/1981

Date of my visit: 4/21/2018

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Cute children’s playground by the Welcome Center
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Two signs of Spring in one frame and it was only 34 degrees Fahrenheit!

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Concerts take place here in the Summer
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It was difficult to photograph the Cathedral as the sun was rising behind it

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Paterson Great Falls NHP

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Lock on the pedestrian bridge over the river to the falls observation area.

Location: 65 McBride Avenue Extension, Paterson, NJ

Designation: National Historical Park

Date NPS designation declared: 11/07/2011

Date of my visit: 2/4/2017

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February 2017 was the second time I visited this park since it was designated a National Historical Park. Those of us who live in the area have always heard there were some big waterfalls nearby in the midst of a scary neighborhood, but were never really inclined to go find them. Now, with the presence of the National Park Service, there are plenty of visitors in and around the falls and at least by the light of day, it seems as safe as any other city. With an amazing waterfall right in the middle of it. The only other comparable place I can recall seeing the incongruity of nature’s raw power and beauty next to apartment buildings and abandoned warehouses is Sioux Falls, SD or maybe Willamette Falls in Oregon City.

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View of abandoned factories from the Raceway Trail

Once the NPS built a welcome center, I called ahead, found out when there would be a tour and my husband and I made the short drive to see the new park. That tour was led by Ernie, a Paterson native and retired Marine. His enthusiasm for the city of Paterson and its historical significance was catching. The Industrial Revolution in America sprang up here, around the power of the Great Falls.  After the tour, Ernie showed me the best place to set up my tripod for an iconic shot of the falls. At the time, Ernie was a volunteer. Now, I believe he is a ranger.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2017. I arranged a group tour for my Instagram/Photo meet-up group with volunteer Terry. Terry is another local with a passion for Paterson’s history. He led us on a walk on the raceway trail, winding around some industrial revolution era factories and then back up to the falls. Also a photography hobbyist, Terry timed our arrival at the falls with the midday sun which created a rainbow over the falls.

The park has received a grant for the NPS 100 year anniversary fund to restore some other areas (I think maybe by the riverbank) to make the experience even better. I can’t wait to see what they do with it.

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Rainbow in the mist over the frozen falls