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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Ringwood State Park: Skylands

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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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Skylands, in Ringwood State Park in northern New Jersey consists of the historic Skylands Manor and the New Jersey Botanical Garden. The estate was built in the 1920s by a wealthy business man from New York.

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In 1966, the State of New Jersey purchased the estate to form its State Botanical Gardens. The Manor is available as a venue for weddings and offers tours on Sundays from March to November.

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The gardens are open to the public every day of the year and are on 96 acres in the Ramapo Mountains. They are maintained by the non profit Skyland Association.

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I visited with a photography class. There was an event being held at the manor that day, so we explored the gardens, practicing with different settings on our cameras.

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Location: 2 Morris Rd, Ringwood, NJ 07456

Designation: State Park

Date designated or established: 1966

Date of my visit: September 20, 2015

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Ringwood Manor National Historic Landmark District

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Welcome back to National Parks and 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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Ringwood Manor and its surrounding 479 acres became a national historic landmark district in 1966. Ringwood State Park is comprised of the Ringwood Manor district and the nearby Skylands Manor. The NJ Parks department manages the site and provides regular tours of the mansion. Photography is not allowed inside the house, except during the Victorian Christmas Open House.

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The surrounding Ramapo mountains are rich in iron deposits. Iron mines and forges made this an area of strategic importance during the Revolutionary War and again during the war of 1812.

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Ironmaster Martin Ryerson built the first 10-room section of Ringwood Manor in 1807.  The State Park has maintained some of this original section with the simple Washingtonian decor that the Ryersons favored.

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The Cooper-Hewitts bought Ringwood Manor as a summer home in 1853. Peter Cooper invented glue, gelatin and the Tom Thumb locomotive. Together with his son-in-law A.S. Hewitt (a one-term NYC mayor) he founded one of the largest iron companies in the USA.  A.S. Hewitt married Peter Cooper’s daughter Sarah.

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Sarah Hewitt built several additions onto the house over the years.

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Ringwood Manor has 51 rooms, 30 of which are open to the public via a ranger-guided tour.

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Mrs. Hewitt favored lavish French Louis XV design. She allowed her husband to decorate only three of the rooms in a more masculine style.

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She was an avid collector of marquetry, china, etc… Her collections are showcased throughout the manor.

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The grounds were patterned after European gardens the Hewitts had seen on their travels. They also incorporated into the landscape salvaged items, like Columbia University’s iron gates and the Cooper Union Institute’s marble columns.

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There is a large iron chain in front of the house which Mr. Hewitt thought was the chain that was stretched across the Hudson River at West Point during the Revolutionary War to keep the British navy out.

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He later found out that he’d been scammed, that the chain was not authentic, but Mrs. Hewitt perpetuated the rumor that it was THE chain, so there it still sits. There is also a cannon from the USS constitution in front of the house along with other iron antiques.

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The Hewitts had six children. The two younger daughters stayed on at Ringwood and ran the iron mines after their parents’ deaths.

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The youngest son, Erskine, was the last surviving heir and donated the estate to the State of New Jersey in 1936.

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Ringwood State Park posts:
  • Ringwood Manor National Historic Landmark District
  • Merry Christmas from Ringwood Manor National Historic Landmark District
  • Victorian Christmas at Ringwood Manor (Coming Soon)
  • Skylands Botanical Gardens (Coming Soon)

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, 8/26/2018, 3/5/2016

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There is a trail behind the mansion that leads past some colonial era graves to this dam

Merry Christmas from Ringwood Manor National Historic Landmark District

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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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Earlier this month, 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. 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. We enjoyed browsing the rooms and I remembered some of the history from my previous visit and guided tour. A more detailed post on this park is coming soon! Happy holidays!

Ringwood State Park posts:
  • Ringwood Manor National Historic Landmark District (Coming Soon)
  • Merry Christmas from Ringwood Manor National Historic Landmark District
  • Victorian Christmas at Ringwood Manor (Coming Soon)
  • Skylands Botanical Gardens (Coming Soon)

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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