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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Goosepond Mountain State Park

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Goose Pond Mountain State Park is a 1,706-acre undeveloped New York state park. The park includes five acres of man-made wetlands constructed by the New York State Department of Transportation as compensation for wetlands that were destroyed when the nearby highway interchange was built.

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The park is administered by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, but it doesn’t look like it is routinely maintained. The sign at the entrance to the nature trail is overgrown as is the trail itself.

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I stopped here with my dog while were in the area on an errand. We walked as far as we could down the nature trail before it became thoroughly choked with brush and wildflowers. We noticed some birdhouses that looked fairly new…the park is considered a bird sanctuary.

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According to the map at the entrance, when there is less vegetation, the nature trail is a loop with a boardwalk section at the far end.

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Location: 1198 NY-17M, Chester, NY 10918

Designation: State Park

Date designated or established: 1960

Date of my visit: 8/4/2019

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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

Custer State Park

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Custer State Park is South Dakota’s largest and first state park, named for Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer, of the infamous ‘Custer’s Last Stand’ in the American Indian War. The park protects 71,000 acres in the Black Hills. The Black Hills name is translated from the Lakota Pahá Sápa, who called them that because the dense pine tree forests  make them appear dark when seen from a distance.

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We were staying at Custer’s Chief Motel (a clean, no-frills family run motel with the advantage of family suites with separate bedrooms and a big indoor pool for the kids) and they offered us a free pass to visit Custer State Park. It had been on our itinerary anyway, but we appreciated the perk.

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We entered the park from highway 16 and pulled over in a few places to walk around and admire the views of the Black Hills.

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Next we headed to the State Game Lodge for a snack and the gift shop. This was Calvin Coolidge’s Summer White House in 1927. President Eisenhower also spent some time here in 1953.

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Then we drove the park’s Wildlife Loop. The park is home to a large herd of bison, pronghorn, deer, elk and most thrilling for the kids: the Begging Burros.

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Please note, we did NOT feed the burros, though it obvious these feral donkeys are comfortable around cars and humans and used to being fed by them. Once these fellas realized we had no food, they moved on to the next group.

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The wildlife loop is 18 miles long and took us almost two hours to drive because of the frequent stops and wildlife crossings, but we enjoyed every minute of it, keeping our eyes peeled for bison (who hid from us until the very end of the loop.)

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Location: 13329 US Hwy 16A, Custer, SD 57730

Designation: State Park

Date designated or established: 1912

Date of my visit: 7/31/2009

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Ringwood State Park: Skylands

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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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High Point State Park

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View of the High Point monument from Lake Marcia 4/17/2015

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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On the beach in June 2005

High Point State Park is in the Northwest corner of New Jersey in Sussex County. In the midst of the Kittatinny Mountains, the highest point in the state of New Jersey is there.

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The most distinctive feature of the park is the monument marking the high point at over 1800 feet in elevation. It is an obelisk, like the Washington Monument, and was built to honor war veterans in 1930.

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4/29/2017

The land and monument were donated to the state by the Kusers. Anthony Kuser (1862-1929) was a New Jersey businessman with a rarely used summer home in Sussex County. He donated the property and funded the construction of the monument in 1923.

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Mansion ruins 12/27/2014

For years, I lived minutes from the main entrance and we spent many summer days playing on the sand beach of spring-fed Lake Marcia. Afterwards, we would often drive up to the monument for views of the Delaware River and the Tri-state (NY, PA, & NJ) area.

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At the monument 6/5/2005

I have been back in the off-season several times since moving away. It is a peaceful place to visit once the summer crowds have gone.

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Steenykill 4/29/2017

The Steenykill Lake and boat launch are right off Route 23 on a dirt road. The view of the monument over the lake is great in the fall when the leaves turn color.

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Steenykill 10/21/2004

Sawmill Lake is in the quieter section of the park, with a campground on one side. There is a dam at one end, resulting in a waterfall.

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Sawmill 12/27/2014

Location: 1480 NJ-23, Sussex, NJ 07461

Designation: State Park

Date designation declared: 1923

Date of my visit: 12/27/2014

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Sawmill 4/29/2017
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View of the Delaware from the monument in December 2014

Marblehead Lighthouse State 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.

Marblehead Lighthouse on Lake Erie in Ohio is the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the US side of the Great Lakes. Built in 1822 as a navigational aid on the Marblehead Peninsula, it is still in use today.  It had 15 lighthouse keepers from the 1820s until the signal was automated in 1958.

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Map from Google

We were visiting friends who had a home in Marblehead. They took us out on the lake in their boat so we could see this famous landmark from the water. We could also see the amusement park across the bay in Cedar Point. Visitors can take tours of the lighthouse in the summer.

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Location: 110 Lighthouse Dr, Marblehead, OH 43440

Designation: State Park, NRHP

Date established/designated: NRHP 1969

Date of my visit: 7/26/2008

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