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Rockleigh Woods Sanctuary
&
Lamont Reserve

Trails & Map

Rockleigh Borough, Rockleigh Woods & Lamont Reserve


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Rockleigh Woods Sanctuary & Lamont Reserve

LOCATION

The Rockleigh Woods Sanctuary is located entirely within Rockleigh Borough. The eastern side abuts the boundary line of the Borough of Alpine, NJ, and along the north, west and south sides it abuts private property within Rockleigh Borough. The total area of about 84 acres is administered by the Rockleigh Borough Park Commission.

The contiguous Lamont Reserve is located in the extreme northerly area of the Borough of Alpine (between the Rockleigh Borough boundary on the west, New York State boundary, to the north, and the Palisades Interstate Park to the east). There is no road frontage. The total area is 134.45 acres. The Lamont Reserve is owned and administered jointly by Rockleigh Borough Park Commission, the Borough of Alpine, and the Bergen County Department of Parks.

 

GEOLOGY

Within Rockleigh Woods Sanctuary, the terrain slopes moderately to shallow on the transition between the western base of the Palisades and the floor of the Northern Valley. Elevations are range from about 80 to150 feet. It is heavily wooded throughout with many mature trees. Three streams (tributaries of the Sparkill Brook), two in the northerly area and one in the central area, traverse the site in an east to west direction. Wetlands occur at the headwaters of the streams and along their banks and in seasonal boggy areas.

In The Lamont Reserve that forms the western slope of the Palisades Ridge, the terrain slopes moderately to steeply. Elevations are range from about 100 feet in Rockleigh to about 500 feet at the highest point. It is heavily wooded throughout with many mature trees. Two streams (tributaries of the Sparkill), one in the northerly area and one in the central area, traverse the site in an east to west direction. Wetlands occur at the headwaters of the streams and along their banks.

Underlying strata is Boonton Rock with occasional outcrops and moderately sloping well-drained Boonton soils. Is it found on the side slopes of the Palisades Ridge. Slopes range to 25%. Individual areas consist of about 40% Boonton soils, 20% Boonton outcrop, and 40% other soils. Typically, Boonton soils have a very stony surface. The surface layer is dark brown gravelly loam about 3 inches thick. The subsoil is about 37 inches thick. The upper 17 inches is yellowish brown gravelly loam. The lower 20 inches is a firm brittle reddish brown gravelly fine sandy loam. The substratum is friable, reddish brown gravelly sandy loam to a depth of 66 inches. Rock outcrop consists of basalt or diabase, in places interblended with red sandstone.

 

VEGETATION

The entirety of this land area is fairly uniformly wooded second growth forest. Excepting a few small areas that have been cleared within the past decade and are now densely brushy, the predominance of the land area may be described as a mixed, deciduous, hardwood forest in early maturity.

Forest canopy trees in higher terrain is dominated by red and white oaks, hickory, and black birch. In cooler, moister, more fertile coves, sugar maple, beech, dogwood, and tulip trees are common. Swampy, poorly drained areas are covered with red maple, sweet gum, elm, tupelo, hornbeam, pin oak, and ash.  Also appearing, but in lesser numbers, are pignut hickory, black cherry, and chestnut oak. With the exception of a few impressive stands of Hemlock, few evergreens exist on the site. Among the canopy trees that dominate the area are many large and particularly fine specimens of ash, tulip, beech and birch. Although this does not appear unusual in this region of the state, their aesthetic value is significant.

Flora of the middle under story include dogwoods, American hornbeam, and  sassafras.

The low under story plants are predominantly, maple leaf viburnum, witch hazel, laurel, blueberry, grape, and, in wet areas, spicebush. 

Poison Ivy - in the form of creepers, shrubs, and impressively large vines -
prefers sunny areas and grows in clearings as well as up into trees.

"Leaves of Three... Let it be!" - Poison Ivy

The forest floor is habitat for wild flowers, mosses, and lichens as well as mushrooms and fungi, all typical of eastern woodlands.

 

Animal LIFE

Uniformity of environment limits the diversity of habitat available for wildlife. Consequently, indigenous life forms are fairly typical of an upland forest.

The mammals in residence include a herd of eastern whitetail deer, raccoons, skunks, eastern cottontail rabbits, opossums, red and gray squirrels, chipmunks, woodchucks, weasels, white-footed mice, shrews, and common mole. Resident red fox and rare gray fox, eastern coyote, and weasels are seen occasionally. From time to time a black bear passes through.

Avian species are well represented due to large mast and seed crops and many deadfalls, snags and small watercourses. Ruffled grouse, crows, several species of hawks and owls constitute the larger of the resident birds. Habitat for woodpeckers - downy, hairy, palliated, and flickers - is good. Nuthatches, creepers, grosbeaks, cardnals, robins, juncos, thrushes, thrashers, tanagers, titmice and chickadees inhabit the drier forest, while the two principal streams provide habitat for warblers, vireos and flycatchers. Egrets, Mallards and Wood Duck are resident at the pond. It is probable that occasional grosbeaks and siskins visit the hemlock stands.

Reptiles and amphibians are relatively few and largely restricted to stream valleys, ponds and small cleared areas. Snakes within the region include garter, ringnecked, hognosed, milk, and blacksnakes. Copperheads may be found sunning around cleared open ledges or hilltops. Timber rattlers are rare, but present. Frogs, peepers, toads, and newts are present along the stream courses and various salamanders are abundant in the vegetative debris on the forest floor. Red-legged, painted and box turtles are common. Snapping turtles and brown trout reside in the ponds and streambeds of  Sparkill tributaries.

 

PAST DEVELOPMENT AND LAND USE

During the 18th century, the foot of the Palisades experienced farm development. These moderate upland areas of the farmsteads provided useful areas for pasture and tree harvest. Even though the area has reforested, remains of stonewalls line the boundaries of old 12-15 acre farmsteads. Occasional cellar pits mark farmstead sites. The most northerly stream is impounded by an 18th century dam, forming a farm pond that also was used for winter ice harvest.

With the exception of stonewalls, old lanes, and an occasional well, there is little evidence of past habitation within The Lamont Reserve. Given the soil conditions, early habitation was unlikely. However, about 23 lots of 10-16 acres were sold in the area. Lots on the steeper slopes appear to have been speculative and used solely for wood harvest. Several lots on the Palisades plateau were purchased by freed slaves where they established the Skunk Hollow Community. A road track, indicated on the Rockland County plate of the Walker Atlas (1891), leads from what is now Rockleigh to Skunk Hollow which was located to the east of present-day U.S. Route 9 W in Alpine. Much of this track persists as a hiking trail.

After the collapse of Skunk Hollow community early in the 20th century, the land was amassed by the Lamont family as part of a vast estate on the Palisades. In middle of the 20th century, this portion of the Lamont property was donated to the Boy Scouts of America, New York Council, for Camp Alpine.  The paucity of mature hardwood trees except in the most rugged areas, and the existence of logging roads indicate extended periods timber harvest up to within the last decade. Old toads are heavily eroded in places, the result of logging.

CURRENT LAND USE

The Rockleigh Woods Sanctuary was purchased from the New York Boy Scout Council in 1975 by Rockleigh Borough as natural habitat preserve. Several old farm roads have been incorporated as hiking trails. With the exception of a few trails, the tract is unimproved as "passive use open space" under Green Acres.

The Lamont Reserve was purchased from the New York Boy Scout Council in 1996 jointly by Rockleigh Borough, Alpine Borough, and Bergen County. Some of the old logging roads have been incorporated as hiking trails. Classified natural habitat parkland, with the exception of a few hiking trails, the tract continues unimproved as "passive use open space" under Green Acres.

 

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Hiking Trails

1. The Sneden-Haring Trail (yellow) begins behind Borough Hall and loops around the Sneden Ice Pond before passing in a north-south direction along bottom lands at the base of the Palisades slope. Here second growth forest has reclaimed pasturelands of the old farmsteads for which the trail is named.  At the southern end of Rockleigh it turns up-slope and continues as the Lamont Loop.

2. The high Lamont Loop (yellow) branches off the Hutcheon trail at both north and south ends of the borough. This trail swings up the Palisades slope to the ridge top in Alpine, crosses the headwaters of Roaring Brook and the Roaring Ravine Trail, and continues down slope to the Hutcheon Trail. The northern portion of this trail passes along the eroded Skunk Hollow track. The southern end joins both the Hutcheon Trail and Sneden-Haring Trail.

3. The Hutcheon Trail (blue) generally parallels the Sneden-Haring Trail, but along the Rockleigh-Alpine boundary slightly higher on the East Hill. Near both ends it joins the easier Sneden-Haring Trail (down slope to the west) as well the more difficult Lamont Loop (up slope to the east). It also crosses the Roaring Ravine Trail.

4. The steep Roaring Ravine Trail (red) follows Roaring Brook from bottom to top along the northern lip of an impressive defile carved over time by the brook. It starts from the Sneden-Haring Trail at the north bank of the Roaring Brook. It can also be reached by the Hutcheon Trail which it crosses. At the top of the mountain, it intersects the Lamont Loop on the old Skunk Hollow Track. The Roaring Brook Trail, while in good condition, can be strenuous uphill.

TRAIL MAP

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       The Rockleigh Woods Sanctuary and the Lamont Reserve are adjacent and contiguous. Trails originating and ending at Rockleigh Borough Hall pass through portions of both areas. The trail system approximates "a cross within a circle." Various combinations of hikes are possible, all starting and ending at Rockleigh Borough Hall where parking is available.

 

The circle (yellow) is formed by the low Sneden-Haring Trail and continues as the high Lamont Loop

The Hutcheon Trail (blue) forms the north-south diameter. 

The Roaring Ravine Trail (red), following the north bank of Roaring Brook, forms the steep east-west diameter. 

Rockleigh Trails

       Cautions & Considerations: 

1. Except for annual clearing of blow-downs and brush, the trails are unimproved so that walking is more difficult than anticipated.  Blazes may be infrequent; there are no trail signs. Brooks are shallow and can be crossed by stepping-stones - there are no footbridges. When rushing, brooks may be difficult or dangerous to cross.  The Roaring Ravine Trail, Lamont Loop and parts of the Sneden-Hutcheon Trail are rugged and footing difficult. Erosion and washouts may necessitate occasional bushwacking. Where possible, stay on the trail.
The easiest walk is that part of the Sneden-Haring Trail from Borough Hall around the Sneden Ice Pond and return.

2. The Lamont Loop is crossed by several abandoned Boy Scout trails - some blazed with white can lids and some blazed with red can lids or just rusty can lids - which are neither maintained nor inspected. It is recommended that hikers not attempt to follow abandoned trails. While becoming seriously lost is unlikely, it could be most inconvenient getting back to Rockleigh because the woods extend several miles to the south between route US 9W on the Palisades plateau and Piermont Road in the Northern Valley. Should hikers become disoriented, following trails or streambeds downhill lead to the valley and Piermont Road.

3. Trails occasionally pass close to private property that must be respected.

4. While wildlife is present, primary concerns are the potential for tic-borne Lyme Disease and contact with poison ivy. Appropriate precautions are suggested. Nyack Hospital is the regional center for snakebite treatment.

5. None of following are permitted: Motorized vehicles of any type, horse drawn vehicles of any type, open fires, camping, swimming, hunting of any type or trapping, harvesting or taking of any plant life or branches. Horses during the "mud season."

6. The blazing of new or present trails is not permitted, but help with trail maintenance is always appreciated. Leave nothing behind but footprints on a clear path

Background Music: "Here's to the Bashful Maiden of Fifteen" Courtesy of Barry Taylor

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