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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
of the middle under story include dogwoods, American hornbeam, and
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.
Three... Let it be!" - Poison Ivy
forest floor is habitat for wild flowers, mosses, and lichens as well
as mushrooms and fungi, all typical of eastern woodlands.
of environment limits the diversity of habitat available for wildlife.
Consequently, indigenous life forms are fairly typical of an upland forest.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.