Apshawa Preserve-Pequannock Watershed (3/14/2012)

The temperature today was 20 degrees above normal (!), so of course I took the day off to go hiking with my friend Andy. We headed to Apshawa Preserve, where I last hiked two weeks in a row back in December of 2007, when the trails were covered in snow, and we were using an early version of the preserve map. Today when we arrived we found signs indicating that the yellow loop around the pond at the NE tip of the reservoir was closed, flooded due to beaver activity. And judging by what we saw, it will probably be closed permanently, unless the long beaver dam (which is between the pond and the reservoir) is removed to allow the pond to go back to its normal level.

Wow, a lot has changed in this preserve since 2007! The park currently seems to be the subject of some intense scientific study and experimentation. A fence now surrounds much (all?) of the preserve and hikers (no kidding) have to walk through multiple gates during their jaunt, ensuring that gates are locked behind them along the way. In an effort to re-forest overgrazed parts of the area, the fences keep out those pesky deer that used to live in the preserve. Because of this fence, all unmarked side trails are now dead-ends, so there is now a slew of "Wrong Way" signs warning hikers to stay on the officially blazed trails. Finally, it's tough to stand anywhere in the preserve without seeing at least one bright pink ribbon tied around a tree. Clearly hundreds of trees are being marked for something (protection of some sort) but the bright pink ribbons also serve as constant jolts from the feeling of being isolated in nature.

Using the NYNJTC Jersey Highlands Trail Map 125, we took the White trail to the first intersection with Green, which we took west to Yellow. We took the very short Yellow connector trail north to Green where we headed west. This we took all the way to Butler Reservoir, where we got on Red and skirted the western bank but only until we picked up an unofficial trail which paralleled the backyards of the houses off of Germantown Road. We took this trail, which was unofficially blazed White, past Wonder Lake and then continued outside the boundary of the preserve into Pequannock Watershed territory all the way to a wonderful rock outcrop with an unobstructed view of the Manhattan skyline to the east. The unofficial white blazes led the entire way. Just before the vista we passed through an amazing stone living room with stairs, multiple entrances, stone chairs and an impressive fire ring. Clearly a lot of work had been done to create this. At the wonderful vista we had lunch, and then retraced our way back to the official White trail (at the northern edge of preserve land) which we then took all the way back to the car, passing the spectacularly flooded Yellow trail along the way.

Total distance hiked today was 5 miles in 3 hours.

(Click on the thumbnail to bring up a bigger image in a pop-up window)

At the entrance gate

Informative sign about overgrazing

On White

Descending on Green

Pond off Green

Now climbing Green

Colorful rocks

Wrong Way!


More climbing ahead

Run-off from reservoir dam

Crossing creek

Yup, there's a gate at the bridge

Behind the dam

First glimpse of Butler Reservoir

Butler Reservoir

View along dam


Constant ...

... views ...

... along ...

... Red

View from SW tip

Interesting rock formation

View north

Buffleheads in reservoir

Awesome playhouse

On unofficial White

Signs of spring

Hunting blind

Wonder Lake below

Rocky ascent on unofficial White

Amazing stone living room

Marking on wall

Impressive fire ring

Manhattan skyline

Zoom to midtown Manhattan

Zoom to lower Manhattan

Our lunch spot


Steps at stone den



Creek crossing

Back to ...

... Butler Reservoir

First look at beaver dam

Newly drowned trees

Andy crossing ...

... the dam


Lodge of the culprits

Yellow closed

Yellow used to go that way

White on eastern bank

Canada geese ...

... in Butler Reservoir

Forest restoration fence


Nice view from east

Another gate


Top of Smoke Rise tower

View of reservoir from above

Invasive vines

Lovely green


Bridge on White


Kiosk at parking lot

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