Merrill Creek Reservoir
Months after Hurricane Sandy swept through the area, the majority of NJ state parks are still closed with (as far as can be determined) no date on when they will open. And if a park is open, the trails (or at least a majority of the trails) are closed. The devastation of Sandy on the area cannot be underestimated. Things may never be back to how they were. I'm beginning to wonder if some of these parks will ever reopen! So one excellent strategy to use when picking a hiking spot is to check the highlighted hike at the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference website. You can be sure that if they're highlighting a hike that someone has recently verified that (a) the park is open and (b) the hike, as described, can be hiked. So today we did their Hike of the Week for 9/21/2004, but verified and updated on 1/1/2013 (four days ago). And this one is a winner.

It's been almost exactly 8 years to the day since we hiked this incredibly beautiful area (I can't imagine why we haven't returned since then except that I believe I kept confusing this reservoir with the Round Valley Reservoir, which we have visited many times over the years). Back in January of 2005, there was snow on the ground, but not as much as today. Our Kahtoola Microspikes were indispensible on the densely packed, slippery snow which covered about 75% of the trails covered in this hike. At the northern stretch of the Perimeter trail, though, removed them for about 30 minutes, only to put them back on just west of the Inlet-Outlet Tower. Getting back to Sandy for a moment, there is utter devastation at a couple of points along the way, mostly of pines. On the western side of the reservoir it appears that literally dozens and dozens of pines fell directly on the trail for a stretch. Incredibly, they've all been cleared!

Total distance hiked today was 6.5 miles in about 3.5 hours.

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

Behind the visitor's center

The Merrill blaze

Putting on our Microspikes

Sandy blow-down

My turn [photo by Laura]

Merrill Creek Reservoir ...

... from Red trail

Roots of huge blow-down


View SE

Deer exclosure area

Cathers Farmhouse foundation


More ruins ...

... on both sides

Packed snow

Song Sparrows


Golden Eagle

Inlet-Outlet Tower


Osprey platform?


Sunken trees ...

... along Blue & Yellow

Perimeter Trail

Damaged bridge

Sandy damage near bridge

Along northern arm

View from tip

Drowned trees

Cat tail


Canada Geese

View south


NW 2 Dike

On NW 2 Dike

[Photo by Laura]

Birds over main dam

On NW 2 Dike

View to Kittatinnies

Wind Gap?

Merrill Creek Reservoir

Bald Eagle warning

Few remaining pines

Gasline cut

Devastating ...

... pine damage

Dozens of ...

... fallen pines

Canada Geese

On Main Dam

View south

Thousands ...

... of snow geese ...

... congregating

View south

More snow geese arriving

Main Dam

View north

Slippery path

Sunken trees and snow geese


View to the gap

Visitor's center

SE Dike

Very slippery woods road

Thousands more ...

... snow geese arriving

Lovely cedars


Deck at boat launch

Boat launch

Attendant's hut

Stairs back to visitor's center

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