Springs offers opportunity for locals and visitors to explore and enjoy one of the area’s most valuable natural resources
Spring has sprung! After a very difficult and long winter, people can finally start spending more time outdoors looking to rejuvenate as the good weather takes full bloom. It is a perfect time to take advantage of the great natural resources that the Meadowlands, and particularly the Hackensack River, offers for fun, reflection, business retreats, and employee activities.
Anyone familiar with the region has seen the Hackensack River, probably most often from a vehicle on the New Jersey Turnpike or Route 3, or from a train while commuting into Manhattan. But have you truly experienced this magnificent body of water?
The Hackensack River, which flows through each of the 14 towns in the Meadowlands District, is one of the most enduring and amazing natural resources in the region. The river spans 50 miles, beginning in Lake Lucille, N.Y., and flows into Newark Bay.
Once heavily polluted, the Hackensack has become continually cleaner over the years, a fact borne out by regularly conducted water monitoring and studies conducted by scientists from the NJ Meadowlands Commission’s (NJMC) Environmental Research Institute and Commission naturalists.
The river is in especially fine form now, shimmering in the sunlight and playing host to the latest spring arrivals, including osprey, egrets, and the ubiquitous tree swallows that make their homes in wooden nesting boxes located along the river. The nesting boxes were built and decorated by area students, scout troops, and other groups. More than 280 bird species, including 34 on the state’s endangered, threatened, and species of special concern lists, visit the Meadowlands or live here year-round.
The wide array of birds to be seen on and along the river throughout the region range from migratory shorebirds in the spring and summer to rough-legged hawks and canvasbacks in the winter—and bald eagles year-round. Many of these birds prey on fish from the Hackensack River. As recently as mid-March we even had a harbor seal make its way to the NJMC’s River Barge Park in Carlstadt, where it lounged on a dock after a filling morning meal.
Once you visit River Barge Park, we are sure you will give it your “seal of approval” as well. The 5.5-acre park, which opened last May, is a great place to discover the Hackensack River. Visitors can take in breathtaking views of the region and the Manhattan skyline from the park’s promenade, boat docks, paddle ramp, and open-air pavilion. Historical signage throughout the park provides a sense of place for this storied property. In January, the NJMC received a Chapter Award from the New Jersey Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (NJASLA) for the park’s ecologically sustainable design.
The NJMC also offers its highly popular popular guided pontoon boat rides and canoe tours on the river. This year the tours run from early June to late September. The leisurely, two-to-three hour tours are led by expert NJMC guides, who discuss the fascinating history of the river and its tributaries, including its natural and man-made features, while looking for birds and other wildlife in the marshes. Don’t forget to bring your cameras! These trips make for a great excursion for company team building exercises, civic organization field trips, and other group activities. The Commission can make special arrangements for group tours. Pontoon boat rides and canoe tours are for ages 10 and up.
We hope to see you this spring and summer at River Barge Park and our many other natural areas in the Meadowlands District. In addition to boat rides, the NJMC has a number of family-friendly, regularly scheduled and special events coming up in the months ahead. Be sure to regularly check our website, www.njmeadowlands.gov, and the Meadowlands Nature Blog, at www.meadowblog.net, for details and updates. See you at the parks and on the river!
While pontoon boat and canoe tours do not begin until June they are extremely popular and it’s not too early to reserve your spot. Please call 201-460-4692 to register. For arrangements for corporate trips, call 201-460-4692.