India Brook Natural Area
Mountainside Road, Mendham Township, Morris County, NJ
US 80 west to Exit 43 for US 287 south; get off at Exit 30B; merge right onto Childs road; keep heading straight through the traffic light; drive l0.2 of a mile and turn right onto Hard Scrabble Road; at the T-intersection with Cory Lane, turn left; almost immediately make a right onto Talmadge Road. drive 1.3 miles and at the T-intersection turn right onto Hilltop Road; at the light go straight, crossing over Route 24, and onto Mountain Avenue. Drive to the end of the road at the T-intersection. Turn left onto Mountainside Road. Drive 1.0 mile to a left turn into the parking area for the India Brook Natural Area. The trailhead is across the street. (The side with the parking lot is a mostly grassy area with a picnic table and plenty of parking area.
Mountainside Road off Ironia Road on the west side, or on east side, Mountain Avenue.
colonial era -- iron mining and forging.
18th century -- dams, millraces and sawmills.
1976 -- the park was acquired.
1997 -- Mendham Township purchases the Buttermilk Falls property after the builder of an approved subdivision went bankrupt. These two contiguous natural areas comprise a 265 acre forested property traversed by India Brook.
At Frog Pond the following frogs have been found: bull, leopard, pickerel, wood, green and spring peepers.
A trail system blazed in various colors traverses the properties, some of which wander alongside India Brook, past the wetlands of Wood Duck Pond and Frog Pond, and close to ruins of the colonial and 18th century eras.
Buttermilk Falls consists of a rock ledge spilling water into a pool that has been a swimming hole for generations.
Sites in the area (north to south):
Combs Hollow Road
Mendham Water Company (abandoned) (to the east)
Frog Pond (to the east)
Wood Duck Pond (to the east)
Steep Hill Road (abandoned)
Bockoven saw mill
parking on Mountainside Road
11/17/04. We have had several great weather days in a row and this day continued the streak. I took the white trail heading northeast along the west bank of India Brook. Very shortly I came to the first stop. # 1. Bockoven Sawmill. David Bockoven was in the lumber business in the early to mid-1800s. His son Abraham Bockoven was here in 1887-88. There was a 700 foot long race that powered the mill. They used a water turbine rather than a waterwheel.
Not far from this site were the remains of an old road and the abutments of a bridge over India Brook. #2. Steep Hill Road. These bridge abutments supported an iron truss bridge connecting Mountainside Road to Ironia Road. The road was abandoned in 1910.
Close to the remains of Steep Hill Road, the yellow trail heads off to the left. It is an easier trail to walk than the white trail because it is farther away from the rocky brook and its nearby white rocky trail. The yellow trail joins back with the white trail before the trail heads across the brook.
#3. Rush Forge. Built before 1786 by Michael Rush. The forge was a one fire bloomery forge. A water impoundment area was just north of here. The remains of the tailrace (leading the water away from the forge) are still evident. In 1820 it was abandoned.
Stepping Stones? Now here is a rich one. There is no bridge over this wide brook. And the waters were running fast and a bit deep to walk through. The authors of the information on the park describe the several boulders, large and small, as being stepping stones. In my own opinion, I find the situation here a bit dangerous. I had my small Jack Russell Terrier with me and I had to jump large gaps between boulders. In the middle of the brook I could not make it over to the next boulder. So I had to put my feet in the water and take two steps on a submerged log to get onto the next boulder. If the water had been a bit deeper I would have had waters overflowing the top of my hiking boots. I can't imagine that small children or even mid-sized children would have an easy time getting over this brook. My advice: PUT A BRIDGE IN and if you can't do that then at least throw in some more boulders so the hiker can get over the brook safely.
From the stepping stones it is a little ways to Buttermilk Falls. The trail goes uphill. At a T-intersection the red trails heads off to the right and the white trial goes left. There is a small overlook area with a good view in the late fall of the brook at the bottom of the valley between hills on opposite sides of the brook. The trail heads downhill to the Falls. The waters of the falls go over one small ledge onto another; the waters then take a fall of about a yard onto another ledge; the waters fall off the the right side of this large boulder/ledge onto a flat ledge; then the waters dump into a pool. Fifty yards above the falls on the opposite side of the brook are the remnants of a chimney.
Away from the falls it is noticeably quieter. The yellow and white trails go uphill. Reach a 4-way intersection near the informational sign about the Lewis Forge. #5. Lewis Forge. The forge was built by Levi Lewis. Here was a forge with a trip hammer, charcoal house, workers' house and earthen dam. The Locally mined iron ore from the east bank of the brook was melted to produce iron and then a trip hammer worked it into wrought iron. There are pits along India Brook where early miners prospected for iron ore. In relation to the earthen dam over the India Brook the forge structures were all located on the east bank; the closest to the dam was the mill site; a little southeast of this was the charcoal storage structure and then farther southeast was the workers' cottage. Mr. Lewis died in 1799 (and his business closed at that time) .
The white trail goes off to the right heading on top of the earthen dam down to India Brook. The yellow trail goes off a little to the right. The blue trail heads off to the right uphill. Then the trail then turns right and goes along India Brook to a second area of stepping stones to cross the brook again. I studied the placement of the "stepping stones" but there was no combination of steps that would make it possible to cross the brook without getting seriously wet. So I gave up and turned around.
Reaching the 4-way intersection, I took the blue trail uphill. Shortly it comes to a T-intersection with Frog Pond being in the middle of the intersection. The Frog Pond is a Habitat Restoration Project of quite a few organizations members of which have planted native plants around the pond. The trail making the top part of the T heads approximately north-south somewhat parallel with the white trail. But there is no way to take the trail and use it as a loop back to the parking area. It would be nice if they could connect this trail to the white trail to use it as a loop trail.
I retraced my steps and worked my way back. On the way back I took the easier-on-the-feet yellow trail for part of the return journey.
Oh, I should add that on the way back crossing the "stepping stones" I did not make it across as "gracefully" as my earlier attempt. I had thrown my dog over to one boulder and then made the jump myself. Trying to avoid landing on the dog as I jumped, my feet landed in the brook with the right hiking boot becoming swamped with water. Dr. Patrick L. Cooney.
Dr. Patrick L. Cooney
* = blooming on date of field trip, 11/17/04.
Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
Amelanchier arborea (shadbush)
Betula alleghaniensis (yellow birch)
Betula lenta (black birch)
Betula populifolia (gray birch)
Carpinus caroliniana (musclewood)
Carya spp. (hickory)
Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Fraxinus sp. (ash)
Juniperus virginiana (red cedar)
Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree)
Pinus strobus (white pine)
Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore)
Populus grandidentata (big-toothed aspen)
Prunus serotina (black cherry)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus prinus (chestnut oak)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Quercus velutina (black oak)
Sassafras albidum (sassafras)
Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock)
Ulmus sp. (elm)
Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry)
Chimaphila maculata (striped wintergreen)
Elaeagnus umbellata (autumn olive)
Euonymus alatus (winged euonymus)
Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) petals still on it
Ilex verticillata (winterberry)
Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel)
Ligustrum sp. (privet)
Lindera benzoin (spicebush)
Lonicera morrowii (Morrow's honeysuckle)
Mitchella repens (partridgeberry)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose) lots of it
Rubus phoenicolasius (wineberry)
Rubus sp. (blackberry)
Salix sp. (willow)
Vaccinium sp. (a low bush blueberry)
Viburnum prunifolium (blackhaw viburnum) lots of it
Celastrus orbiculatus (Asiatic bittersweet) lots of it
Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle)
Smilax rotundifolia (round-leaved greenbrier)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)
Vitis sp. (grape)
Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard)
Chelone glabra (white turtlehead)
Cirsium sp. (thistle)
Epifagus virginiana (beech drops)
Geum canadense (white avens)
Gnaphalium obtusifolium (sweet everlasting) *
Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe)
Prunella vulgaris (self-heal)
Solidago caesia (blue-stem goldenrod)
Typha latifolia (broad-leaved cattail)
Dactylis glomerata (orchard grass)
Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stilt grass)
Phragmites australis (giant reed grass)
Schizachyrium scoparium (little blue stem grass)
Juncus effusus (soft rush)
Juncus tenuis (path rush)
Carex laxiflora type (loose-flowered sedge)
Carex lurida (sallow sedge)
Scirpus cyperinus (woolly grass bulrush)
Dryopteris marginalis (marginal woodfern)
Polypodium sp. (rockcap fern)
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)