COOK NATURAL AREA
Heathcote Brook Road, Kingston, South Brunswick Township, Middlesex County
26 acres 
managed by Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park


Directions:

Rt. 1 to Ridge Road west; parking area approx. 0.9 mile on right, just beyond Heathcote Brook bridge.


History:

c. 1865  --  a stone bridge built to carry Ridge Road over Heathcote Brook.

1937  --  the picturesque old stone bridge was re-erected in its present site in the middle of the natural area.

1970  --  Grace Cook of South Brunswick donated the area.


Habitats:

freshwater marsh and floodplain forest communities, small ponds


Trail:

The short trail (1/2-mile to 1 mile) goes over a historic bridge crossing the Heathcote Brook.

The abandoned Conrail line green belt crosses the Delaware and Raritan Canal Park and is being acquired up to the Cook Natural Area by the state. The Township of South Brunswick plans to acquire the portion from there to the Town Center with Green Acres funds. (www.geocities.com/kingstongreenways/sbmp.html)

One can walk from the Cook Natural Area to the Kingston lock, over the old stone bridge and on to Heathcote Park. This whole section forms part of the "Freedom Trail".

A long walk of 7-8 miles would go through Heathcote Park, Linear Park, Cook Natural Area and along the Delaware & Raritan Canal. (Highlights could include the Kingston Locks, the Grotto, the town of Kingston and the former Princeton Nurseries land including the deserted "Cry Baby Lane".)


Agency:

Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park


Description:

There is a small parking area for six cars or so. There is a long alleyway between the woods on the right and a tree border on the left. The alleyway is somewhat of a moist/wet meadow with lots and lots of purple loosestrife being the dominant plant.

There is a pond off to the right. Had to pass in front of a couple in a tent (I said "excuse me"). The guy came out and asked "My wife wants to know if you are an environmentalist or a serial killer." I smiled and said "Oh, a serial killer." He laughed. I told him the names of a few of the plants around and in the pond.

There is a pathway on the right that takes the hiker into the woods over a strange bridge (it has a hump right in the middle of it -- a small arch bridge) crossing over the creek.

Had to slog my way through the purple loosestrife via a narrow deer/few people trail. Only got one tick for my efforts -- not bad.

At the end of the wet meadow is one of the markers denoting a sewer pipline is located below. There is a trail off to the left but I did not travel down it.

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Gravel is to be laid along a trail to the canal, so that it will be possible to walk from the Kingston D&R canal lock, through the Cook Natural Area and on over the bridge to the Heathcote Park.


PLANT LIST:
Dr. Patrick L. Cooney


Trees:
Acer rubrum (red maple)
Acer saccharinum (silver maple)
Betula nigra (river birch)
Betula populifolia (gray birch)
Fraxinus americana (white ash)
Juglans nigra (black walnut)
Juniperus virginiana (red cedar)
Morus alba (white mulberry)
Nyssa sylvatica (tupelo)
Quercus palustris (pin oak)

Shrubs:
Cornus amomum (swamp dogwood)
Elaeagnus umbellata (autumn olive)
Lindera benzoin (spice bush)
Lonicera morrowii (Morrow's honeysuckle)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)
Sambucus canadensis (elderberry) in fruit

Vines:
Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle)
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)
Vitis sp. (grape vine)

Herbs:
Achillea millefolium (yarrow) 8/02/98
Allium vineale (field garlic)
Apocynum cannabinum (Indian hemp dogbane)
Artemisia vulgaris (common mugwort)
Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed) 8/02/98
Aster patens (late purple aster) *
Cichorium intybus (chicory) 8/02/98 *
Claytonia virginica (spring beauty) *
Daucus carota (Queen Anne's lace) 8/02/98
Erythronium americanum (trout lily) *
Eupatorium maculatum (spotted Joe Pye weed)
Eupatorium perfoliatum (boneset) 8/02/98
Euthamia graminifolia (grass-leaved goldenrod) 8/02/98
Geum sp. (white or rough avens)
Gnaphalium obtusifolium (sweet everlasting) *
Hypericum punctatum (spotted St. Johnswort) 8/02/98
Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife) 8/02/98
Ludwigia palustris (water purslane)
Lycopus virginiana (Virginia bugleweed) 8/02/98
Mimulus ringens (monkey flower) 8/02/98
Impatiens sp. (jewelweed) *
Lemna sp. (duckweed)
Nuphar variegata (spatterdock) 8/02/98
Pilea pumila (clearweed)
Plantago lanceolata (English plantain) 8/02/98
Podophyllum peltatum (May apple) *
Polygonum hydropiperoides (mild water-pepper) *
Polygonum sp. (knotweed) 8/02/98
Pontederia cordata (pickerelweed) 8/02/98
Prunella vulgaris (self-heal) 8/02/98
Pycnanthemum (narrow-leaved mountain mint) 8/02/98
Pycnanthemum spp. (mountain mints) 8/02/98
Solidago spp. (goldenrods) 8/02/98
Vernonia noveboracensis (New York ironweed) 8/02/98
Viola sp. (violet)
Wolffia sp.? (water meal?)

Rushes and Sedges:
Carex lurida (sedge)
Cyperus sp. (nut or umbrella sedge)
Juncus effusus (soft rush)
Scirpus atrovirens (dark green bulrush)
Scirpus cyperinus (woolly grass bulrush)

Grasses:
Anthoxanthum odoratum (sweet vernal grass)
Dactylis glomeratus (orchard grass)
Digitalis sp. (crab grass)
Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stilt grass)
Panicum clandestinum (deer tongue panic grass)
Phalaris (reed canary grass)
Phleum pratense (timothy grass)
Phragmites australis (giant reed grass)
Setaria sp. (foxtail grass) 8/02/98

Others:
Cladonia cristatella (British soldiers) on the top of the fence posts

 

* = David Southgate (http://www.bb.org/kingston/newsletter.html)