HERRONTOWN WOODS
Princeton, Mercer County
142 acres


Directions:

Mercer County, NJ. Take Turnpike south about 30 miles to exit 9. Follow signs for New Brunswick. Drive 0.7 mile on Route 18 west to the overpass for US and follow signs for US 1 south. Drive 16 miles. Go northwest (right) on Route 571 (Alexander Street) for 1.7 miles. Turn northeast (right) on Route 27 (Nassau Street) and go 1.0 mile to Snowden Lane. Turn northwest (left) and go 1.4 miles to the entrance to the woods; turn left and go to the end of the road.


Geology:

Diabase rocks lie beneath all but the southeastern corner of Herrontown Woods.  There are also a lot of diabase boulders on the ground.  The diabase here is known as Rocky Hill.


History:

Oswald Veblen, an internationally known mathematician who taught at Princeton University, lived on this active farm land property and enjoyed strolling through the woods with his colleagues.

c.  1900   -- around the turn of the century, quarrying of traprock took place on the ridge in the Levine tract, where quarry holes can still be found.

1920s  --  the last major timber harvest.

1957  --  he and his wife, Elizabeth, deeded their land  (the southeastern part of the Woods) to the Mercer County Park System.

1968  --  a strip of forest was cleared for a natural gas pipeline; it bisects the Woods in a northeast-southwest direction. This was the last major human disturbance of the Woods.

early 1970s  --  the County acquired additional acreage, the Levine tract, to bring the Woods to its  present acreage.

1970s   --  a gypsy moth infestation killed many mature trees.

(Source: http://www.princetontwp.org/)


Hiking:

3.5 miles of trails.  There is a trail map.  (We did not find any maps in the map box, but did find a good map on the map board.)  The red trail follows the original property line, and may have been blazed by Dr. Veblen, while the blue trail winds through the Levine tract.

You can take a big circular walk by taking the red trail northwest and north and switch to the blue trail also heading north.  The blue trail crosses a gas pipeline right-of-way and circles to the left and rejoins the red trail at the 9:30 position on a clock.  The red trail will take you back to the map board at the parking lot.  A shorter walk can be had by merely following the red trail in a circular walk.  (There are many other trails also included green white, and yellow.)

We did not walk too far in this park.  There is not much sense in walking in a woods in August since few plants are in bloom.  In August we concentrate on watery habitats like lakes, ponds, and marshes.  The ground looked like it had recently been under a lot of water and then dried and hardened.  It looked very compacted. Unlike nearby Mountain Lakes, there was none of  that charming red shale rock here.  There are a lot of sweetgum trees here.


PLANT LIST:

Dr. Patrick L. Cooney


Trees:
Acer rubrum (red maple)
Aralia spinosa (devil's walking stick or Hercules' club)
Betula populifolia (gray birch)
Carpinus caroliniana (musclewood)
Carya ovata (shagbark hickory)
Carya glabra (pignut hickory)
Carya tomentosa (mockernut hickory)
Cornus florida (flowering dogwood)
Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Fraxinus americana (white ash)
Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel)
Liquidambar styraciflua (sweetgum) -- lots of it
Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree)
Pinus rubra (red pine) -- a plantation of them
Prunus vulgaris (self heal) 8/01/98
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus palustris (pin oak)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Quercus velutina (black oak)


Shrubs:
Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry)
Cornus racemosa (gray-stemmed dogwood)
Ligustrum sp. (privet)
Lindera benzoin (spicebush)
Mitchella repens (partridgeberry)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)
Rubus phoenicolasius (wineberry)
Viburnum acerifolium (maple-leaf viburnum)
Viburnum prunifolium (blackhaw viburnum)

Vines:
Celastrus orbiculatus (Asiatic bittersweet)
Hedera helix (English holly)
Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle)
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)
Smilax rotundifolia (round-leaved greenbrier)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)
Vitis riparia (riverbank grape)

Herbs:
Arisaema triphyllum (Jack in the pulpit)
Boehmeria cylindrica (false nettle) 8/01/98
Cimicifuga racemosa (American bugbane)
Circaea lutetiana (enchanter's nightshade)
Claytonia virginica (spring beauty)
Geum sp. (white or rough avens)
Impatiens capensis (orange jewelweed) 8/01/98
Penthorum sedoides (ditch stonecrop)
Pilea pumila (clearweed)
Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple)
Polygonatum biflorum (Solomon's seal)
Polygonum cespitosum (cespitose knotweed)
Polygonum virginianum (jumpseed knotweed)
Solidago caesia (blue-stem goldenrod)
Symplocarpus foetidus (skunk cabbage)
Trifolium repens (white clover) 8/01/98
Ulmus rubra (slippery elm)
Veronica officinalis (common speedwell)

Rushes and Sedges:
Juncus tenuis (path rush)
Scirpus atrovirens (dark green bulrush)

Grasses:
Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stilt grass)

Ferns:
Dryopteris marginalis (marginal woodfern)
Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern)
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)
Thelypteris noveboracensis (New York fern)