MORRIS CANAL NATURE PRESERVE
LITTLE FALLS, PASSAIC COUNTY, NJ


Directions:

From Route 80 westbound, get off at the Union Avenue exit and bear left to follow Union Avenue for about one mile into Little Falls. Turn left at the light onto Main Street and then go about five blocks looking for Maple Street and Schumacher Chevrolet on the left. Turn left down Maple and continue as for the bus directions.

Alternative route by car: From Rt. 46 westbound, get off at the Great Notch/Cedar Grove exit. Bear left and follow overpass over Route 46 on to Notch Road. At the end of Notch Road turn right at the light onto Long Hill Road. Proceed on Long Hill Road for about one mile where it becomes Main Street. At Schumacher Chevrolet, turn right onto Maple Street and then follow the directions as for the bus. Look for the brick sign for the preserve on the left.

By public transportation: Take NJ TRANSIT 191/195 bus that leaves the Port Authority Bus Terminal, NY (check schedule prior to the trip) and get off on Main Street in downtown Little Falls at the corner of Maple Street Turn right on Maple and walk one block to entrance to the preserve parking lot on the left.

This new municipal park was established in 2000-2001 primarily due to the efforts of the late mayor Mathew Witecki. Public access is now provided to a forgotten ecological and historical gem.


History:

The man-made dam above Union Avenue bridge is not the falls. The first fall was a drop of 10 feet. The second fall had a drop of 16 feet.

1765 -- Major James Gray buys a 300 acre farm from John Low on the Passaic River at Little Falls.

1771 -- Gray builds a forge of three fires and one hammer. The iron ore comes from Ringwood and Charlottesburg mines. On the island in the Passaic River, Captain James Gray operated an iron foundry, casting mill and grist mill using the Passaic River's water power. Today the island is land locked.

1777 -- Gray was a Tory and was arrested and sent to Albany by the forces under General Schuyler. He escaped to Canada and fought for the English against the Americans. His Little Falls property was confiscated. Other owners ran grist, saw and textile mills here.

There was a brownstone quarry here at Little Falls. Little Falls brownstone was used for the retaining walls of the Morris Canal and the aqueduct that spanned the Passaic River. The Little Falls aqueduct was a magnificent arch that spanned the river for 80 feet and rose 60 feet above the river bed. It was designed to carry 80 tons of weight and was made of local brownstone.

1839 -- the British architect Richard Upjohn chose this brownstone for the construction of Trinity Church in Manhattan near Wall Street.

1844 -- Robert Beattie operated a weaving ill, Beattie Carpet Mills -- later moved the operation upstream to its present site.

1845 -- Trinity Church was completed. Little Falls brownstone was also used for the First Reformed Church of Little Falls.

1859 -- Robert Beattie replaced the old wood frame carpet mill with a beautiful brownstone structure. Little Falls brownstone was also used by architect P. C. Keely of New York for Paterson's cathedral, the Church of St. John the Baptist.

1886 -- Professor William C. Frerichs painted the falls. It is on display in Ringwood Manor, Ringwood, NJ.

Sometime after 1886 -- the natural falls were reduced in size to alleviate flooding up river. Today, nothing much remains of the original falls.

1898 -- Little Falls brownstone was used to build the East Jersey Water Company pumping station.

1925 -- the arch aqueduct was dynamited to the grown.


Trails:

Follow a paved walkway adjacent to upland forest and rock outcrop areas above the "Little Falls" of the Passaic River. Then take the lower trail to the Passaic River gorge and floodplain to examine the riparian vegetation and some interesting lithophytes of a riverside cliff-face and an abandoned brownstone quarry.

Joe Labriola wrote:

While waiting to get my car serviced this morning, I was able to walk over to the Morris Canal Preserve in Little Falls, southern Passaic Co., N.J. to reevaluate as a future TBS field trip location. The town built a new walkway about a year ago and opened up a nice area adjacent to the Passaic River for public access and also installed a series of historical interpretive signs. The are nice overlooks with views of the upper falls of the River, rocky outcrops, and intact upland forest. The lower portion of this preserve has an abandoned brownstone quarry and trails along the floodplain. The town of Little Fall has made a great effort in restoring this area, but I don't believe anyone has ever done a comprehensive botanical inventory here.

I did not have a lot of time today, but I did find nice stands of Solidago caesia and a few different species of ferns including polypody.

The NJ TRANSIT 191 Bus from PANY stops right at this location. There is also a large paved parking lot built specially for the preserve. The preserve is also within the central business district, and public rest rooms are available at the nearby Quik-Check and a restaurant.

The Preserve is located on the north side of Main St. and the Parking lot is accessed from Maple Ave (vicinity of Schumacher Chevrolet). I think you will be surprised how close this little area is to the metro. area and still have been overlooked until recently. However, the town has gone out of its way to advertise its location my numerous "Morris Canal" signs.


PLANT LIST:
Joe Labriola, Dr. William F. Standaert, Torrey Botanical Society trip members


Trees:
Acer negundo (ash-leaf maple)
Acer platanoides (Norway maple)
Acer saccharinum (silver maple)
Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven)
Amelanchier arborea (shadbush)
Betula lenta (black birch)
Carpinus caroliniana (musclewood)
Catalpa speciosa (catalpa)
Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Fraxinus americana (white ash)
Liquidambar styraciflua (sweetgum)
Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree)
Pinus strobus (white pine) planted
Platanus americana (American sycamore)
Prunus avium (sweet cherry)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust)
Salix alba var. (weeping willow)
Salix matsudana (corkscrew willow)
Salix nigra (black willow)
Sassafras albidum (sassafras)
Tilia americana (American basswood)
Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock) planted
Ulmus americana (American elm)
Ulmus pumila (Siberian elm)

Shrubs and sub-shrubs:
Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry)
Hypericum punctatum (St. Johnswort)
Juniperus horizontalis (creeping juniper) planted
Ligustrum sp. (privet)
Lonicera morrowii (Morrow's honeysuckle)
Pachysandra terminalis (pachysandra) *
Rhamnus sp. (buckthorn alternate leaved)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)
Rubus phoenicolasius (wineberry)
Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry)
Viburnum acerifolium (maple-leaf viburnum)
Viburnum prunifolium (blackhaw viburnum) *

Vines:
Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut)
Amphicarpaea brevipedunculata var. manshuriaca (porcelain berry)
Celastrus orbiculatus (Asiatic bittersweet)
Hedera helix (English ivy)
Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle)
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)
Smilax rotundifolia (round-leaved greenbrier)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)
Vitis aestivalis (summer grape)

Herbs:
Agrimonia parviflora (small-flowered agrimony)
Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard) *
Allium vineale (field garlic)
Arabis lyrata (lyre-leaved rockcress)
Arctium sp. (burdock)
Arisaema triphyllum (jack-in-the-pulpit)
Artemisia annua (annual mugwort)
Aster divaricatus (white wood aster)
Barbarea vulgaris (common wintercress) *
Cerastium vulgatum (mouse-ear chickweed)
Chelidonium majus (celandine) *
Cirsium vulgare (bull thistle)
Claytonia virginica (spring beauty) *
Duchesnea indica (Indian strawberry) *
Erythronium americanum (trout lily)
Galium aparine (cleavers)
Geranium robertianum (herb Robert)
Geum canadense (white avens)
Glechoma hederacea (gill over the ground) *
Hemerocallis fulva (tawny day lily)
Heuchera americana (alumroot)
Impatiens capensis (orange jewelweed)
Lysimachia nummularia (moneywort)
Maianthemum canadense (Canada mayflower)
Medicago lupulina (black medick) *
Melilotus sp. (sweet clover)
Oenothera biennis (common evening primrose)
Polygonatum pubescens (hairy true Solomon's seal)
Polygonum virginianum (jumpseed)
Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese knotweed)
Potentilla recta (rough-fruited cinquefoil)
Ranunculus abortivus (kidney-leaved crowfoot) *
Ranunculus sp. (buttercup)
Rumex obtusifolius (broad-leaved dock)
Sagina sp. (pearlwort)?
Saxifraga virginiensis (early saxifrage) *
Sedum acre (sedum)
Senecio vulgaris (common groundsel) *
Solidago caesia (blue-stem goldenrod)
Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion) *
Thalictrum pubescens (tall meadowrue)
Trifolium pratense (red clover)
Urtica dioica (stinging nettle)
Uvularia sessilifolia (sessile-leaved bellwort) *
Verbascum thapsus (common mullein)
Viola sororia (common blue violet) *
Viola sororia (the old V. priceana) (confederate violet) *

Sedges:
Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) *

Grasses:
Anthoxanthum odoratum (sweet vernal grass)
Dactylis glomerata (orchard grass)
Danthonia spicata (poverty grass)
Panicum clandestinum (deer-tongue grass)
Poa annua (annual bluegrass) *
Setaria faberi (nodding foxtail grass)
Sorghastrum nutans (Indian nut grass)

Ferns:
Dryopteris marginalis (marginal wood fern)
Polypodium sp. (rock cap fern)

Selaginella rupestris was found in the past here many years ago.


Trip Report:


New York Times, July 7, 1895, p. 2

Found the Walking Fern - Students in Botany Return from a Ramble with a Treasure - A Day in Jersey Fields and Woods - Good Specimen of the Flora Gathered Along the Passaic River -Goldenrod Already in Bloom

The walking fern was the botanical treasure discovered by the faithful members of the Torrey Botanical Club of New York and of the Botanical Department of the Brooklyn Institute on their weekly botanizing excursion yesterday.

"I have never known of its being found nearer here than the White Mountains," said the member from Montclair, with proper enthusiasm.

There was a long tramp before the delicate little plant was found, and only then by a close search by a member who had been introduced to the place only once before, for to locate a place in the woods is not easy.

The botanists started out somewhat under a cloud yesterday. It was a genuine cloud that gave promise of darkening their day, for so unpropitious had been the weather lately that the doubtful prospect in the early morning kept the guide, the Rev. Mr. Hulse of Brooklyn, at home. It -- the cloud - or the early hour of starting kept a number of others away also, and all told, the party numbered only half a dozen young women and a couple of men who were the practical botanists of the excursion. It was 8:55 a.m. when the little party, each member duly adorned with a big tin botanizing box and carrying luncheon this time as well, left New York on the way to Little Falls, N.J.

It had been raining at Little Falls, as everywhere else, for the last few days, and a very charming country was looking its freshest and best, with the minor consideration, not worth mentioning, that the roads and pathless portions of the woods to which the party penetrated were also in a very fresh and very damp condition not conducive to dry feet.

There was a "find" before the party was out of sight of the station - a little flower with bell-like blossoms, growing upon a slender stem along the side of the road. In the early start yesterday everyone had forgotten a botany book, and no one could do more than conjecture as to its name.

It is only a short distance from the station in Little Falls that a bridge crosses the Passaic, and there the party made its first detour, climbing down a steep bank to stand then high above the river, which dashes wildly by at that point. There were steeps walls of stone and a luxurious and picturesque growth of verdure on all sides.

The little pink wild geranium was found here; the red-flowered raspberry, and ferns, of course. It did not take long to select the good specimens, and find all the right berries of different kinds growing there. Coming back, there was found a tall, fragrant plant, with a light colored, insignificant blossom.

"Ah, we'll take this home to Buttons," said the Torrey Club young woman. "Buttons! He is one of our cats. He is white, with black spots. ‘Buttons' said mama when she first saw them, and we have called the cat Buttons ever since. We get catnip enough on our excursions to last us through the winter." And that was another specimen that went into the botanical box.

On the other side of the road the route was still by the Passaic, but on the opposite bank. Over a small brook, with a rail laid across for a bridge, into a smooth country again, went the botanists. Coming to the canal, they saw a canal boat floating softly by, the head of the family with his horses on the bank, a small boy at the helm, and a pretty, sunbonneted young mother, with a still prettier sunbonneted baby by her side, as she sat on the roof of her tiny kitchen, peeling the vegetables for dinner.

After the canal there is a big open, filled with underbrush of all kinds, and tangling berry vines in profusion, and everywhere among them the rich orange and brown of numberless ox-eye daisies. It is hot in a shadeless open at nearly midday, but a single step and the atmosphere is ten degrees lower, damp and almost chilly, while the ground is covered by brilliantly colored fungi. There was another walk along the canal, with its picturesque derricks covered with woodbine, under the bridge, wandering along, and then back again, and over the canal bridge, and into the world again.

There are no two places alike on the road or in the woods, and the Passaic, always in a hurry and rushing fiercely over the stones, seems to appear at all points. It is a trip that does not need the excuse of a botanizing tour.

The stop for luncheon was on a high bank by the river, covered with pine needles. Pine and hemlock trees were all around. It was only 12 o'clock, but the young man from Montclair apologetically explained that he was anxious to eat his luncheon to save the trouble of carrying it, and the young women declared plainly that their reasons for suggesting the advisability of an early lunch hour were even more practical and urgent. There was only one thing missing at the luncheon, and that was important. With a torrent of water just below, there was nothing to drink.

After lunch the collections began to grow. There was the Asplenium eburnum, a dainty, tall and slender, little fern; the maidenhair fern, an unusual variety of the violet, the leafy stemmed, with the leaves growing from a stalk; a fern with the divided leaf growing in a circle, and the Lobelia spicata, a blue flower, the blossoms growing on a tall stalk. The flower gatherers found a few wild roses, though it is late for them. a few wild Columbines were in blossom, and one tiny spray of goldenrod appearing very much ahead of time.

Half of the party, tired with the long tramp up hill and down dale, through ravines and swamps, waited at a picturesque old house while the explorers continued the search for the walking fern. They came back at last, triumphantly carrying a little plant looking not at all like a fern, growing low, with long, narrow leaves, the points of which, as they grow out, take root in the ground. That was the last exploit of the day. Everyone was willing to start for home, though the more ambitious botanists stopped off at a station on the road to gather the wild lilies, whose flame-colored blossoms could be seen all along the route.


MORRIS CANAL NATURE PRESERVE, LITTLE FALLS, PASSAIC COUNTY, NJ. April 20, 2002.

On an overcast day with a few scattered sprinkles, a group of Torrey Botanical Society members met to tour the relatively new urban park at Little Falls, New Jersey. We met at the gazebo in the park by the large parking lot behind the stores on Paterson Avenue. In bloom around the gazebo were common wintercress (Barbarea vulgaris), celandine (Chelidonium majus), gill-over-the-ground (Glechoma hederacea), black medick (Medicago lupulina) and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).

We followed the asphalt path past historical markers to get to the basalt cliffs (of the Second Watchung Mountains) along the Passaic River. From here one can see the man-made dam and falls up the river and the overflow from the Passaic Valley Water Company. On the cliffs were found lots of herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) and blooming early saxifrage (Saxifraga virginiensis), along with Polypodium sp. (rock cap fern) capping the smaller rock ledges.

We returned to the gazebo and then followed a path winding down to the river flood plain. Here we found in bloom pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis) and sessile-leaved bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia), and thousands of spring beauty (Claytonia virginica). Here were quite a few examples of Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila). On the lower basalt cliffs we found alumroot (Heuchera americana) and lyre-leaved rockcress (Arabis lyrata).

We next walked to the site of the old brownstone quarry. On the way back we found along the trail in bloom Indian strawberry (Duchesnea indica).

Total attendance was 14. The trip leader was Joseph Labriola.