Chester Township, Morris County, NJ
560 acres


00.0 US Route 80
59.? Exit 27A for Route 206s
8.1 pass by Route 513 (sign for Hacklebarney State Park)
2.0 right turn onto Pottersville Road (just south of the mile 86 marker)
0.9 right turn for park entrance.

Elizabeth D. Kay Environmental Center is on the right in about a mile.

The park is located just north of Hacklebarney State Park and south of Cooper Mill County Park.


1826  --  North of here, and connecting to it, is the Cooper Mill (1826), the oldest gristmill in Morris County. It is a 1.8 mile hike from the Kay Environmental Center.

"At one time there were seven water powered mills on the Black River between the Cooper Mill and the lower Hacklebarney Mill." (Source: Chester Township History,

1875  --  a man digging for an ice house foundation, found iron ore in huge quantities behind a house on Main Street in Chester.  Eventually thirty-five iron mines or groups of mines opened in the area.

In Chester township are the Pottersville, Rarick, Langdon, (R. D.) Pitney, Budd & Woodhull, Topping, Samson, Hotel, Collis, Creamer 1st, Swayze, Cooper, Hacklebarney, Gulick, Creager, Hedges, Dickerson Farm, Creamer 2nd, De Camp, Leake, Daniel Horton and Barnes mines, of which the Swayze, Gulick, Cooper and Hacklebarney were worked successfully. 

(Source: Iron Mines of Morris County:

1878 --  opening of a furnace on Furnace Road to make pig iron for shipment to Dover and then by Morris Canal to manufacturing facilities in Jersey City and Newark.

1879  -- the Cooper mine opens on the farm of the late General N. A. Cooper (operated by the lessee Cooper Iron Mining Company).

1883  --  the 3.5 mile long Hacklebarney branch of the High Bridge Railroad built to serve the iron mines along the Black River.  Later it became part of the Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ).  The railway brought the iron from the Hacklebarney and Langdon mines to the Chester Furnace and the Chester branch of the CNJ.  Here in Black River County Park is the southern section of the railway line.

1894  --  the railway ships 500 tons of ice cut from Hacklebarney Pond.

1900  -- the railway line abandoned. 

1924  --  Alfred and Elizabeth Kay move from Pittsburgh to the area.  They buy a number of small farms and consolidate them into the Hidden River Farm.  Elizabeth Kay was friends with noted botanist Dr. David Fairchild, who visited the property frequently.  Elizabeth edited his autobiography The World's My Garden.  Later she opened the Herb Farm, a tearoom which came to serve 400 customers a day.  It stayed open until the coming of World War II.  She also sold herbs by mail.  (The Herb Farm was housed in a restored Revolutionary period stone barn across the Black River from Hidden River Farm.)

1961-1964  --  the Kay family donates 45 acres along the Black River below Milltown to the Morris County Park Commission. 

1994  --  the Morris County Park Commission dedicates the "Hidden River Farm" property as the Elizabeth D. Kay Environmental Center.  The Kay family gave the land.  The building was actually the summer residence of the family.  The primary residence was along Cedar Brook southwest of the Kay Environmental Center.

(Source: Della Penna 1999:chapter 2)


There is a Self-Guiding Nature Trail booklet available.

Special to the Daily Record

CHESTER TWP. —  A relatively new section of Patriots Path opened between the Kay Environmental Center and Cooper Mill.

It is one of the prettiest segments of trail in the county, going alongside the Black River for most of its 1.8 miles. Expect to pass wildflowers, large stands of mountain laurel, the entrance to the old Hacklebarney Mine and a pond filled with geese, ducks, turtles and frogs.

Kay Environmental Center, at the start of this walk, is a 1994 acquisition of the Morris County Park Commission. Much of the land of the center is taken up by huge meadows. If open space is what you seek, this is where to find it.

Cooper Mill, the halfway point of the hike, is a working grist mill built in 1826 where on weekends from May to October the huge waterwheel turns the stones inside, grinding out flour.

Start the walk on the right side of the Kay Environmental Center building. Do not get on Patriots Path immediately, but turn left behind the building to walk through the impressive meadows. The expansive view includes hills well into Hunterdon County.

At the end of the meadow path, turn right into the woods. Immediately you will have a choice of three paths. Take the leftmost path heading downhill.

Turn sharp left when you reach a red-blazed trail. Take a right turn and then another right turn to switch back, continuing downhill through the woods en route to the Black River.

Stay on the trail - land to the left is considered environmentally sensitive. There are trails here, but you must obtain a permit at the center (open only weekdays except in summer) or from the Morris County Park Police to enter this part of the Black River Gorge.

Soon the river will announce its presence with a loud rushing of water. When the wide, gravel trail curves sharply left, continue straight on a mossy trail. This will take you to the orange-blazed Patriots Path. The path is narrow at this point but well marked, taking you over several streams on brand-new wooden bridges.

Soon you will pass the fenced-in entrance of the Hacklebarney Mine, very active at the end of the 19th century until competition from the iron mines of Minnesota shut down most of Morris County's iron industry.

Patriots Path then follows the grade of a railroad branch built to serve the mine, passing on the far side of the dammed pond visible to motorists driving to Hacklebarney State Park. It is hard to believe that these serene woods were a hotbed of industry a mere century ago.

Near Cooper Mill the trail leaves the railroad bed, which passes through a swampy area, to go up and down some small hills. You will cross some small hills. You will cross the "raceways" that carried channels of the Black River away from the mill's water wheel. Then turn around and return to the mill.

Restrooms are available in the nearby parking lot, and the tour and demonstration of the mill is fascinating to watch for young and old.

For those nimble of feet, at the bottom of the stairway next to the mill go straight toward the river, using stepping stones to cross several streams and raceways.

Aim for the large mound straight ahead of you - a steep dirt trail goes up the mound. This is the railway embankment - you can see the abutments of the old bridge, long gone, that took trains over the Black River. Turn left and follow the old railbed until Patriots Path joins it.

Return to the Kay center entirely on the orange-blazed Patriots Path. After the small stream bridges follow the orange blazes as you walk next to the tributary stream to the Black River with a gorge almost as impressive as the Black River gorge itself. Then prepare for a long, steep climb out of this gorge.

At the top of the climb, make a left turn to follow Patriots Path. Take another left turn, step around a gate and you will find yourself back at the wide meadows of the Kay Center.

Written by DAN GOLDFISCHER of Succasunna, author of several bicycle guidebooks, including "Ride Guide/North Jersey" and "Ride Guide/Central Jersey."

Walk facts
Time and Distance: Most walkers will complete this almost four-mile long hike in about an hour and a half.

Terrain: Downhill to the Black River at the beginning, then level along the river. A good climb near the end.

Steve Glenn and TBS (6/7/03 = *) and Dr. Patrick L. Cooney (4/5/2000)

Acer palmatum (Japanese maple)
Acer platanoides (Norway maple) 4/05/00
Acer rubrum (red maple) 4/05/00
Betula alleghaniensis (yellow birch)
Betula lenta (black birch)
Betula nigra (river birch)
Betula papyrifera (white birch)
Betula populifolia (gray birch)
Carpinus caroliniana (musclewood)
Carya ovata (shagbark hickory)
Catalpa sp. (catalpa)
Cornus florida (flowering dogwood)
Crataegus sp. (hawthorn)
Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Ilex opaca (American holly)
Juglans nigra (black walnut)
Juniperus virginiana (red cedar)
Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree)
Nyssa sylvatica (tupelo)
Ostrya virginiana (American hop hornbeam)
Phellodendron amurense (Amur cork tree)
Picea abies (Norway spruce)
Picea sp. (spruce) adventive
Pinus strobus (white pine)
Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust)
Sassafras albidum (sassafras)
Tilia americana (American basswood)
Ulmus americana (American elm)
Ulmus rubra (slippery elm)

Amelanchier arborea (shadbush)
Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry)
Cephalanthus occidentalis (buttonbush)
Chimaphila maculata (striped wintergreen)
Cornus alternifolia (alternate-leaved dogwood) *
Euonymus alatus (winged euonymus)
Forsythia sp. (golden bells) 4/5/00
Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel)
Ilex verticillata (winterberry holly)
Ligustrum sp. (obtusifolium?) (privet)
Lindera benzoin (spicebush) 4/05/00
Lonicera morrowii (Morrow's honeysuckle)
Mitchella repens (partridgeberry)
Rhododendron periclymenoides (pink azalea)
Rhododendron sp. (rhododendron)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)
Rubus alleghaniensis (common blackberry) *
Rubus hispidus (swamp dewberry)
Rubus phoenicolasius (wineberry)
Sambucus canadensis (elderberry)
Vaccinium corymbosum (high bush blueberry)
Viburnum acerifolium (maple-leaf viburnum)
Viburnum prunifolium (blackhaw viburnum)
Vinca minor (periwinkle)

Amphicarpaea bracteata (hog peanut)
Celastrus orbiculatus (Asiatic bittersweet)
Dioscorea villosa (wild yamroot)
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)
Smilax rotundifolia (round-leaved greenbrier)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)
Vitis labrusca (fox grape)

Actaea alba (white baneberry)
Agrimonia gryposepala? (common agrimony)
Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard) *
Allium canadense (Canada onion)
Allium tricoccum (wild leek)
Allium vineale (field garlic)
Anemone quinquefolia (wood anemone)
Anemonella thalictroides (rue anemone) *
Antennaria sp. (pussytoes)
Aralia nudicaulis (wild sarsaparilla)
Arisaema triphyllum (Jack-in-the-pulpit)
Barbarea vulgaris (common wintercress) *
Caltha palustris (cowslip)
Cardamine impatiens (narrow-leaved bittercress) *
Caulophyllum thalictroides (blue cohosh)
Ceratophyllum sp. (coontail)
Chelidonium majus (celandine) *
Claytonia virginica (spring beauty)
Collinsonia canadensis (horsebalm)
Cryptotaenia canadensis (honewort)
Epifagus virginiana (beechdrops)
Erythronium americanum (trout lily)
Galium circaezens (wild licorice)
Geranium maculatum (wild geranium) *
Hesperis matronalis (dame's rocket) *
Hieracium cespitosum (field hawkweed) *
Hosta sp. (hosta )
Iris pseudacorus (yellow flag) *
Krigia biflora? (two-flowered Cynthia)
Lemna minor (lesser duckweed)
Lysimachia nummularia (moneywort)
Lysimachia quadrifolia (whorled loosestrife)
Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife)
Maianthemum canadense (Canada mayflower) *
Nuphar advena (southern pond lily)
Nuphar variegata (spatterdock)
Osmorhiza claytonii (sweet cicely)
Panax trifolius (dwarf ginseng) *
Peltandra virginica (arrow arum)
Plantago major (common plantain)
Polygonatum pubescens (hairy true Solomon's seal) *
Polygonum arifolium (halberd-leaved tearthumb)
Polygonum virginianum (jumpseed)
Pontederia cordata (pickerel weed)
Potentilla simplex (common cinquefoil) *
Prenanthes sp. (lettuce)
Pyrola elliptica (shinleaf)
Ranunculus abortivus (kidney-leaved crowfoot) *
Ranunculus recurvatus (hooked crowfoot)
Rorippa sylvestris (creeping yellowcress) *
Sanicula gregaria (clustered snakeroot) *
Smilacina racemosa (false Solomon's seal) *
Solidago caesia (blue stem goldenrod)
Symplocarpus foetidus (skunk cabbage)
Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion) *
Thalictrum dioicum (early meadowrue)
Thalictrum pubescens (tall meadowrue)

Trifolium repens (white clover) *
Veronica serpyllifolia (thyme-leaved speedwell) *
Viola macloskeyi (northern white violet) *
Viola rotundifolia (round-leaf violet)

Carex blanda? (woodland sedge)?
Carex platyphylla (broad-leaved sedge)
Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)

Luzula multiflora (woodrush)

Brachyelytrum erectum (long awned wood grass)
Festuca sp. (woodland fescue)?
Festuca subverticillata (nodding fescue grass)
Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stilt grass)
Poa annua (annual bluegrass) *

Equisetum arvense (field horsetail)
Lycopodium lucidulum (shiny clubmoss)
Lycopodium obscurum (ground pine clubmoss)
Athyrium thelypteroides (silvery glade fern)
Cystopteris fragilis (fragile fern, var. tenuis)
Dennstaedtia punctilobula (hay-scented fern)
Dryopteris carthusiana (toothed woodfern)
Dryopteris intermedia (fancy woodfern)
Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern)
Osmunda cinnamomea (cinnamon fern)
Osmunda claytoniana (interrupted fern)
Osmunda regalis (royal fern)
Polypodium virginianum (rock cap fern)
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)
Thelypteris noveboracensis (New York fern)


On a rainy, cool day a number of hardy souls botanized in the Black River County Park starting from the area of the old Cooper Mill (built in 1826). The group walked to Kay Pond.

Herbaceous plants in bloom found along the way were: Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard), Anemonella thalictroides (rue anemone), Barbarea vulgaris (early wintercress),, Chelidonium majus (celandine), Erigeron sp. (fleabane), Geranium maculatum (wild geranium), Hesperis matronalis (dame's rocket), Hieracium sp. (probably cespitosum -- hawkweed), Iris pseudacorus (yellow flag), Maianthemum canadense (Canada mayflower), Panax trifolius (dwarf ginseng), Potentilla simplex (common cinquefoil), Ranunculus abortivus (kidney-leaf buttercup), Rorippa sp. (yellow cress), Smilacina racemosa (hairy true Solomon's seal), Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion), Trifolium repens (white clover), and Veronica serpyllifolia (thyme-leaved speedwell). Some woodies included Cornus alternifolia (alternate leaved dogwood) and Rubus alleghaniensis (common blackberry).

At the pond the leader pointed out a Betula papyrifera (paper birch), the southernmost siting for the species in New Jersey.

We past the dam (creating Kay Pond) and then made a 90 degree left turn, following the Black River's course. Behind a fence was the old Hacklebarney Mine. We walked to see if the Pyrola elliptica was in bloom (but it was not). Herbaceous plants in bloom along this section of the river were Smilacina racemosa (false Solomon's seal) and Viola macloskeyi (northern white violet).

The leader pointed out Cardamine impatiens (narrow-leaved bittercress) as a possible invasive species from Europe that may yet come to rival Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard) as a problem for our natural area. The leaves of the species are sagittate-auriculate at base.

Total attendance was 11. The attendees were Karl Anderson, Dave Austin, Patrick Cooney, Rosemary Cooney, Linda Kelly, Roberta Morganstern, Sarah-David Rosenbaum, Michael St. John, Eleanor Standaert, and Bill Standaert. The trip leader was Steve Glenn.