Schiff Nature Preserve
Mendham Township and Mendham Borough, Morris County, NJ
340 acre

The Schiff Natural Lands Trust Nature Preserve is contained within the Ralston Historic District which is listed on both the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.


Take Route 287 to exit 22B (Bedminster/Netcong/Rte 206 North). Travel 3.5 miles on 206 North (pass the Sunoco gas station on your right) to Holland Road and make a right. Turn left at the stop sign at the end of Holland Road. Travel 1.1 miles and turn right onto Mosle Road. Travel 2.7 miles and as the road forks look for the white Union School House, bear right here onto Pleasant Valley Road. Travel 0.1 miles and make a left between the stone pillars into the Schiff Natural Lands Trust. Make a left at the "T" at the far end of the parking lot and follow the winding road for 0.5 miles to the top of the hill. Pass the two houses and follow the road into the parking lot.

Or:  From Route 24 in Mendham heading south, turn left onto Roxciticus Road; left onto Union School House Road; left onto Pleasant Valley Road; and proceed as above.  


local Lenni Lenape lived in the area

1779-80  --  it is thought that during the Revolutionary War was located on a hilltop in the northern section of Schiff when the continental troops were in an encampment at nearby Jockey Hollow.  The troops may have served to protect the old Mendham-Gladstone Road through the Raritan River pass. The Old Colonial Road, now a broad hiking trail, linked the outpost in the area and the Jockey Hollow encampment.

1851  --  Union School (at corner of Union School House, Mosele and Pleasant Valley Roads) built and operated as a one room school until 1928, when the students transferred to Mendham Borough School.  Remodeled as a private dwelling after acquisition by the Schiff Scout Reservation, 1941.

19th century --  the "George DeVore Estate" was located here along the Continental Road.  Of the nineteenth century buildings, only the River House survives today (at the comer of Pleasant Valley, Union Schoolhouse and Mosle Roads).

20th century --  circa 1911, an Eclectic Revival Style manor house was built for Richard H. Williams (remains include the main entrance bridge and four other false arch bridges).  The estate was known as the Brookrace Estate.  

There was a horse racetrack located in the Great Meadow.

The Boy Scouts build some buildings and made trails here.

1931  --  Jacob and Therese Schiff donated the land in memory of their son Mortimer Schiff, the National President of the Boy Scouts of America. They gave the funds to the Boy Scouts of America to purchase the property.

1933  -- preserve dedicated. The Boy Scouts developed the property into its national Boy Scout Training Camp.

1939-1940  --  the Dan Beard Cabin, named after the first National Scout Commissioner, located here was originally part of a Boy Scouts' Service Camp that was constructed for the New York World's Fair. At one time the largest film studio on the east coast was located adjacent to the Cabin.  The studio was a gift of the artist Norman Rockwell and Thomas Watson of IBM. Rockwell was known to have used the Schiff Reservation as the scenes for some of his famous paintings.

1960  -- the boy scout Woodbadge Lodge built.

1979  -- the Boy Scouts of America moved their headquarters and national training center to Texas and the Schiff Reservation was sold to AT&T which wanted to build an international management institute for its executives. They abandoned the idea when public opposition arose.

1984  -- the Trust for Public Lands (TPL), a California based national conservation organization, buys the property from AT&T to sell it to a conservation agency.

TPL sold a portion of the tract to a developer to cover its costs while preserving the majority of the property for public open space to be managed by the Schiff Natural lands Trust, Inc.  The property now abuts on three sides a development of some 86 homes on 185 acres of the original tract.

1998  --Schiff Natural Lands Trust takes title to 310 acres of the original 500 acres. The Farrelly family donated 40 acres on the east side of the preserve.


Butterfly and wildflower gardens; exhibits in the Marge Davidson Building.

Short biography of Marjorie Mardis Davidson:

1921  -- she was born in Bluff City, Kansas.

She earned a BA at Wichita State University and did graduate work at Indiana University, majoring in psychology.

World War II  --   she was employed in the Liberal Science Education program at Purdue University and in civilian employment at Camp Crowder, Missouri and Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.

1956 -- moves to Mendham Township.

She did an enormous amount of volunteer work: past president of Womenís Auxiliary of Ralston Engine Company No. 1, trustee of Schiff Natural Lands Trust, past president of Mendham Garden Club, member of Mendham Township Committee for Historical Preservation, trustee of Ralston Historical Association, and chairwoman of Mendham Township Board of Elections in Ralston. She was a co-founder of the library in Mendham Township Elementary School, helped start the church library at Hilltop House in Mendham, maintained operation of Ralston Historical Associationís museum for 25 years and prepared the application for Ralston Historical District--the first district in Morris County to be designated by the state and federal historical offices.

September 6, 2001  --  she died of an intracranial hemorrhage.



The Schiff Nature Preserve is oddly shaped because the center heart of the area was cut out for the housing development.  The preserve almost completely circles the housing development (except for the Lake Therese area).  In order to hike the entire preserve area, one has to cover 80 percent of the circle and then return.

There is a self-guided nature trail and seven miles of trails and paths.

There is a side path from Schiff which crosses the India Brook of the Raritan River North Branch and connects with Patriot's Path (located outside of the preserve on its northwest side) as well as the Ralston Recreation and Natural Area (to be extended to the Burnett Brook Natural Area and then to Mount Paul Memorial County Park).

The Green Trail takes the hiker north all the way from the Marge Davidson Administration Building to a gate near the housing development, (a blue side trail known as the Lookout Point Trail takes the hiker out and back to the Vista look out point), past the Great Meadow, and to the red blazed trail that ends at the gate at Roxiticus Road in the northwest section of the preserve. 

From the northwest gate area the hiker can take a series of trails to the fare southeast section of the preserve: the yellow trail; the red-blazed Ann's Trail;  and the orange-blazed Farrally Trail (past the South Conservation Pond).

November 15, 2003.  A brief stop.  There was not much in the visitor center.  Nice view over Lake Therese (privately owned) below. 


Amelanchier arborea (shadbush)
Carya spp. (hickory)
Cornus florida (flowering dogwood)
Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Fraxinus americana (white ash)
Juniperus virginiana (red cedar)
Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree)
Pinus sp. (pine)
Prunus serotina (black cherry)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Quercus velutina (black oak)

Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry)
Elaeagnus umbellata (autumn olive)
Euonymus alatus (winged euonymus)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)
Rubus phoenicolasius (wineberry)
Viburnum plicatum (double-flowering dogwood) planted

Celastrus orbiculatus (Asiatic bittersweet)
Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)

Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard)
Anemonella thalictroides (rue anemone)
Arisamaea triphyllum (Jack-in-the-pulpit)
Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple)

Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)


trail map at: