Millburn/West Orange/Maplewood, Essex County, NJ

This is a 2,048 acre park, largest park in Essex County, with nineteen miles of trails.  The park is located between the First and Second Watchungs, these serving as boundaries of the park.  


Park at the Locust Grove parking and picnic area opposite the railroad station in downtown Take exit 10 (Northfield Avenue) off of I-280 to Mount Pleasant Avenue.  Turn south, following Gregory Avenue, Wyoming Avenue, South Wyoming Avenue, Sagamore Road, and Glen Road and turn right in Millburn (near the Paper Mill Playhouse) off the Glen Avenue-Lackawanna Place intersection at the wooded sign.  


Basalt lava flows in this rift valley (Newark Basin, Piedmont).  Look for turtle backs, which were formed when the basaltic traprock fractured into small hexagonal blocks.  Minerals filled in the cracks, then erosion wore away the basalt faster than the minerals.  The resulting pattern was rock similar to the back of a turtle.  

West Branch of the Rahway River heads south through the park flowing through Orange Reservoir, Campbells Pond and Diamond Mill Pond. 


The presence of the early Lenape Indians lingers in the name given to the Watchung--the "high hills."  

1616   --  first settlers arrived in Newark and stripped the forest of  hemlock and white pine in order to build their houses.

Revolutionary War  --  Beacon Signal Station 9 was located here--one of 23 beacons built by General Washington to observe British troop movements quartered on Staten Island and New York City. It was from this outlook that, on June 23, 1780, Essex County and Newark Militia were first warned that the British had launched an attack westward toward "the Gap," (Hobart Gap), a natural pathway to Washington's troops encamped at Morris Town. In a pincer movement designed to gain access to the Gap, Hessian troops fought bitterly along Vaux Hall Road, with the British advanced along Galloping Hill Road until they were repelled, the Hessians at the base of the mountain and the British in Millburn--called Millville in those days. Legend has it that General George Washington monitored the battle from what is now Washington Rock.

late 1700s --  when the demand for lumber had lessened, paper mills took the place of sawmills, and now the second-growth forest was ravaged. Scottish immigrant Samuel Campbell, for whom Campbell's Pond is named, was the first to build a mill; he produced paper used to print money for the U.S. government. Today, the Diamond Papermill Company is the Paper Mill Playhouse.

War of 1812  --  Washington Rock served again as a lookout for the Army.

1895 --   the park was built from land purchases begun this year, the first year of the Park Commission's life. It took a decade to untangle the deeds and assemble all the lands at South Mountain.

Frederick Law Olmsted (designer of  New York City's Central Park) designed South Mountain Reservation.  Before he delegated design of the Essex Parks to his stepson's firm, Frederick Law Olmsted visited the newly acquired reservation. He regarded it as some of the most beautiful and promising terrain he had ever seen anywhere. The design of South Mountain was finalized by the Olmsted Brothers in stages over the years. 

beginning of the 20th century  --  The Essex County Park Commission took over the area in order to protect it from the damage done by logging and paper mill companies.  

1908  --  a covered, open-air shelter of chestnut logs was built. Today, just beyond Washington's Rock, the only remnant is a flat concrete platform.   

1910  --  more than 3000 rhododendrons were planted.  Hemlock, pine, mountain laurel and wild azalea were also planted.  

1934  --  A good deal of construction work--trails, foot bridges, shelters, etc.--was carried out by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

There was a major planting of cherry trees in South Mountain Reservation.

Info from:

Mary Ann McGann, "South Mountain High: A look at South Mountain Reservation", Matters Magazine;


. Turtle Back Zoo.
. South Mountain Arena--contains two indoor ice skating rinks. The NJ Devils
  training facilities are located here. The arena is also used for special
  events, including an annual circus.
. Washington Rock Lookout Historic Site.
. Ten picnic areas.
. Nineteen miles of hiking and walking trails.
. Twenty-seven miles of carriage roads for jogging, horseback riding, &
  cross-country skiing.
. Scout camping site.
. Archery range.
. Rahway River runs through the valley into several ponds and the Orange
. Fishing at Diamond Mill Pond.
. Hemlock Falls.
. Various wildlife, including deer.
. Largest parkland in Essex County.


The vistas of New York, Elizabeth, Union, Staten Island, and Newark can be viewed from the eastern ridge, 550 feet above the community of Millburn. Deep in the woods a 25-foot waterfall at Hemlock Falls is a dramatic feature.  The roadway on Crest Drive has been closed to vehicular traffic at the old deer paddock so that you may enjoy a leisurely walk down to Washington Rock.

Short Version:

You can travel clockwise on the yellow blazed Lenape trail heading northeast then north; northwest, southwest and south back to the parking area.  At the end of Crest Drive is a great viewing place overlooking I-78 which is the pass through which the ancient Passaic River once flowed.  During the Revolutionary War, the British tried to march on Washington's encampment near Morristown.  Washington Rock has a plaque which tells about the events.  The British burned Connecticut Farms (now called Union) and Springfield.  There was a sentry at Washington Rock.  If the sentries saw British troops, they would start a bonfire to alert the Americans encamped at Jockey Hollow.  From here you can see over Millburn, Springfield, and toward the ridge where the Watchung Reservation is located.  The tower on the ridge to the right is the Bell Telephone building.  

You climb upwards.  One place you go by is Washington Rock.  Along the way you pass Maple Falls Cascade, a 25-foot drop over basalt.  Then comes Beech Brook Cascade followed by Hemlock Falls (a popular picnic spot close to South Orange Avenue).

You abandon the yellow trail when it turns right in favor of going straight across the intersection.  You should cross the Rahway River and follow the white-blazed Rahway Trail paralleling the river.  The Rahway Trail will go south following the east bank of the Rahway Riverback to the parking lot.  

Longer version:

You can go in a figure-eight.  The short version is the bottom half of the figure eight.  In the northern part of the park was Mayapple Hill and Turtleback Rock.  Take the Lenape Trail (yellow) out to the Oakdale Trail (red) and head back on the Lenape Trail (yellow) and the Cascade Trail (yellow).


Scheller (1986)

Scofield, et. al., (1988)

Scofield (1991)

Near the northern end of the reservation is Turtle Back Zoo (560 Northfield Avenue, West Orange 07052). The zoo, located on 16 acres, houses 500 animals of 200 different species. The emphas is on animals of New Jersey.

Dennis Aita, Dr. William F. Standaert, and the Torrey Botanical Society

The reservation has changed only slightly through the years. It's been preserved primarily in its wild state. Woodlands abound in a variety of hardwood trees, and tall hemlocks tower above streams, creeks and ponds.

Acer negundo (boxelder maple)
Acer palmatum (Japanese maple) 2
Acer platanoides (Norway maple) some
Acer rubrum (red maple) common
Acer saccharinum (silver maple) few
Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven) few
Betula lenta (black birch) common
Betula nigra (river birch)
Betula populifolia (gray birch)
Carpinus caroliniana var. virginiana (musclewood)
Carya cordiformis (bitternut hickory) some
Carya glabra (pignut hickory) some
Carya ovata (shagbark hickory) some
Carya tomentosa (mockernut hickory)
Catalpa sp. (speciosa?) (northern catalpa) 1, roadside
Celtis occidentalis (American hackberry) 1, roadside
Cornus florida (flowering dogwood) few
Crataegus monogyna (oneseed hawthorn)
Diospyros virginiana (persimmon)
Fagus grandifolia var. ... (American beech) common
Fraxinus americana (white ash) common
Fraxinus pennsylvanica? (green ash) few, roadside
Ilex opaca (American holly)
Juglans sp. (cinerea?) (butternut) (No branches within reach) 1
Juglans nigra (black walnut)
Juniperus virginiana (red cedar)
Lindera benzoin var. benzoin (spicebush) some
Liquidambar styraciflua (sweetgum) some
Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree) 6/3/00 common
Magnolia virginiana (sweet bay magnolia)
Morus alba (white mulberry)
Morus rubra (red mulberry) 1
Nyssa sylvatica var. sylvatica (tupelo) some
Ostrya virginiana (hop hornbeam)
Pinus nigra (Austrian pine) 2, in woods near parking area
Pinus strobus (white pine)
Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore) some
Prunus avium (sweet cherry) 1, roadside
Prunus serotina (black cherry) some
Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii (Douglas-fir)1
Pyrus baccata or baccata hybrid (Siberian crab apple) 1
Quercus alba (white oak) common
Quercus palustris (pin oak) few
Quercus prinus (chestnut oak) few, hilly areas
Quercus rubra (red oak) some
Quercus velutina (black oak) common?
Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust) few
Salix sp. (nigra var. nigra?) (black willow) 1
Sassafras albidum (sassafras) some
Tilia americana (American basswood)
Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock) few
Ulmus americana (American elm) some
Ulmus rubra (slippery elm)
Zelkova serrata (zelkova) 1, roadside

Alnus serrulata (smooth alder) 1
Aralia sp. (elata?) (Japanese angelica-tree)
Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry) common
Cephalanthus occidentalis (buttonbush)
Chimaphila maculata (spotted wintergreen)
Clethra alnifolia (sweet pepperbush)
Cornus alternifolia (alternate-leaved dogwood)
Cornus amomum var. amomum (swamp dogwood) few
Corylus americana (American hazel)
Elaeagnus umbellata (autumn olive)
Euonymus alatus (winged euonymus) some
Deutzia scabra var. candidissima (deutzia) 6/3/00 1 clump
Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry)
Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) common
Ilex verticillata (winterberry holly)
Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel) 6/3/00 some
Ligustrum obtusifolium (privet) 6/3/00 near; few, several sites
Ligustrum vulgare (common privet)
Lonicera maackii (Amur honeysuckle)
Mitchella repens (partridge-berry) 1 small patch
Pachysandra terminalis (pachysandra) 1 large patch
Photinia villosa (Asiatic photinia)
Rhamnus frangula (European buckthorn)
Rhododendron maximum (rosebay rhododendron) some, 1 area
Rhododendron periclymenoides (pinxter flower) 1
Rhodotypos scandens (jetbead) 6/3/00 1 patch
Rhus copallina (winged sumac)
Rhus glabra (smooth sumac)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose) 6/3/00 few
Rubus alleghaniensis (common blackberry)
Rubus occidentalis (black raspberry)
Rubus phoenicolasius (wineberry) few patches
Rubus sp. (blackberry) 6/3/00;1
Salix discolor (pussy willow)
Sambucus canadensis var. ... (common elderberry) few, 1 site
Spiraea alba var. latifolia (meadowsweet) 1
Staphylea trifolia (bladdernut)
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry)
Toxicodendron radicans var. radicans (poison ivy) some
Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry) few
Vaccinium pallidum (low blueberry) some
Viburnum acerifolium (maple-leaf viburnum) 2
Viburnum dentatum var. lucidum (arrowwood viburnum) 1
Viburnum dentatum v venosum? (southern arrowwood)
Viburnum dilatatum (linden viburnum) 6/3/00 2
Viburnum prunifolium (blackhaw viburnum)
Viburnum setigerum (tea viburnum)
Viburnum sieboldii (Siebold viburnum)
Vinca minor (periwinkle) 1 large patch

Acanthopanax sieboldianus (Acanthopanax) 1 patch
Ampelopsis brevipedunculata? (porcelainberry?) common, 1 large area
Amphicarpaea bracteata (hog peanut) few
Celastrus orbiculatus (Asiatic bittersweet)
Dioscorea villosa var. villosa (wild yamroot) few, 1 site
Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle) 6/3/00 some
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper) 1
Smilax glauca (sawbrier)
Smilax rotundifolia (round-leaved greenbrier) some
Vitis aestivalis var. aestivalis (summer grape)1 patch
Vitis riparia (riverbank grape) 6/03/00 1 patch

Actaea alba (white baneberry) few, 1 site
Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard) 6/03/00 some
Allium canadense var. canadense (wild onion) 6/03/00 near; some
Ambrosia artemisiifolia (common ragweed) few
Ambrosia trifida var. trifida (giant ragweed) 1
Anemone quinquefolia var. quinquefolia (wood anemone) 1
Anthemis arvensis (corn chamomile) 6/03/00; some, 1 area
Apocynum sp. (Indian-hemp dogbane) (Young plants) few
Arctium minus (common burdock) few
Arisaema triphyllum var. triphyllum (Jack-in-the-pulpit) common
Artemisia vulgaris (common mugwort) some
Aster divaricatus var. divaricatus (white wood aster) common
Barbarea vulgaris (common wintercress) 6/03/00 few, 1 site
Callitriche terrestris (terrestrial starwort) 6/03/00 1 large patch, on damp trail
Capsella bursa-pastoris (shepherd's purse) 6/03/00 few
Cardamine pensylvanica (Pennsylvania bitter-cress) 6/03/00 few, pond shore
Cardamine parviflora var. arenicola (bittercress) 6/03/00 locally common
Caulophyllum thalictroides var. thalictroides (blue cohosh) 1
Cerastium vulgatum (mouse-ear chickweed) 6/03/00 some
Circaea lutetiana var. canadensis (enchanter's-nightshade) 1
Cirsium vulgare (bull thistle) few
Conopholis americana (squaw-root) 6/03/00 near; 2 clumps, 1 site
Cryptotaenia canadensis (honewort) few
Eupatorium rugosum var. rugosum (white snakeroot) some
Euphorbia cyparissias (cypress spurge) 6/30/00; few large patches
Galium aparine var. ... (cleavers) 1 patch
Geum sp. (canadense?) (white avens) 1
Glechoma hederacea (gill-over-the-ground) 1 patch
Heuchera americana (alumroot) few, 1 site
Hypoxis hirsuta (yellow stargrass) 6/30/00; some
Impatiens capensis (orange jewelweed) some
Lepidium virginicum var. virginicum (peppergrass) 6/30/00; few
Maianthemum canadense var. ... (Canada mayflower) few
Medicago lupulina (black medick) 6/30/00; common, 1 area
Melilotus sp. (sweet clover) 2
Oxalis dillenii (yellow wood-sorrel) 6/30/00 near; some
Oxalis violacea (violet wood-sorrel) 6/30/00; 1 patch
Phytolacca americana (pokeweed) 1
Picea abies (Norway spruce)
Pilea pumila var. pumila (clearweed) few
Plantago major (common plantain) some
Polygonatum pubescens (Solomon's seal) few
Polygonum arenastrum (common knotweed) some, roadsides
Polygonum cespitosum var. longisetum (cespitose smartweed) 6/03/00; common
Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese knotweed) common
Polygonum sagittatum (arrow-leaved tearthumb) few
Polygonum virginianum (jumpseed) common
Potentilla simplex (old-field cinquefoil) 6/30/00; common
Prenanthes sp. (gall-of-the-earth) some
Pyrola rotundifolia var. ... (shinleaf)) 6/30/00 near; few, 2 sites
Ranunculus recurvatus (hooked crowfoot) some
Ranunculus abortivus var. ... (small-flowered crowfoot) common
Ranunculus acris var. acris (tall buttercup)1
Rumex acetosella (sheep sorrel) 6/30/00; few
Rumex obtusifolius (bitter dock) few
Sagina japonica (pearlwort) 6/30/00; some, few areas
Senecio vulgaris (common groundsel) 6/30/00;
Smilacina racemosa (false Solomon's seal) few
Solidago caesia (bluestem goldenrod) few
Solidago flexicaulis (zigzag goldenrod) 2
Symplocarpus foetidus (skunk cabbage) some
Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion) 6/30/00; some
Thalictrum pubescens (tall meadowrue) 1
Veratrum viride (swamp hellebore) 1
Verbascum thapsus (common mullein) 1
Veronica officinalis (common speedwell) 6/30/00; 2 patches
Viola sp. (sororia?) (dooryard violet) common

Rushes and Sedges:
Carex pensylvanica var. pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) some
Carex sp. (Laxiflora group) (sedge) some
Carex spp. (several) (sedge) common
Carex vulpinoidea var. vulpinoidea (sedge) common
Juncus effusus var. solutus (soft rush) few
Juncus tenuis var. tenuis (path rush) common
Luzula multiflora (wood rush) 1
Scirpus atrovirens var. atrovirens (bulrush) some

Anthoxanthum odoratum (sweet vernal grass) common
Bromus commutatus (hairy chess grass) common, 1 area
Bromus inermis (smooth brome grass) few, roadsides
Dactylis glomerata (orchard grass) common
Glyceria striata var. striata (fowl mannagrass) some, few sites
Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stilt grass) common
Panicum clandestinum (deer tongue panic grass) common
Phalaris arundinacea (reed canary grass) 1 small patch
Phragmites australis (common reed grass) 1 patch
Poa annua (annual bluegrass) few
Poa compressa (Canada bluegrass) some
Poa trivialis (rough bluegrass) some

Ferns and Fern Allies:
Adiantum pedatum ssp. pedatum (northern maidenhair fern) 1 patch
Athyrium filix-femina var. michauxii (northern lady fern) few patches
Athyrium thelypterioides (silvery glade fern) some, 1 site
Dennstaedtia punctilobula (hay-scented fern) few patches
Dryopteris carthusiana (spinulose wood fern) few, 1 site
Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern) few
Osmunda cinnamomea (cinnamon fern) few
Osmunda claytoniana var. ... (interrupted fern)1 clump
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern) some
Thelypteris noveboracensis (New York fern) common
Thelypteris palustris var. pubescens (marsh fern) few, 1 site

April 12, 1930

Spring flowers were found to be late in bloom, on the joint excursion of the TBC and the NY "Section of the Green Mountain Club, in the South Mountain Reservation of the Essex County Park system, on Saturday, April 12, 1930.

Apparently cool weather had slowed up the progress of vegetation; the woods were still mostly brown and bare, but along the streams, some greenery was afforded by the skunk cabbage and green hellebore. Spice bush was only beginning to bloom in a few sunny spots. A few hepaticas were found in blossom.

However, in the absence of blooming plants, the party of 29, under the leadership of Mr. Andrew Scarlett of South Orange, NJ found several objects of geological interest. Chief among these was the Turtle Back Rocks, on First Watchung Mountain, near Northfield Avenue, a striking example of incipient columnar formation in basalt. Boulders containing marine shell casts, from the Silurian formations of the Upper Hudson Valley, were found in glacial gravel in a pit, south of the Orange Reservoir. Fresh exposures of the columnar basalt in a quarry west of South Orange, were also of interest.

Report by Raymond H. Torrey.