|At the End of New County Road, Secaucus, NJ |
Phone: (201) 915-1386
Hudson County/New Jersey Meadowlands Commission/N.J. Divison of Fish and Wildlife
Tidal/Difficult when crossing the Hackensack River and Tidal/Moderate on the paddling trail in Saw Mill Creek.
To exit, follow the one-way road that circles the athletic fields. Bear Right, proceed up driveway and turn Right onto Schuyler Avenue. At the 3rd traffic light, turn Right onto Route 7 (Belleville Pike). After approximately 2.5 miles follow signs for the
New Jersey Turnpike on Right. This will loop around onto the Newark Turnpike. Pass through 1 traffic light (U.S. Postal Service Left) and continue to follow signs for the New Jersey Turnpike. After 1.3 miles, turn Right onto New Jersey Turnpike entrance. After getting ticket bear Right and follow signs for 16E Lincoln Tunnel. Merge onto Turnpike and follow signs for 15X Secaucus Rail Station. Take exit 15X on Right. Follow ramp and turn Left at the 3rd traffic light onto New County Road. Follow New County Road for 7/10 of a mile as it bears around to the right into Laurel Hill County Park. Map
Open daily from dawn to dusk. Parking is available. Saw Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area hosts hunting season from October through February. Check the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection website (listed above) for further information on hunting/fishing regulations. Pick up the canoe/kayak trail map at the Meadowlands Environment Center, or at Hackensack Riverkeeper’s Paddling Center, located next to the boat launch area.
NJ Transit Bus Line Nos. 129/2/329/772 all stop at Secaucus Junction. Check NJ Transit website for trains and buses stopping at Secaucus Junction. Leave the station by turning Left onto Seaview Drive. At traffic light turn left onto New County Road, follow into the park. Walking distance within a mile.
||Saw Mill Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is jointly administered by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. This area is considered the jewel of the Meadowlands and a blueprint for restoration projects elsewhere in the District. The best and only way to see the area is by small watercraft along the canoe/kayak trail that follows the main channel and Saw Mill Creek. Launch from Laurel Hill County Park, cross the Hackensack River and look for the trail markers. Be prepared for strong currents when crossing the river, which is quite deep and wide at this crossing. Easier paddling awaits inside the WMA. It is safe to stay on the trail along the Creek at any tide level. More adventurous visitors can squeeze through vegetation and quietly approach unsuspecting wildlife at high tide. However, beware of the approach of low tide, which can leave one stranded if they venture off the Creek. Laurel Hill County Park also offers fishing along its waterfront for white perch and striped bass.
The large protruding rock along the riverbank is the highest point on Laurel Hill. The rock was once much larger, having been quarried since the arrival of the first settlers. The basalt rock was used as building material in growing areas like Jersey City. In fact, the more you learn about the history of Laurel Hill, the more intriguing it becomes. For example, Laurel Hill was formed by volcanic action over 150 million years ago. Much later, colonists kept away from the peculiar sloped hill because of the many large black snakes found there and coined the nickname “Snake Hill.” Laurel Hill Park is home to the Hackensack Riverkeeper's Field Office and Paddling Center, which is open weekends from April thru October and weekdays by appointment. Hackensack Riverkeeper also conducts many of its Eco-Cruises from this park.
Hiding along the channels and main creek, using the reeds as windbreaks on cold winter days, you will find Common and Hooded Mergansers, Common Pintail, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Bufflehead, Blue-winged and Green-winged Teals, Canada Goose and Mute Swan, some of which also breed in the Meadowlands. A glance at the electrical towers near the Turnpike may turn up a Peregrine Falcon or Red-tailed Hawk. Look across the marsh where the vegetation has died back and see the 3-foot tall dome-shaped lodges made by the common muskrat. Great Cormorants and Bald Eagles may also be seen.
Reeds and saltmarsh cordgrass begin to grow; new shoots appear as the old growth becomes detritus, which provides nourishment to many wildlife species. Look closely and try to find amphipods, shrimp, snails, crabs, killifish and silversides before the grass takes off and grows as high as five feet. The migration of waterfowl, wading birds and shorebirds takes place as the salt marsh transforms itself over the course of the seasons. Listen for Clapper Rail and Marsh Wren. The field at Laurel Hill may attract colorful migrants like Indigo Bunting, Orchard Oriole, warblers and swallows. Make sure you look at Snake Hill, where Common Ravens nested successfully along the rock ledge in Spring 2006. Coyote have also been spotted here.
The Saw Mill Creek Marsh is one of the most productive habitats in the Meadowlands region. Paddle along the creek to the open
mudflat, visible at low tide, to view wading birds feeding, fishing and probing for food. Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, as well as elusive Least Bittern and Green Heron are all possibilities. Osprey may be soaring above or perching just a few feet away. Three pairs of Osprey are known to nest in the vicinity. Listen for the bubbling song of the Marsh Wren, which is often heard but not seen. Shorebirds can be observed from late July through the end of the summer. Atlantic marsh fiddler crabs can be seen on the tops of the mud bank feeding on detritus as diamond-back terrapins bask in the sun.
Watch the habitat change as winter approaches. The marsh grasses turn from green to golden brown — glowing bright yellow-orange at sunset. Egrets make their way down the Hackensack River to their roosting areas around New York Harbor before heading South. Double-crested Cormorants perch on obstructions sticking out of the water before joining the egrets in migration.