Richard W. DeKorte Park |
Mill Creek Point Park
Losen Slote Creek Park
Hudson County Park at Laurel Hill
River Barge Park and Marina
Richard P. Kane Natural Area
MILL CREEK MARSH (Secaucus)
This 209-acre* area was purchased by NJMC for preservation in 1996 from Hartz Mountain Industries. It was undeveloped and had experienced no direct industrial activities. A development of a 2,750 town homes had been proposed for the site. It had a dense monoculture of common reed (Phragmites autralis,) with very little open water and reduced tidal flow. In its former condition, there was little habitat diversity.
In 1998, NJMC began wetlands enhancement activities at the site, including the re-establishment of tidal flows, creation of open water impoundments, grading to create low, high and upland marsh areas, and native replantings to attract a diversity of aquatic life and birds. It was the first wetlands enhancement project NJMC managed. This area is important for breeding and migratory waterfowl and shorebirds.
Welcoming visitors into Mill Creek Marsh is Mill Creek Point Park, a 3-acre public park built by the NJMC and maintained by the Town of Secaucus. A stone mill was constructed at the site in 1840, and a restaurant called Tony’s Old Mill and Marina called it home until closing its doors in 1986. Today, Mill Creek Point Park is complete with engraved bird signage, a riverfront walkway, picnic tables, benches, and launch for canoes, kayaks and small watercraft.
Adjacent to the park on its south end is the Secaucus Wetlands Enhancement Site, where a 1,500-foot elevated boardwalk allows visitors to walk along the marsh and students from Secaucus High School to peer down into a restored urban wetland. The boardwalk features observation benches and award-winning wildlife signage on the rails. At the opposite end of the marsh is the Mill Creek Marsh Trail, where the remains of Atlantic White Cedar Trees that once forested the Meadowlands can still be seen.
More than 260 bird species have been reported in the Meadowlands, a major stop along the Atlantic Flyway. Within the Mill Creek Marsh, Green-winged Teal frequently congregate in open water and use phragmites as a wind break from cold winter winds. The return of spring is heralded by Tree Swallows seeking homes in nest boxes built by the NJMC and volunteer groups. In the summer, Double-Crested Cormorants perch atop the remains of dilapidated docks and tide gates, Herons, Egrets and Terns feed along shorelines, and Black-crowned Night Heron, a threatened species in New Jersey, nest in the taller trees. Fiddler Crabs dig in along the riverbank. Diamond-back Terrapin can be seen in shallower waters, and Muskrat huts rise above the land. The Western spur of the New Jersey Turnpike and the New York City Skyline provide a backdrop, a striking visual contrast between the balance of human development and the preservation of open space that marks the Meadowlands District as a unique place to explore.
The tide will affect what you see in the Mill Creek Marsh. At high tide the Mill Creek shoreline is covered by six feet of water; at low tide mudflats rise a foot above the water line. Channels will vary depending on tidal flow. If the tide if going out, the channel will be narrow. If the tide is coming in, the channel will be broad. At mid to high tide, additional channels are available for exploration.
The History of Mill Creek Marsh
In the 1800’s and early part of the 20th century diking and draining of the meadows contributed to the increase of common reed and a decrease in tidal water throughout the Mill Creek site. Extensive ditching by the Bergen County Mosquito Commission in the 1920’s is evident from aerial photographs.
A unique feature of the Mill Creek Marsh is the remnant White Cedar Forest. The mosquito ditches that had been dug around the site seem to stop where the cedar trees were reported to have been. During the marsh enhancement work excavating machinery hit the layer of buried old cedar stumps. Cedar Trees were reported to have existed throughout the Meadowlands when there was less tidal influence and more freshwater flowing, before the Oradell Dam was built. Cedar is resistant to decay and was used mainly for houses, plank roads, barrels, canoes and other durable goods.
Enhancement at Mill Creek Marsh began in 1986. In 1996, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission purchased the marsh and used the mitigation funds for restoration at the site.
Enhancement of Mill Creek Marsh
Wetland enhancement at Mill Creek included grading of the marsh surface by creating additional meanders and tidal channels and the excavation of shallow pools to provide open water habitats. The result: low marsh habitat flushed daily by tides; lowland scrub-shrub passerine habitats; creation of dabbling duck, shorebird, and wading bird breeding, wintering and migratory habitats; greater fishery access; and some degree of mosquito control. A passive park and walking trail along the upland portions of the site were also created.
In 1999, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission acquired 63 acres of the site known as the Western Brackish Marsh and 77 acres of the site known as the Eastern Brackish Marsh.
Mill Creek is a tributary of the Hackensack River. You can reach the south end of Mill Creek and the Hackensack River by traveling down Mill Ridge Road to Mill Creek Point Park or the east side by taking Route 3 to the to Mill Creek Mall and parking next to the Stop & Shop.