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Mill Creek Marsh Trail
This hike loops around an interesting marsh, with remnants of ancient Atlantic white cedar trees that thrived in the area centuries ago.
Take the New Jersey Turnpike to Exit 16W and follow signs for Route 3 East. Cross the bridge over the Hackensack River and follow signs for "Secaucus/New Jersey Turnpike South/Exit Only." Continue past the Turnpike exit and take the next exit (just beyond the underpass) for "Harmon Meadow Blvd./The Plaza/Mill Creek Mall." Follow Harmon Meadow Boulevard to the third traffic light (Sam's Club is on the left) and turn left onto Mill Creek Drive. Cross over the New Jersey Turnpike and continue straight ahead (do not bear left) at a sign for "Mill Creek Mall." Park on the right, at a sign for "Mill Creek Trail."
Public transporation to the trailhead, which is adjacent to the Mill Creek Mall, is available via the #320 bus from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan.
The 209-acre Mill Creek Marsh was acquired for preservation by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission in 1996. Two years later, the Commission began to remediate the site, including re-establishing the tidal flow, constructing trails and planting native vegetation. The trail you will follow loops around a marsh and is situated along the Atlantic Flyway, offering the opportunity to view many species of birds (you might want to bring along a pair of binoculars).
Proceed through the gate to a signpost on the left, with a map of the area (the trail you will follow is marked in green on the map). Continue ahead on a gravel footpath lined with birch trees.
At the first junction you reach (with a sign for "Tidal Bays"), bear right (the left fork will be your return route). As you proceed ahead, you'll notice the New York skyline in the background.
To the left, the marsh is studded with stumps of ancient Atlantic white cedar trees (best seen at low tide), which thrived in the area when it was a freshwater swamp. The durable cedar wood was used by the early settlers for many purposes (including the construction of the original Paterson Plank Road), and by the early 19th century, few remained. All remaining cedars were destroyed by the completion in 1923 of the Oradell Reservoir dam on the Hackensack River, which allowed the influx of saltwater into the swamp. The stumps were buried for many years and were uncovered about ten years ago, when the site was remediated.
Continue ahead on the gravel footpath, crossing a footbridge over the marsh. You'll soon reach another, wider bridge on the right, but proceed ahead on the gravel path, which curves left and begins to head north, parallel to the eastern spur of the New Jersey Turnpike. When another path branches off to the left, continue ahead on the main path, parallel to the Turnpike.
After crossing another footbridge, the gravel path again curves left and heads first west and then south, circling the marsh. When a dirt path goes off to the right, continue ahead on the gravel path. At the next Y-intersection, bear left (the path to the right leads to a dead end in 500 feet). Then, at the following intersection (with signs for "Marsh Marvels" and "What's for Dinner?"), bear right. Soon, you'll come to an intersection where you'll see the "Tidal Bays" sign. Turn right and retrace your steps back to the parking area where the hike began.
To view a photo collection for this hike, click here.