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Welcome to Essex County Online
SOUTH MOUNTAIN RESERVATION

HOST COMMUNITIES:  WEST ORANGE / MAPLEWOOD / MILLBURN

WEST ORANGE

Created in 1862 by the State Legislature as the Town of Fairmont, it was enlarged in 1863 and re-named West Orange.

MAPLEWOOD

Incorporated with South Orange in 1861 when they separated from Orange.  Sections known as "Middleville" and "Jefferson Village" became Maplewood in 1922.

MILLBURN

The town called Millville became Millburn when it seceded from Springfield in 1837. In 1857 it was incorporated as a Township.

ACREAGE
2047.14

LOCATION
So. Orange Ave. & Cherry Lane, West Orange
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HISTORIC PROFILE


CHESTNUT HOLLOW, 1897


THE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON ROCK, 1927

South Mountain Reservation covers 2,047.14 acres in the central section of Essex County, extending through the municipalities of West Orange, Maplewood, and Millburn,  bordering South Orange, between the first and second ridges of the Watchung Mountain Range. The presence of the early Lenape Indians lingers in the name given to the Watchung—the "high hills." 

 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. The west branch of the Rahway River flows through the valley. A reservoir and watershed owned by the City of Orange lies in the northern tract.

Turtle Back Zoo and the Richard J. Codey Arena lie within its boundaries.  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.

Largest of the Park System's reservations, it was built from land purchases begun in 1895—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.

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.  The design of South Mountain was finalized by the Olmsted Brothers in stages over the years.  A good deal of construction work--trails, foot bridges, shelters, etc.—was carried out by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's.

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. This is the Park System's bona fide Revolutionary War historic site, dating back to the late 1700's when 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.  Washington Rock served again as a lookout for the Army when reactivated during the War of 1812.


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CURRENT IMPROVEMENTS


South Mountain Reservation

  • Master Plan Development

Cost: $140,000 Completed 2006

  • General Improvements to repair trails and address erosion

Cost: $1,011,931 Completed 2006

  • Development of South Mountain Dog Park

Cost: $495,408 Completed 2006

  • Installation of 50,000 plants in 41 enclosures as part of a forest regeneration program

Cost: $817,300 Completed 2009

  • Restoration of hiking trails in Essex County South Mountain Reservation and creation of new trails in SMR’s Mayapple Section

Cost: $1,088,000     Completed in 2012

  • Rehabilitation of Diamond Mill Pond Dam

Cost: $756,138     Completed in 2012

 
Richard J. Codey Arena at South Mountain

  • HVAC, 3 units

Cost: $158,259   Completed in 2003

  • Construction of Park-N-Ride facility  

Cost: $8,117,276   Completed in 2004

  • Modernization of arena which included a 10,000-square-foot lobby addition,

upgraded bathrooms, seating, scoreboard, sound system, lights, retail stores
Cost: $11,421,905   Completed in 2006

  • Creation of Essex County Satellite Office and Conference Room in the Park-N-Ride

Completed in 2007

  • Installation of state-of-the-art kitchen facilities in concession area

Cost: $917,205 Completed in 2007

  • Opening of the Essex County Emergency Operations Center

Cost: $1,000,000  Completed in 2010

  • Renovation of Rink 2 with new refrigeration system, dasher boards, floor and painting

Cost: $2,155,950  Completed in 2012

 

Turtle Back Zoo

  • Prairie Dog Exhibit Rehabilitation

Cost: $271,247   Completed in 2003

  • Fencing and Misc. Improvements

Cost: $454,761   Completed in 2004

  • General Improvements including path paving, retaining walls and fencing

Cost: $427,233   Completed in 2004

  • Animal Hospital

Cost: $1,824,657   Completed in 2005

  • Black Bear Exhibit

Cost: $1,347,138   Opened in 2005

  • Essex Farm Petting Zoo

Cost: $427,233   Opened in 2005

  • South American Animal Exhibit

Cost: $10,000  Opened in 2005

  • Reptile & Education Building

Cost: $5,585,910   Opened in 2006

  • Topiary Landscape

Cost: $150,122   Completed in 2006

  • Exterior Renovations to Buildings

Cost: $515,979   Completed in 2006

  • Construction of open air Dining Pavilion, playground and restroom building

Cost: $1,238,850   Opened in 2006

  • Otter Exhibit

Cost: $125,000  Opened in 2006

  • Alligator Exhibit

Cost: $50,000   Opened in 2006

  • Wolf Exhibit

Cost: $100,000  Opened in 2007

  • Renovation of Pepsi Pavilion for year-round use

Cost: $633,375  Opened in 2007

  • Wild New Jersey North American Animal Exhibit featuring Bobcats, Eagles and

Porcupines
Cost: $1,438,545  Opened in 2007

  • The Carousel and Picnic Pavilion

Cost: $3,161,979 Opened in 2008

  • Extended Picnic Pavilion at The Carousel

Cost: $474,923  Opened in 2008

  • Penguin Exhibit

Cost: $180,000  Opened in 2008

  • Outback Adventure featuring kangaroos, wallabies, emus and a walk-through

aviary with 500 birds
Cost: $1,173,012  Opened in 2008

  • Landscaping and pathway improvements, installation of fountains and enhancements to Prairie Dog Exhibit

Cost: $518,378   Completed in 2009

  • Tam-Ring Gibbons Reserve featuring Gibbons Apes, Reeve’s Muntjac and White Naped Cranes from Southeast

Cost: $1,804,501                   Opened in 2009

  • Modernized Pony Track with canopy and longer walking area

Cost: $150,000   Completed in 2010

  • Tropical Currents Aquarium with 75 aquatic species (Donated by Zoological Society)

Opened in 2010

  • MiniGOLF Safari – African Continent-themed miniature golf course

Cost: $4,800,000                   Opened in 2010

  • Installation of decorative perimeter fence along Northfield Avenue

Cost: 119,310          Completed: 2011

  • Treetop Adventure Course with rope bridges, zip lines and other aerial obstacles

Cost: $3,195,705                   Opened in 2011

  • McLoone’s Boathouse Restaurant

Cost: $4,000,000                   Opened in 2011

  • Big Cat Country featuring jaguars and cougars

Cost: $3,195,705                   Opened in 2011

  • Installation of ornamental wrought iron and stone fencing at South Mountain Recreation Complex

Cost: $276,000     Completed in 2012

  • Opening of open air pavilion at miniGOLF Safari

Cost: $799,466     Completed in 2012

  • Installation of ornamental fencing around perimeter of Essex County Turtle Back Zoo and Codey Arena parking lot

Cost: $232,222     Completed in 2012

  • Opening of Sea Lion Sound with sea lions, sting rays and sharks

Cost: $5,544,449     Completed in 2013

  • Reconstruction of manure pit

Completed in 2013

  • Opening of Picnic Pavilion and Paddle Boating Dock at Orange Reservoir

Cost: $2,371,458     Completed in 2013

  • Opening of Prehistoric Playground

Cost: $ 943, 288    Completed in 2013

  • Modernization of walking path and installation of decorative lighting along southern edge of Orange Reservoir

Cost: $399,820     Completed in 2013



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DISTINGUISHING FEATURES

  • Turtle Back Zoo.
  • Richard J. Codey Arena — contains two indoor ice skating rinks.  The NJ Devils training facilities are located here.  The arena is also used for various special events.
  • 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.
  • Girl Scout camp.
  • Archery range.
  • Rahway River runs through the valley into several ponds and the Orange Reservoir.
  • Fishing at Diamond Mill Pond.
  • Hemlock Falls.
  • Various wildlife, including deer.
  • Largest parkland in Essex County

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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

From New Jersey: Take Route 280 West to Exit 7/Pleasant Valley Way. Turn left onto Pleasant Valley Way. Reservation is straight ahead.

From New York: George Washington Bridge or Lincoln Tunnel to New Jersey Turnpike South. Take Exit 15W for Route 280 West. Follow above directions.

Use the intersection of “Northfield Avenue and Cherry Lane” when obtaining driving directions from the Internet.


Richard J. Codey Arena at South Mountain

From New Jersey: Take Route 280 West to Exit 7/Pleasant Valley Way. Turn left onto Pleasant Valley Way. Turn left onto Northfield Avenue. Arena is on the right.

From New York: George Washington Bridge or Lincoln Tunnel to New Jersey Turnpike South. Take Exit 15W for Route 280 West. Follow above directions.

Use the address “560 Northfield Avenue, West Orange” when obtaining driving directions from the Internet.


Turtle Back Zoo

From New Jersey: Take Route 280 West to Exit 7/Pleasant Valley Way. Turn left onto Pleasant Valley Way. Turn left onto Northfield Avenue. Zoo is on the right, behind the Arena.

From New York: George Washington Bridge or Lincoln Tunnel to New Jersey Turnpike South. Take Exit 15W for Route 280 West. Follow above directions.

Use the address “560 Northfield Avenue, West Orange” when obtaining driving directions from the Internet.


South Mountain Reservation Picnic Areas

Mayapple Hill: Follow above directions for New Jersey. Turn right onto Northfield Avenue. Mayapple Hill is on the right.

Turtle Back Rock: Follow above directions for New Jersey. Turn left onto Northfield Avenue. Turn right onto Walker Road. Turtle Back Rock in on the right.

Oakdale, Tulip Springs and Shady Nook: Follow above directions for New Jersey. Cross over Northfield Avenue. OAKDALE is the first picnic area on the right. TULIP SPRINGS is the first picnic area on the left. SHADY NOOK is the second picnic site on the left.

Bramhall Terrace and Summit Field: Follow above directions for New Jersey. Cross over Northfield Avenue. Turn left onto South Orange Avenue. Turn right onto Crest Drive.

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PARK MAP
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Department of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs
115 Clifton Ave, Newark, NJ 07104 ~ (T) 973-268-3500 ~ (F) 973-481-5302
 
If you have any comments on features you would like to see on this site or any other feedback, please email: joedi@admin.essexcountynj.org