Cranberry Bog Nature Preserve

Location: Riverhead, NY

Size: 165 acres

Date of hike: Aug. 5, 2016

I hadn't heard of Cranberry Bog Nature Preserve until minutes before I decided to hike it.  I originally planned to hike Peconic Bog County Park, which I found on Google Maps by looking for patches of green on Long Island's East End.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find any entrance despite twice circling its outskirtsThat's when I looked online for another nearby park and found a blurb about Cranberry Bog Nature Preserve.  Moments later, I was there.

Cranberry Bog Nature Preserve is part of the Peconic River's drainage system and serves as a natural reservoir for Long Island's fresh water supply, according to the Suffolk County Parks Department's website.  The preserve is also home to two ponds, Sweezy and Cheney, and is surrounded by a swamp that contains Atlantic white cedar trees that can reach 16 inches in diameter, according to LIParks.netA 1.1-mile loop trail goes entirely around Sweezy Pond, which was developed in order to flood a cranberry bog in the late 1800s, and over part of the Little Peconic River, which originates in nearby Wildwood Lake.  Apparently, a man named John Sweezy, who operated a gristmill powered by the river, sold the land to a local family named the Woodhulls and it would become one of the most successful cranberry-growing businesses on Long Island.  "Acidic marshes, bogs and wetlands of the surrounding area made it an ideal habitat for growing cranberries," the county's website said.  Interestingly, Suffolk County was once the third largest producer of cranberries in the U.S., I also read.

The parking lot was a dirt patch that fit four or five cars along the west side of Lake Avenue, and the first path was a quarter-mile dirt road for vehicles that led me right to Sweezy Pond.  A few openings in the trees offered a clear view of the water, which was about as wide as a football field and filled with lily pads.  It also boasted a killer reflection of the sky and clouds, and I couldn't resist snapping a few pics.  From there, you can either hike left or right along trails that border the pond.  I chose right.  Almost immediately, I was reminded of Calverton Ponds Preserve, a similarly-sized spot that consists of a cozy trail that goes around ponds surrounded by a pine-oak forest.  On Sweezy's north edge, I passed the remains of a pump house that was part of a hydraulic system used to control the water level and also supply a copper sulfate solution that was used to control the insect population, I later learned online.  On the preserve's northwest side, which is separated by County Route 51, is Cheney Pond.

I followed the trail all the way around Sweezy, even exploring the smaller trails that branched off until they faded out.  After about 15-20 minutes, I reached my favorite part of the preserve: the pedestrian bridge.  It was obviously damaged in a recent storm and not currently usable, although I was tempted to give it a try.  I knew I was alone in the preserve since no one else was parked at the entrance, so it was an ideal time to challenge myself and see if I had the focus and courage to cross it.  But I decided against it.  Still, I couldn't resist tiptoeing over the bridge's missing and twisted planks as far as I could.  I even sat down Indian-style on a steadier section of the bridge and let the peaceful scenery take me away.  I looked for frogs and turtles in the river below me, but I didn't see any.  Next, I leisurely retreated all the way back and around the whole pond until I reached the opposite side of the busted-up bridge.

With regard to wildlife, the preserve features a wide variety of mollusks, fish and amphibians, as well as rare species of caddisflies, dragonflies and moths, according to a PDF version of the preserve's interpretive guide that is posted on the county's website.  The 12-page guide, which was the preserve's second result on Google, has everything from the land's cranberry history to detailed lists of the fish, reptiles, mammals, invertebrates and plants found there.  It also said the dominant plants are grasses, sedges and rushes with the marshier parts providing food and shelter to local waterfowl.  For those seeking a trail map, the guide has one of those too.  But, in my opinion, the preserve is so tiny that it isn't really necessary.

My music of choice was a mix, as I put my iPod on shuffle for the second consecutive hike.  That's been my go-to routine of lateSeveral songs popped up that I hadn't heard in a while, forcing me to pull up the lyrics on my phone.  One was a self-titled tune by Storm Corrosion, a project by Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree and Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth.  "Hold back the tears in my comfort; We move forwards; In these pauses the storm corrodes," Wilson sang.  I also listened to Opeth's Pale Communion, which has become my favorite album by them.

All in all, I'd say that Cranberry Bog Preserve is a little gem that hikers should definitely visit if they find themselves out and about on Long Island's East End.  It's intimate and exquisite.  Relaxing and inspiring.  And it can be completed in an hour.  That's like an express lane for peacefulness.  An express lane to the soul.  And we all need an express lane sometimes.

4 comments:

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  2. I found this information very helpful. I will take this hike. Thanks for the information.

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  3. Beware!!! Loaded with Lone Star Ticks on my walk 9/15/16. Stay clear of this place.

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  4. I was there in 2015. Enjoyed the walk, but found it especially fun when I came across a small stone gargoyle guarding a little bridge across the stream. I've meant to go back to see if my friend is still there, but the more I hike, to more places I find. This blog has been pretty helpful with the lesser known, out of the way spots.

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