Location: Wantagh, NY
Size: 58 acres
Date of hike: Oct. 8, 2017
I can't remember when I stumbled upon Twin Lakes Preserve, but it's been in the back of my mind for a while. I might've passed it last year when I went to a concert at Mulcahy's Pub and Concert Hall, which is only two or three blocks away. Regardless, it felt like the right time to throw a Nassau County trail into the mix after doing a lot of hiking lately in Suffolk County. More so, as a lover of lakes, I couldn't think of a better place to go than a preserve called Twin Lakes.
Before exploring, I did some pre-hike research regarding the preserve's history and habitats. Unfortunately, there wasn’t too much information available online. One of my top questions was why the preserve is called "Twin Lakes," but I was unable to find a satisfactory answer. A Town of Hempstead pamphlet posted on the website mnsa.info features Supervisor Kate Murray as saying this preserve has "three freshwater ponds and extensive wet woodlands" with a simple illustration identifying these bodies of water (north to south) as Forest Lake, Seaman Pond and Wantagh Pond. However, a webpage dedicated to the preserve on the town's website said there are five, not three, freshwater ponds. Oddly, the only website to refer to "twin lakes" was LongIsland.com, which said the preserve has a Lower Twin Lake that covers 10 acres and an Upper Twin Lake that covers 20 acres. Talk about confusion!
With regard to geography, the preserve is a narrow tract of land closely bordered on the west by Old Mill Road, on the east by Wantagh State Parkway, on the south by Sunrise Highway (NY Route 27), and on the north by Forest Lake Elementary School. Upon arriving, I parked in one of the roadside spaces on Park Avenue, which is a two-lane street that goes between Seaman and Wantagh ponds, according to Google Maps. There are about 10 spaces along the south side of the road and only one was occupied when I pulled up, likely since it was a drizzly day. While that seemed to be the most logical spot to park, I should note that there are also various access points to gain entry to preserve scattered throughout Old Mill Road. I must say, the preserve's signage was incredibly clear, well-placed and extremely detailed.
My hike started on the south side of Park Avenue, where an opening in the fence led to the southernmost pond: Wantagh Pond. A trail gave me the choice of going right or left around the pond, and I chose right. I quickly realized the preserve's trails are basically sandwiched onto thin strips of land between the water and neighboring roads. I was pretty much always within sight of a road, which can be good and bad depending upon your outdoor preferences. There were also frequent openings in the brush that let me get close to the water, and I took the opportunity to stop at each one. At one opening, I found a large turtle sitting right in the middle of the trail. He tucked his head and legs inside his shell until I'd safely passed him.
Next, I traveled up the eastern edge of Wantagh Pond and crossed Park Avenue to hike the eastern edges of Seaman Pond and Forest Lake. These eastern edges all border Wantagh State Parkway, meaning cars pass within a few feet of you on the opposite side of a fence. Promptly, I pulled out my iPod to drown out the noise. The first song was Dream Theater's "Scarred" from the band's 1994 Awake album. I couldn't help but headbang with every step. Along with the ponds and lakes, the very slender Bellmore Creek also makes it way through parts of the preserve with several small bridges built to help hikers across it in certain spots.
In addition to the timid turtle, other wildlife I spotted during the roughly 90-minute hike were swans, egrets and mallard ducks. The websites I visited said the preserve is also home to numerous other birds such as green-winged teals, northern shovlers and great blue herons. As for trees, you'll see everything from dogwood to red maple to sassafras in the preserve. Meanwhile, the preserve's fish include bass, bluegills and bullheads and sports fishing is permitted in the Lower Twin Lake and Upper Twin Lake, according to LongIsland.com.
In summary, I'd definitely recommend Twin Lakes Preserve for a cozy stroll with water views. Sure, seclusion and silence might be lacking due to the proximity of neighboring roadways, but beauty is in abundance. Great abundance. And we all need more beauty in our lives.
Video: Twin Lakes Preserve (360-degree view)