Calverton Ponds Preserve

Location: Calverton, NY
 
Size: 350 acres
 
Date of hike: Jan. 17, 2015
 
I came across Calverton Ponds Preserve purely by accident.  I had intended to visit Robert Cushman Murphy County Park in Manorville, which I'd read was Suffolk County's first natural park.  Unfortunately, my GPS led me to a dead-end.  Instead of backtracking, I decided to drive around to see if I could find the park's entrance on my own.  But my plans changed a few moments later when I spotted the sign for Calverton Ponds Preserve.  I almost felt like I was meant to cross paths with it.  

Before exploring, I briefly researched the land's history and habitats to prepare for my hikeCalverton Ponds Preserve is an oak-pine forest within the Long Island Central Pine Barrens that is home to coastal plain ponds named Block, Fox and Sandy, according to the Nature Conservancy's website.  "Coastal plain ponds are located in depressions that intersect the groundwater table and are directly connected to underground water in porous sand,” said a sign near the preserve's entrance.  “Therefore, pond water levels rise and fall with seasonal and annual rainfall patterns.”  The fluctuations form a unique community of adaptive plants – including 30 species that are rare in New York, and three considered "globally threatened," the sign said.  Another interesting tidbit is the preserve was altered after the turn of the 20th century to create commercial cranberry bogs that were in operation for more than 50 years, according to the conservancy’s website.  “There is a quiet grandeur about Calverton Ponds,” the site said, adding that the land has "one of the rarest wetland types in North America.” 

The parking area was a dirt patch only big enough for two cars on Old River Road.  It's easy to miss the entrance if you don't notice the tiny roadside sign from the Nature Conservancy, which also oversees two of my other favorite hiking spots on Long Island: Butler-Huntington Woods and David Weld SanctuaryA trail map was available on the conversancy's websiteAs I disappeared into the preserve's depths, it didn't take long to encounter one of the ponds and an accompanying sign that said they're characterized by "nutrient-poor acidic water and a slightly sloping shore."  Among the plant species that can thrive in those environments are bladderworts, threadleaf and sundews all of which are carniverous plants, according to the conservancy's website.  "Be sure to tread lightly and avoid walking on pond shores because pond-shore plants are delicate and can be easily destroyed by trampling," the website said.

Since it was 17 degrees out, the ponds were rock solid.  Personally, I favor cold-day hikes, because the trails are less crowded and the greenery is gone allowing me to access areas that wouldn't be reachable in warmer months.  It seemed two other cold-weather lovers had the same idea, as a couple carrying ice skates popped up and used one pond as their own personal rink.  I admired their bravery.  If something happened and they fell through the ice, there was no one nearby to help – except me, wearing my iPod.  I picked Threshold's 2002 album, Critical Mass, a progressive metal masterpiece that I had connected with last year.  Anyway, another cold-weather perk is less ticks, which signs stated are "abundant" here.

On the whole, the trails were pretty simple and well-marked – and there was very little litter, which I'd read had become a problem at David Weld Sanctuary.  The paths here seemed to loop around the ponds and end at a separate, even less conspicuous, entrance on the road.  Along the way, there were several trails that branched off and helped hikers reach the water, with every view better than the next.  It sparked an appreciation of the Nature Conservancy.  My next hike, I told myself, would have to be another one of their trails, parks or preserves.

My parting thoughts on the Calverton Ponds Preserve are that I'd definitely recommend it to anyone living in, or near, the Calverton area.  If I lived out there, this would surely be one of my go-to spots.  Even though I live almost an hour away, I still might make it a go-to spot.


Video: Calverton Ponds Preserve (360-degree view)

3 comments:

  1. See if you can find the secret back entrance of this preserve...

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  2. A truly beautiful place winter is probably a much wiser time to go the ticks were terrible in springtime.. But one of my favorite walks .

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  3. Fantastic write up, I always pass this place and never went in.. I've hiked plenty of parks as I continue to write for my parks website and add parks to a directory i am building. I stumbled upon your blog trying to research why its called the Denis and Catherine Krusos Ecological Research Area..

    You did a fantastic write up, but the summer/spring time is not all that great.. Plenty of ticks, and poor trail maintenance..

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