Tackapausha Nature Preserve

Location: Seaford, NY

Size: 84 acres

Date of hike: July 22, 2016 

I decided to hike Tackapausha Nature Preserve somewhat spontaneously after running an errand in nearby Bethpage, and I'm glad I did.  Having a few hours to kill, I pulled up Google Maps to see what parks or preserves were in the vicinity.  That's when I saw Tackapausha.  Unfortunately, my GPS took me to a random street that borders it, not the main entrance.  That forced me to call for the address: 2225 Washington Avenue.  Minutes later, I arrived.

For starters, Tackapausha reminded me of a miniature version of the Massapequa Preserve, as both preserves contain narrow stretches of land running north to south (or south to north) and are comprised of multiple sections divided by roadways in southeastern Nassau County.  In Tackapausha's case, the preserve is basically a 1.5-mile-long and 1,000-foot-wide strip of woodland surrounding a freshwater stream called Seaford Creek that runs south towards the South Oyster Bay.  Its separate sections are as follows: the southernmost section between Merrick Road and Sunrise Highway; the middle section between Sunrise Highway and Clark Street; the northernmost section between Clark Street and Jerusalem Avenue.  Interestingly, Tackapausha is the first-ever tract of preserve land acquired by the county, which acquired it for drainage purposes in 1938, according to Nassau County's website.  The area also hosts more than 170 bird species along with some raccoon, muskrat, gray squirrel and opossum.

I parked in front of Tackapausha Museum, which was established in 1965 and offers an array of environmental education programs that include all aspects of Long Island's natural history.  The 3,000-square-foot museum features live exhibits and scheduled presentations on wildlife ranging from reptiles and mammals to Egyptian fruit bats, I'd read online.  There were also a number of caged animals and birds behind the building, which I realized while looking for the entrance to the hiking trails.  My presence caused some of the birds to begin loudly chirping, prompting a young employee to emerge from the museum's rear door.  I explained that I was only a hiker heading for the trails who strolled over to take a quick peek.  I later learned that the museum's admission fees are $2 for children ages 5-12 and $3 for adults and teenagers, with those under five being admitted for free when accompanied by an adult.  A sweet deal.

From there, I made my way to the Tackapausha Pond, which is the preserve's southernmost section close to Merrick Road.  The pond is surrounded by several benches and tiny bridges, with homes and stores just a stone's throw away across the adjacent streets.  As I explored the pond's outskirts, I came across something strange: a woman sitting or squatting among the bushes behind one of the bridges.  I'd noticed a pile of shopping bags on a nearby bench, but I didn't think anything of it.  However, as I stopped to snap a picture, I heard the woman's voice a few feet behind me say, "Come on, give me a break."  That's when I saw her.  Maybe she was homeless.  I couldn't get a good enough look to see.  But when I revisited the pond a couple hours later after my hike, she was still there.  I didn't disturb her this time though.

Upon departing the pond, I explored the rest of the southern section, which several websites said boasts the largest Atlantic white cedar "stand," or grouping of trees, in Nassau County.  I headed north and followed a trail on the east side of the creek, with plans to follow the trail on the creek's west side on the way back.  That way I'd see everything.  The white markers  led the way very clearly and there were smaller paths that veered off the main trail for hikers to get close to the creek itself.  Within a half hour or so, I'd arrived at the first road crossing: Sunrise Highway.  The white markers took me one block east to the highway's intersection with Seaford Avenue, which had a helpful pedestrian signal and a crosswalk.  Easy peasy.

The preserve's central section instantly grabbed my attention with a graffiti-filled tunnel that passed beneath railroad tracks.  I was nervous approaching the tunnel, as it was dark and I couldn't see if there were any shady characters.  My eyes adjusted with every step though and I was soon standing right in the center of it.  There were a few empty cans and bottles, showing the spot acts as an occasional hangout.  I studied each piece of graffiti as I made my way through the tunnel and emerged back into the daylight.  A short walk beyond that was a pair of obsolete graffiti-covered gears and a secluded pond just perfect for a photo.

Lastly, I explored the preserve's northern section that included a small wetland.  The creek dried out the further north I hiked to the point where I was able to hike entirely east to west without having to cross water.  I should also note that I observed numerous openings in the chain-link fences that led to adjacent neighborhoods, so I'm sure the preserve gets steady traffic from local folk.  I took the trail all the way north to Jerusalem Avenue where it looped and headed back south on the creek's western edge.  I took my time, savoring every step.

For music, I put my iPod on shuffle.  I recently reconfigured it so it has my top 100 all-time favorite albums.  (Yes, I have them ranked).  So any song that comes up is one that I love, and every tune transports me to another time and place.  They usually take me back to a special moment when I bonded with the song, or remind me of company I was with at the time.  My iPod was serving as a tiny time machine on this day.  And I was Marty McFly.

In summary, I'd definitely recommend Tackapausha to anyone seeking a quick little hike in southeastern Nassau County.  Although I could often hear the hum of traffic on neighboring roads, the preserve had some really unique and picturesque spots that made an impact on me.  And, of course, it's hard to resist visiting the county's first-ever tract of preserve land.

Video: Tackapausha Nature Preserve (360-degree view)

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