Terrell River County Park 

Location: Center Moriches, NY
Size: 263 acres 

Date of hike: Aug. 20, 2016
I picked Terrell River County Park while poking around Google Maps from my bed on a Saturday morning.  I was craving a waterfront spot within 45 minutes of my home and this one fit the bill perfectly.  I had previously been to Kalers Pond, which is located directly across the street from the park, a few times through the years to sit and chat with a friend.  But I had never noticed the sign for Terrell River County Park.  Well, better late than never.

Before exploring, I did some impromptu research on my phone to familiarize myself with the river and park.  Apparently, the land formerly known as Havens Estate was purchased by Suffolk County in 1986 with Moriches Bay Audobon Society designated its stewards in 2001, according to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County's website.  The main attraction is Terrell River, which runs north to south along the preserve's eastern edge to Moriches Bay.  The river is considered important to Long Island’s ecosystem because it is a nursery ground for various fish and crustaceans, according to the Moriches Bay Audobon Society's website. It is also known as a "birding paradise with an outstanding habitat for a wide variety of birds," including egrets, herons and owls, the website said.  In addition, the park lands are open to dog walkers, and I passed six or seven of them during my roughly two-and-a-half hour hike.

The parking lot consists of a dirt patch big enough for a dozen cars along Montauk Highway, with extra parking available on the highway's northern side by Kalers Pond.  The next thing I noticed is something I'd read about online: There are no garbage cans in the parking area for Terrell River County Park, meaning you'll likely see some scattered trashOn this afternoon, there was a plastic bag filled with garbage hanging from a wood post.  The park also has no amenities like water fountains or bathrooms, but there are some picnic tables and benches at various points along the trails.  A display case at the trailhead hosts a map showing the main trail and side trails.  The main trail is a 2.6-mile loop identified with white markers on the trees.  A piece of cake.  But I took a picture of the map though, just in case I got lost.

My first decision was to head left or right along the loop trail.  The trail closest to the river is the left one, so I went right opting to save the best views for last.  The trail was wide enough to fit a truck and took me through a forest of white oak, prickly ash and Atlantic white cedar.  But a change occurs the closer you get to the bay, taking you through a forest of sassafras, catbrier, and white and black oaks.  It eventually becomes a pitch pine barrens with a string of cedars just before you reach the beach.  The view of the bay is killer with benches facing the water for those looking to relax.  I did just that, grabbing a sandwich from my backpack.  First though, I knocked off a dead horseshoe crab that someone creepily left on the bench.

Within minutes, a jogger and two dog walkers popped up, so after finishing my lunch I gave up my seat and continued my hike.  Before completing the loop, I backtracked slightly and took an unmarked path that headed to the park's southwestern section.  This was a hidden gem that hikers should make sure to explore.  The trail eventually went over wooden planks that crossed a marsh and took me to a skinny stretch situated between the marsh and bay.  A few openings in the high grass gave me access to the beach and some more killer views.  The trail continued west until it hit a border with private property, causing me to retreat east.

From there, I completed the portion of loop trail that ran along Terrell River.  Almost instantly, two pretty women stopped me to see if I had bug spray, as mosquitoes were out in full force.  Luckily for them, I did.  And I gladly shared it.  Several side trails led right up to the riverside, and I couldn't help but admire a handful of homes on the opposite shoreIt was reminiscent of Indian Island County Park in Riverhead, in that respect.  The beautiful views also inspired me to re-hike the entire preserve, making my strategy of saving the best for last a wise one.

My music of choice was a shuffle of progressive metal.  While on the topic of music, I must note that I received an e-mail last week from a reader who said I was "polluting my ears" by listening to music as I hiked.  I understand that sentiment.  But one of my main motivations to hike is to reflect and connect with myself and music helps me do that.  Plus, for those unaware of it, progressive metal is meant to take listeners on a journey.  To each his own.

In closing, I would definitely recommend Terrell River County Park to those living nearby and looking for a quick escape into nature.  The park can be hiked in probably an hour or so and, once you reach the beach, the payoff is huge.  However, just make sure you like dogs, as a majority of the hikers were accompanied by canines.  And, of course, carry out your trash!  

Video: Terrell River County Park (360-degree view) 

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