Archive for ‘Watchung Reservation’

April 10, 2012


Marilyn? Is that you?

Tasteful stenciling in the Watchung Reservation, around Lake Surprise.

March 15, 2012

Can you hear the burbling brook?

Green Brook, Watchung Reservation

This is the Green Brook of the Watchung Reservation.

The view is only available to those who go off the marked trail through an enticing little basalt valley.

Crags? Valleys? I dunno, it's about 10-12 feet tall.

There’s probably a technical name for it, but I am not up on my geology. 🙂

March 9, 2012

No more missiles!

No more missiles; just horses

These are the Watchung Stables, former home to U.S. Army Nike Missile Battery NY-73!

In 1957, during the Cold War, the U.S. army declared that it would construct a Nike missile base on the Watchung Reservation. Despite the loud protests of both local officials and residents, the base— NY-73— was completed in 1958.

The base consisted of two parts: the launcher, where missiles were assembled, tested, and stored in three underground magazines (each of which could hold ten Nike Ajax missiles); and the control area, officially known as the Missile Tracking Radar Station, which was not actually located within the Watchung Reservation (or at least not within the present boundaries of the reservation).

(The launcher was in Mountainside where the Watchung Stables are now; the control site was next to Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights).

Image from ; I have a scan from a book, too, but it didn't come out

For reasons apparently unknown, the battery started shutting down in 1962, less than four years after they opened it. (It was officially deactivated in 1963.) Point of interest: the underground cables connecting the launcher and control areas were severed just days before the Cuban Missile Crisis.

For the next twenty years, I’m not sure if anything constructive happened to the site, but it seems like local kids enjoyed trespassing to check it out. (There are at least two accounts that the control room had flooded.)

Construction on the Watchung Stables began in 1983, and the stables officially moved onto the former launch site in 1985, where they’ve remained since. There might be some concrete bunkers tucked away underneath the buildings, but there are no longer any obvious remnants of the missile base.

For information on the modern-day amenities of the Watchung Stables, check out their official website.




Bender, D.E. (n.d.). “Nike Battery NY-73: Summit, NJ.” Nike Missiles and Missile Sites.

Harpster, F. (2009). “Missiles in Mountainside: Nike Battery NY-73.” From the Hetfield House (newsletter). (PDF).

LostinJersey Blog. (2009). “Summit Nike base.” (comments used extensively).

Troeger, V.B. (2005). Images of America: Berkeley Heights Revisited. Arcadia Publishing: Charleston, SC. ISBN 0738537527. County of Union, New Jersey. (n.d.). “Chronology of the park system: 1921-1987.”

February 29, 2012



February 29 is Leap Day! I think I can manage an honorary leap every four years.

(Alternate title: Jumpin’ at the Woodside.)

February 26, 2012

Suicide Tower

Suicide Tower, Watchung Reservation

In the southeast corner of the Watchung Reservation, there’s a big water tower (on trail maps as “WT”) colloquially known as “Suicide Tower.”

Only one documented suicide has been committed there, back in 1975. Gregg Sanders, a local high school student, killed his parents (the descriptions “axing to death” and “sliced and diced” have been used) and then jumped to his own death here. (Back in those days, the tower featured a spiral staircase and an observation deck. They’ve since been removed.)

Rumor has it that the double murder-suicide may have been linked to Satanist Rituals also rumored to take place in the park back then. That’s totally unconfirmed, though.

Nowadays, it’s just a cool place for rust to aggregate, and for kids to practice their graffiti. (For all you graffiti-tagging aficionados out there, the only tag I could discern was “swag,” which— is that even a tag? I thought it was just slang. But I am no expert on these things.) There’s also a cell tower immediately adjacent to the water tower. In fact, a Verizon guy was hanging out in his truck just off-camera when I took this photo. We exchanged hellos.



Anonymous. (2001). “Watchung Suicide Tower Tales.” Weird N.J.

Balogh, D. (2008). “Watchung Reservation.” Dan & Laura’s Photo Web Album.

The Lostinjersey Blog. (2009). “Watchung Reservation.” {Comments here also used.}

February 25, 2012

Hay chapel

A chapel of hay!

The Watchung Stables need somewhere to store their hay, of course. This just happens to be one classy-lookin’ hay structure.

February 21, 2012

Watchung Stables

Walkin' around the Watchung Stables

The Watchung Stables are located on the Watchung Reservation. As evidenced by this photo, they do in fact contain real live horses.

The stables used to be the site of a Nike missile launcher! There are reportedly no longer any signs of that, though.

February 4, 2012

Just hikin’

The Watchung Reservation! Again.

Just another scene from the Watchung Reservation. (It was much colder than this photo looks.)

January 27, 2012

Cold as ice!

Icicle falls!

Near the ruins of Seeley’s old mill, there’s a little dribble of water over what I’ve seen referred to as a ‘basalt escarpment.’ (An “escarpment,” according to Wikipedia, is a steep slope caused by erosion or faulting. I’m not sure how natural this escarpment is, since there’s a quarry of some sort just down the brook.)

In the freezing cold, it has all dribbled into ice formations, but tiny spurts of unfrozen water still spray all over the place.

I don’t know what the water source for this is. Must be a small runoff or something.

Oh who cares. It’s pretty!

January 19, 2012

Old mill ruins

The ruined foundations of Seeley's Mill

A few days ago, I posted something about the dam that powered Seeley’s Mill. Well, THIS is all that’s left of the mill— a broken concrete floor, some mossy brick foundations, and corroded steel pipes all over the place. It’s part of the Sierra Trail, marked on the Watchung Reservation trail map (link in sidebar) as the “old mill ruins.”

Originally built in 1763, it started as a gristmill (for grinding grain) called Fall Mill.

After Edmund A. Seeley converted it into a paper mill, the business thrived until 1924.

Around 1916, the Green Brook (which powered the mill) flooded torrentially, and Seeley’s Mill fell in.

Seeley's Mill, c.1916

Apparently they fixed it up and functioned for another eight years (what with the whole “closing in 1924” thing).

Nowadays… there’s just a trail marching through what’s left of it, and that’s that.



Troeger, V.B. (1996). Images of America: Berkeley Heights. Arcadia Publishing: Dover, NH. ISBN 0752404903.

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