SNAKE HILL (LAUREL HILL)

Secaucus, Hudson County, NJ

104 acres


Directions:

Reached by following County Avenue south from Secaucus. Bear right on New County Road just before the New Jersey Turnpike overpass. Follow for about one mile past the county jail prerelease complex (on the left) into Laurel Hill Park.


Geology:

A 150 foot tall rock sticking up in the middle of the Meadowlands. This was the site of a glacial lake, Lake Hackensack, that only started receding in 8000 B.C.

From the top one can see the Manhattan skyline to the east.


History:

pre-Colonial times  --  Native Americans occupied an area either on or adjacent to Snake Hill.

c. 1680   --  Snake Hill was part of the Pinhorne Plantation, which was the center of the village of Secaucus from about 1680 into the nineteenth century. Penhorn Creek, at the eastern boundary of Secaucus, was named after William Pinhorne

Revolutionary War  --  the site used as an encampment and lookout.

Civil War Era to the early 20th century  --  the area served as the location for various public institutions:

1863  --   the site of the area’s first alms house.

1870  --site of a penitentiary.

1873  --  an asylum for the insane.

1890s  --  an advertising agent passing by Snake Hill in a passenger train was inspired by the outcropping hill of rock. Soon photographs of the Rock of Gibraltar, which had a similar profile, were being used in advertisements for the Prudential Insurance Company of America The image of the rock remains synonymous with Prudential to this day.

early 1900s  --  the area has more commonly been referred to as Laurel Hill.

1910 --  site of a new alms house and a school.

(Source: www.meadowlands.state.nj.us/land_use/ Publications/master_plan/chapter_2.cfm - )

There is a new park area here so the literature on the area has to be modified somewhat. It is the first new park built in Hudson County in seventy-five years.

There is a chapter on Snake Hill in Robert Sullivan's The Meadowlands: Wilderness Adventures at the Edge of a City; Scribner, 1998. Some of his observations:

A 1959 New York Times editorial announced that the meadowlands must go.

At the Secaucus Museum there are old photographs showing that Snake Hill was at one time 50 feet taller and 5 times as wide as it is today. (Hudson County had a demolitions company take part of Snake Hill away in 1962, supposedly because Hudson County big boss John V. Kenny was mad at the city of Secaucus for turning down his race track idea for the area.) Over the years there were large buildings of various state institutions: almshouse, churches, a children's eye hospital, and a penitentiary.

It is said that ad executive Mortimer Remington of J. Walter Thompson was inspired to create the Prudential Insurance Company's Rock of Gibraltar logo when passing Snake Hill on a train trip from New York to Newark.

In the summer this is a place for monarch butterflies that can be picked up 5 or 6 at a time.

The park was formally dedicated in 1995. It includes a ball field, a river walkway, a nature trail, and a restored wetlands area.

There is also a public boat launch.


Habitats:

The area has disturbed areas, quarry floor, low slopes approaching hill, wooded slope of hill and trailsides; ridgetop, unwooded, rocky slope of hill, and salt marsh edges and wet depressions.


Trails:

One can hear the constant rush of traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike. Aspen trees at the base of Snake Hill.

8/12/2006.  The path starts underneath the bridge.  Turn left and walk parallel with the fence on the left; go under the highway bridge; turn left by the big electricity tower; go beneath the bridge again; on the left there is a path heading upon on Snake Hill.  My wife Rosemary and I went up Snake Hill to takes some pictures of the area.  Patrick L. Cooney.


PLANT LIST:

Karl Anderson and Torrey Botanical Society; State Of New Jersey Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission (Laurel Hill Vegetation Inventory)

* =  blooming on 8/12/2006


Trees:
Acer negundo (box elder maple)
Acer platanoides (Norway maple)
Acer rubrum (red maple)
Acer saccharinum (silver maple)
Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven)
Betula lenta (black birch)
Broussonetia papyrifera (paper mulberry)
Carya cordiformis (bitternut hickory)
Carya tomentosa (mockernut hickory)
Catalpa bignonioides (southern catalpa)
Celtis occidentalis (hackberry)
Fraxinus americana (white ash)
Fraxinus pensylvanica (green ash)
Gleditsia triacanthos (honey locust) 
Juniperus virginiana (red cedar)
Morus alba (white mulberry)
Paulownia tomentosa (princess tree)
Picea abies (Norway spruce)
Pinus thunbergii (Japanese black pine)  planted
Platanus x hybrida (London plane tree)
Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore)
Populus deltoides (cottonwood)
Populus grandidentata (big-toothed aspen)
Populus nigra var. italica? (Lombardy poplar?)
Populus tremuloides (quaking aspen)
Prunus serotina (black cherry)
Ptelea trifoliata (three-leaved hop tree)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus prinus (chestnut oak)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Quercus velutina (black oak)
Rhamnus frangula (European buckthorn)
Salix alba var. tristis? (golden willow?)
Salix babylonica (weeping willow)
Salix sp. (willow)
Sassafras albidum (sassafras)
Tilia americana (American basswood)
Ulmus americana (American elm)
Chinese scholar tree *  planted

Shrubs:
Baccharis halimifolia (groundsel bush)  *
Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry, red form)  planted
Cornus racemosa (panicled dogwood)
Elaeagnus umbellata (autumn olive)
Erica sp. (heath)
Euonymus alatus (winged euonymus)
Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry)
Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel)
Hudsonia tomentosa (beach heather)
Iva frutescens (marsh elder)
Lonicera morrowii (Morrow's honeysuckle)
Lonicera tatarica (Tatarian honeysuckle)
Rhus copallina (winged sumac)
Rhus glabra (smooth sumac)
Rhus typhina (staghorn sumac)
Rosa rugosa (wrinkled rose)  *
Rubus alleghaniensis (common blackberry)
Rubus flagellaris (dewberry)
Rubus idaeus (red raspberry)
Rubus laciniatus (cut-leaved blackberry)
Sambucus canadensis (common elderberry)
Vaccinium angustifolium (lowbush blueberry)
Vaccinium pallidum (early low blueberry)
Viburnum acerifolium (maple-leaf viburnum)
Viburnum prunifolium (blackhaw viburnum)

Vines:
Calystegia sepium (hedge bindweed)
Celastrus orbiculatus (Asiatic bittersweet)
Cuscuta gronovii (dodder)
Cuscuta pentagona (dodder)
Hibiscus trionum (flower of an hour)
Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle)  *
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creepr)
Polygonum scandens (climbing false buckwheat)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)
Vitis aestivalis (summer grape)


Herbs:
Acalypha rhomboidea (three-seeded mercury)
Acalypha virginica (three-seeded mercury)
Achillea millefolium (yarrow)
Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard)
Allium vineale (field garlic)
Amaranthus cannabinus (salt marsh water hemp) 
Ambrosia artemisiifolia (common ragweed)
Ammania coccinea (scarlet toothcup)
Ammania robusta (sessile toothcup)
Anagallis arvensis (scarlet pimpernel)
Anaphalis margaritacea (pearly everlasting)
Apocynum cannabinum (Indian hemp dogbane)
Apocynum x floribundum (dogbane)
Arabis sp. (rock cress)
Arctium minus (common burdock)  *
Arenaria serpyllifolia (thyme-leaved sandwort)
Artemisia annua (annual wormwood)
Artemisia vulgaris (common mugwort)
Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed)
Aster divaricatus (white wood aster)
Aster pilosus (aster)
Aster subulatus (annual salt marsh aster)
Atriplex hastata (spearscale)
Atriplex patula (orache)
Barbarea verna (early wintercress)
Bidens frondosa (beggar tick)
Centaurea maculosa (spotted knapweed)  *
Centaurea nigra (black knapweed)
Centaurium pulchellum (branching centaury)
Chamaecrista nictitans (wild sensitive pant)
Chaenorrhinum minus (dwarf snapdragon)
Chenopodium album (pigweed)
Chenopodium botrys (Jerusalem oak goosefoot)
Chenopodium ambrosioides (Mexican tea goosefoot)
Chenopodium pumilio (pigweed)
Chenopodium simplex (maple-leaved goosefoot)
Chrysanthemum leucanthemum (ox-eye daisy)
Cichorium intybus (chicory)  *
Cirsium arvense (Canada thistle)  *
Cirsium vulgare (bull thistle)
Commelina communis (Asiatic dayflower)  *
Conyza canadensis (horseweed)
Datura stramonium (jimson weed)
Daucus carota (Queen Anne's lace)  *
Desmodium glabellum (tick trefoil)
Desmodium paniculatum (panicled tick-trefoil)
Epipactis helleborine (helleborine orchid)
Erigeron strigosus (lesser daisy fleabane)
Eupatorium altissimum (tall boneset)
Eupatorium purpureum (sweet Joe-Pye-weed)
Eupatorium rugosum (white snake root)
Eupatorium serotinum (late-flowering boneset)  *
Eupatorium sessilifolium (upland boneset)  *
Euphorbia cyparissias (cypress spurge)
Euphorbia maculata (spotted spurge)  *
Euphorbia marginata (snow on the mountain)
Euphorbia nutans (eyebane spurge)
Euthamia graminifolia (grass-leaved goldenrod)
Gaillardia pulchella (Indian blanket flower)
Galium aparine (cleavers)
Geranium carolinianum (Carolina cranesbill)
Geranium molle (dove's foot crane's bill)
Geum laciniatum (rough avens)
Glechoma hederacea (gill over the ground)
Gnaphalium obtusifolium (sweet everlasting)
Hackelia virginiana (Virginia stickseed)
Hedeoma pulegioides (American pennyroyal)
Helianthus annuus (common sunflower)
Heterotheca subaxillaris (camphorweed)
Hibiscus moscheutos (swamp rose mallow)  *
Hieracium pilosella (mouse ear hawkweed)
Hieracium sabaudum (savory hawkweed)
Hypericum perforatum (common St. Johnswort)  *
Impatiens capensis (spotted touch-me-not)
Inula graveolens (elecampne)
Iris sp. (iris)
Kochia scoparia (summer cypress)
Lactuca canadensis (wild lettuce)
Lactuca serriola (prickly lettuce)
Lepidium virginicum (field peppergrass)
Lespedeza intermedia (wand-like bush clover)
Lespedeza violacea (violet bush clover)
Linaria canadensis (blue toadflax)
Linaria vulgaris (butter and eggs)
Lotus corniculatus (birdfoot trefoil)  *
Lycopus americanus (American water horehound)
Lycopus virginicus (Virginia bugleweed)
Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife)  *
Maianthemum canadense (Canada mayflower)
Medicago lupulina (black medick)
Medicago sativa (alfafa)
Melilotus alba (white sweet clover)  *
Mimulus ringens (monkey flower)
Mollugo verticillata (carpetweed)
Nepeta cataria (catnip)
Oenothera biennis (common evening primrose)  *
Osmorhiza claytonii (hairy sweet cicely)
Oxalis stricta (yellow wood sorrel)
Pastinaca sativa (wild parsnip)
Phytolacca americana (pokeweed)  *
Pilea pumila (clearweed)
Plantago lanceolata (English plantain)
Plantago major (common plantain)
Pluchea odorata (salt marsh fleabane)  *
Polygala verticillata (whorled milkwort)
Polygonatum biflorum (true Solomon's seal)
Polygonum arenastrum (common knotweed)
Polygonum aviculare (dooryard knotweed)
Polygonum cespitosum (cespitose knotweed)
Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese knotweed)
Polygonum lapathifolium ( nodding smartweed)
Polygonum persicaria (lady's thumb knotweed)
Polygonum punctatum (dotted smartweed)
Polygonum virginianum (jumpseed)
Portulaca oleracea (common purslane)
Ranunculus sceleratus (cursed crowfoot)
Rumex crispus (curled dock)
Rumex obtusifolius (broad-leaved dock)
Salicornia europaea (slender glasswort)
Saponaria officinalis (soapwort)  *
Scrophularia lanceolata (figwort)
Senecio vulgaris (common groundsel)  *
Sicyos angulatus (bur cucumber)
Silene latifolia (white campion)
Silene antirrhina (sleepy catchfly)
Silene stellata (starry campion)
Silene vulgaris (bladder campion)
Smilacina racemosa (false Solomon's seal)
Solanum dulcamara (bittersweet nightshade)  *
Solanum nigrum (black nightshade)
Solidago bicolor (silverrod) altissima (tall goldenrod)
Solidago caesia (blue-stemmed goldenrod)
Solidago canadensis var. scabra (tall goldenrod)
Solidago juncea (early goldenrod)  *
Solidago nemoralis (gray goldenrod)
Solidago rugosa (rough-stemmed goldenrod)
Solidago sempervirens (seaside goldenrod)
Solidago ulmifolia (elm-leaved goldenrod)
Sonchus oleraceus (common sow thistle)
Sophora japinica (Japanese pagoda tree)
Spergularia marina (salt marsh sand spurrey)
Taraxacum officinale (dandelion)
Teucrium canadense (American germander)
Trifolium arvense (rabbitfoot clover)
Trifolium pratense (red clover)  *
Trifolium repens (white clover)
Triosteum perfoliatum (perfoliate horse gentian)
Tussilago farfara (coltsfoot)
Uvularia sessilifolia (sessile-leaved bellwort)
Verbascum blattaria (moth mullein)
Verbascum thapsus (common mullein)  *
Verbena hastata (blue vervain)
Verbena urticifolia (white vervain)
Viola sp. (violet)
Xanthium strumarium (clotbur)


Rushes:
Juncus gerardii (black rush)
Juncus tenuis (path rush)

Sedges:
Bulbostylis capillaris (hair-like sedge)
Carex spp. (sedges)
Cyperus bipartitus (shining cyperus)
Cyperus esculentus (yellow nut-sedge)
Eleocharis ovata (blunt spike rush)
Scirpus pungens (three square bulrush)

Grasses:
Agrostis perennans (upland bent grass)
Agrostis stolonifera (red top grass)
Andropogon virginicus (broomsedge grass)
Anthoxanthum odoratum (sweet vernal grass)
Aristida dichotoma (poverty grass)
Aristida oligantha (three-awn grass)
Bromus japonicus (Japanese brome grass)
Bromus tectorum (downy brome grass)
Cynodon dactylon (wire grass)
Dactylis glomeratus (orchard grass)
Danthonia spicata (common wild oat grass)
Deschampsia flexuosa (common hair grass)
Digitaria ischaemum (smooth crab grass)
Digitaria sanguinalis (hairy crab grass)
Echinochloa crusgalli (barnyard grass)
Eleusine indica (goose grass)
Eragrostis capillaris (lace grass)
Eragrostis cilianensis (stink grass)
Eragrostis pectinacea (combed love grass)
Eragrostis pilosa (small tufted love grass)
Eragrostis spectabilis (purple love grass)
Festuca elatior (meadow fescue grass)
Festuca rubra (red fescue grass)
Hordeum jubatum (squirrel tail barley grass)
Leersia virginica (white grass)
Leptochloa fascicularis v acuminata (sprangletop grass)
Leptoloma cognatum (fall witch grass)
Lolium perenne (perennial rye grass)
Muhlenbergia sp. (dropseed grass)
Panicum capillare (witch panic grass)
Panicum clandestinum (deertongue panic grass)
Panicum dichotomiflorum (spreading panic grass)
Panicum lanuginosum (panic grass)
Panicum virgatum (switch panic grass)
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)
Phragmites australis (giant reed grass)
Poa pratensis (Kentucky blue grass)
Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem grass)
Setaria faberi (nodding foxtail grass)
Setaria glauca (yellow foxtail grass)
Setaria viridis (green foxtail grass)
Spartina alterniflora (salt water cordgrass)
Spartina patens (salt meadow cordgrass)
Sporobolus vaginiflorus (sheathed rush grass)
Tridens flavus (purple top grass)

Ferns:
Asplenium platyneuron (ebony spleenwort)
Dennstaedtia punctilobula (hay-scented fern)
Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern)