Elizabeth D. Kay Environmental Center

linkTrail Guide

200 Pottersville Road
Chester, NJ 07930

T: (973) 326 - 7600

Hours:
M-F: 8am to sunset
Sat-Sun: 8am to sunset

Directions

Amenities

A beautiful, tranquil place for nature lovers and bird watchers. Hike deep into spectacular meadows!

The Elizabeth D. Kay Environmental Center offers endless ways to get in touch with nature with plentiful hiking trails that run through beautiful meadows and hardwood forests. Hike through a spectacular hemlock gorge and view historic ruins along the Black River. A bird watching paradise, you may spot the American woodcock, Eastern bluebird, wild turkeys, brown thrashers and various warblers. Enjoy butterfly sightings and colorful flowers in the Butterfly Garden behind the Kay Center building.

Plan Your Visit

The Elizabeth D. Kay Environmental Center is part of an over 1,600 acre complex of preserved county parkland along the Black River that is connected by the Patriots’ Path Blue Spur.

There is no admission fee. However, groups of 25 or more persons utilizing any Morris County Park System area are required to book a reservation and obtain a permit.

To best enjoy your visit, we encourage you to:

  • Explore our website prior to your visit to download a trail map
  • Check our hours of operations and note special announcements.
  • Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring water, a hat, sunscreen, and bug spray as needed. Insects, including ticks, bees, and mosquitoes, are part of our ecosystem.
  • Take photos! Photography for personal use is allowed, provided it does not disrupt other visitors. Commercial photography and filming, wedding, engagement, and similar types of photography require a permit. To obtain a photography permit, please click here to fill out the Event Request Form.

During your visit:

  • Please refrain from climbing trees, picking plants and flowers, or walking into the water features.
  • For safety purposes, all trail users must stay on signed/blazed trails or walkways.
  • Dogs must remain on a 6’ leash as per Article III, Section 3 of the Morris County Park Commission Rules and Regulations.
  • Bow and firearm hunting may be permitted in some parks. Please contact the Natural Resources Office at 973.285.6552 for more information.

To learn about Trail Courtesy, What to Bring, and other trail tips on how to share this pristine, natural space with each other – check our Trail Resources!

Maps

Letter – 8.5″ x 11″ (1 page)

Try MCPC Explorer, a web-based, interactive, experience, where you can view your current location, search parks by activity/amenity, find trails by permitted uses, easily download offline maps to your mobile device and more!

Programs & Activities
  • Seasonal programs and special events for visitors of all ages.
  • Explore Nature
  • Hiking
History

In 1920, Alfred and Elizabeth Kay created their country estate, known as Hidden River Farm, on 275 acres in Chester Township. There they raised cows, turkeys, guinea hens, chickens and pigs; while vegetables, herbs and flowers were grown in the gardens and greenhouse. Over the years, the Kays built new buildings and remodeled old ones. They added carriage trails down to the Black River, where a dam was built to create a deep and calm swimming pool. In 1957, the original home, most outbuildings, and about 30-acres were sold to the Garland School, and a new and smaller home (modeled after their Florida winter residence) was built at the top of the remaining property. This “new” house and a number of the outbuildings remain today.

It was the wishes of Alfred and Elizabeth Kay that the property be used as an environmental center, where “each day would bring a new wonder and challenge to learn.” The first parcel was acquired by the Morris County Park Commission on March 29, 1962 and dedicated as The Elizabeth D. Kay Environmental Center on October 28, 1993. The Kays were known for their contributions to horticulture, conservation, humanitarian causes, and the arts.

Gardens

Formerly called Hidden River Farm and home to Elizabeth and Alfred Kay, this park provides numerous trails through beautiful meadow and woodland communities, as well as along the winding Black River.

Butterfly Garden

Butterflies are fascinating creatures to watch as they flitter about the garden.  If you are looking to attract more butterflies to your garden, this area contains some of best plants to consider.  Set-up as an attractive small garden space unto itself, it features Pepperbush (Clethra alniifolia), Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea purpurea), Anis Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) and New York Ironweed (Vernonia noveborecensis) among many others.  Come and sit for a while on the adjacent patio to enjoy some of our colorful pollinators.

House Garden

Set up as a pollinator garden, these beds feature a number of native herbaceous and woody plants that provide nectar and pollen to our native bees as well as butterflies.  From herbaceous plants such as the towering Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum) or the more demure Blue Star (Amsonia tabernaemontana) to some of our best woody shrubs and trees such as American Cranberrybush Viburnum (Viburnum trilobum) and Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboretum), this garden is as attractive as it is beneficial!

Meadows

A looping series of trails through the meadows allows for a closer look at the various species of plants, birds, and mammals that reside in the meadows and wetlands adjacent to the Black River. Most notably, you will have the pleasure of spotting, among other great birds, the American Goldfinch, Eastern Bluebird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Wild Turkey.