Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Late Summer Visit To Mountain Lakes

Though still undiscovered by many, Mountain Lakes Preserve is Princeton's "Central Park", located surprisingly close to the geographical center of the soon to be consolidated Princeton. A walk down the driveway at 57 Mountain Ave, leading into Mountain Lakes, reveals it's been a good year for spicebush, whose abundant, lipid-rich berries should provide lots of energy for birds this fall.
The berries are just starting to ripen. It all seems natural, but these berries might not be here at all if volunteers hadn't cut down the invasive honeysuckle shrubs that were competing with the spicebush.
If you haven't been to Mountain Lakes in awhile, you'll find that it has its lakes back, now that the dredging and stonework is done.

The stone wall that makes a sweeping curve along the front of the lower dam is completely new, though built to imitate the old one now buried a couple feet down after they added extra height to the earthen dam.
The back side of the dam is less scenic, but includes a seepage whose steady moisture provides perfect habitat
for the phantom craneflies described in a previous post.

Across the dam separating the upper and lower lakes can be seen Mountain Lakes House, which has become all the more popular a spot for weddings and other events since the dams were restored and a new permanent roof was built over the patio.
If you continue on the driveway past the Mountain Lakes House and head down the hill, you'll find another newly restored dam. The anonymous donor provided additional funding to restore this third dam, built around 1950 (the other dams were built around 1900). In addition to being as beautiful as the others, it serves to catch sediment that might otherwise begin filling in the two main lakes. Dredging this little pond also served to get rid of an infestation of Phragmitis, a highly invasive grass of freeway ditches and wetlands. It cannot be overemphasized just how extraordinary was the generosity of the donor, who provided some $4 million to make these three dam restorations possible.

The raingarden on the side of Mountain Lakes House, which catches water from the driveway and roof, has filled in nicely with native plants.

Mountain Lakes is one of the finer examples of how human intervention can work with the natural energies of plantlife and water flow to create attractive and productive landscapes.

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