Jesse Fried • Jun 14, 2017
Bearfort Mountain consists of several rocky, roughly flat-topped ridges that north-south for about 10 miles. Located in western Passaic County, it runs from just north of Route 23 to the New York border (in New York, an extension of the same ridge goes by a different name).
The northern half of the ridge, rising to the west of West Millford and the beautiful Greenwood Lake, approaches 1500 feet above sea level, and 800 feet above the valley, in various places along its length. This is some of the highest land in the NJ Highlands. Rather than culminating in a single ridge line, Bearfort's upland terrain is a jumbled mess of narrow mini-ridges of exposed bedrock, steep ledges, small ponds, swamps and stream valleys, forming a mile-wide belt of nearly impassible, rugged terrain. In a densely populated Metropolitan Area, it's significant that only one road, Warwick Turnpike, crosses this ten-mile barrier, through a water gap.
The southern half of the ridge is less rugged but more remote, extending into the mysterious Newark Watershed land. Clinton Road, just west of Bearfort Mountain, is a very lonely and desolate drive.
Geologically, Bearfort Mountain is a syncline, with erosion-resistant Schunnemunk Conglomerate exposed near its axis. This fold is part of a sedimentary belt known as the Green Pond Outlier, a sequence of folded Silurian and Devonian shales, sandstones and conglomerates bounded on all sides (in NJ) by typical Highlands ancient Proterozoic metamorphic and itrusive rocks. The Schunnemunk Conglomerate is, excitingly, "equivalent to the Late Devonian sequence of the Catskills region" (according to a USGS article), but likely closer to the source of the deformation that shed these sediments. The rock is strikingly beautiful, with its huge semi-rounded white quartzite and purple sandstone clasts in purple quartz sandstone matrix.
Several spring-fed ponds with rocky shores lie in or near the apex of the syncline. One of these, Terrace Pond is a popular place for people to hang out in the summer. Swimming isn't allowed, but people obviously do anyway. The hiking in this area is phenomenal. To match the geological wonders, the high elevation (and possibly the rough terrain) makes for a cooler, wetter than average forest, supporting populations of Rhododendron. The forest type is an interesting transition between southern and northern hardwoods - Tulip Poplar and Hickories on one hand, and a lot of Birches on the other hand.