Vernal pools are one of the more intriguing of the seasons ephemeral phenomena. Small ponds of water that collect in topographic hollows, they fill up in wetter times of the year from rain and snowmelt and are usually dry by summer. Here today, gone tomorrow. Beauty, but not forever.
When I think of vernal pools Denton Preserve comes to mind. The Eastern New York Chapter of the Nature Conservancy owns Denton, which is located in the Town of Greenwich. The 350 acres of land border the Hudson River on the west and stretch a mile east to high bluffs. Access is at a small parking area on Rt. 4 about a half mile north of the green bridge.
In the troughs of this rumpled surface are the vernal pools. During a walk earlier this week I visited at least a dozen of them. Some had opened up, others were still iced over. Any night now they will be busy places, as amphibians use the pools to lay their eggs. Wood frogs, spring peepers and several types of salamanders are known to frequent such pools.
Naturalists will enjoy checking Denton's pools for eggs and juveniles over the next few months. But remember, this is a dawn to dusk preserve and the big event happens at night. Try to find vernal pools where you have access after dark and go out with a flashlight on a warm, rainy spring evening. Unleash your inner voyeur and enjoy the party. It's the best time to see a variety of frogs and salamanders that are mostly hidden the rest of the year.
I'm not aware of any trails on the west side of Rt. 4 but a tour of River Road gives access to both the Hudson and this part of the preserve. The quiet dirt lane starts at the end of the green bridge where Rt. 4 enters Washington County. It's great for walking, running and biking and a favorite spot for birding. You can launch your canoe on the river or explore a small pond. Mrs. Denton lived on River Road, a perfect place for a nature lover. I believe she wanted her homestead to be used as an Audubon Education Center and her land to be preserved for wildlife. I don't think the Education Center ever happened but she got her wishes in the Denton Preserve where both animals and people benefit from her vision.