New Jersey Butterfly Club

A chapter of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA)

Kittatinny Valley State Park

by Tom Halliwell

County: Sussex.

Municipality: Andover Township.

Directions: From Route 80 East or West: Get off at exit 25 and take Route 206 north for about 6 miles to the traffic light in Andover Borough. Stay on Route 206 north for an additional 1.6 miles and turn right onto Goodale Road. Follow Goodale for about 1 mile to the park entry road on the right, where there is a parking lot. Another parking lot is located at the park office building at the end of the half-mile entry road. Park maps and other information are available at the office.

From the north take Route 206 south from Newton for about 3 miles, turn left onto Goodale Road, and proceed as above.

Parking: In addition to the two parking areas mentioned above, three other lots are available: (1) along Goodale Road at Twin Lakes, about halfway (0.5 mile) between Route 206 and the park entry road; (2) along the east side of Route 206 at the Sussex Branch Trail, about 0.7 mile south of Goodale Road (look for "Trail Crossing" signs on 206); and (3) at Lake Aeroflex/Aeroflex Airport, about a mile east of Route 206 along Limecrest Road (which joins Route 206 at a traffic light about 1 mile south of Goodale Road).

Nearest sizable town: Andover Borough, at the intersection of Route 206 and CR 517, is about a mile south of the park. It has gas, food, and lots of antiques. There are several places to eat along Route 206 within a mile or so north or south of Goodale Road.

Habitats: Marshes, meadows, successional fields, active agricultural fields, deciduous forest, mixed hemlock-hardwood forest, and redcedar woods and openings. Much of the Park is underlain by limestone, though the part east of Limecrest Road is Highlands gneiss, and some of the higher elevations west of that road are composed of slate. The Park also includes several ponds and Lake Aeroflex, the deepest natural lake in NJ).

Maintained/Marked trails: Yes. Easy to moderate. A Trail Map is available here or at the park office. Two major trails cut through the park: the 20-mile-long Sussex Branch RR Trail, and the newer, 7-mile-long Andover Loop Trail. Be watchful for bicyclists on all trails, especially on weekends.

Restrooms: Yes. Flush toilets are located at the park office and at the Lake Aeroflex Limecrest Road parking lot. Composting or portable toilets are provided at Twin Lakes and at the Goodale Road lot.

Picnic tables: Yes, by the parking lots at Lake Aeroflex, Twin Lakes, and the Park office. May be busy on weekends and holidays.

Notable species: Pipevine Swallowtail, Giant Swallowtail, Falcate Orangetip (rare), Harvester (rare), Northern Metalmark (rare), Baltimore Checkerspot, Viceroy, Northern Pearly-Eye, Hoary Edge (rare), Common Checkered-Skipper.

Best time to visit: Any time from May to October.

Exploring Kittatinny Valley State Park:
(1) From the Park office parking lot walk the field trails behind and across from the office building. Especially in summer, when the fields are full of Wild Bergamot, look for swallowtails (including Pipevine and Giant), both Ladies, Viceroy, Common Wood-Nymph, and many other species. In June Hoary Edge can sometimes be seen on low-growing flowers. The pollinator garden behind the office building is worth a visit. In summer and early fall the garden can produce numerous butterflies including all 5 NJ swallowtail species, and rarities such as Milbert’s Tortoiseshell, ‘White Admiral’, and Long-tailed Skipper have been found there.

(2) From the parking lot off Goodale Road at the entry road look for large stands of Common Milkweed and Wild Bergamot in the unmowed portion of the fields. The number of milkweed plants will vary from year to year but when abundant they can be full of butterflies including swallowtails, Great Spangled Fritillary, Monarch, Hoary Edge, and many more. Cross over Goodale Road and the adjacent, parallel rail-trail and bear right on the gravel road that goes by the campground. Butterflying is excellent here in summer in the fields between the campground and the ruin of a stone barn. The abundant Butterfly Milkweed in these fields attracts Great Spangled Fritillary, anglewings, Ladies, Red-spotted Purple, Viceroy, and the occasional Baltimore Checkerspot. Northern Pearly-eye is often found in the woods by the stone barn. The road then climbs steeply from the barn to a communications tower (with a nice view); this slope is a favorite place for Mourning Cloaks and Eastern Commas in early spring.

(3) From the parking lot of the Sussex Branch Trail on Route 206 walk the woods trail north, keeping an eye out for woodland butterflies including Northern Pearly-eye and Little Wood-Satyr. Harvester has been seen here right on the cinder path.

(4) From the parking lot at Lake Aeroflex you can walk back out the exit, turn left onto the Andover Loop Trail heading north. This takes you along the east shore of Lake Aeroflex and into a large area of Eastern Redcedar. Butterflies and nectar plants are not common, but Juniper Hairstreak is occasionally spotted in this scenic area. Walk back to the Lake Aeroflex entrance road and turn left as if you were leaving. The narrow field area on the left, between the Andover Loop Trail and Limecrest Road, can have good butterfly diversity. Wear rubber boots to protect yourself from ticks, Poison Ivy, and wetness. This area has been home to Pearl Crescent and many grass-skippers, including Least, Peck’s, Tawny-edged, Crossline, Mulberry Wing, Black Dash, and Dun. The Andover Loop Trail south from the parking lot entrance road travels toward the outflow of Gardner's Pond. This has yielded Harvester (on the cinders), Viceroy, Appalachian Brown, Northern Cloudywing, the occasional Hoary Edge, and many other species. At the outflow area look for Appalachian Brown, Least Skipper, Mulberry Wing, Broad-winged Skipper, and Black Dash (the latter 4 on Pickerelweed blossoms). The official Loop trail turns left (south) here and enters the woods, where Northern Pearly-eye and other woodland species can be found. To return to the Aeroflex parking lot, however, bear to the right and continue on the gravel road along the west side of Gardner's Pond. Pearl Crescent; Northern Cloudywing; and Peck's, Delaware, and Dun skippers are regular, and Bronze Copper is a possibility.

(5) At Twin Lakes the parking lot itself can have basking and puddling butterflies such as swallowtails, American Snout, Red Admiral, Tawny and Hackberry Emperors (uncommon), and others. The trail leading down to the marsh can be really hopping in early fall when the asters, goldenrods, and New York Ironweed are in bloom. Check the boat launch area for Common Checkered-Skipper. Also, if the agricultural field to the right of Twin Lakes is fallow in summer, check it out for Variegated Fritillary and Common Checkered-Skipper.

Special precautions: Ticks and mosquitoes are present in season and bears (generally quite timid) are seen regularly in the forested sections. Be watchful for mountain-bikers and horse riders, especially on weekends.

You might also want to visit: Whittingham WMA in Fredon/Green Townships (but note that meadow trails are not mowed here in the summer), and the dirt parking lots on Junction and Parsons roads in the Paulins Kill WMA in Hampton Township.

General information for Kittatinny Valley State Park is available.

To view a larger map, click on 'View larger map' icon in upper right hand corner. (Tip: The satellite view may also suggest good potential butterfly habitat to explore.)

Kittatinny Valley State Park Butterfly Garden

Be sure to visit the excellent butterfly garden behind the KVSP office.

Kittatinny Valley State Park Butterflying the Entry Road Field

Patches of Common Milkweed along the KVSP entry road are always worth checking.

Kittatinny Valley State Park Entry Road Field

Fields near the KVSP office attract butterflies with great displays of Wild Bergamot and other nectar plants.

Kittatinny Valley State Park Trail Along Twin Lakes Marsh

The trail at the south end of Twin Lakes is great for both birds and butterflies.

Kittatinny Valley State Park Butterfly Milkweed Field

The field just past the campground is loaded with Butterfly Milkweed in June.

Kittatinny Valley State Park Field Near Goodale Road

The fields along the park entrance road are alive with summer flowers.