The Black River has been described as the jewel of New Jersey. This hike takes you along a scenic stretch of the river, linking together a few historic points of interest. The hike is an out-and-back, starting at Cooper Gristmill in Chester and ending at the ruins of Kay’s Cottage before returning.
The trail begins at the restored Cooper Gristmill. The site was first established by Isaiah Younglove around 1760 as a location for a sawmill and gristmill. The mills changed ownership several times until being purchased by Nathan Cooper in 1825. He replaced both mills with a larger gristmill having twice the capacity of the original. The mill remained in operation until 1914 before the building was purchased by the Morris County Park Commission in 1963, which restored the mill to operating condition and converted it into a museum.
The trail follows Patriot’s Path, which is marked with distinctive metal blazes. It meanders through wet, muddy areas and groves of tulip poplars before passing a lily pad covered pond. Continue on Patriot’s Path until meeting the green trail. Turn left onto the green trail to stay close to the river. Continue to follow the green trail until it meets the orange; turn right and follow the orange trail downhill and across the river. The trail turns left and heads uphill, still following the Black River downstream. After cresting the hill, there will be a set of stone stairs to your left that lead downward to Kay’s Cottage.
The ruins of Kay’s Cottage are all that remains of a summer house built by Elizabeth and Alfred Kay who donated a large portion of the surrounding land to the MCPC. The Kays selected this location to dam the river and create a swimming area. The house originally held changing rooms, showers, a fireplace, and a terrace. The only portions still standing are the dam and its waterfall, stone and concrete foundations, and a few walls. After you’ve finished your exploration of the cottage ruins, retrace your steps back to Cooper Gristmill.