FISHKILL RIDGE CONSERVATION AREA
Putnam and Dutchess Counties, NY


Directions:

There are a number of parking areas.  See the New York/New Jersey Trail Conference Maps or their website.  One parking area is:

From intersection of Route 9 and Route 52, take Route 52 west through Town of Fishkill for 1.3 miles; turn left onto Old Glenham Road; drive for 0.8 of a mile and turn left onto Maple Street. Drive 0.3 of a mile, crossing a bridge, passing Jean Van Pelt Park and reaching a "Y" in the road and turn left onto Old Town Road; drive 0.4 of a mile and turn right on Sunnyside Road; drive 0.3 of a mile to the end of the dead end road and turn  left and then bear right continuing up an unpaved hill to the  parking area (passing the kiosk where the trail starts).


Geology:

Heading northeast from the Hudson River, there is a long ridge composed of Breakneck Ridge, Scofield Ridge, and Fishkill Ridge.  The ridge ends at US 84 and Route 9.

Here is the Beacon Reservoir, Fishkill Creek and Clove Creek. The Clove Creek Valley aquifer is the source of pure drinking water for area residents

The U.S. Park Service has designated Fishkill Ridge a National Heritage Area and the New York State Secretary of State has declared the Ridge a Scenic Area of Statewide Significance (one of only seven such places).


History:

Revolutionary War  --  at the base of the Fishkill Ridge was an American Encampment from the Revolutionary War.  The Fishkill depot was the major supply depot for the Continental Army and for the fort at West Point. To protect the supply depot, the Continental Army heavily fortified Wiccopee Pass at Fishkill. (The site has been obliterated to create a now all but abandoned shopping mall.)  

On the way to the parking lot off Sunnyside Road, you pass an historic house at 155 Old Glenham Road: "Home of Hendrick Kip; built 1753.  Fiskhill headquarters of Baron Von Steuben about 1777.  General Washington and Count Pulaski visited here."

Two mines scar the area, as seen from the crest of the Ridge: the Thalle mine and the Southern Dutchess Sand & Gravel mine.

Mt. Beacon Incline Railway.  There once was a 2364 foot long track taking visitors up 1,540 feet above the Hudson River on an average grade of 64 degrees.  At the top was the Casino, which offered snacks and gifts (and free dancing).  One could take hiking trails that ran in all directions.  The railway was open from Memorial Day to Labor Day and weekends in May and to mid-October. (Source: Newberry, Lida. 1974. One-Day Adventures by Car: With Full Directions for Drives Out of New York City. New York: Hastings House. Page 148.)

Hiker William Thompson Howell, along with a man named Schneider, "spent the night on one of the Beacons, not in a tent but in one of the three room cottages which the incline railway people have erected above the casino."  June 23-24, 1906 (Howell, Volume II, 1982:95)

Mount Beacon is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  More than three million people used the incline during its 75 years.  (Future plans are for a gateway to Mount Beacon, including an observation deck with panoramic views.)

1997  -- the New York-North Jersey Trail Conference, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Adirondack Mountain Club and Scenic Hudson sponsored a meeting about the future of Fishkill Ridge at the Van Wyck Homestead.  Two of the speakers were Robert H. Boyle, the founder of Riverkeepers, and Joanne Dolan, who helped spearhead the acquisition of Sterling Forest. (Source: Fishkill Ridge an important geographical area; http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/specialsections/communities/dutchess_2002/story1.shtml)

1998  --  Representatives of a total of 19 organizations gathered to protest the plans of Sour Mountain Realty to have the ridge mined, which would destroy historic Wiccopee Pass and Fishkill Ridge itself. SMR proposes to remove almost 50 million tons of rock from the east side of Fishkill Ridge over 140 years.

After the rally, the group split into four smaller groups to hike Fishkill Ridge and the East Mountain loop, which provides a stunning view of the proposed mine site. Hikes ranged from 5 to 7 miles with elevation gains from 700 to 1,200 feet.  (Source: Jan/Feb 1998 Trailwalker)

1999  -- in response to the increasing pressure for industrial development and quarrying of Fishkill Ridge, concerned citizens form the Fishkill Ridge Caretakers.  (See: http://www.fishkillridge.org/index.htm)

The site is owned by The Scenic Hudson Land Trust and managed by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.  The Scenic Hudson Land Trust has protected more than 1,900 acres of Fishkill Ridge.  Some of the key players were Janice Bortree, Peter Rostenberg, Chris Ruhe, and Meg and Anthony Henry Smith.

Legal decisions have gone against Sour Mine because of the presence of timber rattlesnakes on the mine property and the finding that the Town acted irresponsibly when it ignored environmental issues. 


Trails:

1909 (October 29-30)  --  William T. Howell (1982:153) wrote: "Actually, the Fishkill Range offers one of the most toilsome climbs imaginable to the tramper who essays to follow its ridge from South Beacon to Breakneck."

From UHL Road.  Start on the Wilkinson Memorial Trail (yellow trail).  Heads west; cross a stream; head slightly northwest to a pond; turn right onto the white trail (Fishkill Ridge Trail).  Take this trail in a counterclockwise direction  (on a squished clock you are starting at about the 5:30 position).  The trail leads to Bald Hill.  Coming off Bald Hill, at the Dozer Junction area, take a woods road left (west) and follow it to a t-intersection.  Turn left (southeast) and continue until you connect with the Wilkinson Memorial Trail (yellow trail).  This will take you back to the 5:30 starting point on the clock.  Return on the path you came up on to the parking lot.

8/26/03.  Overlook Trail to Fishkill Ridge.  Parked at the area off of Sunnyside Road. Took the red trail up and up.  About five minutes into the walk, I noticed that on the trail next to seven year old Lauren Christie there was a yellowish snake with the angular head characteristic of many poisonous snakes.  At first I thought copperhead, but it was too big for that.  Then I figured out that it was a rattlesnake.  I told her to get back because there was a poisonous snake next to her.  (She jumped back and was a little scared when she realized it was a rattlesnake.)  It was probably one of those timber rattlesnakes that are supposed to be in the area.  It was fully spread out to its beautiful length of about three feet along the side of the trail just lying completely still.  As it slowly moved off the trail we noticed its prominent rattle.  After about 15 years of hiking I finally saw my first rattlesnake, while within 3 months of hiking Lauren also saw her first. 

Passed a huge boulder with some interesting plants on it.  The trail skirted along the edge of a  ravine, then down and up again at its shallow part.  Water falls over the rocks in a series of mini-water falls. The trail kept switching back and forth working its way up the mountain. We did not actually make it to the very top of the mountain, but we did get high enough to have a beautiful view of Beacon (including the many buildings of the Fishkill Correctional Facility and Highland Hospital), the Beacon-Newburgh Bridge and US 84, and across to Newburgh.  Dr. Patrick L. Cooney.

10/23/04.  On a cool overcast day, Phil Duckett and I climbed up to where Lauren and I had climbed to in August of 2003. There we ate lunch.  After lunch we continued walking the red trail. It went south to another viewing area where we could see sites south of the Newburgh-Beacon bridge.  The trail then climbed a little farther up then leveled out.  We then turned around and returned the way we had climbed.  (We should have continued on for awhile because the Overlook Trail ends where it intersects the white-blazed Fishkill Ridge Trail.) Dr. Patrick L. Cooney.    


PLANT LIST:
Dr. Patrick L. Cooney
7/20/03, 8/26/03 , 10/23/04  = dates plants found in bloom; 7/20/03 was a very brief stop just to see where the parking lot was.


Trees:
Acer pensylvanicum (striped maple)
Acer rubrum (red maple)
Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
Betula alleghaniensis (yellow birch)
Betula lenta (black birch)
Carya cordiformis (bitternut hickory)
Castanea dentata (American chestnut)
Fraxinus americana (white ash)
Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree)
Ostrya virginiana (American hop hornbeam)
Pinus rigida (pitch pine)
Populus deltoides (cottonwood)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus prinus (chestnut oak)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Quercus velutina (black oak)
Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust)
Sassafras albidum (sassafras)

Shrubs:
Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry)
Chimaphila maculata (striped wintergreen)
Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry)
Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) 10/23/04
Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel)
Lindera benzoin (spicebush)
Lonicera morrowii (Morrow‘s honeysuckle)
Quercus ilicifolia (bear oak)
Quercus ilicifolia (bear oak)
Rhamnus cathartica (common buckthorn)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)
Rubus occidentalis (black raspberry)
Rubus odoratus (purple flowering raspberry) 7/20/03
Rubus sp. (blackberry)
Sambucus canadensis (common elderberry)
Staphylea trifolia (bladdernut)
Vaccinium angustifolium (low bush blueberry) 10/23/04 a few in bloom
Vaccinium pallidum (hillside blueberry)
Viburnum acerifolium (maple-leaf viburnum)
Viburnum prunifolium (blackhaw viburnum)

Vines:
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)
Vitis labrusca (fox grape)

Herbs:
Achillea millefolium (common yarrow) 8/26/03
Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard)
Ambrosia artemisiifolia (common ragweed) 8/26/03
Amphicarpaea bracteata (hog peanut)
Aquilegia canadensis (columbine)
Aralia nudicaulis (wild sarsaparilla)
Arctium minus (lesser burdock) 8/26/03
Arisaema triphyllum (Jack-in-the-pulpit)
Artemisia vulgaris (common mugwort)
Asarum canadense (wild ginger)
Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed) 7/20/03
Aster divaricatus (white wood aster) 8/26/03
Aster spp. (aster) 10/23/04
Chrysanthemum leucanthemum (ox-eye daisy) 8/26/03
Cichorium intybus (chicory) 7/20/03 8/26/03 10/23/04
Cirsium vulgare (bull thistle) 8/26/03
Commelina communis (Asiatic dayflower) 8/26/03
Cypripedium acaule (pink lady's slipper)
Daucus carota (Queen Anne's lace) 8/26/03
Dianthus armeria (Deptford pink) 8/26/03
Epigaea repens (trailing arbutus)
Erigeron annuus (common daisy fleabane) 8/26/03
Eupatorium rugosum (white snakeroot)
Euthamia graminifolia (grass-leaved goldenrod) 8/26/03
Geum canadense (white avens)
Glechoma hederacea (gill-over-the-ground)
Lepidium virginicum (poor man's pepper)
Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco) 8/26/03
Lysimachia sp. (whorled loosestrife)
Maianthemum canadense (Canada mayflower)
Medicago lupulina (black medick) 8/26/03
Melampyrum lineare (cow wheat)
Melilotus alba (white sweet clover) 8/26/03
Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe)
Oenothera biennis (common evening primrose) 8/26/03
Oxalis sp. (yellow wood sorrel) 8/26/03
Plantago major (common plantain)
Polygonatum sp. (true Solomon's seal)
Polygonum virginianum (jumpseed)
Polygonum cespitosum (cespitose smartweed) 8/26/03
Potentilla norvegica (rough cinquefoil)
Prunella vulgaris (self-heal)
Rumex obtusifolius (broad dock)
Silene vulgaris (bladder campion) 7/20/03 8/26/03
Smilacina racemosa (false Solomon's seal)
Solidago caesia (blue-stem goldenrod)
Solidago juncea (early goldenrod)
Thalictrum pubescens (tall meadowrue)
Trientalis borealis (starflower)
Trifolium pratense (red clover) 8/26/03
Tussilago farfara (coltsfoot)
Verbascum blattaria (moth mullein) 8/26/03
Verbena urticifolia (white vervain) 8/26/03
Veronica officinalis (common speedwell)

Sedges:
Carex laxiflora type (loose-flowered sedge type)

Grasses:
Eragrostis cilianensis (stinkgrass) ?
Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stilt grass)
Panicum clandestinum (deer-tongue grass)
Schizachyrium scoparium (little blue stem)
Setaria faberi (nodding foxtail grass)
Setaria glauca (yellow foxtail grass)

Ferns:
Asplenium trichomanes (maidenhair spleenwort fern)
Athyrium filix-femina (lady fern)
Bromus inermis (smooth brome grass)
Dennstaedtia punctilobula (hay-scented fern)
Dryopteris marginalis (marginal woodfern)
Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern)
Osmunda cinnamomea (cinnamon fern)
Polypodium sp. (rock cap fern)
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)
Pteridium aquilinum (bracken fern)

Other:
rock tripe lichen