BEAR MOUNTAIN

Rockland County, NY


Directions:

TZ Bridge; US 87; Palisades Interstate Parkway north; Route 6 east to the Bear Mountain Bridge Traffic Circle; first exit from circle; turn right at light; turn right into the parking area at Bear Mountain Inn; pay the entrance fee ($5.00 per car). The white-blazed Appalachian Trail heads up the mountain from the southwestern edge of the Bear Mountain Inn.


Geology:

Some hills, such as Bear Mountain and Storm King, are almost entirely of a pinkish granitic gneiss, this one known as Storm King granitic gneiss.

The broad terrace on which Bear Mount Inn sits is a terrace (same at West Point) which was at one time the Hudson River's graded bedrock bottom many millions of years ago.  "Uplift of the region a few million years ago, before the Pleistocene, caused the river to flow faster and down-cut more rapidly in a narrower channel, leaving part of the old bottom high and dry." (Wyckoff 1971:40)

The depression in the terrace occupied by Hessian Lake, north of the Inn, was made by glacial erosion -- a basin scooped from the contact zone by glacial ice.


History:

Sources: Dunwell, 1991, and Stalter, Elizabeth "Perk." 1996. Doodletown: Hiking Through History in a Vanished Hamlet on the Hudson. Bear Mountain, NY: Palisades Interstate Park Commission Press.

The capture of Forts Clinton and Montgomery.

The British in New York City wanted to take pressure off British General John Burgoyne at Saratoga. So, on the morning of October 6, 1777, 2,500 British regulars, Hessian Jaegers, and New York Loyalists under the command of General Sir Henry Clinton (and assisted by local Loyalist Beverly Robinson) crossed over the Hudson River from Verplanck Point to Stony Point.

They marched 2 miles inland and turned north towards Dunderberg for a 12-mile march to the twin forts of Montgomery (north of Popolopen Creek) and Clinton (on the site of Bear Mountain zoo), then protected only by 600 men.

The British forces traveled along what is now the 1777 Trail. This trail starts from Route 9W along the Hudson River and travels south of Dunderberg Mountain and west of Bald Mountain. Around Doodletown, the trail splits into a west and east branch. The east branch travels east and then north to Bear Mountain. The west branch travels northwest along Seven Lakes Drive and then crosses Route 6 just southeast of Queensboro Lake; it travels along with the Popolopen Gorge Trail heading northeast parallel to Route 6 and heads through the Popolopen Gorge to Route 9W.

The British troops simultaneously overwhelmed the two forts. But only after 20 days, the forces were evacuated and the British troops returned to New York City. (Burgoyne had surrendered to General Gates at Saratoga.)

1891 -- former fort site probably now owned by A. C. Cheney & Co., the proprietors of the ice business (they owned almost all of Bear Mountain, then called Bear Hill)

In 1908 William Thompson Howell, an avid hiker and photographer, took a keen interested in preserving the Highlands. Setting the stage of conservation were the two great rallying points for scenic conservation in New York State: Niagara Falls and the Palisades. (Dunwell 1991:140-142)

The Harrimans were friends of John Muir, the Sierra transcendentalist. Harriman's doctor told him to take a vacation. So off to Alaska he went. But not alone. He took along a scientific expedition to keep him company. Among those accompanying him were John Muir and naturalist John Burroughs, who wrote a narrative of the expedition. (Dunwell 1991:156-157)

In 1885 Harriman bought the former Orange County estate of his friends the Parrotts along with 7800 acres of forest that were threatened by lumbering. In 1905 he built a house on a mountain top 1300 feet above sea level known as Arden House. Harriman took an interest in forestry and gradually expanded his land holdings in the area to 30 square miles. (Dunwell 1991:158)

In 1909 the Wainwright-Merritt bill protected the wild forest growth along the lower Hudson River, and the Bennett bill which would have established a state park "as a memorial to Henry Hudson and Robert Fulton . . . to preserve the natural scenery of the Hudson River" was not passed. (Dunwell 1991:150-153)

Also in 1909, the building of Sing-Sing prison on historic grounds along the Hudson, shocked many out of their lethargy. George W. Perkins (right hand man of J. P. Morgan and president of the Palisades Park Commission) and Harriman devised a grand plan to preserve the Highlands. Harriman told Governor Hughes of New York that he (Harriman) would donate 19 square miles of his own estate.

The Harrimans decided to develop a park. Harriman died before he could see his plan executed, but his wife, Mary, turned his vision to reality. The Harriman's son Averell (later Governor of New York) was summoned from Yale College to present the gift of $1 million dollars and 10,000 acres to the Park Commission. Bear Mountain Park sprang into existence.

1900 -- The Palisades Interstate Park Commission created because people were concerned that quarrying would have taken down all the Palisades.

1910 -- establishment of the park's nucleus at Bear Mountain via land donation from the Harrimans. Johnsontown was acquired by 1915; Baileytown, Queensboro, most of Cedar Flats, Bulsontown, and Jones Point by 1937; and by 1942 all of Sandyfields (Beaver Pond).

1913 -- steamboat excursion service to Bear Mt. established; camping began at Hessian Lake.

By 1914 -- over one million people visited the park annually. By 1917 the figure reached to over two million annually. (Dunwell 1991:155 & 159)

1915 -- Bear Mountain Inn was built in 1915 in the rustic style. The interior, as well as parts of the exterior, were built of chestnut wood. 1915

1916 -- bridge over Popolopen Gorge built

1916 -- remains of the Revolutionary War forts, Clinton and Montgomery, were acquired as historic sites. Bear Mt. now a Mecca for tourists.

1918 -- June-Lemmon property (#15) in Doodletown acquired by Park Commission and used by the family of Park Police Chief William Gee and later by Park Superintendent Raymond Adolph.

1919 -- Mrs. Harriman’s pet project was the Camp Fire Girls. In this year there were 29 camps with 50,000 girls in the park. More people went to Bear Mountain than to Yellowstone.

1923 -- The Bear Mountain part of the Appalachian Trail was the first to be completed, officially opening October 7, 1923. The trail was the brainchild of avid hiker Benton MacKaye, a U.S. Labor Dept. policy-maker. MacKaye found very enthusiastic support from the man in charge of Bear Mountain State Park: general manager Major William A. Welch. (Dunwell 1991:160-161)

1924 -- Bear Mountain Bridge built.

1927 -- Trailside Museums established.

1933 -- Perkins Memorial Drive completed.

1934 -- Perkins Memorial Tower on Bear Mt. pinnacle built.

1937 -- first post office at Bear Mountain opens.

During the WWII era, Bear Mountain Inn was leased to concessionaire Jack Martin, a great sports fan. He became host to the Brooklyn Dodgers (now the Los Angeles Dodgers) baseball team. The coach of the team Branch Rickey had the first black man in professional baseball Jackie Robinson take batting practice. Martin also hosted the professional football teams New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, and Cleveland Rams (later the Cleveland Browns), as well as the Eastern Golden Gloves Boxing Team and world champion boxer Jack Dempsey during a period of recovery from illness. (Binnewies, 2001:213-214)


PLANT LIST:

Dr. Patrick L. Cooney/Philip Duckett


Trees:
Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
Acer rubrum (red maple)
Acer pensylvanica (striped maple)
Ailanthus altissima (tree-of-heaven)
Betula lenta (black birch)
Betula populifolia (gray birch)
Carya spp. (hickory)
Cornus florida (flowering dogwood)
Fagus grandifolia American beech
Fraxinus americana (white ash)
Juniperus virginiana (red cedar)
Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree)
Nyssa sylvatica (tupelo)
Picea abies (Norway spruce)
Pinus rigida (pitch pine)
Pinus strobus (white pine)
Prunus serotina (black cherry)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus coccinea (scarlet oak)
Quercus palustris (pin oak)
Quercus prinus (chestnut oak)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Quercus sp. (hybrid oak)
Quercus velutina (black oak)
Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust) 5/31/96
Sassafras albidum (sassafras)
Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock) -- quite a few dead ones

Shrubs:
Alnus sp. (alder)
Amelanchier sp. (shadbush)
Aralia spinosa (Hercules club) 8/02/01
Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry)
Clethra alnifolia (sweet pepperbush)
Comptonia peregrina (sweet fern)
Cytisus scoparius (scotch broom) 5/31/96
Elaeagnus umbellata (autumn olive)
Gaultheria procumbens (wintergreen )
Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry) 5/31/96
Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel)
Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel)
Lindera benzoin (spicebush)
Mitchella repens (partridgeberry)
Quercus ilicifolia (scrub oak)
Rhododendron sp. (rhododendron)
Rhododendron viscosum (swamp azalea)
Rhus spp. (sumac)
Rubus phoenicolasius (wineberry)
Rubus sp. (blackberry)
Vaccinium angustifolium (lowbush blueberry)
Vaccinium pallidum (hillside blueberry)
Viburnum dentatum (arrowwood viburnum)

Vines:
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)
Smilax glauca (sawbrier)
Smilax sp. (greenbrier)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)

Herbs:
Achillea millefolium (yarrow)
Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard)
Allium vineale (field garlic)
Apocynum sp. (dogbane)
Arabis glabra (tower mustard) 5/31/96
Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed)
Aster divaricatus (white wood aster)
Capsella bursa-pastoris (shepherd's purse) 5/31/96
Chrysanthemum leucanthemum (ox-eye daisy) 5/31/96
Cichorium intybus (chicory) 8/02/01
Cirsium arvense (Canada thistle)
Conopholis americana (squawroot)
Daucus carota (Queen Anne's lace) 8/02/01
Erigeron annuus (daisy fleabane) 8/02/01
Euphorbia maculata (spotted spurge)
Galinsoga quadriradiata (common quickweed or gallant soldiers) 8/02/01
Hieracium venosum (rattlesnake hawkweed) 5/31/96
Hieracium sp. (hawkweed) 5/31/96
Hypoxis hirsuta (yellow stargrass) 5/31/96
Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco lobelia) 8/02/01
Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife)
Maianthemum canadensis (Canada mayflower)
Melilotus officinalis (yellow sweet clover)
Ornithogallum umbellatum (star of Bethlehem) 5/31/96
Oxalis stricta (yellow wood sorrel) 8/02/01
Plantago lanceolata (English plantain)
Plantago major (common plantain)
Polygonum cespitosum (cespitose smartweed) 8/02/01
Populus sp. aspen (with whitish bark)
Populus tremuloides (quaking aspen)
Potentilla argentea (silvery cinquefoil) 5/31/96 8/02/01
Potentilla simplex (common cinquefoil)
Prunella vulgaris (self-heal)
Sedum sp. (sedum) opposite leaved or 3 in a whorl; hugging the rocks around Hessian Lake
Solanum nigrum (black nightshade) 8/02/01
Solidago odora (sweet goldenrod)
Trifolium pratense (red clover)
Trifolium repens (white clover) 8/02/01
Verbascum thapsus (common mullein) 8/02/01
Viola spp. (violets)

Rushes:
Juncus tenuis (path rush)

Grasses:
Bromus inermis (smooth broom grass)
Dactylis glomerata (orchard grass)
Deschampsia flexuosa (hair grass)
Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stilt grass)
Panicum clandestinum (deer-tongue grass)
Panicum virgatum (switch grass)
Phragmites australis (giant reed grass)

Ferns and Fern Allies:
Athyrium filix-femina (northern lady fern)
Dryopteris spp. (woodferns)
Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern)
Polypodium sp. (rock cap fern)
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)
Thelypteris noveboracensis (New York fern)


BEAR MOUNTAIN

Seventeen persons attended the field trip of Sunday, September 13. The morning was spent on the Nature Trail and at the Trailside Museum at Bear Mountain. In the afternoon the party botanized along the foot of the slop leading to the summit of Anthony's Nose. A fairly large colony of Zanthoxylum americanum, the Toothache Tree, was found on the slope between the highway and the Hudson, and a little north of the Bear Mountain Bridge, under conditions which indicated that it had been originally introduced. Large bunches of Vitis vulpina, the riverbank or frost grape, with their blue acid berries, festooned the banks, and in the woods and along the main highway several interesting plants were found, such as Bidens bipinnata, Chenopodium hybridum, Trichostema dichotomum, Acalypha virginica, Hedeoma pulegioides, and Pilea pumila.

Arthur H. Graves