STERLING LAKE TRAIL
Sterling Forest, Orange County, NY

This is 17,500 acres of once-privately owned wilderness, in the Tuxedo Mountains between Harriman State Park and New Jersey, famous for its historic iron mines, rocky ridges, clear waters, and unspoiled second-growth forest.


Directions:

US 87; Exit 15a Rt. 17 n; left Rt. 17A; you have to make a left at a stop sign. Set your odometer to 0. Then in 5.7 miles you should see at a small pull-off area on the left side (south side) of 17A not far from the town of Greenwood Lake. There is at a small green highway marker that says: 17A; 8301; 11 91. Right across the street (north side) is the Doris Duke Wildlife Sanctuary.


History:

STERLING IRONWORKS

1736 -- Cornelius Board (acting as agent for the Earl of Stirling) wandered up the Ringwood River to Sterling Lake. He found iron ore at the southwest end of the lake.

1736, Oct -- Board gets a warrant from John Burnet (an East Jersey Proprietor) a tract of 100 acres for himself and his partner Timothy Ward. They erect a bloomery and produce iron at Sterling.

1738 -- they build a forge.

1739 -- from Burnet they get 10 small tracts of land in the Bergen County area to provide waterpower and mines.

1740 -- Cornelius Board sells his interests at Sterling to Timothy Ward. 371 acres was surveyed for Timothy Ward, William Smith and Company.

1751 -- hire stone mason Peter Green to build the first furnace at Sterling.

1752 -- the Nobels build a forge near the Sterling furnace.

1753 -- first anchors turned out.

1757-1768 -- William Hawxhurst buys tracts totaling nearly 101 acres.

1759-1759 -- Hawxhurst and Nobel form a partnership at Sterling.

1759 -- William Nobel dies and leaves his ironworks interest to his son Abel.

1760 -- Hawxhurst carries on the works alone. Constructs a road from Sterling to Haverstraw on the Hudson River. Charles Clinton was the engineer and surveyor.

1761 -- Hawxhurst adds a refinery for Sterling pig iron.

1767 -- Sterling anchory destroyed by fire. Rebuild it.

1768 -- Peter Townsend becomes a partner with Abel Noble.

1769 -- settlement of state border; Sterling ironworks now in New York rather than New Jersey.

1775 -- Abel Nobel and Peter Townsend enlarge the two forges available for making steel.

1778 -- Peter Townsend agrees to produce an iron chain to be placed across the Hudson River at West Point to act as a barrier for British ships. Put in place on April 30, 1778.

1779 -- Aaron Burr pays a visit to Sterling. An attempted mule ride leads to a runaway mule and rider diving into an open-topped coal shed and sliding down the coal chute in a cloud of coal dust.

1783 -- Peter Townsend dies. Leaves the property to his wife Hannah Hawxhurst. The widow and her two sons Peter (b. 1770) and Isaac run the ironworks. Later Peter takes over the management by himself.

1783 -- Peter Townsend II rode horseback to New York City to watch the British evacuation.

1797 -- Abel Noble sells his interest to Peter Townsend II. Noble moved to Bellvale, NY.

1804 -- old furnace used for the last time when the Townsends begin building the ironworks at Southfield, six miles away.

1806 -- Abel Noble dies.

1808 -- Sterling furnace in ruins, but the forges and anchory and Eagle Steel Furnace still active.

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1847-1848 -- Townsends start building another blast furnace at Sterling just below the outlet of Sterling Pond (about 2.5 miles downstream from the old furnace at the foot of Sterling Lake).

1857 -- 2,250 tons of iron from the Lower California, Upper California, Summit, Sterling, Crossway and Mountain mines.

1864 -- furnace and properties sold. Transferred to the "Sterling Iron and Railway Company." Among the owners were:
Peter Townsend III
Thomas A. Scott -- president of the Penn Railroad and asst. Sec. Of War during the Civil War
Jay Cooke -- opened his own private banking house in Philadelphia in 1861
Joel Barlow Morehead
Samuel L. M. Barlow
George C. Clark

1865-1866 -- the furnace converted to anthracite from charcoal. The new company starts to build a railroad from Lakeville at the foot of Sterling Lake to a nearby point on the Erie Railroad about one mile north of Ramapo, NY (named Sterling Junction).

1867 -- form the Sterling Mountain Railway Company.

1873 -- Panic of 1873 has adverse effect on Sterling. Also same for use of Lake Superior ores.

1890 -- the only Ramapo furnace still in operation was the one built at Sterling in 1847-48.

1891 -- Sterling furnace shut down.

1892 -- reorganization of the Sterling Iron and Railway Company.

1893 -- only 4 of the 14 mines on the 22,000 acres working.

1896-1917 -- only the Lake mine active at Sterling.

1915 -- with coming of WWI the Midvale Steel Company became interested in the mines.

1918 -- Ramapo Ore Company leases the ironworks for a period of 50 years.

1923 -- Sterling works finally closed. Sterling becomes a ghost town.

1952 -- City Investing Company acquires the area from E. Roland and W. Averell Harriman.

Robert W. Dowling and his associates wanted an area with floral gardens, private homes, modern research laboratories and the quarrying of rock, stone, and gravel from abundant out-croppings in Sterling. They wanted to create an integrated community of work, home, and recreation in the same place.

Sterling Forest gardens were four miles north of the furnace ruins. They had colorful formal flower beds as well as peacock, flamingoes, and other exotic birds.

1959 -- Roland Robbins, who did the restoration of the ironworks at Saugus, Massachusetts, was given the task of excavating the old Sterling Furnace.

Information from: James A. Ransom. 1966. "Vanishing Ironworks of the Ramapos." New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Also see history of Sterling Forest.


Trails:

Follow the blue blazed Sterling Ridge Trail for a short ways south. A fork in the trail comes up; take the yellow blazed left fork which will take you down to Sterling Lake where you will hook up with the blue trail going along the Sterling Lake shore. It takes an hour or less to get to the lake (if you are not a botanist or naturalist and stop to look everywhere). Most of the lake is somewhat hard to get to because it is rocky all around the lake. (The Sterling Valley Trail which goes on the northwest and north sides of Sterling Lake.) There is very little if any marsh since the rocks and forest go down to the lake edge. Turn left and the trail takes you to a former boat ramp with old abandoned canoe racks. Here there is also a small pond with some interesting vegetation and a buttonbush shrub swamp.


PLANT LIST:
Dr. Patrick L. Cooney


Trails:

Follow the yellow-blazed trail all the way down to Sterling Lake. Also here is the blue-blazed Sterling Ridge Trail. A fork in the trail comes up; take the yellow blazed left fork which will take you down to Sterling Lake where you will hook up with the blue trail going along the Sterling Lake shore. It takes an hour or less to get to the lake (if you are not a botanist or naturalist and stop to look everywhere). Most of the lake is somewhat hard to get to because it is rocky all around the lake. (The Sterling Valley Trail goes on the northwest and north sides of Sterling Lake.) There is very little if any marsh since the rocks and forest go down to the lake edge. Turn left and the trail takes you to a former boat ramp with old abandoned canoe racks. Here there is also a small pond with some interesting vegetation and a buttonbush shrub swamp.

Unfortunately, the south end of the entire lake is filled with private houses.


PLANT LIST:
Dr. Patrick L. Cooney


Trees:
Acer pensylvanicum (striped maple)
Acer rubrum (red maple)
Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven)
Amelanchier arborea (shadbush)
Betula lenta (black birch)
Betula nigra (river birch)
Betula populifolia (gray birch)
Carpinus caroliniana (musclewood)
Castanea dentata (American chestnut)
Cornus florida (flowering dogwood) 4/23/02
Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Fraxinus americana (white ash)
Juniperus virginiana (red cedar)
Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree)
Nyssa sylvatica (tupelo)
Ostrya virginiana (American hop hornbeam)
Pinus strobus (white pine)
Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore)
Populus alba (white poplar)
Prunus serotina (black cherry)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus prinus (chestnut oak)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust)
Sassafras albidum (sassafras) 4/23/02
Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock)

Shrubs:
Alnus serrulata (smooth alder)
Aronia sp. (chokeberry)
Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry) 4/23/02
Cephalanthus occidentalis (buttonbush) 8/03/01
Chimaphila maculata (spotted wintergreen)
Clethra alnifolia (sweet pepperbush) 8/03/01
Comptonia peregrina (sweet fern)
Cornus amomum (swamp dogwood)
Eubotrys racemosa (fetterbush)
Euonymus alatus (winged euonymus)
Forsythia sp. (golden bells) planted
Gaultheria procumbens (checkerberry)
Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry)
Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel)
Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel)
Lindera benzoin (spicebush)
Lyonia ligustrina (maleberry)
Mitchella repens (partridgeberry)
Rhamnus cathartica (buckthorn)
Rhododendron periclymenoides (pink azalea)
Rhododendron viscosum (swamp azalea)
Rhus typhina (staghorn sumac)
Ribes sativum (garden currant)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)
Rubus occidentalis (black raspberry)
Rubus phoenicolasius (wineberry)
Rubus sp. (blackberry)
Sambucus canadensis (common elderberry)
Spiraea alba var. latifolia (meadowsweet) 8/03/01
Spiraea tomentosa (steeplebush) 8/03/01
Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry) 4/23/02
Vaccinium pallidum (hillside blueberry)
Viburnum acerifolium (maple leaf viburnum)
Viburnum dentatum (arrowwood viburnum)

Vines:
Ampelopsis brevipedunculata (porcelain berry)
Amphicarpaea bracteata (hog peanut)
Apios americana (groundnut) 8/03/01
Cuscuta sp. (dodder)
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)
Smilax sp. (greenbrier)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)
Vitis labrusca (fox grape)

Herbs:
Achillea millefolium (yarrow) 8/03/01
Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard)
Ambrosia artemisiifolia (common ragweed) soon 8/03/01
Antennaria plantaginifolia (plantain leaved pussytoes)
Apocynum androsaemifolium (spreading dogbane)?
Arabis laevigata (smooth rockcress) 4/23/02
Aralia nudicaulis (wild sarsaparilla)
Arctium sp. (burdock)
Arisaema triphyllum (jack-in-the-pulpit) 4/23/02
Artemisia vulgaris (common mugwort)
Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed) 8/03/01
Aster divaricatus (white wood aster) 8/03/01
Aureolaria sp. (smooth false foxglove)
Baptisia tinctoria (yellow wild indigo) 8/03/01
Bidens sp. (trifoliate leaved beggar ticks)
Brasenia schreberi (water shield)
Centaurea maculosa (spotted knapweed) 8/03/01
Cerastium vulgatum (mouse-ear chickweed)
Chrysanthemum leucanthemum (ox-eyed daisy) 8/03/01
Cichorium intybus (chicory) 8/03/01
Cicuta maculata (water hemlock) 8/03/01
Circaea lutetiana (enchanter's nightshade)
Cirsium arvense (Canada thistle) 8/03/01
Cirsium vulgare (bull thistle)
Daucus carota (Queen Anne' lace) 8/03/01
Desmodium sp. (tick trefoil) 8/03/01
Dianthus armeria (Deptford pink) 8/03/01
Erigeron annuus (daisy fleabane) 8/03/01
Erigeron pulchellus (Robin's plantain) 8/03/01
Eriocaulon sp. (pipewort) 8/03/01
Eupatorium rugosum (white snakeroot)
Euthamia graminifolia (grass-leaved goldenrod) 8/03/01
Geranium maculatum (wild geranium)
Geum canadense (white avens)
Gratiola?
Helianthus divaricatus (woodland sunflower) 8/03/01
Helianthus strumosus (pale-leaved sunflower ) 8/03/01
Heracleum lanatum (cow parsnip)
Hieracium (yellow king devil)) 8/03/01
Hieracium venosum (rattlesnake hawkweed)
Hydrocotyle umbellata (water pennywort) 8/03/01
Hypericum mutilum (dwarf St. Johnswort) 8/03/01
Hypericum punctatum (spotted St. Johnswort) 8/03/01
Impatiens capensis (orange jewelweed) 8/03/01
Iris sp. (iris)
Lactuca canadensis (wild lettuce) 8/03/01
Lactuca serriola (prickly lettuce) 8/03/01
Lespedeza hirta (hairy bush clover)
Linaria vulgaris (butter and eggs) 8/03/01
Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco lobelia) 8/03/01
Lotus corniculatus (birdfoot trefoil) 8/03/01
Ludwigia palustris (water purslane)
Lycopus virginicus (Virginia bugleweed)
Lycopus sp. (bugleweed) 8/03/01
Lysimachia quadrifolia (whorled loosestrife)
Maianthemum canadense (Canada mayflower)
Melilotus alba (white sweet clover) 8/03/01 waning
Mimulus ringens (monkey flower) 8/03/01
Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe)
Myriophyllum spicatum? (water milfoil)
Nuphar variegata (spatterdock) 8/03/01
Nymphaea odorata (fragrant white water lily) 8/03/01
Oxalis sp. (yellow wood sorrel) 8/03/01
Panax trifolius (dwarf ginseng) 4/23/02
Plantago major (common plantain)
Polygonatum pubescens (hairy true Solomon's seal) 4/23/02 soon
Polygonum arifolium (halberd-leaved tearthumb) 8/03/01
Polygonum cespitosum (cespitose smartweed) 8/03/01
Polygonum hydropiper (water pepper)
Polygonum sagittatum (arrow-leaved tearthumb) 8/03/01
Potentilla canadensis (dwarf cinquefoil) 4/23/02
Potentilla simplex (common cinquefoil)
Prunella vulgaris (self-heal) 8/03/01
Pycnanthemum incanum (hoary mountain mint) 8/03/01
Ranunculus abortivus (kidney-leaf crowfoot) 4/23/02
Rumex obtusifolius (broad dock)
Sagittaria latifolia (arrowhead)?
Saxifraga virginiensis (early saxifrage) 4/23/02
Scutellaria lateriflora (maddog skullcap) 8/03/01
Sisimbryium officinale (hedge mustard) 8/03/01
Solidago bicolor (silverrod)
Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion) 4/23/02
Triadenum virginianum (marsh St. Johnswort)
Trifolium aureum (yellow clover) 8/03/01
Trifolium pratense (red clover) 8/03/01
Trifolium repens (white clover) 8/03/01
Tussilago farfara (coltsfoot)
Vallisneria americana (water celery)
Veratrum viride (swamp hellebore)
Verbascum thapsus (common mullein)
Verbena urticifolia (white vervain) 8/03/01
Veronica officinalis (common speedwell ) 8/03/01
Viola cucullaria (marsh violet)?
Viola macloskeyi (northern white violet) 4/23/02
Viola palmata (palmate-leaved violet)? 4/23/02
Viola sororia (common blue violet) 4/23/02

Rushes:
Juncus effusus (soft rush)
Juncus tenuis (path rush)
Luzula multiflora (wood rush)

Sedges:
Carex gynandra (sedge)
Carex lurida (sedge)
Carex lurida like but shorter (sedge)
Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge) 4/23/02
Carex stricta (tussock sedge)
Carex vulpinoidea (fox-like sedge)
Dulichium arundinaceum (three-way sedge)
Eleocharis ovata (ovate spikerush)
Scirpus atrovirens (dark green bulrush)
Scirpus cyperinus (woolly grass bulrush)

Grasses:
Agrostis gigantea (purple top grass)
Anthoxanthum odoratum (sweet vernal grass)
Brachyelytrum erectum (long awned grass)
Bromus inermis (smooth brome grass)
Cinna arundinacea (grass)?
Dactylis glomerata (orchard grass)
Danthonia spicata (grass)
Deschampsia flexuosa (hair grass)
Echinochloa crus-galli (barnyard grass)
Elytrigia repens (quack grass)
Glyceria striata (mannagrass)
Leersia oryzoides (rice-cut grass)
Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stilt grass)
Muhlenbergia schreberi (nimble will)?
Panicum clandestinum (deer-tongue grass)
Panicum lanuginosum? (panic grass)
Phragmites australis (giant reed grass)
Poa compressa (Canada bluegrass)

Ferns:
Equisetum arvense (field horsetail)
Lycopodium obscurum (ground pine clubmoss)
Dennstaedtia punctilobula (hay-scented fern)
Dryopteris marginalis (marginalis woodfern)
Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern)
Osmunda cinnamomea (cinnamon fern)
Osmunda claytoniana (interrupted fern)
Polypodium sp. (rock cap fern)
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)
Pteridium aquilinum (bracken fern)
Thelypteris noveboracensis (New York fern)
Thelypteris palustris (marsh fern)

Others:
rock tripe lichen
sphagnum moss