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|Location||Northeastern New Jersey|
Southern New York
|Location||Northeastern New Jersey|
Southern New York
The Palisades, also called the New Jersey Palisades or the Hudson River Palisades, are a line of steep cliffs along the west side of the lower Hudson River in northeastern New Jersey and southern New York in the United States. The cliffs stretch north from Jersey City approximately 20 mi (32 km) to near Nyack, New York. They rise nearly vertically from near the edge of the river, approximately 300 feet at Weehawken and increasing gradually in height to 540 feet near their northern terminus. From Fort Lee north the Palisades are part of Palisades Interstate Park and are a National Natural Landmark.
The Palisades are among the most dramatic geologic features in the vicinity of New York City, forming a canyon of the Hudson north of George Washington Bridge, as well as providing a vista of the skyline.
Palisade is derived from the same root as word pale, ultimately from the Latin word palus, meaning stake. The Lenape called the cliffs "rocks that look like rows of trees", a phrase that became "Weehawken", the name of a town in New Jersey which sits at the top of the cliffs across from Manhattan.
The basalt cliffs are the margin of a diabase sill, formed about 200 million years ago at the close of the Triassic Period by the intrusion of molten magma upward into sandstone. The molten material cooled and solidified before reaching the surface. Water erosion of the softer sandstone left behind the columnar structure of harder rock that exists today. The cliffs are about 300 ft (100 m) thick in sections and originally may have reached to 1,000 ft (300 m).
The end Triassic extinction event that coincided with the formation of the Hudson Palisades, Central Atlantic Magmatic Province, 200 million years ago---ranks second--- in severity of the five major extinction episodes that span geologic time. The most severe extinction in the past 500 million years was the Permian–Triassic extinction event, informally known as the Great Dying coincided with flood basalt eruptions that produced the Siberian Traps which constituted one of the largest known volcanic events on Earth and covered over 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi) with lava.
Franklyn Van Houten did trailblazing research on a rock formation known as the Newark Basin. His discovery of a consistent geological pattern in which lake levels rose and fell is now known as the "Van Houten cycle".
The Palisades appear on the first European map of the New World, made by Gerardus Mercator in 1541 based on the description given him by Giovanni da Verrazano, who suggested they look like a "fence of stakes".
In the 19th century, the cliffs were heavily quarried for railroad ballast, leading to local efforts to preserve them. Beginning in the 1890s, several unsuccessful efforts were made to turn much of the Highlands into a forest preserve. Fearing that they would soon be put out of business, quarry operators responded by working faster: in March 1898 alone, more than three tons of dynamite was used to bring down Washington Head and Indian Head in Fort Lee, New Jersey producing several million cubic yards of traprock. The following year, work by the New Jersey Federation of Women's Clubs led to the creation of Palisades Interstate Park Commission, headed by George W. Perkins, which was authorized to acquire land between Fort Lee and Piermont, New York; its jurisdiction was extended to Stony Point, New York in 1906.
In 1908, the State of New York announced plans to move Sing Sing Prison to Bear Mountain. Work was begun on the area near Highland Lake (renamed Hessian Lake) and in January 1909, the state purchased the 740-acre (3.0 km2) Bear Mountain tract. Conservationists, inspired by the work of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission lobbied successfully for the creation of the Highlands of the Hudson Forest Preserve. However, the prison project was continued. Mary Averell Harriman, whose husband, Union Pacific Railroad president E. H. Harriman died in September of that year, offered the state another 10,000 acres (40 km2) and one million dollars toward the creation of a state park. George W. Perkins, with whom she had been working, raised another $1.5 million from a dozen wealthy contributors including John D. Rockefeller and J. Pierpont Morgan. New York state appropriated a matching $2.5 million and the state of New Jersey appropriated $500,000 to build the Henry Hudson Drive (which would be succeeded by the Palisades Interstate Parkway in 1947). Ultimately the Sing Sing relocation was discontinued.
In the 1910s, when Fort Lee was a center of film production, the cliffs were frequently used as film locations. The most notable of these films was The Perils of Pauline, a serial which helped popularize the term cliffhanger.
On April 28, 1940 the Boy Scout Foundation of Greater New York announced the donation of 723 acres by John D. Rockefeller Jr. for the purpose of establishing a weekend camp for New York City Boy Scouts.
The Palisades is now a part of Palisades Interstate Park, a popular destination for hiking and other outdoor recreational activities, that also includes Harriman-Bear Mountain State Park, Minnewaska State Park Preserve and several other parks and historic sites in the region.
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