The Palisades (Hudson River)

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The Palisades
Palisades Sill from Palisades Parkway.jpg
The cliffs of the Palisades as seen from a scenic view on the Palisades Interstate Parkway. The Hudson River is the background.
LocationNortheastern New Jersey
Southern New York
Coordinates40°57′52″N 73°54′31″W / 40.96451°N 73.90859°W / 40.96451; -73.90859Coordinates: 40°57′52″N 73°54′31″W / 40.96451°N 73.90859°W / 40.96451; -73.90859
Designated:1983
 
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For other uses, see Palisades (disambiguation).
The Palisades
Palisades Sill from Palisades Parkway.jpg
The cliffs of the Palisades as seen from a scenic view on the Palisades Interstate Parkway. The Hudson River is the background.
LocationNortheastern New Jersey
Southern New York
Coordinates40°57′52″N 73°54′31″W / 40.96451°N 73.90859°W / 40.96451; -73.90859Coordinates: 40°57′52″N 73°54′31″W / 40.96451°N 73.90859°W / 40.96451; -73.90859
Designated:1983

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.[1] 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.

Geology[edit]

Main article: Palisades Sill

The basalt cliffs are the margin of a diabase sill, formed about 200 million years ago[2] at the close of the Triassic Period by the intrusion of molten magma upward into sandstone.[3] 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.[3][4] The most severe extinction in the past 500 million years was the Permian–Triassic extinction event, informally known as the Great Dying[5][6] 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".[7][8][9][10]

History[edit]

Looking south down the Hudson from the Palisades

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,[11] who suggested they look like a "fence of stakes".[12]

They were site of 18 documented duels and probably many unrecorded ones in the years 1798–1845. The most famous is the Burr–Hamilton duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, which took place to a spot known as the Heights of Weehawken on July 11, 1804.[13]

After the Civil War, signs advertising patent medicines and other products covered the rock face in letters 20 feet (6.1 m) high.[14]

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,[11] 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 Walbridge Perkins who served as president of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission from its creation in 1900 until his death in 1920, 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.[15]

In October 1931, after four years of construction, the George Washington Bridge opened between Upper Manhattan and Fort Lee.

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.[16]

In June 1983, the Palisades were designated a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service.[17]

On May 12, 2012, a 10,000 ton rockfall just south of the state line left a 520-foot (160 m) scar on the cliffs.[14]

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.


The Palisades, with fall foliage. On the left is the George Washington Bridge. A controversial plan to build highrises that would break the tree line has been proposed by LG Electronics[18][19][20][21][22][23]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ "Township of Palisade" on the Bergen County website
  2. ^ Tirella, Tricia. "Spotlight on North Bergen". Palisade magazine; Summer 2010; Page 16.
  3. ^ a b Brannen, Peter. "Headstone for an Apocalypse" (op-ed) New York Times (August 6, 2013)
  4. ^ Chu, Jennifer. "Huge and widespread volcanic eruptions triggered the end-Triassic extinction" MIT News (March 21, 2013)
  5. ^ "The Great Dying': MIT Insights into the Most Severe Mass Extinction in Earth’s History" The Daily Galaxy (November 24, 2013)
  6. ^ Chandler, David L. "Ancient whodunit may be solved: The microbes did it!" MIT News (March 31, 2014)
  7. ^ Structural Geology & Tectonics Group "Van Houten cycle" (illustration) on the Rutgers University website
  8. ^ Olsen. "Milankovich Cycles in Early Mesozoic Rift Basins of Eastern North America Provide Physical Stratigraphy and Time Scale for Understanding Basin Evolution" from Lamont Newsletter 13 (1986) pp.6-7, on the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory website
  9. ^ MacPherson, Kita. "Franklyn Van Houten, expert on sedimentary rocks, dies at 96" News at Princeton (September 14, 2010) on the Princeton University website
  10. ^ Chalker, Georgette E. "Franklyn Bosworth Van Houten 1914-2010" Princeton University Department of Geosciences website (February 10, 2011)
  11. ^ a b Cheslow, Jerry. "If You're Thinking of Living In Alpine, N.J.; Lavish Homes in a Millionaire's Borough" New York Times (December 14, 1997)
  12. ^ Rounds, Kate. "Preserving Palisades from development Commissioners also tackle road repairs, hybrid car" Hudson Reporter (June 15, 2008)
  13. ^ Ellis, Joseph J. 2000. Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. (Chapter One: The Duel), Alfred A. Knopf. New York. ISBN 0-375-40544-5
  14. ^ a b O'Neill, James "Palisades scar is proof of nature's raw power" Bergen County Record (July 7, 2012)
  15. ^ Verdon, Joan "A hike back in time to era of silent film" Bergen County Record (,arch 5, 2012)
  16. ^ Malatzky, David M. "Origin of Alpine Scout Camp" (2006) on the Ten Mile River Scout Museum website
  17. ^ NPS NNL Summary
  18. ^ Sullivan, S. P. "Former N.J. governors ask LG to rethink plan for high-rise HQ along the Palisades" NJ.com (June 7, 2013)
  19. ^ Sullivan, S. P. "LG supporters looking for Gov. Christie's help in fight over high-rise HQ on the Palisades" NJ.com (July 3, 2013)
  20. ^ Ma, Myles. "Opponents protest as LG celebrates start of work on Englewood Cliffs headquarters" NJ.com (November 14, 2013)
  21. ^ Byrne, Brendam T.; Kean, Thomas H.; Florio, James J.; and Whitman, Christine Todd "The Threat to the Palisades" (op-ed) New York Times (March 24, 2014)
  22. ^ Associated Press "NJ conservation groups file briefs opposing LG's planned construction on Palisades" NJ.com (April 7, 2014)
  23. ^ Ma, Myles. "Senate advances bill banning tall buildings along Palisades" NJ.com (June 7, 2014)

External links[edit]