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.
Travel logistics: route and information for getting to the palisades: We stopped at the first parking lot on this map at area 1
- Map of the area 1.LINK
- Map of the area 2.LINK
- Map of the area 3.LINK
- Artists who have been influenced by the palisades
- Geological researchers / scholars of the palisades
- hikers and nature lovers who come to the palisades on weekends to escape manhattan and what it makes them think and feel
- Founders of the #StopLG movement leaders and politicians working to save the Palisades and prevent the large LG headquarters from being built atop the Palisades.
- Leaders of Protect the Palisades. From their website:
INTERACTIVE POSSIBILITIES :
using the photos to create a 3D map of the pals aides that people can zoom into the geological formation below the water to see the enormous rock foundation of manhattan which is only this tiny little lump atop an enormous and ancient geological structure. Web based or browser based (OR just an animation that goes into the final video). Like this Map:
- World Monument Fund
- A young Naturalist’s winning essay
- Protect te Palisades Timeline / History
- USGS 3D map/tour
- NJ Palisades Park
- #StopLG from building onto of the Palisades
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 wasThe Perils of Pauline, a serial which helped popularize the term cliffhanger.
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 moltenmagma 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).
During the 1800s, millions of cubic yards of Palisades basalt and diabase were extracted at the Englewood Cliffs quarry for railroad ballast and aggregate that helped to build New York City. A sandstone layer was also mined and used to construct many of the famous New York brownstone buildings.
From a Young Naturalist: Adjacent to Rockland State Park is the Tilcon Quarry, where I stopped to see what was currently being done with the diabase from the sill (Figures 9 11). Upon arriving at the quarry, I immediately noticed gigantic piles of different-sized rocks. Each pile was composed of rocks of a larger size than the one before. Continuing around the quarry, I could see the conveyor belts running through machines that break the rocks into the smaller pieces, which were then sorted by size and made into the piles I had seen earlier.
The Palisades is not only rich in geological history, but in economic history as well. During the 19th century, the durable diabase was used for constructing buildings. Many of the early homes in the area, including many of New Jersey’s historic Dutch farmhouses, were built from the red sandstones, as were the brownstones of New York City. Right after the Civil War, large amounts of rock were shipped to New York and other cities to become “Belgian” paving blocks. Most of these rocks were gathered from the talus slopes at the bottom of the sill.
Tilcon Quarry, sorted rock piles
In the late 1800s, when the streets of New York City were being paved on a large scale, there was an even greater attack on the Palisades. Because of the tremendous value of the ancient rock, the Palisades were in great danger. In Rockland County there were 31 quarries between Grandview and Upper Nyack. One firm alone was taking 12,000 cubic yards of traprock a day (Roseberry, p. 253). Today the rock is mostly used for large blocks in the construction of sea walls and as crushed gravel for concrete and pavement.
One mile north of Fort Lee, N.J., the Palisades formed two different profiles. One was called Indian Head and the other Washington Head. In September 1897, men from the quarries blew up Washington Head. Then in March 1898, a five-foot hole was bored a hundred feet into Indian Head and 7,000 pounds of dynamite were placed inside. Indian Head was blown up, leaving 350,000 tons of Palisade diabase intended for construction (Roseberry, p. 254).
Eventually, people began to notice the desecration of the Palisades and in 1900 the Interstate Park Commission was formed to save the Palisades. Today, thanks to the work of this commission, Tilcon Quarry is one of only a few remaining active quarries left. Most of the traprock today is taken from the quarries around the Watchung Mountains.
The forces that have shaped the Palisades are still going on today. Large chunks of diabase are still tumbling off the sill, due to physical weathering, and large portions of the exposed rock are becoming rusted and eaten away by chemical weathering. Despite man’s past destruction of the Palisades, it looks like our effect on the Palisades has become benign for the time being.