Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hiking the Ruins in Sterling Forest State Park, NY, The Former Sterling Iron and Railway Company

In our search for a hike that was near NYC and reachable by public transportation, we decided on a spot neither of us had ever been before. Our AMC hike was on the west side of the Hudson this time, in Tuxedo, NY.  It was a great place in the woods to clock our 10,000 + steps on the old pedometers!

Directions: To get there, we went to Port Authority and took a Coach Line bus to Suffern, and then a car ride with the hike leader into the park. If you are driving, you get to Route 17N/Orange Turnpike. Then follow directions from mapquest to Sterling Forest State Park, 116 Old Forge Road, Tuxedo, NY.

  We started out at the Visitor's Center and had a flora and fauna orientation. We learned we might meet black bears, timber rattlesnakes and copperheads!
There are many excellent events held at this park. The title is linked to the official park schedule.

Park info:
Sterling Forest, one of the larger of the park reserves in the Ramapo Mountains in New York State, is the newest addition to the park system, added in 1998. The park was originally owned by the Sterling Iron and Railway Company which mined and shipped iron from the site until the 1920s.  In 2000, local residents and conservationists were able to procure this tract for a state park to prevent developers from turning it into a community of large houses. The park lies in the New York-New Jersey Highlands, a 1 million acre stretch of natural habitat from the Delaware to the Hudson River. The park is administered by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission.

For us, what made this hike so special was there was even more than wonderfully pristine woods and lake, and well-marked trails; there were the ruins from the iron mines! From the Visitor's Center, we took the blue Lake Trail and walked around the lake, then took the yellow Ironworks Trail. Our walk had no real ups and downs, but there are many more challenging choices available.

Click this enlargeable map of the whole area.

We started into the woods.

Sterling Lake is crossable on a beaver dam...

To one side of the dam/bridge the lake is clear.

The beaver hutch is constantly maintained.

As we continued around the lake, one gorgeous view followed another.

The trail becomes a paved path when it heads toward the ironworks. We kept our captions of the ruins short because we found this amazing site and map when we got home: Wikiworldflicks.orghttp://wiki.worldflicks.org/sterling_forest_state_park.html#coords=%2841.209783,-74.260368%29&z=14

It explains each ruin in fascinating detail, including that the mine entrance went down gradually for the length of the rails, about 2500 feet with operations at several levels on the way down, and that the entire mine (1/2 mile long and 500 feet wide)

was under the lake!

Sterling Iron and Railway Company operated from 1736 to 1923. The company made its first anchors for ships in 1753.  It was a hub of activity during the Revolutionary War when it supplied the Continental Army with arms and ammunition and anchors for navy warships. An iron chain was made that was laid across the Hudson River at West Point to stop British vessels. After a resurgence of activity during World War I, the company went out of business in 1923.

The Sterling furnace produced high-quality pig iron and was one of the country's most well-known and respected iron operations.

The first iron mine structure is just ahead.

Sterling Iron and Railway Company signs lead the way.

The structure is solid and the curious can climb around a bit.

The cables went down many stories into the earth.

Up close ...

The mine entrance.

Behind this door is a bit of water and a tunnel.

Just above the mine entrance.

Continue around and come to remains of old buildings.

This one was a  hotel.

Ghost Town is what they call it now.

This former home was part of the lost village of Lakeville. There were 140 houses built  for the miners.  Numerous foundations around the site are reminders of the church, school, hotel, stores, homes and offices that were part of this bustling community.

This impressive structure is actually a reproduction of the original furnace.

More remains.

The breeze came through exquisitely here to make this spot the coolest of the day.

The beauty of the park makes it hard to believe that the iron mining practices of the last century caused considerable pollution of the land and lakes. Thankfully, all is restored to a more natural state. Still, there is no swimming in Sterling Lake, but the surrounding lakes are rife with beaches and bathers. We are happy to have discovered this area. The AMC leader plans to have another hike around the lake and over to the fire tower and a bit of the AT. We look forward to whatever that will bring.