Geology of the New York City Region

24. North Lake State Park

North Lake State Park is situated on the high eastward facing escarpment of the Catskill Mural Front overlooking the Hudson River Valley (Figure 58). The park offers a variety of hiking and outdoor recreational activities, including camping during the period between May 4th to October 5th. The rest of the year the park is open, but long hikes are required to see overlooks along the escarpment. The park is reached by traveling west on Route 23A to Haines Falls and turning right (north) onto O'hara Road, and traveling 2.5 miles to the park entrance station. A day use fee is charged at the park entrance where park trail maps are available.

Map of North Late State Park, Catskill Mountains, New York
Figure 58. Map of the North Lake State Park area showing the location of Kaaterskill Falls.

The park actually has two lakes, North Lake and South Lake. Outcrops of red cross-bedded sandstone and conglomerate of the Late Devonian Oneanta Formation crop out around the lake, but much more spectacular exposures are accessible along hiking trails along the escarpment. The shortest trail that leads to the escarpment begins at the eastern end of North Lake and leads to the foundation ruins of the Catskill Mountain House. This large resort motel built on the edge of the escarpment began operation in 1824. Its peak in the 1890 followed the construction of an incline railroad that carried passengers up the steep 3,000 climb to the top of the ridge. As the passenger car replaced the railroad, the hotel waned in popularity and eventually fell into disrepair. It was intentionally burned down by the State in 1963.

A fairly strenuous trail system leads along the escarpment to many scenic overlooks. One destination is the North Point, a high point in the park that marks the northeastern end of the Catskill escarpment. Although the total hiking distance is about seven miles of difficult walking, the barren, glacially scoured mountain top offers a commanding view of Albany region and the Mohawk River valley to the north. The trail to North Point begins at the Catskill Mountain House, however many trails other trail options are available. It is recommended to ask about trail conditions at the park entrance station.

Along the ridge north of the ruins of the Catskill Mountain House are numerous barren ledges of massive red conglomerate. The large, rounded pebble- to cobble-sized clasts of quartz are tightly cemented in a hematite-rich sandy matrix. These large pods of quartzite in the Oneonta Formation represent river channel deposits that migrated back and forth across an ancient alluvial plain. The gravel clasts within the conglomerate consist of white milky quartz and occasionally chunks of reworked red mudstone or sandstone. The gravel lacks clasts or other rock types, such as granite, chert, or basalt, which suggests that Late Devonian climate was both warm and moist to ensure intense chemical weathering. The source of the milky quartz were probably vein deposits associated with the volcanic centers in the northern New England region.

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Last modified: 3/11/2019