40. The Paterson/Great Falls Area
The potential power of the Great Falls of the Passaic River so inspired
Alexander Hamilton that he organized the Society for Establishing Useful
Manufactures and planned America's first industrial city (Figure 91).
Pierre L'Enfant, the planner of Washington, D.C., designed a complex three-tired
system that harnessed the falls and supplied water power to several industrial
mills. The city of Paterson became a thriving industrial center known
for the manufacture of silk and locomotive parts. Today, the old industrial
complete has been partially restored.
|Figure 91. Great Falls of the Passaic River in Paterson, New Jersey.
To get to the falls, take I-80 west to the Paterson exit (Exit 57). Turn
left onto Grand Street for 0.3 miles, turn right onto Spruce Street for
0.5 miles, then turn right onto Market Street and turn into the parking
lot for the Paterson Museum. Part of the Paterson Museum's collection
is a small but spectacular display of minerals collected from the traprock
quarries in the area. The most abundant minerals are zeolites (metallic
hydrous aluminosilicates such as prehnite [the State Mineral of New Jersey],
heulandite, datolite, chabazite, and stilbite) and quartz (smoky and
amethyst). (Another impressive display of zeolite minerals can be seen
in the mineral exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History.) Additional
parking is located just north of the museum at the falls which are located
at McBride Avenue and Spruce Street. The Great Falls Visitors Center is
open daily, located at 65 McBride Avenue in Paterson. The falls are well
worth a detour from I-80, especially in the spring when water levels are
high. A foot bridge crosses the chasm above the falls. A hydroelectric
plant at the falls was built in 1914, but was closed in 1969 because of
The falls spill over a resistant ridge into a chasm carved in the lower
flow of the Orange Mountain Basalt where it overlies the upper contact
of the Passaic Formation. In the vicinity of the falls, glacial erosion
has stripped away the upper more friable pillow lavas. These pillow lavas
can be seen in the abandoned traprock quarries throughout the hillsides
in the Paterson area (Figure 92). Minerals occur in fractures and in gas
pockets that formed within the pillows of lava as they cooled (Figure
93). Some of the hollow chambers in the rock were probably lava tubes
that drained before the lava cooled. The quarries in the Orange Mountain
Basalt utilized the traprock primarily for construction material. Unfortunately,
these quarries are closed to public access, but they are frequently the
target of organized societal and college field trips. Mineral collecting
within these quarries can be quite hazardous due to falling debris from
the high walls, especially during the freeze-thaw cycles in the winter
(Figure 94). Don't attempt to collect minerals without permission. If
interested, be patient, and join a local mineral club or society on a
|Figure 92. A mineral collector illustrates the size of a large cavity
formed in a pillow basalt flow on Orange Mountain (1st Watchung Mountain)
near Paterson, New Jersey.
|Figure 93. Condominiums built along the highwall of a quarry in
Orange Mountain in Paterson, New Jersey. The ice flows form along
the boundary between separate lava flows in the Orange Mountain Basalt.
|Figure 94. Example of a pillow lava in the Orange Mountain Basalt.