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Great Falls of the Passaic River

Great Falls of the Passaic River

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The Great Falls of the Passaic River is a prominent waterfall
Waterfall
A waterfall is a place where flowing water rapidly drops in elevation as it flows over a steep region or a cliff.-Formation:Waterfalls are commonly formed when a river is young. At these times the channel is often narrow and deep. When the river courses over resistant bedrock, erosion happens...

, 77 feet (23.5 m) high, on the Passaic River
Passaic River
The Passaic River is a mature surface river, approximately 80 mi long, in northern New Jersey in the United States. The river in its upper course flows in a highly circuitous route, meandering through the swamp lowlands between the ridge hills of rural and suburban northern New Jersey,...

 in the city of Paterson
Paterson, New Jersey
Paterson is a city serving as the county seat of Passaic County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, its population was 146,199, rendering it New Jersey's third largest city and one of the largest cities in the New York City Metropolitan Area, despite a decrease of 3,023...

 in Passaic County
Passaic County, New Jersey
Passaic County is a county located in the U.S. state of New Jersey. As of the 2010 Census, the population was 501,226. Its county seat is Paterson...

 in northern New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

 in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. The Congress authorized its establishment as a National Historical Park
National Historical Park
National Historic Sites are protected areas of national historic significance in the United States. A National Historic Site usually contains a single historical feature directly associated with its subject...

 in 2009. One of the United States' largest waterfalls, it played a significant role in the early industrial development of New Jersey starting in the earliest days of the nation. It is part of the Great Falls of Paterson-Garrett Mountain National Natural Landmark
National Natural Landmark
The National Natural Landmark program recognizes and encourages the conservation of outstanding examples of the natural history of the United States. It is the only natural areas program of national scope that identifies and recognizes the best examples of biological and geological features in...

. It has also been designated as a National Historic Landmark District since 1976. The Great Falls' raceway and power systems were designated an List of Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks in 1977.

During floods the Great Falls becomes a spectacular sight, with tremendous amounts of water cascading over the falls.

Formation and early history


Geologically
Geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

, the falls were formed at the end of the last ice age
Ice age
An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...

 approximately 13,000 years ago. Formerly the Passaic had followed a shorter course through the Watchung Mountains
Watchung Mountains
The Watchung Mountains are a group of three long low ridges of volcanic origin, between 400 ft. and 500 ft. high, lying parallel to each other in northern New Jersey in the United States...

 near present-day Summit
Summit, New Jersey
Summit is a city in Union County, New Jersey, United States. At the 2010 United States Census, the city's population was 21,457. Summit had the 16th-highest per capita income in the state as of the 2000 Census....

. As the glacier
Glacier
A glacier is a large persistent body of ice that forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries. At least 0.1 kmĀ² in area and 50 m thick, but often much larger, a glacier slowly deforms and flows due to stresses induced by its weight...

 receded, the river's previous course was blocked by a newly-formed moraine
Moraine
A moraine is any glacially formed accumulation of unconsolidated glacial debris which can occur in currently glaciated and formerly glaciated regions, such as those areas acted upon by a past glacial maximum. This debris may have been plucked off a valley floor as a glacier advanced or it may have...

. A large lake, called Glacial Lake Passaic
Glacial Lake Passaic
Glacial Lake Passaic was a prehistoric proglacial lake that existed in northern New Jersey in the United States at the end of the last ice age approximately 19,000-14,000 years ago...

, formed behind the Watchungs. As the ice receded, the river found a new circuitous route around the north end of the Watchungs, carving the spectacular falls through the underlying basalt
Basalt
Basalt is a common extrusive volcanic rock. It is usually grey to black and fine-grained due to rapid cooling of lava at the surface of a planet. It may be porphyritic containing larger crystals in a fine matrix, or vesicular, or frothy scoria. Unweathered basalt is black or grey...

, which was formed approximately 200 million years ago.

The falls later became the site of a habitation for Lenape
Lenape
The Lenape are an Algonquian group of Native Americans of the Northeastern Woodlands. They are also called Delaware Indians. As a result of the American Revolutionary War and later Indian removals from the eastern United States, today the main groups live in Canada, where they are enrolled in the...

 Native Americans, and later for Dutch
Dutch people
The Dutch people are an ethnic group native to the Netherlands. They share a common culture and speak the Dutch language. Dutch people and their descendants are found in migrant communities worldwide, notably in Suriname, Chile, Brazil, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and the United...

 settlers in the 1690s.

Industrial development


In 1778, Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury...

 visited the falls and was impressed by its potential for industry. Later when Hamilton was the nation's Secretary of Treasury, he selected the site of the nation's first planned industrial city, which he called a "national manufactory." In 1791, Hamilton helped found the Society for the Establishment of Useful Manufactures
Society for the Establishment of Useful Manufactures
The Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures or Society for the Establishment of Useful Manufactures was a private state-sponsored corporation founded in 1791 to promote industrial development along the Passaic River in New Jersey in the United States...

 (S.U.M.), state-chartered private corporation to fulfill this vision. The town of Paterson was founded by the society and named after New Jersey Governor William Paterson in appreciation of his efforts to promote the society.

Hamilton commissioned civil engineer
Civil engineer
A civil engineer is a person who practices civil engineering; the application of planning, designing, constructing, maintaining, and operating infrastructures while protecting the public and environmental health, as well as improving existing infrastructures that have been neglected.Originally, a...

 Pierre Charles L'Enfant
Pierre Charles L'Enfant
Pierre Charles L'Enfant was a French-born American architect and civil engineer best known for designing the layout of the streets of Washington, D.C..-Early life:...

, responsible for the layout of the new capital at Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 to design the system of canals known as raceways
Mill race
A mill race, raceway or mill lade is the current or channel of a stream, especially one for conducting water to or from a water wheel or other device for utilizing its energy...

 supplying the power for the watermills in the new town. As a result the Paterson became the nucleus for a burgeoning mill industry. In 1793, two years after the society's foundation, the falls was the site of the first water-powered
Hydropower
Hydropower, hydraulic power, hydrokinetic power or water power is power that is derived from the force or energy of falling water, which may be harnessed for useful purposes. Since ancient times, hydropower has been used for irrigation and the operation of various mechanical devices, such as...

 cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

 spinning mill in New Jersey. In 1812, it was the site of the state's first continuous roll paper
Fourdrinier machine
This article contains a glossary section at the end.Most modern papermaking machines are based on the principles of the Fourdrinier Machine. It has been used in some variation since its inception...

 mill. Other products whose construction used the falls as a power source include the Rogers Locomotive Works
Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works
Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works was a 19th-century manufacturer of railroad steam locomotives based in Paterson, in Passaic County, New Jersey, in the United States. It built more than six thousand steam locomotives for railroads around the world. Most railroads in 19th-century United States...

 (1832), the Colt revolver
Colt's Manufacturing Company
Colt's Manufacturing Company is a United States firearms manufacturer, whose first predecessor corporation was founded in 1836 by Sam Colt. Colt is best known for the engineering, production, and marketing of firearms over the later half of the 19th and the 20th century...

 (1837), and the USS Holland (SS-1)
USS Holland (SS-1)
USS Holland was the United States Navy's first commissioned submarine, named for her Irish-American inventor, John Philip Holland, although not the first submarine of the US Navy, which was the 1862...

(1898). The oldest extant structure in the historic district is the Phoenix Mill, built in 1813.
The society continued operation until 1945 when its charter and property were sold to the city of Paterson. The area fell into disuse with the steep decline of industry in the region during the 20th century. In 1971, the Great Falls Preservation and Development Corporation were established to restore and redevelop the historic mill buildings and raceways.

Great Falls State Park


The State of New Jersey has announced plans for a new urban state park in Paterson surrounding the Great Falls, called Great Falls State Park. http://www.nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/parks/great-falls.htm The master plan for the park calls for utilizing surrounding industrial areas for parklands that include a trail network and recreation areas, and creating new areas to view the falls.

The falls in literature


The unique history of the falls and the city were described in the five-volume philosophical
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 poem Paterson
Paterson (poem)
Paterson is a poem by influential modern American poet William Carlos Williams.The poem is composed of five books and a fragment of a sixth book. The five books of Paterson were published separately in 1946, 1948, 1949, 1951, and 1958, and the entire work was published as a unit in 1963. This book...

by William Carlos Williams
William Carlos Williams
William Carlos Williams was an American poet closely associated with modernism and Imagism. He was also a pediatrician and general practitioner of medicine, having graduated from the University of Pennsylvania...

. Among the episodes described in Williams' poem is the 1827 leap over the falls by Sam Patch
Sam Patch
Sam Patch , known as "The Yankee Leaper", became the first famous American daredevil after successfully jumping from a raised platform into the Niagara River near the base of Niagara Falls in 1829.-Biography:...

, who later became the first known person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls
The Niagara Falls, located on the Niagara River draining Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, is the collective name for the Horseshoe Falls and the adjacent American Falls along with the comparatively small Bridal Veil Falls, which combined form the highest flow rate of any waterfalls in the world and has...

.

The falls in television


The falls were featured in the pilot as well as episode 6 of the first season of The Sopranos
The Sopranos
The Sopranos is an American television drama series created by David Chase that revolves around the New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster Tony Soprano and the difficulties he faces as he tries to balance the often conflicting requirements of his home life and the criminal organization he heads...

, Pax Soprana in which two mobsters threw a drug dealer off the bridge and into the falls, to his death.

Viewing the falls



The Falls are viewable from Haines Overlook Park on the south and Mary Ellen Kramer Park on the north. Drive-by viewing is available from McBride Avenue where it crosses the river just above the Falls. A footbridge over the Falls gorge (historically, the eighth such bridge to span this spectacular chasm) also serves as an exciting outlook point from which many have captured the famous Falls rainbow. A visitor's center at the corner of Spruce and McBride Avenues, in the heart of the Great Falls Historic District, provides a historical overview of the falls and the industrial and cultural history of Paterson.

National Natural Landmark


The Great Falls of Paterson - Garrett Mountain is a National Natural Landmark
National Natural Landmark
The National Natural Landmark program recognizes and encourages the conservation of outstanding examples of the natural history of the United States. It is the only natural areas program of national scope that identifies and recognizes the best examples of biological and geological features in...

 designated in January 1967 and were expanded in April 1967 to include nearby Garrett Mountain
Garret Mountain Reservation
Garret Mountain Reservation is 568 acre park located in southern Passaic County, New Jersey, United States and one of several National Natural Landmarks in New Jersey...

. Together they help demonstrate how jointed basalt
Basalt
Basalt is a common extrusive volcanic rock. It is usually grey to black and fine-grained due to rapid cooling of lava at the surface of a planet. It may be porphyritic containing larger crystals in a fine matrix, or vesicular, or frothy scoria. Unweathered basalt is black or grey...

ic lava flow shaped the geology of the area during the Early Mesozoic
Mesozoic
The Mesozoic era is an interval of geological time from about 250 million years ago to about 65 million years ago. It is often referred to as the age of reptiles because reptiles, namely dinosaurs, were the dominant terrestrial and marine vertebrates of the time...

 period through both extrusion and intrusion
Intrusion
An intrusion is liquid rock that forms under Earth's surface. Magma from under the surface is slowly pushed up from deep within the earth into any cracks or spaces it can find, sometimes pushing existing country rock out of the way, a process that can take millions of years. As the rock slowly...

.
The designation protects the site from federal development, but not from local and state development. Redevelopment of the decayed adjacent industrial areas has been an ongoing controversial topic. An attempt in the 1990s to redevelop the adjacent Allied Textile Printing Co. (ATP) facility, destroyed by fire in the 1980s, into prefabricated townhouses was initially approved by the city but later repelled by a coalition of local citizens seeking to preserve the historic character of the district.

National Historical Park


Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park was authorized to be added to the National Park System of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 under the Omnibus Public Land Management Act
Omnibus Public Land Management Act
The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 is a law passed in the 111th United States Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 30, 2009.-110th Congress:...

. On March 30, 2009, President Obama signed legislation authorizing the falls as a national historical park
National Historical Park
National Historic Sites are protected areas of national historic significance in the United States. A National Historic Site usually contains a single historical feature directly associated with its subject...

, which would provide additional federal protections for the 77-foot waterfall. By 2011, Great Falls State Park and other land along the Passaic River
Passaic River
The Passaic River is a mature surface river, approximately 80 mi long, in northern New Jersey in the United States. The river in its upper course flows in a highly circuitous route, meandering through the swamp lowlands between the ridge hills of rural and suburban northern New Jersey,...

 were transferred to the federal government for the creation of the park. Formal establishment as a unit of the National Park System required action by the Secretary of the Interior
United States Secretary of the Interior
The United States Secretary of the Interior is the head of the United States Department of the Interior.The US Department of the Interior should not be confused with the concept of Ministries of the Interior as used in other countries...

, which took place November 7, 2011, when Secretary Salazar
Ken Salazar
Kenneth Lee "Ken" Salazar is the current United States Secretary of the Interior, in the administration of President Barack Obama. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served as a United States Senator from Colorado from 2005 to 2009. He and Mel Martinez were the first Hispanic U.S...

 formally accepted lands on behalf of the United States, and dedicated the park as the nation's 397th park system unit.

See also

  • List of waterfalls
  • List of National Natural Landmarks
  • Garret Mountain Reservation
    Garret Mountain Reservation
    Garret Mountain Reservation is 568 acre park located in southern Passaic County, New Jersey, United States and one of several National Natural Landmarks in New Jersey...

  • National Register of Historic Places listings in Passaic County, New Jersey
  • Paterson Museum
    Paterson Museum
    Paterson Museum is a museum in Paterson, in Passaic County, New Jersey, in the United States. Founded in 1925, it is owned and run by the city of Paterson and its mission is to preserve and display the industrial history of Paterson...

     and Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works
    Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works
    Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works was a 19th-century manufacturer of railroad steam locomotives based in Paterson, in Passaic County, New Jersey, in the United States. It built more than six thousand steam locomotives for railroads around the world. Most railroads in 19th-century United States...

  • Old Great Falls Historic District
    Old Great Falls Historic District
    The Old Great Falls Historic District is a name for the area of Paterson, New Jersey between South Paterson and Hillcrest, Paterson. The area is a thin strip of neighborhoods and parklands around the Passaic River and Garret Mountain. This section of Paterson has two National Natural Landmarks,...

  • Lambert Castle

External links