If I asked you to name the location of the second largest waterfall in the United States east of the Mississippi River, many states would probably come to mind: Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, Maine, or Tennessee might all seem logical candidates. What if I told you, however, that this landmark was found in New Jersey, a mere 40 minutes outside of New York City? And what if I added that one of our Founding Fathers was so impressed by the waterfall that he imagined using it to power a city of innovation and industry? After nearly two years of writing this blog, my greatest takeaway has been the places I have discovered on the road across our great nation, the little-known spots that are worth detouring from the highway to find.
Paterson Great Falls is a National Historic Park, located in Paterson, New Jersey. The waterfalls were formed in the ice age over 10,000 years ago, as the course of the Passaic River changed after a glacier receded. The first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, saw the waterfalls and imagined an industrial city that would harness the great power of the falls to drive the creation of the first planned industrial city in the United States. The falls singlehandedly led to the creation of Paterson, New Jersey, an industrial powerhouse for much of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The third most populated city in New Jersey, Paterson has struggled since the end of the Second World War with high unemployment and crime, although lately has been the focus of intense state-level efforts to revitalize the city (via Wikipedia).
On a mild Saturday afternoon in January, I set off to learn more about the Great Falls and the historic city where they are located.
And new in 2018… The Open Road Ahead now has a YouTube channel! I intend to post more video content in the future, but for now I thought some footage of the falls would be appreciated, to capture the power of the water in a way that still images can not.
Upon the recommendation of one of the Park Rangers, we also visited the Paterson Museum, which examines the history of the city. The museum originally was formed in 1927, but in 1982 moved into a former locomotive repair shop in the industrial heart of the city.
Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park is open year round. The Welcome Center is open from Wednesday through Sunday 10:00 am – 4:30 pm. Although you can visit the falls at any time, I would recommend stopping by when the Welcome Center is open, as the Park Rangers are very informative and helpful. Paterson Museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and on Saturday and Sunday from 12:30 pm to 4:30 pm. Both Great Falls and Paterson Museum are completely free for the public (although the museum will gladly accept donations). Despite the city of Paterson having a less than stellar reputation, I was impressed by the scenic historic district. The Falls were breathtaking, and were definitely worth a stop if you are anywhere near this section of New Jersey. Thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!
‘Til next time.