by Mike Hays
One of Nyack’s best-kept secrets is the serene plateau above Nyack Beach State Park. At dawn, the flat grassy area abutting the Palisades is peaceful. Golden sunlight streams down the sheer rock face of the mountain. The grass is in deep shade from the surrounding trees. One person is doing Tai Chi. A few deer gaze at human intruders.
Perched about 200 feet above the Hudson River and halfway up the Palisades, most visitors to the park don’t even know it’s there. No dogs are allowed and river views in the summer are scarce due to treetops from trees growing further down the slope.
An asphalt road from the traffic circle at the entrance heads up to a small parking area. But what is the point of driving up if you can take the forested zigzag trail from the river or walk up from North Broadway?
For the truly energetic, bike to the top. A short asphalt trail leaves from the parking lot and loops around a second small meadow. Occasionally, large rocks have fallen down the cliff and into the grass. There are no other entrances or exits to the plateau since it is very steep on all sides. Picnic benches are provided.
It Wasn’t Always This Way…
It is hard to imagine Nyack Beach was once a quarry. Blasting crews carved a broad flat ledge out of the Palisades. Old photos show the powerhouse at river level (now the bathhouse), docks, and a chute to carry the rock from the treeless plateau. The noise must have been horrendous. The quarry closed around 1910 when conservation-minded citizens purchased and donated the land for a park.
A 1909 photo shows mining operations at work. You can see the powerhouse with smokestack (now the boathouse) by the river and dock. More than 100 years ago a building sat on the plateau where deer roam today.
Without the foresight of conservation-minded citizens, the plateau and the entire Palisades would no longer exist.
The walk around the plateau takes only minutes. In winter, river views, including of the Tappan Zee Bridge, open up to the east and, at the south end, you can peer down into Upper Nyack. In fall, the trees blaze with color and light. Ravens, hawks, eagles, falcons, and vultures soar overhead. Every season rewards the birder.
Photo Credit: Mike Hays. Historical photo courtesy of The Nyack Library
Michael Hays is a 30-year resident of the Nyacks. He grew up the son of a professor and nurse in Champaign, Illinois. He has recently retired from a long career in educational publishing with Prentice-Hall and McGraw-Hill. He is an avid cyclist, amateur historian and photographer, gardener, and dog walker. He has enjoyed more years than he cares to count with his beautiful companion, Bernie Richey. You can follow him on Instagram as UpperNyackMike.